Thursday, February 08, 2007

This Way to the First Amendment Zone 

If you were visiting the imperial crib in the antediluvian days of August, 2004, you no doubt read several items dealing with the record number of protesters -- and non-protesters -- arrested and, in many cases, detained for days in holding pens during the Republican National Convention in New York City. (There were over 1800 of them, or three times the number of rioters arrested at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968.) We are indebted to our stalwart colleague Rorschach of No Capital for alerting us to an item that brought the happy memories flooding back:
Hundreds of protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention were held for up to six times longer than those arrested on charges unrelated to the convention, according to city documents made public Thursday . . . .

A judge last month rejected the city's effort to keep secret most of the files and videotapes documenting the arrests, leading to their release.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the NYCLU, said the documents "reveal that the long detentions of the thousands of protesters arrested for minor offenses at the convention were the result of deliberate policy decisions by the NYPD."

"During the convention, you got to a judge much faster if you were a bank robber than if you were charged with parading without a permit," he said . . . .

"By refusing to release demonstrators with summonses and instead holding them to be illegally fingerprinted, the department all but guaranteed that protesters would be held for extended periods of time," Dunn said.

Records in the document cache also show that many officers, sergeants and lieutenants made toxic exposure complaints about the holding pen on a Hudson River pier where arrested protesters were processed. The officers' complaints included claims of exposure to asbestos, carbon monoxide, sludge, oil, fumes and toxic materials.

Browne disputed those complaints. "The fact remains that air quality and other environmental tests that were done documented the fact that the pier was safe," he said.

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