NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - New York police officers have
used excessive force, made unjustified arrests and engaged in
pervasive surveillance in violation of the rights of Occupy Wall
Street protesters, according to a report released by two law
school clinics Wednesday.
The report documents 130 separate incidents of alleged abuse
by law enforcement authorities and calls for the creation of an
independent inspector general to monitor the New York City
Some critics of the department's controversial "stop and
frisk" policy, including the New York Civil Liberties Union,
have also called for an inspector general. Mayor Michael
Bloomberg has said that such a position is unnecessary.
"Many of the reported allegations individually indicate
clear violations of the government's obligation to uphold
assembly and expression rights," says the 132-page report, which
was produced after eight months of research.
The report, "Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in
the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street," was authored by
members of the Global Justice Clinic at New York University
School of Law and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights
Clinic at Fordham Law School. It was delivered Wednesday to the
NYPD, the Department of Justice and the United Nations.
Police officials and Bloomberg have defended the city's
response to Occupy protests that resulted in thousands of
arrests, most for minor offenses.
"The NYPD accommodated lawful protests and made arrests when
laws were broken, and showed restraint in doing so," said Paul
Browne, the NYPD's chief spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.
According to Wednesday's report, police surveillance of
Occupy events in some cases appears to violate legal
restrictions on police monitoring of protests, the report says.
The restrictions are known as the "Handschu Guidelines," after
the landmark federal Manhattan case Handschu v. Special
Under the guidelines, police may conduct surveillance of
political protests only in limited circumstances, such as when
there is a reasonable suspicion that unlawful activity has or
will occur, according to the report.
The report cites numerous incidents in which police officers
allegedly employed excessive force without provocation. It also
claims that accredited journalists were barred from covering
various events, including the overnight raid that cleared the
main Occupy encampment at Zuccotti Park in November.
The intimidation and use of force served to escalate
tensions while having a chilling effect on the right to free
speech and assembly, the authors conclude.
The report calls for an inspector general to monitor the
NYPD, as well as an investigation into the police response to
Occupy Wall Street and disciplinary measures for officers found
to have violated the law.
Sarah Knuckey, a NYU law professor and one of the principal
authors of the report, said she hoped the Department of Justice
would consider investigating the NYPD's conduct if the city
refuses to do so.
The NYPD's conduct during Occupy protests already has led to
several lawsuits. In April, four members of the city council
filed a federal lawsuit accusing the police of violating
protesters' free speech and assembly rights and committing false
arrest and malicious prosecution.
Wednesday's report relies on a wide range of sources,
including interviews with protesters, lawyers and journalists,
as well as photographs, video, media reports, court documents
and direct observation.
Requests for interviews with police and city officials were
either declined or received no response, the report says.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)
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