NY city council hearing on police violence on 2/15

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Wed Feb 26 09:49:12 MST 2003


At 3:44 AM -0500 2/26/03, marxism-digest wrote:
>Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 00:06:37 -0500
>From: "Stuart Lawrence" <stuartwl at walrus.com>
>Subject: Re: NY city council hearing on police violence on 2/15

It didn't bring greater PUBLIC attention to the use of pens, just
that of attendees (preaching to the choir) and council members. Will
they do anything about it? With regard to a blanket permit against
political marches, again, that discussion took place in the forum of
the City Council Committee on Government Operations, not in a public
forum. Activists already know that such a policy exists. The NYCLU
attorneys pointed out that if anything -- if anything, it was an
unwritten policy, and therefore hard to prove. And, again, will the
Council actually do anything, even if the NYCLU and others can show
that such an unwritten policy, in fact exists? That's what I mean by
a waste of time. Having said that, however, I would agree that the
hearing was illuminating. It became clear to any observer that there
was a pervasive pattern of large-scale and systematic police
repression and disruption at the rally, a pattern which could not be
ignored, not only because of widespread documentation, but also
because many council members experienced it.

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

Nobody said that the impetus for the refusal came from Washington.
But the legal and ideological framework for the refusal is undeniably
Bush's "war on terrorism." That's why the Bush administration engaged
in its "unique" intervention in the permit process. That's why, as
indicated by NYCLU attorneys, the very same organizers could get a
parade permit for the immense 1982 march against nukes, but not for
this one. No, neither permit difficulties, nor police brutality are
new. Giuliani undoubtedly increased difficulties for protestors (no
more children's birthday parties in Tompkins Square Park without
permits for "public gatherings"!) and favored the brutality mindset
among cops. But, the difference is the context and mandate that
police now have for the use of force, which does come from
Washington. The cops previously brutalized individuals in communities
of color, or isolated protestors that they could claim were
disruptive. I was at the anti WEF protest, which also occurred under
the shadow of 9-11. Yet, it was not like this, neither in size, nor
in demographics, nor in style of participation, nor in the degree of
repression: none of which justifies NYPD abuses at that protest.
However, this time, at a major, peaceful mass gathering, they sprayed
mace at elderly people standing in the street, broke wheelchairs of
disabled people, knocked children down, and did all of this on a
large scale. You *could* argue that setting Giuliani's proteges loose
in this context is like turning kids loose in a candy shop!

>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.
>
>Stuart

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