OAKLAND -- A federal class action civil rights lawsuit was filed against Oakland and Alameda County by a group of Occupy Oakland protesters who were arrested and held in jail but never charged with a crime.

The lawsuit stems from a Jan. 28, 2012, protest during which more than 400 protesters were arrested in front of the downtown YMCA and booked into Santa Rita Jail after a day of marches that included protesters trying to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.

The lawsuit, filed by one-time mayoral adviser Dan Siegel and Berkeley attorney Yolanda Huang, claims that Oakland police officers and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department violated protesters' constitutional rights by conducting unlawful arrests and false imprisonments.

An unidentified woman is arrested after a fellow protester was arrested  by Oakland police officers during an Occupy Oakland protest on Broadway and 8th
An unidentified woman is arrested after a fellow protester was arrested by Oakland police officers during an Occupy Oakland protest on Broadway and 8th Street in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011. (Ray Chavez/Staff) (RAY CHAVEZ)

Many of the protesters arrested, the lawsuit claims, were held in jail between 12 and 85 hours without ever being charged with a crime. As a result, the lawsuit says, the protesters' right to free speech, liberty and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and asks the federal court to order Oakland police and the sheriff's department to stop following what it claims are illegal practices.

The suit also seeks to have any records connected to the arrests of the protesters sealed and destroyed. Those records include fingerprints, photographs and biological samples.

"You can't just arrest people because they are on a march; they have to be committing a crime," Huang said. "It's a system of punishing people up front."


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Alex Katz, spokesman for the Oakland City Attorney's Office, declined to comment, saying the office has yet to see the complaint.

Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Nelson could not be reached for comment.

While the lawsuit names eight plaintiffs, Huang has asked the court to create a class, which she said could eventually represent about 400 people.