Bloomberg's History With Protests: Spying, Infiltrating, Arresting With No Cause
As the police continue to drag protesters away downtown, the policies behind these actions come right from the top.
There's an excellent piece in the Atlantic Cities today that should remind us of Boomberg's disgraceful history when it comes to social protests.
Although the Mayor is friendlier to some aspects of the First Amendment than his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, he has used excessive force and even more absurd precaution and infiltration when dealing with nearly a decade of activism.
Ben Adler reports:
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.
Some of the people tailed by the police during this operation: theatrical and religious groups, anti death-penalty groups, environmentalists, and more.
As for those "white shirts" we've seen at Occupy Protests, who have been blamed for much of the excessive force?
The police even made a show of force at rallies for school funding. As The Times noted on Sunday, "at no point during this vigorous protest season has the presence of white-shirted police lieutenants seemed more absurd than at a gathering where a young child carried a sign reading 'Don’t take away my music class.'"
The NYPD's spying and infiltrating on nonviolent Muslim groups is also a part of this overarching problem, and indicates that there's a serious lapse in judgment going on among NYC's law enforcement. Alder notes that "critics worry that the city is incapable of distinguishing democratic dissent from legitimate threats."
Exactly. That inability to distinguish is the heart of the issue.