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NYCLU Issues “Arresting Protest” Report

The NYCLU today released a special report, entitled “Arresting Protest,” about the City’s and Police Department’s actions with respect to the February 15 antiwar event.

The 40 page report chronicles the actions surrounding New York City’s decision to prohibit any march, reviews actions by the NYPD on February 15, provides detailed information about nearly eyewitness 350 accounts received by the NYCLU from people alleging police misconduct that day, and compares the actions of the NYPD with those of law-enforcement agencies in other cities where large protest events took place on February 15.

The report concludes specific recommendations, including a call for an end to the use of physical force against peaceful protesters. In a letter delivered today to Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly, the NYCLU urges the City to consider the report’s recommendations with an eye toward the large demonstrations that are likely to take place at next year’s Republican convention here in New York City.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “On February 15, the NYPD engaged in the massive interference with peaceful protest, starting with the denial of a permit to march; excessive use of force, including the use of horses to charge into crowds of peaceful demonstrators and the use of pepper spray on people simply trying to get to the rally; and pervasive constitutional violations of those arrested, including political interrogations, denial of access to counsel and even forcing some to stand chained together outside for a long time in the freezing cold following hours in cold, dark unheated vans without food, water or medical care.”

She added, “Even though the city reversed the ban on political protest marches, February 15 exposed on a world stage the systemic and recurring problems of the New York Police Department’s interference with peaceful political protest. What the police did on February 15 was an embarrassment to the City. But it was no accident. The City appears to have a blind spot for the civil liberties, as evidenced by its efforts to eviscerate the Handschu settlement that limits police spying on lawful political activity and its use of the Mc Carthyesque “Demonstrator Debriefing” political interrogation forms which the City only agreed to abandon after the NYCLU revealed their existence.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said, “When the Republican convention comes to New York City next year, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators may be in the streets. We hope that the City and the Police Department will learn from the mistakes of February 15 so that we do not have the same problems next year.”

The report is available as a downloadable PDF file (requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader).

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