updated 8/19/2008 10:24:01 PM ET 2008-08-20T02:24:01

New York City agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit claiming 52 Iraq war activists were unjustly arrested, lawyers announced Tuesday.

The activists were arrested in April 2003 outside the Manhattan offices of a military contractor, the Carlyle Group.

Lawyers for the activists said in a news release that the tactics used by police at the demonstration were similar to those used a year later when hundreds of activists were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden.

The city and police department faced backlash after the convention, with critics claiming the aggressive response showed a blatant disregard for the demonstrators' civil rights.

Lawyers said that in both instances, people were arrested without police warning or without providing an opportunity for anyone to leave.

Filmmaker and attorney Sarah Kunstler, who was arrested at the 2003 protest, said it was ironic that the settlement took four years to achieve but still happened faster than an end to the Iraq war.

"We definitely see it as a victory," said Kunstler, the daughter of William Kunstler, a civil rights lawyer who died in 1995. "With enough people and enough lawsuits like this, the city will see a need to change policy."

Kunstler was acquitted at trial of criminal charges brought after her arrest in the protest.

City Law Department senior counsel Susan Halatyn said the city did not admit liability in the settlement.

"Although defendants believe that they would ultimately have prevailed at a trial, the costs of going forward weighed in favor of settlement at this time," Halatyn said in a statement.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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