Bloomberg's Long War Against Protests - Politics - The Atlantic Cities
The first protest Bloomberg tried to suppress was against the impending invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. The city, citing only vague security concerns, refused to grant a permit to march, allowing only a stationary rally and cramming attendees into a narrow penned area. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were unable to get within earshot.
During the Republican National Convention in 2004, the NYPD took an especially aggressive approach to handling protesters. Although there was not a single incident of protester violence, 1,800 arrests were made, many of them pre-emptively. (They were held until after the RNC ended and then released, often without charges.) The city has had to pay millions of dollars in settlements for wrongful arrests, but has successfully blocked efforts to force the release of records on what the NYPD was doing and why. Even more remarkable, the NYPD conducted an elaborate spying operation on potential protesters for a year before the RNC, traveling all over the country to attend meetings posing as activists. As The New York Times reported, "in hundreds of reports stamped N.Y.P.D. Secret, the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show. These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies."
In the wake of September 11, the NYPD put together an impressive, sophisticated operation to prevent terrorist attacks. But critics worry that the city is incapable of distinguishing democratic dissent from legitimate threats. Police habitually interrogated protesters they arrested about past protest activities until it was exposed that they were doing so, and they still monitor protests with a heavy hand."The NYPD is engaged in massive surveillance, they videotape every demonstration," says Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "They did it at the RNC and they do it at Occupy Wall Street."
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