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Occupy Philadelphia suit may proceed

PHILADELPHIA — Occupy Philadelphia protesters can go forward with a lawsuit accusing police of unlawful arrest, retaliation and other civil rights violations, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

More than two dozen protesters sued after they were acquitted of criminal charges stemming from their November 2011 clash with police. The confrontation came as city officials urged the protesters to move after seven weeks outside City Hall.

Philadelphia police arrested the protesters even though they complied and marched through downtown, the lawsuit said. They were charged with conspiracy, failure to disperse and blocking a roadway.

In Thursday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Berle Schiller upheld most of their claims, including retaliation, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. He dismissed their excessive force and illegal search claims for lack of evidence.

“You can’t tell people to do something, and then when they comply with an arguably illegal order to begin with, arrest them, and charge them, when they’re simply exercising their constitutional rights,” Lloyd Long III, a lawyer for the protesters, said Thursday.

A city solicitor did not immediately return a call for comment. However, in court papers, she said the lawsuit failed to specify which officers and plaintiffs were involved in each of the various allegations.

The protesters had set up camp in October in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York, speaking out against economic inequality and alleged corporate greed. City officials evicted them at the end of the next month, citing long-planned renovation work at the site.

The defendants include Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and other police supervisors and officers. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

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