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Just as thousands of political protesters descend upon Denver – and Denver police prep their makeshift prison warehouse – the New York Civil Liberties Union today released a startling new video from New York’s arrest-marred protests four years ago. The video offers Denver police a perfect lesson in what not to do in confronting political protesters during a convention.

The filmmaker, Michael Schiller, is the lead plaintiff in one of the NYCLU’s Republican National Convention cases. Schiller was taping protestors near the World Trade Center on August 31, 2004 when the NYPD used netting to form a cordon and arrest en masse hundreds of lawful protestors, as well as some peaceful observers. That day, nearly 1,200 people were arrested across New York City.

In an interview with the Associated Presslast week, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman spoke of the irony that political conventions – events that are supposed to be the epitome of the democratic process – are used by local and national law enforcement as an excuse to trample on the Bill of Rights. Time and time again, lawful activities are turned into grounds for arrest when the convention comes to town.

"Changing the law to transform innocent behavior into a crime where it poses no threat to public safety is entirely uncalled for and inconsistent with principles of the First Amendment," she said. "It has a chilling effect on free speech and that has been found time and time again to be improper under First Amendment principles."

Click here for more info on protest during the 2004 RNC convention. To read about the NYCLU’s latest victory in the Schiller case, click here.

Originally posted to NYCLU Jen on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm with you. (3+ / 0-)

    All the way, even though my options for joining the demonstrators are fairly limited out here in BFE.

    I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

    by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:24:57 PM PDT

  •  The mere act of demonstrating (12+ / 0-)

    gets redefined as a crime.  No matter how non-existent any threats to public safety, goverment business, or private property, just the mere act of taking up a street normally occupied by cars is treated as a violation of law.  

    That's what happened to us in Albuquerque when we were protesting the opening of hostilities in Iraq.  Bunch of young parents pushing strollers, and little old ladies in tennis shoes. They blocked every route to turn the march back in circles and pool it up in one area, then they tear-gassed us.  For not having a parade permit!  But you have to know the precise date and time months in advance to get that, which W. was not thoughtful enough to supply.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:28:37 PM PDT

    •  opens your eyes, huh? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, lgmcp, shortgirl, NYCLU Jen, Marja E

      fortunately, the solution is very simple (albeit difficult to implement):  cut their funding.

      when you dedicate the lion's share of resources to war and prisons, you end up with a police state.  

    •  Thanks, NYCLUJen! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, lgmcp, NYCLU Jen

      This kind of first-person video is exactly what we need to show America political protesters are decent and patriotic Americans. FoxNews can lump us all together with the anarchic fringe if they like, but videos like this show we're actually very mainstream...

      Hey, I just heard 80 percent of Americans think we're on the wrong track. Tear-gas 'em!!! -- "Politics, Rhetoric and How Dumb Ideas Get Sold to Smart People"

      by djlavoie on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:39:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  question for lgmcp (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, shortgirl

      Before I ask my question, I want to thank you for protesting the war - I was in the streets in Southern California & am pleased to say that we were not tear-gassed.

      My question - actually questions (pl) are:

      Who made the decision to use tear gas?  

      Wasn't the Albuquerque mayor a Dem?
      Wasn't the New Mexico governor a Dem?  

      Was there an investigation after this blatant assault on your right to assembly?  

      Did heads role?  

      Did Governor Richardson speak out in support of the protesters rights to express opinions which were contrary to his - since at the time he was supporting Bush's military aggression?


      •  I don't know the answers to all those (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peace voter, marina, shortgirl

        But the decision to use teargas was made, evidently well ahead of time, by the highest levels of the Albuquerque Police Department.  The clear intent was not to deal with a possibly violent or overwhelming turn of affairs, but simply to PREVENT the march from the get-go. This during the Democratic administrations of Mayor Martin Chavez and Governon Bill Richardson -- who, along with a shameful majority of Dem legislators, had nothing to say against the clearly preemptive and unnecessary war.  

