I spend the last five hours digesting the contents of the report on the first systematic look the NYPD’s response to Occupy Wall Street protests. The report is the product of an eight-month investigation undertaken by law clinics at Fordham, Harvard, NYU and Stanford.
Titled “Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street” (PDF), the report ins’t the easiest document to study for someone who was brutalized by the Ottawa Police as a member of the Occupied Ottawa movement.
The report paints a “damning picture of an out-of-control and aggressive organization that routinely acted beyond its powers.” The NYPD deployed “unnecessarily aggressive force.” It obstructed press freedoms. Some of the arrests were arbitrary. Others, baseless.
The NYPD also violated the rights of legitimate dissenters, journalists, legal observers and even members of the public who weren’t part of the protests.
Here are five vignettes quoted verbatim from the report:
- Karen Smith, a retired New York Supreme Court judge, was working as a legal observer during the eviction of Zuccotti Park. She allegedly witnessed an officer throw a woman to the ground “out of nowhere” and hit her in the head. Smith stated that she then told the officer, “cuff her if she’s done something, but you don’t need to do that.” The officer then, Smith said, asked her if she wanted to get arrested, at which point she stated that she was a legal observer. The officer again asked if she wanted to “get arrested,” and pushed Smith up against a wall.
- A journalist reported that an officer grabbed a protester “by the bottom of her throat and shoved her head against the hood of a car,” and that another officer then “forcefully pressed her head against the car.”
- Video shows that an officer drove a scooter at a crowd of people, including journalists and legal observers. The video then shows a legal observer lying on the ground screaming, his foot under the scooter. A second video shows the observer on the ground with his foot under the scooter. A third video shows that the observer kicked the scooter off or away from his leg, at which point officers dragged the observer several feet and began to cuff him. While he was being cuffed, an officer pushed the observer’s face into the pavement by pressing his baton across the back of the observer’s neck.
- A journalist reported that an officer shoved a legal observer, also a retired judge, against a wall after she demanded that the officer stop beating a protester. The legal observer described the incident in an interview: “the officer said, ‘Lady, do you want to get arrested?’ And I said, ‘Do you see my hat? I’m here as a legal observer.’ He said, ‘Do you want to get arrested?’ And he pushed me up against the wall.”
- A journalist reported that officers threw down and beat a photographer with batons, even after he had shown his press pass. The journalist reported that the photographer “yelled several times, ‘I’m PRESS! PRESS!’ yet was slammed on the head [with a baton] twice after he’d been thrown to the ground when the police shoved back the protesters.” In the same report, the photographer stated: “there was another push from the police — they saw me fall …. Just didn’t care …. Then came the batons. I couldn’t see if the people that were on top of me previously got hit at all but I certainly did, twice to the back and once on the head.”
The report concludes that there now is a deliberate and well-calculated effort by political authorities to suppress all forms of public protest. This is what a police state looks like.