[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
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