Officers Denied Immunity For Arresting Protester

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The 10th Circuit denied immunity to five police officers in Albuquerque, N.M., who allegedly arrested a University of New Mexico faculty member during an antiwar protest, simply because he was part of a "large basket containing a few bad eggs."

The court ruled 2-1 that John Fogarty may proceed with a lawsuit accusing the officers of targeting him without probable cause and using excessive force to arrest him during a March 2003 demonstration against the U.S. war in Iraq.

The protest began on the UNM campus and spread to city sidewalks and streets, with between 500 and 1,000 demonstrators voicing their opposition to the war.

Fogarty and a friend joined a drum circle that was "play(ing) a really nice samba," Fogarty claimed. But police accused the drummers of inciting the crowd and making it more difficult to clear the streets.

Capt. John Gonzales told officers to "remove the drums," a statement some interpreted as a direct order to arrest the drummers, Fogarty included. The plaintiff said he was already off the street when officers pelted him with an unknown projectile and arrested him.

Officers allegedly took the handcuffed Fogarty near an area with lingering tear gas, causing Fogarty to suffer an acute asthma attack. He also claimed to have torn a tendon in his wrist during the ordeal.

The majority refused to dismiss Fogarty's claims, ruling that he had provided enough evidence to survive summary judgment at this stage.

"The Fourth Amendment plainly requires probable cause to arrest Fogarty as an individual, not a member of a large basket containing a few bad eggs," Judge Lucero wrote. "In other words, that Fogarty was a participant in an antiwar protest where some individuals may have broken the law is not enough to justify his arrest."

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