"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NYPD Uses Nets and Violence in Mass Arrest of Peaceful 'Occupy Wall Street' Protestors Near Union Square on September 24th 2011

Dozens of marchers from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration were arrested.
    Photo by  Jefferson Siegel for The Daily News

I was walking my dog in my neighborhood this afternoon when I witnessed a chilling mass arrest of :occupy wall street" social justice protestors on the corner of 5th Avenue and 12th street in New York City's Greenwich Village. The protestors, who were peaceful,  were told by the police that they were in a restricted area.  I grew up on 12th Street and 5th Ave. and hadn't received the memo that it had become an area restricted to peaceful protest. 

 NYPD left them on the sidewalk without providing any medical attention.  Photo by Jefferson Siegel for News

The police were indiscriminately scooping up people using large orange netting. This is a form of crowd control similar to kettling, which is a technique usually reserved for much larger crowds. If you were within the orange net you were arrested. The police placed everyone arrested in plastic zip-tie handcuffs and seated them on the sidewalk against a wall two or three deep. I saw a number of elderly women with snow white hair among the group of people placed under arrest. 

Legal representatives from the National Lawyer's Guild were shouting to the arrestees asking for their names. The NLG legal representatives were only able to get two or three names before the police brought out a second orange net and created a barrier between the onlookers and the arrestees. 

The police then started moving the onlookers, including myself, down the street telling us that we would all be arrested if we refused to move. A large bald headed policeman from an NYPD ant-terror unit told me that if I did not move I would be arrested. When I explained to him that I lived in the neighborhood and wanted to move in the opposite direction to get to my apartment he told me that I wasn't going to get a second warning. When a second officer started walking toward me the first officer waved him off saying that I was just a "victim of circumstance." At the end of the post I've included comments from the WNYC blog including one from a man who also lives in the neighborhood and was walking with his twelve year old daughter when he was threatened with arrest for asking a police officer questions. 

As we were being herded down the street there was a plain clothes officer walking behind the bald officer with a video camera. This was just one of at least two plain clothes officers who were doing nothing but filming the protestors, as well as anyone on the street just looking at the protest. 

Many of the NYPD officers on the scene were wearing NYPD TARU insignia. TARU stands for the Technical Assistance Response Unit. TARU is the NYPD intelligence surveillance unit. They are the ones who take videos of protestors and download the images into a database that can be used to track a protestor's activity. This is done with the help of highly sophisticated facial recognition software funded by Federal spy agencies including the NSA, the CIA and DARPA. TARU's past surveillance activities have been covered by the Village Voice,  

NYPD surveillance activities - such as covert religious and race based surveillance and the routine videotaping of protests - have been subject to a three decade old consent judgment in the case of Handschu v. Special Services Division.

The consent judgment in Handshu was modified in 2002, at the request of the NYPD, who wanted increased powers to investigate potential terrorist activity following  9/11.  Once the NYPD intelligence unit was unbound from the restraints of the consent decree it partnered with the CIA and engaged in an orgy of race-based civil rights violations not seen since the days of COINTELPRO.

In 2004, in advance of the Republican National Convention,  the NYPD issued an order allowing its officers to photograph and videotape all political activity in the city without restriction. According to the NYCLU website:
The photographic and video surveillance practices conducted by the NYPD during the Republican National Convention have raised new issues in this case.
On Nov. 28, 2005, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enjoin enforcement of NYPD Interim Order 47. Order 47 establishes procedures and guidelines for the Police Department’s use of photographic and video equipment. The plaintiffs argued that Order 47 is incompatible with NYPD guidelines. In addition, class counsel sought injunctive relief on the grounds that Order 47 violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights and prior Handschu judgments.
However, on Feb. 15, 2007, the District Court ruled in favor of the defendants. The court rejected class counsel’s request for an order enjoining the enforcement of Interim Order 47 on the grounds that the investigations in the question are not politically motivated. The court also stated that, since Order 47 did not constitute a First Amendment violation, it would not grant the plaintiffs’ injunctive relief.
In June 2007, the court further modified its February decision on the enforceability of the consent decree, requiring that plaintiffs show a systemic pattern of violations before the court will enjoin any Police Department policy.
On Feb. 27, 2008, the court ordered the NYPD to provide plaintiffs records of its videotaping practices. Plaintiffs sought production of these documents to help determine if the NYPD had been routinely videotaping political demonstrations in the absence of any reason to believe that criminal activity had occurred was about to occur.
In 2007, the NYPD revised its written policy by removing the broader language permitting recording of “events, actions, conditions or statements made” when “such accurate documentation is deemed potentially beneficial or useful.” The policy now mandates a “bona fide need” to tape, such as capturing a crime in progress or assessing crowd conditions.

So why, in 2011, was I videotaped by the New York City Police Department walking down a public street in my own neighborhood?  Why was I stopped from proceeding north on 5th Ave. and threatened with arrest unless I turned around and walked in the opposite direction?  What does the NYPD plan to do with their videotape of me? Am I now included in some Orwellian facial recognition database?  What's coming next?   

More important than the questions raised by my own treatment are the questions that must be answered by the police and the Mayor's office about the barbaric treatment of the peaceful protestors that were maced, assaulted and arrested for participating in a peaceful protest.  Merely speaking with the police has now become a crime  punishable by arrest and extra-judicial violence.

As I watched the police scoop up protestors in their orange nets I was reminded that the United Nation's General Assembly was in session.  Is this the example we want to set for visiting world leaders of  how a democratic society deals with peaceful political protest.?
   Is this What New Yorker's Can Expect in the Future From the NYPD? 

Comments From the WNYC News Blog:

Steve from Greenwich Village
I live in the neighborhood and was walking with my 11 year old daughter when I saw the police closing University Place. I went over there in time to see the police run up 12th street, corral a group of around 30 people on the sidewalk in a pink fence like barrier and then start arresting them. I could not see any reason why these people, walking peacefully on the sidewalk were being arrested and dragged away. I told a cop that I lived a block away and wanted to know why they were arresting all these people. He told me to leave the area and go to my home or else he would arrest me. We were just standing on the sidewalk, across the street from where the police were making the mass arrest and were about to get arrested ourselves. For the crime of standing on the sidewalk in our neighborhood!! My daughter was frightened and although I was offended by the way the police were disregarding basic rights I decided that I had better leave the area. Very disturbing.
Sep. 24 2011 07:12 PM
Robert from NYC

I was there. The protestors were corralled and trapped by an orange makeshift barrier held up by the police. Soon after, I saw kids with bleeding faces in handcuffs, as well as many who had not been arrested pouring milk on eachothers faces after being pepper-sprayed. There were some cops acting in rage, using force while the protestors held up peace signs and focused themselves on collecting the names of those being arrested.
Sep. 24 2011 05:55 PM
hope from union square
I was on the corner of 12th and I think University. There was a standoff on the sidewalk, when one policeman pulled out pepper-spray and sprayed 3 people on the sidewalk who were not in any way obstructing the police. I think even his fellow police officers seemed annoyed that he did this, and he was quickly pulled away by his colleagues. Two of the the people sprayed were left lying on the street in pain while passerbys tried to get water to flush their eyes. Police provided no medics. Eventually medics from the protesters found us and used what they said was maalox and milk to relieve their pain. It took 30-40 mins before one of them could open her eyes again. I understand arresting those who engage in civil dissobedience, but the interaction I saw was an unprovoked assault by one policeman on three women who were chanting and holding peace signs on the sidewalk. It was an assault for which likely no one will be held accountable.
Sep. 24 2011 08:17 PM 

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