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Legal Experts File Complaints about Widespread Rights Violations in Policing of Occupy Movement

Posted 2 years ago on July 26, 2012, 10:25 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

protestors pepper-sprayed by NYPD

The City of New York must take immediate action to correct the clear pattern of abusive policing of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests, said legal experts in a complaint filed Wednesday with New York City authorities, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the United Nations. The complaint is based on a report providing in-depth documentation and legal analysis of widespread human rights violations in New York City’s treatment of Occupy protests over the past ten months.

The 132-page report—Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street—is the first in a series by the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a national consortium of law school clinics addressing the United States response to Occupy Wall Street. The report is available at: http://www.chrgj.org/projects/suppressingprotest.pdf

“Recently, officers repeatedly yanked the broken collarbone of a protester as he begged them to stop hurting him. And just two weeks ago, a phalanx of officers removed a grandmother from a park for the ‘crime’ of knitting in a folding chair, arrested a man trying to help her leave, and then arrested another man filming the incident,” said NYU Law School Professor Sarah Knuckey, one of the report’s principal authors, who also witnessed these incidents. “These are just two of hundreds of examples we document in our report, demonstrating a pattern of abusive and unaccountable protest policing by the NYPD.”

In the report experts catalog 130 specific alleged incidents of excessive police force, and hundreds of additional violations, including unjustified arrests, abuse of journalists, unlawful closure of sidewalks and parks to protesters, and pervasive surveillance of peaceful activists. Yet, to date, only one police officer is known to have been disciplined for misconduct in the context of OWS policing.

“The excessive and unpredictable policing of OWS is one more example of the dire need for widespread reform of NYPD practices. These violations are occurring against a backdrop of police infiltration of activist groups, massive stop-and-frisk activity in communities of color, and the surveillance of Muslims,” said Emi MacLean, a human rights lawyer and primary author of the report. “This report is a call to action.”

The report calls for urgent state action, including:

  • The creation of an independent Inspector General for the NYPD;
  • A full and impartial review of the city’s response to OWS;
  • Investigations and prosecutions of responsible officers; and
  • The creation of new NYPD protest policing guidelines to protect against rights violations.

If New York authorities fail to respond, the report calls for federal intervention.

“The U.S. response to the Occupy movement – which itself emerged as part of a wave of global social justice protests—is being closely watched by other governments,” said Fordham Law Professor Katherine Glenn, one of the report’s principal authors. “In the face of this international attention, this report shows that New York City’s response actually violates international law and, as such, sets a bad example to the rest of the world. The city now has an opportunity to set this right through reforms that reflect just and accountable policing practices.”

This report is the first in a series by the Protest and Assembly Rights Project. This report focuses on New York City, and was authored by the Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law) and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic (Fordham Law School). Subsequent reports will address the responses in Boston, Charlotte, Oakland, and San Francisco. Participating law clinics are at NYU, Fordham, Harvard, Stanford, Rutgers-Newark, Charlotte, and Loyola-New Orleans.

See below for the executive summary of the report:

Executive Summary

In September 2011, waves of protests against mounting socioeconomic injustice broke out across the United States, capturing the attention of the country. The Occupy Wall Street movement, inspired by similar protests around the globe, used the occupation of public space and mass demonstrations to call attention to a wide array of shared concerns. The movement also used public assemblies to debate concerns and promote direct democratic participation. Within weeks of their emergence, the protests dramatically expanded and deepened U.S. political discourse around the widening gap between rich and poor, bank bailouts and impunity for financial crimes, and the role of money in politics.

The response of U.S. authorities to the protests also received significant attention. Images of police using pepper spray on seated students, the arrests of thousands of peaceful protesters across the country, midnight raids on encampments, baton-swinging officers, marches accompanied by phalanxes of riot police, and officers obstructing and arresting journalists were beamed around the world.

This is the first in a series of reports examining the responses of U.S. authorities to the Occupy protests. Through an eight-month-long study of the response in New York City, together with comparative data collected from cities across the United States, this report highlights major policy concerns and serious violations of the rights of protesters. Further detailed studies will be published in the coming months on the response of authorities in Boston, Charlotte, Oakland, and San Francisco.

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, including through welcoming assemblies, using modern democratic policing styles that promote negotiation to facilitate protests, and enforcing strict controls on any use of police force.

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.

Governments—including U.S. federal, state, and local authorities—are obliged by international law to uphold the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and to seek to reform their governments. The freedoms of assembly and expression are essential pillars for democratic participation, the exchange and development of grievances and reforms, and securing positive social change. This report provides extensive analysis of the U.S. government’s international legal obligations with respect to protests. The abusive practices documented in this report violate international law and suppress and chill protest rights, not only by undermining individual liberty, but also by causing both minor and serious physical injuries, inhibiting collective debate and the capacity to effectively press for social and economic change, and making people afraid to attend otherwise peaceful assemblies.

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.

