NY city council hearing on police violence on 2/15

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at walrus.com
Tue Feb 25 22:06:37 MST 2003

> From the point of view of actually accomplishing anything, the City
> Council Committee on Governmental Operations hearing that I attended
> largely a waste of time.

I was at the hearing too, and wouldn't go quite that far. One positive
effect was to bring greater attention to the NYPD's longtime standard
operating procedure of using "protest pens" to break up crowds block by
block -- unlike any other city in the world where people rallied and
marched on F15 -- and a blanket prohbition (unsupported by any public
justification) against issuing permits for political marches since last
fall. City politicians have mostly overlooked the steady encroachment on
the right to assemble and protest over the last decade, but this was an
outrage too big to ignore.

The NY Civil Liberties Union witnesses pointed out, interestingly, that
the Justice Department's intervention in the federal lawsuit (which they
termed "unique") did not include taking a position in their brief or in
court against a march past the UN headquarters. From my perspective in
NYC, I'm not as convinced as some people -- especially those who didn't
live through the Rudy Giuliani assault on civil liberties and freedom of
movement -- that the impetus for the refusal of a parade permit had to
have come from Washington. After all, the march in DC six weeks ago was
handled more like F15 in Berlin or London than like F15 in NYC.  What
happened in NYC on that day was nothing new or surprising -- the same
tactics were applied to the anti-WEF protest a year ago, the Million
Youth March in Harlem, and countless other events since the Giuliani
years. But even for thousands of New Yorkers on F15, this was the first
demonstration they'd ever experienced in New York, and they now know
what lots of people here already knew -- the NYPD has been given the
charge of treating protesters as enemy forces to be battled, contained,
and subverted by any means necessary.


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