05 September 2004

Living in a Police State

Via Keywords: When the RNC crashed into New York City, they turned it into a Police state with arbitrary arrests, police brutality, spying on citizens, and a refusal to set protestors free after the maximum 3-day holding period.

Kerim's article:
Indiscriminate Arrests

That's the number of people they are saying were arrested in New York during the Republican convention. A judge ordered that 500 of them be released immediately:

A judge ordered the immediate release of nearly 500 protesters Thursday - just hours before President Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention - and then fined the city for refusing to comply with his order.

The NY branch of the ACLU has set up a special web site for reporting on police misconduct during the RNC. In their latest report they raise concerns about the following violations:

* Pre-emptive arrests: On a couple of occasions, massive arrests followed right on the heels of a negotiated agreement on the terms for a lawful march

* Indiscriminate arrests: The NYCLU has received reports from members of the press, legal observers, medics and even passersby who found themselves caught in the Spiderman-type orange mesh netting the police used to make arrests.

* Dangerous tactics: At one demonstration, the police suddenly charged into the crowd with metal barricades and a squad of plain clothes officers later drove their scooters into the crowd. Some arrestees and bystanders reported being kicked, punched or hit with batons by police. Some reported the incidents to local precincts and had their bruises photographed by police officials.

* Dangerous conditions at the Pier 57 detention facility: Having announced for months that it was prepared to handle over 1000 arrests a day during the RNC, the City chose to detain arrestees in this dank, filthy bus depot where people had to sit or lie on the floor covered with soot and quite possibly toxic automotive fluids. The conditions left many with rashes and respiratory problems during their detention stay and after they were released. The NYCLU is in the process of testing a sample gathered by a medic who was part of a sweeping arrest, although he was doing nothing more than monitoring a protest event.

* Excessive delays in processing arrestees: The criminal justice system ground practically to a halt as people – including hundreds whose arrests the police know were unlawful – were routinely held for 36 hours or more on minor offenses before receiving desk appearance tickets or being brought before a judge.

* Pervasive police surveillance: The pervasive videotaping and use of surveillance cameras to record lawful protest activity raises the specter of a return to the bad old days of the “Red Squad” and the keeping of political dossiers on critics of our government. A number of activists with a history of lawful protest activity also report being followed by individuals who appeared to be government agents. These practices appear to be designed – and certainly have the effect—of intimidating people from exercising their right to dissent.

Perhaps most troubling is the increased use of the term "preemptive" to legitimate arrests, wars, and other acts of state violence. Its like watching a bad science fiction movie, except its real.

UPDATE: The story in the Village Voice.

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