Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Police Abuse and Occupy Wall Street

A report out today from NYU Law School and Fordham Law School documents lawless policing by the New York Police Department in connection with the Occupy Wall Street protests last year.  The report, "Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street" catalogs the repeated and systematic violations of constitutional and human rights of protesting United States citizens.  According to the Executive Summary of the 195-page report:

"Government responses to Occupy Wall Street in the United States have varied significantly, both within and across cities. Indeed, there have been examples of good practice . . .  But across the United States, abusive and unlawful protest regulation and policing practices have been and continue to be alarmingly evident. This report follows a review of thousands of news reports and hundreds of hours of video, extensive firsthand observation, and detailed witness interviews. In New York City, some of the worst practices documented include:

• Aggressive, unnecessary and excessive police force against peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers, and journalists

• Obstruction of press freedoms and independent legal monitoring

• Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity

• Violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments

• Unjustified closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and kettling (corralling and trapping) of protesters

• Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests

• Failures to ensure transparency about applicable government policies

• Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses

These practices violate assembly and expression rights and breach the U.S. government’s international legal obligations to respect those rights. In New York City, protest policing concerns are extensive and exist against a backdrop of disproportionate and well-documented abusive policing practices in poor and minority communities outside of the protest context. . . .

For protesters who previously had little interaction with police, these abusive practices have
radically altered worldviews about the role of police in protecting citizens. For others who
had long experienced official discrimination and abuse, especially those from minority and
economically disadvantaged communities, protest experiences have simply reinforced
existing negative perceptions."

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