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."