A weekend of upbeat and peaceful protests was marred by questionable tactics by the NYPD. The New York Civil Liberties Union is investigating several incidents where police arrested individuals who were otherwise obeying the law.
"The NYPD was the picture of restraint during the major demonstrations this weekend, including United for Peace and Justice's march on Sunday," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. "But it appears police had no tolerance in numerous incidents when they failed to distinguish lawful protest from unlawful protest."
On Sunday evening, August 29th, police made numerous arrests in Times Square where people had gathered to demonstrate after the main UFPJ march. Activists were simply walking, standing, chanting or engaging in activities that did not block pedestrian or vehicular traffic. No amplified sound was used. In some instances, police gave orders to disperse but gave no time for people to comply. In their sweep, police arrested demonstrators, observers and members of the press as well as passersby.
At one point, mounted police were sent onto a traffic island at Broadway and 46th Street to displace people who were standing there, forcing them onto the opposite sidewalk. Several minutes later, these people were surrounded by police and arrested. Police became increasingly aggressive, using batons and pushing large crowds of tourists and demonstrators, as arrests continued in the theater district.
The NYCLU received a number of reports throughout the day that police were harassing journalists who were videotaping without press credentials, and they also were harassing credentialed journalists. The NYCLU received reports that police asked these journalists for ID, told them to stop taping and/or demanded to view their footage.
The NYCLU plans to follow up on these incidents and file complaints with the NYPD.