Some notes from today's United for Peace and Justice press conference on cop violence in NYC on 2/15

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Tue Feb 18 22:44:32 MST 2003


Some notes from today's UFPJ press conference
by Jeanne 3:57pm Tue Feb 18 '03


Some notes from today's United for Peace & Justice press conference 
concerning police misconduct at the peace march/rally on Feb. 15th.

The press conference featured seven of footage collected and edited by the 
NYC-IMC Video Team showing instances of police brutality from Saturday. The 
video was hard to watch but is a valuable document of the conduct of the 
police. There were scenes of police beating activists with batons, 
pepper-spraying marchers unprovoked and the worst scenes – of police 
forcing their horses into, through and over crowds of protesters. These 
parts were the most disturbing for me personally. I have spent time working 
wth horses and know from the body language of these police mounts what kind 
of forcing it took for them to charge the demonstrators. Of three police 
horses in one scene, two went completely stiff and would have thrown their 
riders rather than trample the people around them. The third horse was 
kicked and screamed at by its rider until the terrified animal finally rode 
over the marchers seated on the ground at its feet. The animals looked 
frightened, miserable and utterly confused at what they were being asked to 
do. It is against the nature of the horses – even police horses – to step 
on people and I imagine the trauma they experience from this will be awful.

At the press conference were:

Leslie Cagan of United for Peace & Justice - Coordinator of Feb. 15th NYC 
Peace Rally

Rebekah Wolf of the People's Law collective - legal observer for Feb. 15th

Debbie Hrbek of the National Lawyers Guild - mass defense committee

Simone Levine of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys - legal observers unit

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union

Press conference ran about an hour and was attended by alternative media 
and also mainstream media, including Fox, WOR9, CBS2, NY1, WB11 & ABC7.

Leslie Cagan spoke first and discussed the numbers for the march and rally 
- estimates of at least 1/2 million peace demonstrators. She also touched 
on the issues of police misconduct at Saturday’s rally.

Rebekah Wolf of the People’s Law collective spoke next. She relayed more 
specific documented accounts of the use of horses against marchers. She 
described accounts of horses being backed into tight crowds of people, 
horses begin ridden up on the sidewalks crushing the crowds against the 
walls of buildings, begin ridden over protesters sitting in on the street & 
reports of people begin jostled & knocked down by the horses and getting 
trampled under foot. She listed further reports of police beatings, pepper 
sprayings and arrests of single protestors by as many as five police at a 
time.

Debbie Hrbek of the National Lawyers Guild described legal observers 
reports of civil rights violations – protestors begin held out on the 
street handcuffed, chain gang-style, out in the cold, arrestees begin held 
in buses and vans for as long as eight hours without food, bathroom 
facilities, access to prescription medicines or medical attention to the 
injured. Protestors were denied access to their legal representation and 
there are widespread reports of protestors being interrogated without their 
attorneys being present. At Central Booking, legal aid workers were made to 
wait outside in pens for hours while trying to gain access to their 
clients. They were told that the delay in accessing their clients was due 
to the police being short staffed and “overwhelmed” by the numbers of 
arrests that needed processing. Marchers reported that, while they were 
being kept away from the legal aids they were being interrogated by police 
and asked questions about their political affiliations. They were asked 
such questions as “What group are you with?” “What is your group’s 
connection to other groups?” “What is your purpose for being in New York 
City this weekend?”

It is also reported that, in processing the paperwork of the arrests, it 
was common for the arresting officer and location to be recorded 
“randomly,” meaning that the actual arresting officer and location did not, 
as rule, match what was entered in the paperwork.

Injured and hospitalized marchers were denied their legal representation 
and police refused to give legal workers any information as to the 
condition or whereabouts of their clients for up to eight hours after 
arrest. In one of the most severe injury cases, a demonstrator facing 
possible spinal injury from a police horse falling and rolling onto them, 
legal observers were denied access to and information about the location 
and condition of this individual.

There are reports of 311 arrests. Most of the individuals received desk 
appearance tickets and the earliest releases occurred from 2 & 6 AM on 
Sunday morning – this includes individuals who were detained and not 
charged with anything. Some of the latest releases occurred at 3 PM on Sunday.

As to arrests, protesters reported getting contradictory instructions from 
police during the march that led to confusion and arrests. Cops also seemed 
to be hand picking some marchers based solely on ethnicity and arresting them.

Simone Levine of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys reported that the 
time from arrest to arraignment for most cases on Saturday was stretched 
into as much as 48 hours, vs. the legal standard of 24 hours. Most 
protesters who needed to be hospitalized were charged with felony assault 
of officers.

Donna Lieberman of the NYACLU put out a call for witnesses and victims of 
police misconduct on Saturday to send reports to this email: nyclu215 at aol.com

Bill Perkins, New York City Council member, talked about looking into the 
new security measures the police were employing against demonstrators on 
Saturday. He had questions about the range and scope of these new security 
measures, when they had first been implements and under what types of 
march/protest situations they will be deployed.

The panel at the conference commented further on the differences between 
the terms negotiated with the police and what actually took place on 
Saturday. There was a call for NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to step 
down. Police kept telling legal observers at the 10, 14 & 17 precincts and 
at 1 Police Plaza that they were short staffed and overwhelmed by the 
numbers. But it was evident from the streets that they were well prepared 
to impede the marchers and keep them from exercising their right to make a 
statement against the war.
  


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