Protests have long been an important feature of American politics and have been essential to securing fundamental rights and freedoms. Yet the response of authorities has undermined foundational US democratic values, and often seemed to only reinforce Occupy’s core grievances. While federal prosecutions of economic crimes, such as mass fraud, are at a 20 year low, in just 10 months, public authorities across the United States have arrested more than 7,000 and physically injured Occupy protestors seeking social and economic reforms.

While after just two months city authorities dismantled many of the high-profile around-theclock Occupy encampments that initially defined the movement, regular marches, demonstrations, and assemblies continue in many places, including New York City. The government response to Occupy Wall Street in New York City is emblematic of its failure to adequately protect protest rights more broadly. Reform is needed to ensure that U.S. authorities respect and facilitate—rather than suppress—the ability to peacefully protest.

In U.S. cities with significant abuse allegations and no major reviews of police practice, including New York City, independent official reviews are urgently needed to assess past practice, promote accountability for abuse, and reform authorities’ responses to bring them into line with binding international legal obligations and modern democratic policing best practice. In New York, the mayor should urgently announce a major review of the City’s response to Occupy Wall Street, and legislators should establish an independent Inspector General to oversee policing practices. In addition, the police should implement a new protest policing policy that prioritizes respect for civil liberties and human rights. Where city or state authorities themselves fail to take the necessary steps of review and reform, federal authorities should exercise their powers to institute investigations and oversight.

The Occupy protests took place amid an extraordinary period of global social movement mobilization – Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Spain's indignados, Greek anti-austerity protests, Chile’s students, Montreal’s casseroles, and many others have inspired and been inspired by one another. The US government has closely monitored protests in other countries, and has frequently publicly criticized other governments for violating their international legal obligations to uphold protest rights. As the Occupy protests entered the world stage, governments around the world also paid close attention to the U.S. authorities’ responses.
Some countries, when pressed about their own mass arrests and beatings of protesters, have justified their actions by pointing to the highly visible and aggressive policing practices in the United States. Some other countries’ responses to protests have been far—and sometimes, incomparably—worse than U.S. authorities’ responses. Yet the restriction of protest in U.S. cities exposes the double standard inherent in frequent U.S. government critiques of other governments for repressing their peoples’ protest rights.

The freedoms to peacefully assemble, to engage in political expression, to march and demonstrate, and to seek socioeconomic reform are not diplomatic sound bites. They are fundamental rights, vital in all democracies, and U.S. authorities are legally bound to respect and uphold them.

These rights must be secured at home.

read the entire report here: http://www.chrgj.org/projects/suppressingprotest.pdf

20 Comments

20 Comments


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[-] 8 points by ChemLady (576) 2 years ago

This entire article seems devoted to identifying problems with policing and requesting that the city take action. Shouldn't the lawyers that authored the report be filing lawsuits or seeking injunctions instead of making requests for the police to be better supervised or more nice?

[-] 3 points by JohnWa (513) 2 years ago

More is needed. Many thanks to those who have given thero best in these protests.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31997.htm

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 2 years ago

"The Rise of the Police State and the Absence of Mass Opposition",

by James Petras and Robin Eastman Abaya.

LINK above ; highly recommended read ; thanx for posting 'JW'.

fiat lux ...

[-] 3 points by hasits (3) 2 years ago

Without use of violence, how can the ruling class protects its wealth from the people? Without wealth, how can the ruling class be the ruling class? Violence is necessary for the ruling class to continue to be the ruling class. It is only a problem of how to legitimize it.

[-] 3 points by MichaelB (128) 2 years ago

We have laws and police procedures that the police are supposed to follow. When they violate the law someone has to step up and take them to court. Just complaining doesn't do anything. Jam them up in court, doesn't matter if you win or loose there, keep dragging them into court, until they realize it's easier to do the right thing.

[-] 3 points by Bighead1883 (285) 2 years ago

Excellent,may justice prevail.Here in Australia we still await the High Court outcome on a violation of human rights due to police brutality and civic authority heavy handedness.This case was brought forward by Occupy Melbourne and was heard in March,2012.Still no result or resolve.

[-] 3 points by nomdeguerre (1775) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

Off-topic legal matters: Does anyone know if there is an appeal process taking place of

  1. Judge Stallman's ruling that camping in publicly owned (or leased, etc.) parks or other spaces is not protected by the first amendment?

  2. Judge Billings being replaced by Judge Stallman, and the manner in which it was done.

And finally, is there any lawsuit against the city for having ignored Judge Billings' restraining order?

(background info: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/11/occupy_wall_str_31.php )

[-] 3 points by alexanderchen (3) from 广州, 广东省 2 years ago

I'm a Chinese student major in International Relations and Government. I think the abuse of NYPD against the protesters are somewhat alike with the 1989 Tian'an Men massacre, which is an spontaneous protest originally against government corruption & political inequality & unfair job opportunities for the young people, suppressed by the conservative politicians.

