News & Politics

Shameless: The NYPD Lied Under Oath to Lock Up Occupy Activist

Housing organizer Michael Premo's acquittal came in large part due to video evidence that indicated the New York Police Department told bald-faced lies to justify his arrest.


A prominent housing activist and Occupy organizer was found innocent last week on charges of assaulting a police officer. The acquittal came in large part due to video evidence presented that indicated that the New York Police Department (NYPD) told bald-faced lies to justify Michael Premo’s arrest.

Premo is an organizer who helped start Occupy Sandy, the grassroots relief effort that provided immense help to struggling city residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Premo was arrested on December 17, 2011, when Occupy Wall Street attempted to start a new site of occupation by breaking into a vacant lot in lower Manhattan. After the NYPD broke up the attempted occupation, protesters began to march. The police trapped a number of protesters using orange netting, and after some demonstrators managed to escape, the police closed in.

Premo fell down in the commotion. But that’s not the story the NYPD told. As the Village Voice’s Nick Pinto reported, “in the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer's bone. That's the story prosecutors told in Premo's trial, and it's the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well.”

Premo's colleague, Rachel Falcone, told Free Speech Radio News that the police were "trying to make something out of nothing and they're trying to charge him with something that didn't actually occur."

Video evidence showed the truth. Democracy Now!freelancer Jon Gerberg was at the action and took clear footage of what happened. The video “flipped the police version of events on its head. Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer, it shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet,” Pinto reported. When Premo’s lawyer first saw this video evidence, she teared up because it showed clearly how her client was innocent.

“That was really important,” Meghan Maurus, one of Premo’s lawyers, told the Village Voice. “Without that evidence, this would have been a very different case. There are many, many cases that don't have so much video evidence to challenge the police version of events, but in this case, we did.”

After the jury watched the video, they returned a not guilty verdict on all counts.

“The biggest thing for me coming out of this is not being discouraged by the attempts of New York City to quell dissent and prevent us from expressing our constitutional rights," Premo said.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.