Yesterday a group of human rights lawyers issued a report that told us what most of us already knew: NYPD officers violated the civil and human rights of protesters in their treatment of the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall.
The report was the product of a joint study between NYU and Fordham University law school groups, the Global Justice Clinic and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic.
Police not only used unnecessary force to escalate tensions with protesters, the report found, but it used inappropriate intimidation tactics including force and arrests to bar journalists from covering the events, effectively squashing free speech rights.
Al Jazeera notes, “In particular, it said credentialed journalists were barred from covering the overnight raid that cleared the main Occupy encampment at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in November last year.”
The report continues, “Many of the reported allegations individually indicate clear violations of the government’s obligation to uphold assembly and expression rights. When considered together, a complex mapping of protest suppression emerges.”
The “complex map” of suppression went all the way to the top: as you’ll remember, Mayor Michael Bloomberg coordinated with the police to orchestrate Zuccotti Park’s eviction, and stood by police at every step of the way and denounced the protests. He did this even as video of NYPD Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying peaceful college girls flooded the internet.
Al Jazeera notes the NYPD acknowledged the new report with its typical response: denial.
“The NYPD accommodated lawful protests and made arrests when laws were broken, and showed restraint in doing so,” said the NYPD’s chief spokesman, Paul Browne.
If that’s what restraint looks like, I don’t want to see what the NYPD losing their cool looks like.
Of course NYPD wasn’t the only unit who responded to the movement by violating civil and human rights—from Oakland to the UC Davis campus to D.C. cops crossed a line in pursuit of order, apparently with the approval at the highest level of authority.
But we know from New York’s Stop and Frisk saga that the city doesn’t change an evil practice until a sizable outcry is raised about it. Hopefully yesterday’s report will start a dialogue about cops overreaching and squashing our rights when they are hired to support them.