[Ppnews] Police spies chosen to lead war protest

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 28 08:41:05 EDT 2006


Police spies chosen to lead war protest
- <mailto:dbulwa at sfchronicle.com>Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006

Two Oakland police officers working undercover at 
an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves 
elected to leadership positions in an effort to 
influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.

The department assigned the officers to join 
activists protesting the U.S. war in Iraq and the 
tactics that police had used at a demonstration a 
month earlier, a police official said last year in a sworn deposition.

At the first demonstration, police fired 
nonlethal bullets and bean bags at demonstrators 
who blocked the Port of Oakland's entrance in a 
protest against two shipping companies they said 
were helping the war effort. Dozens of activists 
and longshoremen on their way to work suffered 
injuries ranging from welts to broken bones and 
have won nearly $2 million in legal settlements from the city.

The extent of the officers' involvement in the 
subsequent march May 12, 2003, led by Direct 
Action to Stop the War and others, is unclear. 
But in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by 
protesters, Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan 
said activists had elected the undercover 
officers to "plan the route of the march and 
decide I guess where it would end up and some of the places that it would go."

It was revealed later that the California 
Anti-Terrorism Information Center, which was 
established by the state attorney general's 
office to help local police agencies fight 
terrorism, had posted an alert about the April 
protest. Oakland police had also monitored online 
postings by the longshoremen's union regarding its opposition to the war.

The documents showing that police subsequently 
tried to influence a demonstration were released 
Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, 
as part of a report criticizing government 
surveillance of political activists since the 
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The ACLU 
said the documents came from the lawsuit over the police use of force.

Jordan, in his deposition in April 2005, said 
under questioning by plaintiffs' attorney Jim 
Chanin that undercover Officers Nobuko Biechler 
and Mark Turpin had been elected to be leaders in 
the May 12 demonstration an hour after meeting protesters that day.

Asked who had ordered the officers to infiltrate 
the group, Jordan said, "I don't know if there is 
one particular person, but I think together we 
probably all decided it would be a good idea to 
have some undercover officers there."

Several months after the rally, Jordan told a 
city police review board examining the April 2003 
port clash that "our ability to gather 
intelligence on these groups and this type of 
operation needs to be improved," according to a 
transcript provided by the ACLU.

"I don't mean same-day intelligence," Jordan told 
the civilian review panel. "I'm talking about 
long-term intelligence gathering."

He noted that "two of our officers were elected 
leaders within an hour on May 12." The idea was 
"to gather the information and maybe even direct 
them to do something that we want them to do," Jordan said.

"I call that being totalitarian," said Jack 
Heyman, a longshoremen's union member who took 
part in the May 12 march. He said he was not 
certain whether he had any contact with the officers that day.

Jordan declined to comment when reached at his 
office Thursday. In his deposition, he said the 
Police Department no longer allows such undercover work.

City Attorney John Russo said he was not familiar 
with the police infiltration of the protest, but 
said the city had made "significant changes" in 
its approach toward demonstrations after the port 
incident. Police enacted a new crowd-control 
policy limiting the use of nonlethal force in 2004.

The ACLU said the Oakland case was one of several 
instances in which police agencies had spied on 
legitimate political activity since 2001.

Mark Schlosberg, who directs the ACLU's police 
policy work and wrote the report released 
Thursday, cited previously reported instances of 
spying on groups in Santa Cruz and Fresno in 
addition to the Oakland case. He called on state 
Attorney General Bill Lockyer and local police to 
ensure that law-abiding activist groups don't 
come under government investigation.

"It's very important that there be regulation up 
front to prevent these kinds of abuses from 
occurring," Schlosberg said at a news conference.

Schlosberg said the state needs an independent 
inspector looking into complaints and keeping an 
eye on intelligence gathering at such agencies as 
the California National Guard and the state Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer, said the 
attorney general had not yet read the ACLU 
report. But he said his boss "won't abide 
violations of civil liberties. There's no room in 
this state or anywhere in this country for 
monitoring the activity of groups merely because 
they have a political viewpoint."

Following the Oakland port protest and 
disclosures about the monitoring of activists, 
Lockyer issued guidelines in 2003 stating that 
police must suspect that a crime has been 
committed before collecting intelligence on activist groups.

But Schlosberg said the ACLU had surveyed 94 law 
enforcement agencies last year and found that 
just eight were aware of the guidelines. Only six 
had written policies restricting surveillance activities, he said.

Page B - 1

San Francisco Chronicle

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