In response to last night’s police harassment of Occupy Rochester’s encampment in Washington Square Park, the New York Civil Liberties Union today demanded that the City of Rochester stop sending police officers into the park to harass peaceful protesters.

“This was pure harassment and an outrageous affront to free speech,” said KaeLyn Rich, director of the NYCLU’s Genesee Valley Chapter. “There is no good reason for police to be harassing peaceful protesters in the dead of night. It flies in the face of both the First Amendment and the agreement between the city and Occupy Rochester that allows the demonstrators to camp in the park.”

According to reports from witnesses in the park, police officers entered the park after 2 a.m. and began rousting sleeping protesters and demanding to see their IDs. They further demanded to search the protestors’ tents and other personal property. The police officers said they were acting under orders of the Rochester Police Department’s “deputy director” and that they would return nightly to conduct similar identification checks and searches. The officers also said they would return nightly from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

In a letter sent today, the NYCLU calls on Mayor Thomas Richards to instruct the Police Department to stop harassing peaceful protestors and to comply with the terms of the agreement the city signed with Occupy Rochester in November.

The NYCLU brokered that agreement between the city and Occupy Rochester protestors to allow the demonstrators to camp in Washington Square Park subject to a set of rules to ensure safety and allow the public access to the park. The demonstrators have complied with their obligations under the agreement.
NYCLU representatives will visit the park tonight at 7:30 p.m. to distribute “Know Your Rights” materials.