"Brains! Brains!" That is what seven plaintiffs must have screamed as police arrested them for dressing up as zombies in a sassy protest against mindless consumerism in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports that the Minneapolis city attorney's office has decided to pay seven zombies and their attorney $165,000. The settlement, which was approved by the Minneapolis City Council on Friday, is the end result of a federal lawsuit the seven filed after they were arrested and jailed for two days simply for dressing up like zombies and shambling along the streets of downtown Minneapolis on July 22, 2006, to protest "mindless" consumerism.
The seven - three women and four men (all residents at the time) - were arrested at the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street N., wearing thick white powder and fake blood on their faces and dark makeup around their eyes to accentuate the fact that they were the living dead. Besides shambling about "in a stiff, lurching fashion," the seven plaintiffs carried four bags of sound equipment to amplify music from an iPod. They were subsequently arrested by police, who claimed that they were carrying equipment that simulated "weapons of mass destruction." When police asked them to turn the music down and for some form of identification (and found that they didn't have any on them) the seven were told they would be detained.
Jake Sternberg, one of the plaintiffs, testified that police Sgt. E.T. Nelson told them at the police station that he didn't "care about their constitutional rights" and used several obscenities. In an interview well after that Sternberg recalled the incident and said that "Those words are seared into my mind; I'll never forget them." He also recalled the experience in jail as "horrible" because he is missing a leg - the result of a 2001 motorcycle accident. He claims that the police confiscated his prosthetic leg during his stay, making it very uncomfortable to get around while in custody. They did give him a wheelchair to use instead.
While U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen had dismissed the zombies' lawsuit, the plantiffs shambled on, resurrecting the lawsuit in February this year thanks to an appeal heard by a three-judge panel at the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges hearing the case concluded that "police lacked probable cause" to arrest the seven, which set the stage for a federal trial this fall. The settlement means that there will be no trial later this year and the city of Minneapolis and its police can put the nasty mess behind them.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan L. Segal said it was in the best interests of the city to settle the matter and move on: "We believe the police acted reasonably, but you never know what a jury is going to do with a case," she told the Star Tribune.
Jordan Kushner, the Minneapolis attorney representing the seven plaintiffs, said that the city offered to pay each of the seven $10,000 apiece, plus whatever the court ordered in attorney's fees.
"Under that scenario, I believe the total payout would have been higher, but a lot more of the money would have gone to me," adding that the $165,000 settlement works out better for his clients.
Source: Star Tribune