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A group of legal experts have published a report detailing “abusive and unlawful protest regulation and policing practices” by New York police in response to Occupy Wall Street protests.The report, Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street, examines treatment of protestors and journalists by local, state, and federal authorities from September 2011 through July 2012.
The eight-month investigation – carried out by law clinics at NYU, Fordham, Harvard and Stanford – documents instances in which authorities acted in ways that “suppress and chill protest rights” and violate international obligations to respect free assembly and expression.
These include excessive or unnecessary use of force, massive and continuous over-policing, obstruction of press freedoms and legal monitoring, constant surveillance, accountability and transparency failures, unjustified restrictions on peaceful assembly and arbitrary rule enforcement.
The first appendix of the 132-page report lists 130 incidents of excessive or unnecessary physical force by police in New York City.
A few examples (with video links):
- September 24, 2011: A protester was being surrounded and held by three officers… One of the officers then pushed him to the ground… officers then proceeded to handcuff and arrest the protester.
- October 5: An officer took at least three two-handed overarm swings at protesters. Some of the protesters are holding cameras, and at least one protester had his hands in the air as if signaling the officer to stop.
- November 17: An officer threw another protester to the ground who was standing between police and their target… The video then shows another officer appearing to strike the apprehended protester several times with downward jabbing motions of his baton.
- January 1, 2012: An officer lifted a metal barricade with both hands, causing it to move up in the direction of a protester’s face. The video appears to show that the protester was struck in the face by the top bar of the barricade.
- March 17: An officer [at 4:11] grabbed a protester out of the arms of another officer… Approximately six other officers then surrounded the protester, grabbed at his head and arms, ripped the mask off his face and pushed him to the ground.
The authors call for the city to establish an inspector general to oversee the police department, a review of the city’s response to the protests and the creation of new guidelines for policing them, and the prosecution of officers found to have broken laws.
If the NYPD fails to respond to these suggestions, the group said, it will ask the Department of Justice to investigate their complaints.
Further detailed studies from the Protest and Assembly Rights Project will be published in the coming months about police response in Boston, Charlotte, Oakland, and San Francisco.
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