        As far as I know, there was no investigation and no heads rolled.   As far as I know there was nothing like a reprimand or even an apology.  Press coverage was essentially scrubbed, so you'd be hard put to it, at the time, to even notice it had happened if you weren't there.  I wasn't one of the folks arrested, but I understand that it is only quite recently that a judge delivered a stinging decision on their behalf, ad diaried
        by Jacicee.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 01:05:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm in for protesting and in favor of cameras (7+ / 0-)

    recording what happens in the streets. It should be documented what the police do...and what the protesters do.

    So, peaceful demonstrations yes. Times like WTO damage done by protesters in Seattle back a while...use the footage to prosecute the vandals.

    Says a middle aged pro-law enforcement, anti~war, whacko librul.

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. Voltaire 1694-1778

    by SallyCat on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:34:52 PM PDT

    •  In NYC... (6+ / 0-)

      The cops came out and videotaped the demonstrations, too (for political surveillance purposes). In reviewing the videos, the most interesting part is all of the tape of the ground. Apparently, when NYPD officers did something illegal, the police videographer just points the camera at the ground. So lots of video of the road and shoes. Nothing to see here...

      •  I'd like to see individuals video cameras etc (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, distraught, shortgirl, NYCLU Jen

        video for these items. I understand that the cops do some videotaping and avoid the cops doing bad things. But I also know that there are a few that intentionally take protests and make them ugly.

        From my days as an MP, during the end of the Vietnam War, stationed in Oakland...right next to the Berkeley folks. Most good...a few very, very nasty.

        Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. Voltaire 1694-1778

        by SallyCat on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:47:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  That was sadly (0+ / 0-)

    nothing new. The NYPD has a long history of violating civil and constitutional rights. What is really galling is they often get away with it.

    So many impeachable offenses, so little time... -6.0 -5.33

    by Cali Techie on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 01:02:55 PM PDT

  •  Militarization as Gov response to Free Speech (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This has been happening all across the country and must be opposed. Democrats should feel very uncomfortable and conflicted about the "security" measures being employed in Denver.

    I was a delegate to the Boston 04 convention and was angry about the caging of free speech in that town. The political dynamics were such that much of the anti-war movement was willing to tone down their hostility to the Democrats as part of an "anti-Bush United Front."

    This year, the anti-war movement has reasons to be extremely frustrated over the collusion of the congressional Democrats with the Bush administration on the war, on the refusal to pursue even the possibility of impeachment, the passage of telecom immunity, etc.

    I had hoped the Obama campaign would diffuse some of that anger by reflecting those concerns, but Obama has insulted the intelligence of progressives since he got the nomination and a lot of us are losing patience with him. The magic, which depended upon the "willful suspension of disbelief," has melted away. It is much like watching a movie that stretches your credulity way to much and you lose interest in the movie and start mocking it to your companion.

    The need to defeat McCain will motivate this longtime activist to continue working within the Party, but my energy level is down. Younger progressives, those initially more naive and those presently more cynical than I, may fall away.

    I had thought the Nader/McKinney argument would not have much appeal this cycle, but I fear the Obama campaign is suffering significant losses in its appeal to these voters.

    If things happen in Denver which cause anti-war activists to view the DNC as being partners in repression with the jackbooted"robo-cops," it will exacerbate the tensions. This is recognized by both the anarchists and the GOP agent provocateurs (sometimes it is hard to tell them apart), so the opportunity for mischief is very great.

    Progressive Democrats have a responsibility to recognize LEGITIMATE security measures, while opposing measures which demonize free speech and those to the left of the Party. Heck, most of us are frustrated with the corporate-funded superficial theater the Convention has become. I LOVE the external convention and urge all delegates to co-mingle with the people on the streets, visit the "Free Speech Ghettoes" and express solidarity. And step away from the fancy events designed to bribe you into thinking you are a VIP and make you comfortable with the lifestyle of the elite who truly run this country.

    "... if I can lead you into the promised land someone else can just as easily lead you back out again." --Eugene Debs

    by Shliapnikov on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 01:37:04 PM PDT

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