[Ppnews] NYC cops used covert tactics, `proactive arrests' at protests

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 17 13:44:47 EST 2006

NYC cops used covert tactics, `proactive arrests' at protests

By Jim Dwyer
New York Times News Service

March 17, 2006

NEW YORK -- In five internal reports made public Thursday as part of 
a lawsuit, New York City police commanders candidly discuss how they 
had successfully used "proactive arrests," covert surveillance and 
psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and 
recommend those approaches be employed at future gatherings.

Among the most effective strategies, one police captain wrote, was 
the seizure of demonstrators on 5th Avenue who were described as 
"obviously potential rioters."

The reports provide a glimpse of internal police evaluations and 
strategies on security and free speech issues that have provoked 
sharp debate between city officials and political demonstrators since 
the Sept. 11 attacks.

The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss 
publicly: The department uses undercover officers to infiltrate 
political gatherings and monitor behavior.

Indeed, one of the documents--a draft report from the department's 
Disorder Control Unit--proposed in blunt terms the resumption of a 
covert tactic that had been disavowed by the city and the federal 
government 30 years earlier. Under the heading of recommendations, 
the draft suggested, "Utilize undercover officers to distribute 
misinformation within the crowds."

Asked about the proposal, Paul Browne, chief spokesman for the New 
York Police Department, said Thursday: "The NYPD does not use police 
officers in any capacity to distribute misinformation."

Use of police vehicles praised

Browne also said the "proactive" arrests referred to in the 
report--numbering about 30--involved protesters with pipes and masks 
who he said presented an obvious threat.

In another report, a police inspector praised the "staging of massive 
amounts" of armored vehicles, prisoner wagons and jail buses in the 
view of the demonstrators, writing that the sight "would cause them 
to be alarmed."

Besides the draft report, the documents released Thursday included 
four final reports written by commanders to assess police performance 
during the World Economic Forum, which convened in New York from Jan. 
31 to Feb. 4, 2002.

Security was extremely tight around Midtown Manhattan, where the 
delegates to the economic forum were meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria, 
and demonstrators were kept blocks from the hotel.

Officials spoke of violence during anti-globalism protests at other 
high-profile gatherings in Seattle and Genoa, Italy. But in the end, 
as one of the police reports noted, "the amount of confrontation and 
number of arrests were lower than expected."

Parts of that document and others were made public, over the 
objections of the city, by a federal magistrate, Gabriel Gorenstein, 
who said the excerpts went to the heart of a lawsuit brought by 16 
people arrested at an animal-rights demonstration during the economic 
forum. The police said they were blocking the sidewalk and had 
refused to obey an order to disperse; the demonstrators said no one 
told them to move.

Many of the issues in the animal-rights case, which challenge broad 
police tactics and arrest strategies, resonate in more than 100 other 
lawsuits brought against the city by demonstrators who were arrested 
at war protests, bicycle rallies and during the Republican National Convention.

Daniel Perez, the lawyer representing the people arrested at the 
animal-rights demonstration, argued that the police tactics "punish, 
control and curtail the lawful exercise of 1st Amendment activities."

The Police Department and the city have said that preserving public 
order is essential to protecting the civil rights of demonstrators 
and bystanders.

Opponent: Files indicate policy

Perez maintains that the police documents, taken together, show a 
policy of pre-emptive arrests. The draft report discussed how early 
arrests could shape future events. "The arrests made at West 59th 
Street and 5th Avenue set a `tone' with the demonstrators and their 
possible plans at other demonstrations," the report stated.

The same tactic is cited in another report, dated Feb. 8, 2002, and 
signed by Capt. Robert Bonifaci, commander of the Queens North Task 
Force. Bonifaci wrote, "It should be noted that a large part of the 
success in policing the major demonstration on Saturday, Feb. 2, 
2002, was due in part to the proactive arrest policy that was 
instituted at the start of the march at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, 
and directed toward demonstrators who were obviously potential rioters."

Elaborating on the report, Browne, the police spokesman, said 
plainclothes officers saw a group of demonstrators put on masks as 
they drew near the Plaza Hotel, then take out metal pipes and try to 
rush police lines.

Demonstrators arrested during the economic forum were held by the 
police for up to 40 hours without seeing a judge--twice as long as 
people accused of murder, rape and robbery arrested on those same 
days, Perez said.

Browne said the arrests were processed as quickly as possible and 
that protesters were not singled out for longer detention.

The reports, which were heavily edited at the city's request, also 
discuss the use of undercover officers at the protests. Capt. Timothy 
Hardiman wrote that "the use of undercovers from narcotics provided 
useful information."

Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

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