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Report Finds 'Widespread Human Rights Violations' In Policing Of Occupy Protests

An Occupy Wall Street protestor is arrested in Zuccotti Park July 11, 2012, in New York.
Frank Franklin II
An Occupy Wall Street protestor is arrested in Zuccotti Park July 11, 2012, in New York.

The New York Police Department has shown "a pattern of abusive and unaccountable protest policing" during the Occupy protests, a wide consortium of legal experts detail in a report (PDF) issued today.

The lawyers say NYPD officers violated human rights in hundreds of instances, yet "there has been near-complete impunity for alleged abuses." Only one officer has been disciplined throughout the protests that started last fall.

"The excessive and unpredictable policing of Occupy Wall Street is one more example of the dire need for widespread reform of NYPD practices. These violations are occurring against a backdrop of police infiltration of activist groups, massive stop-and-frisk activity in communities of color, and the surveillance of Muslims," Emi MacLean, a human rights lawyer and primary author of the report, said in a statement. "This report is a call to action."

The report is a the first by the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, which was started by a group of law clinics including The Global Justice Clinic at New York University and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at the Fordham Law School.

The New York Times says the 132-page report details some of the famous incidents, like that of Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying some protesters Sept. 24. But, the report also details other instances of alleged abuse that haven't gotten much media coverage. The Times reports:

"For instance, the report described a cafe employee stepping out of his workplace on Sept. 24 and using a camera to document arrests near Union Square before being confronted by a senior officer. The report went on to state: 'Video then shows the officer grabbing the employee by the wrist, and flipping him hard to the ground face-first, in what was described as a "judo-flip." The employee stated that he was subsequently charged with "blocking traffic" and "obstructing justice".'

"In a more recent episode, Sarah Knuckey, a law professor and one of the report's authors, said she witnessed a police commander grab a man who was complaining of an injured shoulder while being arrested during a student march on May 30. Ms. Knuckey said that the commander repeatedly shoved the man's shoulder while handcuffing him, then cursed and accused him of lying, when he shouted in pain. Shortly afterward, Ms. Knuckey said, emergency medical technicians determined that the man had a broken clavicle."

NYPD has not issued a comment about the report.

The group called for, among other things, the creation on an independent Inspector General for the NYPD and the investigation and prosecution of officers responsible for abuse.

If the NYPD fails to respond to the report, the group said, it will take its complaints to the federal government.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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