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NYCLU Asks Federal Judge To Stop Police From Videotaping Demonstrators And Keeping Video Indefinitely

Police claim to unrestricted photosurveillance of lawful protestors is contrary to federal court order

A federal district court judge will hear arguments tomorrow on whether the police may not take and keep videotape and photographs of people engaging in lawful political demonstrations.

The argument marks another round in the New York Civil Liberties Union’s long-running class action lawsuit governing New York City Police Department surveillance of political activity, Handschu v. Special Services Division.

NYCLU attorneys and other counsel for the class will ask U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight to stop the New York City Police Department from acting on a regulation that it adopted in late 2004. Under the regulation, Interim Order 47, the police department claims it may photograph and videotape all political activity in New York City without restriction, and that it may retain those photographs and videotapes for unlimited periods of time. The NYCLU is asking Judge Haight to enjoin the police from implementing the regulation because it violates a consent decree entered in the case.

NYPD officers have been photographing and videotaping demonstrators aggressively since the months leading up to the Republican National Convention in August 2004. The police claim in the new regulation, adopted late that year, that they may retain the resulting photos and videos indefinitely. But a consent decree in the Handschu case provides that police may engage in the surveillance of political activity only when there is reason to believe that criminal activity is taking place or will take place.

Lawyers on the case include NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg, Paul G. Chevigny of NYU Law School, Jethro M. Eisenstein, Martin R. Stolar, and Franklin Siegel.

Argument will take place on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 17-C of the new U.S. Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY. They are scheduled to last two and a half hours.

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