Officer Who Pepper-Sprayed Wall Street Protesters is Named in Civil Liberties Lawsuit from 2004 RNC Protests
A senior New York police officer accused of pepper-spraying young women on the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations is the subject of a pending legal action over his conduct at another protest in the city.
The Guardian has learned that the officer, named by activists as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, stands accused of false arrest and civil rights violations in a claim brought by a protester involved in the 2004 demonstrations at the Republican national convention.
Then, 1,800 people were arrested during protests against the Iraq war and the policies of president George W Bush.
Alan Levine, a civil rights lawyer representing Post A Posr, a protester at the 2004 event, told the Guardian that he filed an action against Bologna and another officer, Tulio Camejo, in 2007. The case, filed at the New York Southern District Court, is expected to be heard next year.
Levine said that when he heard about the pepper spray incident "a bunch of us were wondering if any of the same guys were involved".
The lawyer said Posr was arrested on 31 August 2004, after he approached the driver of a Volkswagen festooned with anti-abortion slogans.
His arrest was not directly related to the protest against the Republican convention, but was at a time of heightened tension in the New York.
Levine said: "Police contend that Posr hit the man with a rolled-up newspaper. He said he was just talking to the guy. Bologna ordered another officer, Camejo, to arrest Posr."
Posr was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of second degree harassment, and held until September 2. On November 8, all charges against him were dropped.
Levine said that, in a departure from normal police procedure, his client was held in a special detention facility, at Pier 57, where he and others arrested were held until the protests were over.
The Guardian asked the NYPD to respond to the naming of the officer and the allegation that he was previously the subject of a civil rights complaint, but a spokesman said the department had not yet decided whether to comment.
Bologna's name appeared on Twitter and on activists' websites after the incident on Saturday. YouTube footage appears to show a white-shirted NYPD officer firing the spray into the eyes of the protesters, who are penned in by other officers with orange netting. As the officer walks away, two of the women crumple to the ground, screaming in pain.
There were a number of clashes between protesters and police at the march, when protesters moved uptown from their base at a park in the Financial District. There were about 80 arrests.
Hacker collective Anonymnous claimed responsibility on Monday for posting Bologna's details, which they said was in retribution for the pepper-spray incident.
The online postings identified Bologna as a deputy inspector of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, and revealed his phone number and family details.
The information, posted on a site called Pastebin, included a statement which read: "As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barbarically pepper-spray wildly into the group of kettled women. We were shocked and disgusted by your behaviour."
"You know who the innocent women were; now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!"
Since the post, other activists have followed suit, urging people to call his precinct to complain or to call him directly.
The move drew a mixed response from the Occupy Wall Street activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for nine days. Many say they were angry about the "brutal and unnecessary" tactics used by police at the weekend.
Hero Vincent, 28, an artist from the Bronx, said: "I think it should be out there, so that people know what's going on and if people want to enter his precinct and ask that he should be fired, they can. We are a peaceful protest. For them to attack us is wrong."
Vincent, who was arrested for resisting arrest on Saturday, claimed he was kicked in the stomach by officers.
But there was also disquiet over the officer's family details being made public.
Another protester, who did not want to be named, told the Guardian: "My dad is a police officer and he got a lot of death threats. I don't know if his family details should be out there. But if the information is correct and he has a rights case against him, I'm extremely concerned that he was put into what was a very tense situation."
One protester, Jeanne Mansfield – who said she was standing so close to the women sprayed in the face that her own eyes burned – claimed other NYPD officers had expressed disbelief at the actions of the senior officer.
In a vivid account of the incident in the Boston Review, Mansfield said: "A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Lieutenant Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream 'No! Why are you doing that?!'"
Despite her attempts to turn away from the "unavoidable" spray, Mansfield, who took part in Saturday's march with her boyfriend on a whim after "stumbling across" it, said she suffered burning and temporary blindness in her left eye and tears streaming down her face.
She continued: "In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground. But no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, 'I can't believe he just fuckin' maced her.'"