By Barbara Ross in the Daily News
The police department’s use of noise cannons to disperse demonstrators in an Eric Garner protest two years ago was a violation of the protesters’ federal civil rights and amounted to outright assault and battery, lawyers contend in a new federal civil rights lawsuit filed late Thursday in Manhattan.
Five plaintiffs claim they suffered hearing loss and became physically ill by being subjected to the piercing sound of the NYPD’s Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) around 1 a.m. in midtown on December 5, 2014 after a grand jury voted against indicting any police officers in Garner’s death.
Police use LRADs as loudspeakers to give crowds directions and to emit pulsating shrieks that force people to cover their ears and run to escape the noise.
“The LRAD is more a sound weapon than a traditional loudspeaker or megaphone,” the litigants say in court papers.
“A traditional loudspeaker or megaphone, including the familiar police megaphone typically used by the NYPD in connection with crowd control, amplifies sound by use of a diaphragm. In contrast, the LRAD technology uses piezoelectric transducers to concentrate – and direct – acoustic energy.”
And, they say, the result is a lot of pain.
The plaintiffs — Anika Edrei, Shay Horse, James Craven, Keegan Stephan and Michael Nusbaum — are young photojournalists, a graduate student and an activist who says they experienced a mix of ear pain, migraines, nausea, face pain, sinus pressure and dizziness during the protest. Their ears continue to ring and be extra sensitive to noise, court papers say.
The protesters’ lawyers, Gideon Oliver and Elena Cohen, argue that LRADs also violate their clients’ constitutional rights because the pulsing screech at an ear-shattering volume of more than 120 decibels indiscriminately attacked those who were protesting lawfully as well as those who were not.
Lt. John Grimpel(cq), an NYPD spokesman, said in a statement: “The Long Range Acoustic Device is a safe and effective communication tool the department uses legally during disorderly demonstrations. It is used consistent with manufacturer’s recommendations.”
Oliver said his clients decided to file the lawsuit after the NYPD started using the devices more regularly at demonstrations and, he said, after it failed in the last year to turn over any written policies or training materials that it uses with the LRADs.
The lawsuit quotes Amnesty International that when “used at close range, loud volume and/or excessive lengths of time, LRADs can pose serious health risks which range from temporary pain, loss of balance and eardrum rupture, to permanent hearing damage.”
A spokesman for the city Law Department said “We’ll review the specific allegations and investigate all the relevant facts once we’re served.”