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Former OEN Managing Editor Files Lawsuit Against Philly Police, City. Charge: Constitutional Violations in Her Arrest

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 Cheryl Biren arrested while reporting on a protest in 2009

by Walter M. Brasch

OEN Senior Editor

A former OpEdNews managing editor has filed suit against the city of Philadelphia and eight of its police officers, accusing them of violating her Constitutional rights.

 Cheryl Biren-Wright, Pennsauken, N.J., charges the defendants with violating her 1st, 4th, and 14th amendment rights. The civil action, filed in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, is based upon events during a peaceful protest Sept. 12, 2009, at the Army Experience Center (AEC) in the Franklin Mills Mall.

 According to the complaint, Biren-Wright, who was not a part of the demonstration but at the mall as a reporter-photographer, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and conspiracy, second degree misdemeanors. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney.

 The Philadelphia police also arrested and charged six protestors with conspiracy and failure to disperse--Elaine Brower, 55, New York, N.Y.; Richie Marini, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.; Joan Pleune, 70, Brooklyn, N.Y.(one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961); Beverly Rice, 72, New York, N.Y.; Debra Sweet, 57, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sarah Wellington, 26, Piermont, N.Y. Two months after Biren-Wright's case was dropped, the six protestors were found not guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

 Paul J. Hetznecker, who represented the six defendants in the criminal trial, and Biren-Wright in her civil suit, believes that police over-reaction to protestors, as well as their lack of knowledge or appreciation for Constitutional protections, may be "a systemic problem throughout the country." Hetznecker says under Constitutional and state law, "There can not be an arbitrary and capricious decision to end the civil rights of the protestors."

 The civil suit complaint charges that police violated Biren-Wright's First Amendment rights to "gather information . . . to cover a matter of public interest including the law enforcement activity in public places." Actions by the police deprived her of 4th and 14th amendment rights that, according to the complaint, protect against "unreasonable search and seizure," "loss of physical liberty," and "freedom from excessive use of unreasonable and justified force."

The suit lists six separate counts:

          --- Abridgement of her rights under the First Amendment to observe and record news in a public place.

          --- False arrest and imprisonment

          --- Use of excessive force by the police.

          --- False arrest under state law

          --- Common Law Assault under state law

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www.walterbrasch.com

Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional (more...)
 
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Thanks for the update on Cheryl's legal action. I ... by John Moffett on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 5:56:52 PM
The sad fact is that police departments nation wid... by Michael Germain on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 6:27:30 PM
The settlements for false arrest and 'rough handli... by Gustav Wynn on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 8:14:06 PM
Now this is what I am talking about!... by Jack Heart on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 12:44:17 PM
Suppression  of the Press makes ya wonder whe... by Don Smith on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 8:16:17 PM
Thanks Walt for reporting on Cheryl's decision to ... by Linda Milazzo on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 9:06:21 PM
It seems that a culture of overbearing and heavy-h... by Mac McKinney on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:55:36 PM
Thanks! I trust we will be kept up-to-date on this... by Meryl Ann Butler on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:58:21 PM
I am a social issues columnist, and my own books o... by Walter Brasch on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 4:07:13 AM
disturbing the peace as well. I would be sure to g... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 11:20:01 AM
I hope that the lady has success in her lawsuit ag... by Craig Perkins on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 3:07:25 PM
Thanks for writing this, Walt. And thanks for fili... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 10:12:52 PM
to retrain the police officers involved in such de... by Archie on Thursday, Sep 22, 2011 at 11:41:40 PM
As we drift closer & closer to a full police... by dick overfield on Friday, Sep 23, 2011 at 12:17:23 AM
As a former Marine Law Enforcement Officer in the ... by Rixar13 on Friday, Sep 23, 2011 at 10:53:39 AM
As a former Marine Law Enforcement Officer in the ... by Rixar13 on Friday, Sep 23, 2011 at 10:54:06 AM
More power to her. ... by Paul Craig Roberts on Friday, Sep 23, 2011 at 9:39:29 PM
Just as any yellow journalist must tacitly have th... by Lewis Yang on Friday, Sep 23, 2011 at 11:28:00 PM
These billionaires bullies make their own law... by Marika on Saturday, Sep 24, 2011 at 2:25:47 AM
Cheryl Biren-Wright is fighting for all of us and ... by Paul Roden on Sunday, Sep 25, 2011 at 9:08:13 AM