After a federal judge last month ruled that New York City could not stop the New York Civil Liberties Union from sharing with the public reams of documents and dozens of hours of video about the NYPD's policing of the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYCLU today made those documents available to the public by posting them on its website.
The judge's ruling came in litigation filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU's two post-RNC lawsuits challenge mass arrests and detentions during the 2004 Republican National Convention. The documents and videos were obtained by the NYCLU in pre-trial discovery. New York City said the documents in question were secret and could not be shared; the NYCLU countered that there was nothing sensitive about the documents and that they should be part of the public record. The judge, James C. Francis IV, ruled on the side of the NYCLU. The City did not appeal.
The documents illuminate the policing of the Convention. Highlights include:
- Pier 57 NYPD Officer Medical Reports that were filed with the NYPD's own medical division by 40 of the NYPD's own officers. NYPD complainants (whose names are redacted) report that they were exposed to various harmful substances – including asbestos, carbon monoxide, unidentified fumes, and an unidentified black liquid – while assigned to Pier 57 during the Convention. The reports indicate that protesters' concerns about conditions of detention at Pier 57 were shared by the officers assigned to the area.
- The RNC No-Summons Memo of May 4, 2004, which announces that NYPD officers would not give summonses to protestors during the Convention, instead arresting and fingerprinting them. This policy caused lengthy detentions of demonstrators; without it, 1500 of the 1800 arrestees would have been eligible for summons and quick release.
- The RNC Arrest-to-Arraignment Charts show that RNC arrestees were arraigned much more slowly than non-RNC arrestees during the week of the Convention. The charts raise troubling questions as to why protesters arrested for minor offenses were being held much longer than people arrested for serious crimes during the Convention.
"The public has a right to see these documents," said NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman. "The court recognized that democracy dies behind closed doors, and today we carry out that court's mandate to keep it alive."
The documents are organized on the NYCLU's website at the dedicated page www.nyclu.org/rncdocs. The NYCLU intends to place the videos online as soon as possible.
The court's ruling (PDF)