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NYPD Snoop Declares Zuccotti Park A “Soft Target” for Terrorists: Really?

Plainclothes cop says the NYPD response to OWS is meant to stop the next 9/11, but a newly alleged terror plot suggests the police may have put protesters at increased risk.

The Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park was many things to many people. For some, it was the dawning of a new age, to others a throwback to an earlier one. Before the mini-society was destroyed by city authorities last week, some looked at it and saw petty crime, pathogens and pathos, while for others it offered a rare glimmer of hope for a future based on economic justice, mutual aid and greater equality.

What activists inside the park saw as the nucleus of a new society, the New York City Police Department saw as a prime target for terrorists, according to a plainclothes policeman. The white surveillance truck at the corner of Liberty Street and Broadway, the many security cameras aimed at the plaza and the massive police response --including dozens of NYPD vehicles -- he and his partner claimed, were not there to police protesters, but to thwart an attack on the park by armed militants.

Just hours before NYPD officers raided Zuccotti Park, rousted the occupiers and destroyed their encampment, I had a run-in with these plainclothesmen and listened as they spun their tale. 

In the days since, reports of a terror plot to attack police and military targets in New York City surfaced. If these allegations, as well as those by the plainclothes officers, are actually true, they suggest the NYPD may have put protesters at increased risk of a terrorist attack. 

Spy v. Spy

While reporting from the environs around Zuccotti Park, on the encampment’s final day, I spotted two middle-aged gentlemen leaning on metal barricades in front of One Liberty Plaza, the massive office tower that looms over Zuccotti Park and is owned, like the park, by Brookfield Properties

One sported close-cropped dark hair, wore a nondescript black and gray jacket, dark blue jeans and brown sneakers. The other was clad in a similar uniform: black jacket, lighter blue jeans, but his hair was a steel gray and very distinctive.

These men weren’t there simply to take in the scene. They weren’t day trippers or tourists. They didn’t work in the office buildings around Liberty Plaza or close by on Wall Street. They were, experience told me, on the job

I’m not sure who noticed who first, but we danced around each other, from the sidewalk on the perimeter of the park to the streets around the plaza for the better part of an hour -- monitoring each other’s movements, stealing glances around corners, alternately pretending not to notice each other and looking away when caught, as if we were playing a juvenile game of spy v. spy. 

Finally, they broke the rules. Holding up a personal digital assistant and taking a photo of me without pretense was, in my opinion, unsporting and I called them on it, waving to the gray-haired man as he snapped another shot. 

The game was up so the duo, now loitering on Liberty Street, jaywalked over to the park side, moved aside the barricade and confronted me on the sidewalk. 

At first, the gray haired photographer did all the talking. He was serious bordering on surly and wanted to know just what I was doing, so I explained I was reporting for AlterNet about the security response to the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Having been repeatedly hassled by officers while covering the policing of the park, I wasn’t shocked by what came next. The talkative one wanted to see my NYPD press credentials and then asked if I was a protester from “inside the park.”