On March 30, 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and two of its police officers to challenge police department practices that discourage and intimidate political protesters.

On April 1, 2005, Marianne Bessey, an animal rights activist from Lansdowne, PA, was arrested while standing in a public street outside the Mann Music Center before a circus performance. Bessey was holding a sign and handing out literature about the circus's treatment of animals when two Philadelphia police officers demanded that she move to 52nd Street, where most of the arriving circus patrons would not see her.

When Bessey refused, asking why she could not protest on public property, she was handcuffed, placed in a police van, and taken to a police station. Bessey was held in a cell for nearly three hours before being released with a citation for disorderly conduct. She was later cleared of all charges.

A settlement in the case was reached in January 2009.

Press Release


Mary Catherine Roper (ACLU-PA)

Date filed

March 30, 2007


U.S. District Court, Eastern District for Pennsylvania