(Corrects title and college of librarian in paragraph 9)
NEW YORK, May 24 (Reuters) - Occupy Wall Street filed a
federal lawsuit Thursday against New York City, claiming
authorities destroyed $47,000 worth of books, computers and
other equipment confiscated from the protesters' encampment in
lower Manhattan last fall.
Police conducted a surprise overnight raid at Zuccotti Park
in November, clearing scores of protesters who had set up tents
at the plaza near Wall Street and dealing a significant blow to
the movement's potency.
As part of the sweep, Occupy claims, police officers seized
approximately 3,600 books from the "People's Library" that had
been donated to the movement. The protesters claim only 1,000
were returned, 200 of them in unusable condition - including a
copy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's autobiography.
"To this day, OWS has not been told by the City of New York
what happened to the missing books and the Library furnishings
and equipment," according to the lawsuit, which was filed in
Manhattan federal court.
Norman Siegel, one of the lawyers representing Occupy, said
other cities that conducted similar crackdowns went to court
before seizing property, a step that New York chose to skip.
"This is a David vs. Goliath lawsuit," he said. "We're
confident that we will prevail."
Kate O'Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the city's law
department, said the city was waiting to be served with a copy
of the lawsuit before commenting.
The lawsuit alleges several constitutional violations,
including due process and unreasonable seizure claims. It names
Bloomberg, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the city's
sanitation chief and unnamed workers who may have destroyed the
Michele Hardesty, 34, an assistant professor on leave from
Hampshire College in Massachusetts and one of the Occupy
librarians, said the movement had carefully cataloged every book
and could document each missing item.
Since the predawn sweep at Zuccotti, Occupy Wall Street has
struggled to recapture the momentum of its fall campaign, when
camps across the country inspired widespread protests against
income inequality. The movement has faced funding problems in
recent months as donations dried up.
A series of "May Day" demonstrations May 1 led to clashes
with police from New York to Oakland, California, but a call for
a general workers' strike failed to materialize.
(A previous verison of this story stated Occupy librarian
Michele Hardesty was an associate professor at Hunter College in
New York. She is an assistant professor on leave from Hampshire
College in Massachusetts.)
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)
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