'consistently violated basic rights'
During Occupy Protests
Report by NYU and Fordham law schools found 'shocking level of impunity' and department that acted beyond its powers"
The first systematic look at the New York police department's response to Occupy Wall Street protests paints a damning picture of an out-of-control and aggressive organization that routinely acted beyond its powers.I cannot speak first hand to New York City. But I can speak to Oakland. So permit me just a bit of license. Stay with me while I tell you a pertinent story that took place over the last three days, not in New York City, but 2900 hundred miles west as I-80 goes. Different and yet so much the same.
Sarah Knuckey, a professor of law at NYU, said: "All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking..."
... practices documented in the report include:
This is Melvin.
That's him again. He got arrested on Monday, when the President came to town.
Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity.The police snatched him from the protest march for "assault on a police officer" because they said he put a bullhorn too close to an officer's ear. Much like what happened to his compatriot Chris Moreland a month ago.
Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests.Of course, his arrest had nothing at all to do with the fact that he is an outspoken member of Occupy Oakland and African American. That would be against the law and in violation of the Constitution's guarantee of free speech and equal protection.
Melvin was taken to Santa Rita, the County Jail some twenty miles away. There he spent Monday night, all day Tuesday, and this morning (Wednesday) in jail, awaiting arraignment. He was then hauled back to Oakland. His court appearance was delayed from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM, and then at 2:05 PM his supporters at the courthouse were informed that he would not be charged today, and would be released.
Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses.The cops essentially kidnapped him for two days, using the police power of the state to silence someone they did not like.
Even though he was not charged didn't mean he would walk free then and there. He was to be taken back to Santa Rita, where he would be "processed," then released sometime in the evening. They never tell anyone what time, and they can delay release because of "paperwork" for hours. Which means supporters who go there to greet him when he comes out tonight need to be prepared to wait indefinitely. (And they will be there, I assure you of that).
Failures to ensure transparency about government policies.It doesn't even end when Melvin is released. Not even close. The District Attorney of Alameda County has perfected her own mental torture technique to keep "those people" in line. The DA has up to a year to charge someone based on an arrest. Sure, they may release you from jail, but they don't drop the charges. They just keep them hanging. Reference intended.
The report argues that the lack of transparency and accountability is especially troubling because the public does not know whether police actions are guided by specific written policies, or whether they are random or ad hoc.If you get "uppity" they might just arbitrarily decide to issue an arrest warrant even without your knowledge. For an entire year that means that someone like Melvin has to live with the knowledge that he can be snatched up off the streets or even from his home without even the possibility of him seeing it coming. Kind-of police-state-ish like, eh?
"The point needs to be made that the NYPD does not exemplify international human rights law, it violates it," she said.It's true that on the scale of repression, what I've told you is fairly minor. But you well know "it get's worse." A lot worse. Yet regardless of how many examples I and others cite -- far, far more egregious than this one, like repeated examples of beatings, shootings and planting of evidence -- you can be sure that a few apologists will find there way here and make comments about how America is not a police state because it's not like Syria, or Fuckwaditstan. Because no one is dragged from their home by the secret police and shot. And you know what? They have their facts on straight. This is not Syria. Or Fuckwaditstan. And while police may well drag some people out of their homes and shoot them (or at least chase them into their homes and shoot them), they are not secret police.
Non-secret police. A side street in Oakland, July 23rd, 2012
But that misses the entire point. The police, day in and day out, make a mockery of the Constitution, as the report I've cited concludes. Not only that, for many who are not born with the correct skin color and sexual orientation, they make life a living hell. The fact is that the police both reign and rule on the streets of our cities, and the good burghers who live on the far side of the tracks cheer mightily that they do. If that isn't a police state to you, you are entitled to your opinion. But not to your own facts.
there have been instances of authorities in Egypt, Syria and Indonesia pointing to NYPD actions to justify their own and far more severe crackdowns on non-violent protests.Maybe some people should chew on that.
Photo credits: Alyssa (Kossack allie123, Twitter allie011968) took the second and third photos.