3.21.2006

"for a redress of grievances"

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment I, U.S. Constitution
If we can make pre-emptive war, certainly a little pre-emptive arrest and imprisonment is no big deal. By way of Attytood, via Redsock (again), this story from Jim Dwyer, one of the good guys writing for the New York Times:
In five internal reports made public yesterday 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 that those approaches be employed at future gatherings.

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

The reports provide a rare 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 attack.

The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss publicly: that 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."

. . .

Parts of that document and others were made public, over the objections of the city, by a federal magistrate, Gabriel W. Gorenstein, who said the excerpts went to the heart of a lawsuit brought by 16 people who were 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 well over a hundred other lawsuits brought against the city by demonstrators who were arrested at war protests, bicycle rallies and during the Republican National Convention.

Daniel M. 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 First 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.

Mr. Perez maintains that the police documents, taken together, show a policy of pre-emptive arrests.

. . .

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, Mr. Perez said.
So long, First Amendment. It was sure nice knowing you.

2 comments:

James said...

Philip K. Dick strikes again. We've gone straight to "pre-crime" without even needing precognatives.

Alex said...

I read an article once where the Chicago Police teamed with some computer scientists (really) and mapped where crime was occuring. They then changed their deployments and shifts to put more officers in the areas where more criminal acts were occuring. Crime in those areas did go down - it moved to other areas and then they had to redo all the mappings - so basically, they couldn't prevent crime - they could move it around.