[-] 2 points by sufinaga (513) 2 years ago

imitate this initiative nationwide! make your camcorders clandestine! keep gathering the evidence! let us fight for our constitutional rights in the courts! a clamour for justice in every city and state! keep marching around the walls of this Babylon!

[-] 2 points by PetadeAztlan (113) from Sacramento, CA 2 years ago

7/26/2012 For sure, this is a good article and good link to the entire report in order to help us and others better understand Occupy Wall Street AKA #OWS.

To me it is really amazing that the Protestors of the Occupy Wall Street Movement have remained generally peaceful, despite all the provocations by fascist police forces.

I imagine the reactionary forces wanted to see violence break out so they could use it as a pretext for them to just violently suppress the movement, brand OWS as a violent terrorist group and do all they can to squash it completely.

I am a supporter of OWS and support Global Liberation in general. We need to further expand the Liberation Movement here in the USA and see it in the context of the Global Liberation Movement in general. OWS has come this far, it is expanding more and digging in more for the harder struggles to come. We need to use all tactics that are applicable to our general situation.

I shared this via my Twitter Account @Peta_de_Aztlan and elsewhere. With Liberty and Justice for All! Peter S. López AKA @Peta_de_Aztlan c/s/

[-] 2 points by fiftyfourforty (1077) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I'm in my sixties and live with the aftermath of being hit by a car. My "fight or flight" days are over, like my dancing days. I should not be afraid to attend a protest rally and I shouldn't feel that a lawful protest is likely to be attacked by cops that I could not run fast enough away from or that by my own slow movement I could cause someone else to be kettled and brutalized, therefore my right to assemble and petition the government is a fiction. The fact is the cops have been brutal and corrupt and above the law since the days of "Gangs of New York." This report is fine - it's good that law students and their professors have put this situation into writing and filed it with the appropriate authorities. But realistically this is not going to change the conduct of the NYPD. Their thuggishness has to be exposed all the time but eventually the people ourselves will have to disarm and disperse this thug army and visit exemplary punishment on the worse of them.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (27701) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

It is not just the police who are out of line and acting illegally against the citizens of the USA.

Our whole Justice system is sick as well : ( one recent example )

http://occupywallst.org/forum/do-we-usa-have-the-worlds-best-justice-system-or-w/

[-] 2 points by mikalmil (8) 2 years ago

My prayers have been answered! We have NEVER been the bad guys as we were portrayed in the media.We were just exercising our first ammendment righs that our founding fathers insisted it was not juts our right but our resposibility to air our greivences in the public square

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (27701) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Yes - awesome report - this needs to be circulated far and wide. The USA can not allow illegal police actions ( abuse ) against legal USA citizen protest to continue.

Tweeted this post.

Open eyes educate spread awareness.

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (27701) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Well I am trying to tweet this post - twitter seems to be down at the moment.

This post needs to be shared far and wide. It is time and long past time that the USA be called out for being hypocritical in it's practices around the world when practices at home ( USA ) are the same practices the USA government criticizes other governments for ( abusing their population ).

Do as I say not as I do must end. Return government to the people.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (27701) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Twitter is back on-line - tweet away - spread the news.

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[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 2 years ago

It's is about time. I only hope we can get real change.

It is obscene that police can violate our rights to protest/assemble/speak by creating arbitrary rules/laws designed simply to annoy/prevent peaceful constitutional protest.

It is further outrageous that they use violent intimidation tactics as if protesters are criminals. The barricades alone are offensive enough. the pepper spray, batons, riot gear, All unnecessary, all extreme intimidation tactics to limit particpants willingness to join.

I hope there is real change. Excessive Police abuse has stunted the movement.

There should be jail time for people like Tony Bologny.

Peace

[-] 1 points by Maximo (1) from Goiânia, GO 2 years ago

My name is Maximo R. de Souza. I am a Brazilian citizen, I am Solidarity struggle of the American people (99%), and I know how you feel the American people to be exploited by greedy businessmen, exploring the salaried class, and use police force against the wishes of the people! Living Democracy, freedom, and social and human rights. I love the American people (99%)! God bless Americans (99%)! God bless the employees! I will post this text on my blog as a way of supporting the struggle of Americans (99%), for better living conditions in the United States. my blog: http:www.bibliagt7.blogspot.com

[-] 1 points by Manna (85) 2 years ago

I enclose the voice of an Illuminati:

"What I seek to accomplish is simply to serve with my feeble capacity of truth and justice at the risk of pleasing no one……Politics are for the moment; an equation is for eternity……..They [the politicians and statesmen] have cheated us. They have fooled us. Hundreds of millions of people in Europe and in America, billions of men and women yet to be born, have been and are being cheated, traded and tricked out of their lives and health and well-being."

The name of the dazzling fire is Albert Einstein!

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[-] 0 points by sufinaga (513) 2 years ago

GOOD LUCK! the freemasons control the law, the police and wall st the whole international financial system. they organised the 911 INSIDE JOB and the subprime fraud. the banks are going under, going down the pan! the courts are an exercise of POWER not justice!!!

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