Friday, March 17, 2006

NYC Police 1, First Amendment Rights 0

Police Memos Say Arrest Tactics Calmed Protest - New York Times:
In five internal reports made public yesterday as part of a lawsuit, New York City police commanders candidly discuss how they had successfully used 'proactive arrests,' covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and recommend that those approaches be employed at future gatherings.

[...]

The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss publicly: that the department uses undercover officers to infiltrate political gatherings and monitor behavior.

Indeed, one of the documents — a draft report from the department's Disorder Control Unit — proposed in blunt terms the resumption of a covert tactic that had been disavowed by the city and the federal government 30 years earlier. Under the heading of recommendations, the draft suggested, "Utilize undercover officers to distribute misinformation within the crowds."
You may be wondering why these documents and such inflammatory information has become public. Was it another example of whistleblowing, er, lax internal security, er, treasonous leaking within the department? Nope:
Parts of that document and others were made public, over the objections of the city, by a federal magistrate, Gabriel W. Gorenstein, who said the excerpts went to the heart of a lawsuit brought by 16 people who were arrested at an animal rights demonstration during the economic forum. The police said they were blocking the sidewalk and had refused to obey an order to disperse; the demonstrators said no one told them to move.

Many of the issues in the animal rights case, which challenge broad police tactics and arrest strategies, resonate in well over a hundred other lawsuits brought against the city by demonstrators who were arrested at war protests, bicycle rallies and during the Republican National Convention.
It was the result of legal actions taken by The People, for The People who happened to have their First Amendment Rights trampled by the hob-nailed boots of NYPD efficiency, er, expediency, no, dedication to peace and service.
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