[Marxism] A New Chapter in the Police Department’s Crackdown on the Left

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 21 12:54:37 MDT 2018

NY Times, Oct. 21, 2018
A New Chapter in the Police Department’s Crackdown on the Left
By Ginia Bellafante

Bored presumably by the sort of establishment speakers it has often 
invited in the past — Steve Forbes, Jeb Bush, warriors battling the 
oppressions of the estate tax — the Metropolitan Republican Club 
presented Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right Proud Boys, to its 
members on a recent Friday night. Listed as a hate group by the Southern 
Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys (“known for anti-Muslim and 
misogynist rhetoric,” the center has written) typically attract the 
attention of detractors wherever they show up.

The violence that erupted Oct. 12 between them and the protesters 
outside the club in Manhattan has elevated the controversy surrounding 
the police’s response to political demonstrations. An early video that 
circulated on social media showed members of anti-fascist groups being 
attacked as a police officer stood by doing nothing. A subsequent video 
released by the police aimed to provide a different view. But it hardly 
disproved the prevailing claim that the police had administered 
consequences selectively.

Initially three people, all leftist protesters, were arrested. Only 
after police officials received widespread criticism — from Gov. Andrew 
M. Cuomo, among others — did they vow to seek out nine members of the 
Proud Boys for detention. By the end of this week, one suspected member 
had been arrested.

This chapter is the latest in the Police Department’s long, unbroken 
pattern of aggression toward the left — a narrative that tells us how 
little has really changed since the 1960s, when law enforcement seemed 
to reflexively mistrust every hippie with a Sharpie and some poster board.

After Occupy Wall Street consumed the country’s attention in the fall of 
2011, several scholars from institutions including Harvard, Stanford and 
Fordham produced a report, “Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations 
in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street,” on the ways the police 
reacted to the demonstrations fighting income inequality.

The researchers studied thousands of news reports and hundreds of hours 
of video about the protests in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. They 
documented egregious uses of force against peaceful protesters, violent 
late-night raids on quiet encampments, arbitrary rules enforcement and 
baseless arrests.

As a journalist covering the movement in New York, I witnessed some of 
this firsthand.

The police pursued these approaches as if the lessons of history had not 
suggested alternatives.

Seven years before Occupy, the department was censured for its treatment 
of those who protested the Republican National Convention, which was 
held in New York in 2004. Demonstrators were caged in on sidewalks, and 
hundreds were sequestered in a dirty former bus depot, with few toilets, 
on the West Side for more than 24 hours.

Former Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly later described the 
department’s conduct as one of its “finest hours.”

In 2012, a federal judge ruled that the department’s mass arrests of 
demonstrators were illegal. Two years later, the city wound up paying 
nearly $18 million in damages to settle related civil rights claims. And 
earlier, during the Iraq War protests in 2003, mounted police charged 
into groups of protesters unprovoked; civil liberties groups took notice.

According to the police, groups like the Proud Boys — of which the 
department is “aware,’’ according to a spokesman — and others espousing 
far-right ideologies are tracked by the Major Investigations Unit of its 
Intelligence Bureau, but it is unclear how prepared the department is to 
deal with virulent fanaticism. Last year, a white supremacist from 
Baltimore traveled to New York specifically for the purpose of killing 
black men; he turned himself in after fatally stabbing  Timothy 
Caughman, 66, with a sword in Midtown Manhattan.

In the second quarter of this year, felony assault complaints 
categorized as hate crimes nearly tripled over the first quarter, to 14. 
And during the summer, a white supremacist group known as Identify 
Evropa unfurled a banner in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, calling 
for an end to immigration. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat who 
represents the largely Dominican district, held a vigil a few days later 
after that rally.

He told me that he could recall no police presence at the original event.

Incursions from groups like Identity Evropa or the Proud Boys are a 
relatively new phenomenon in New York. But Portland, Ore., for example, 
has been trying to quiet the frequent and violent clashes between these 
groups and anti-fascist protesters for some time.

There, too, the question of police bias has been intensely debated. On 
Monday, Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, told local reporters that during 
a political demonstration in August, the police found members of an 
extreme-right group known as Patriot Prayer on a rooftop parking lot 
before a protest downtown. They were armed with rifles, the police said, 
but no arrests were made.

The police argued that permits were held for all the firearms they found 
and that the members of the group complied with their directives.

And yet a city review of how the Portland police dealt with a pair of 
demonstrations months earlier revealed that officers viewed activists on 
the left as more threatening and less “mainstream’’ than those on the right.

When I asked Phil Walzak, a spokesman for New York’s police department, 
how long the Proud Boys had been on its radar, he wrote me that when Mr. 
McInnes spoke at New York University last year, “he was maced I believe 
by counterprotesters.”

In fact, once the Metropolitan Republican Club confirmed Mr. McInnes’s 
appearance, the Proud Boys were brought in from the fringes and handed a 
political legitimacy that could have easily supplied the police with a 
justification for how they managed things. It was not as if Kirsten 
Gillibrand was having drinks with masked anti-fascists at the Colony 
Club 20 blocks away.

What ought to stand out for investigators is that given access to 
mainstream power channels, the Proud Boys did not say thank you and 
recede. They remained just as angry.

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