April 19, 2012, New York – Today, Occupy Wall Street protesters and civil and human rights attorneys filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request demanding that the NYPD disclose all information concerning the policies guiding the law enforcement response to Occupy demonstrations since last September. The filing comes on the heels of numerous reports by protesters, journalists, and legal observers of continued excessive police force against protesters.
“Assembly and speech rights are core to our democracy. We have been investigating the police treatment of OWS for months, and the policing of OWS has been abusive and unpredictable,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a coalition investigating the government response to the protests. “Mayor Bloomberg has described the NYPD as his army. It is, of course, not an army but a civilian police force. And even armies require some measure of transparency and accountability.”
Since OWS protests began in the heart of NYC’s Financial District in September 2011, NYPD policing of OWS has provoked widespread and sustained criticism. In seven months of protests, the NYPD has arrested over 2000 people, and there have been hundreds of allegations of unjustified arrests, police harassment, and excessive force.
“I am part of Occupy Wall Street because I believe we need major policy reforms to address inequality and the corporate takeover of democracy. But I often feel that my very right to peacefully protest is at stake,” said Aaron Bornstein, an OWS supporter. “Protesters have been arrested simply for standing on the sidewalk and beaten for sitting in a park. The police seem above the law.”
The NYPD has increasingly come under fire for unaccountable and overzealous policing, including police surveillance of Muslims, infiltration and intelligence collection on activists, and stop-and-frisk practices disproportionately impacting poor and minority communities.
Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the organizations seeking NYPD information, said: “From Zuccotti Park to the black and brown neighborhoods of NYC, the NYPD has too often treated the people they are sworn to protect and serve as suspects instead of citizens.”
The requests filed today under New York’s FOIL seek information related to the police response to OWS, including crowd control policies, training materials, reports on arrests and uses of force, and surveillance of protesters. Under NY law, the city has five days to respond to the request. The request was filed by OWS protesters, the OWS Archives Working Group, the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter, and civil rights and human rights lawyers.
The FOIL requests are available at: http://www.chrgj.org/projects/docs/OWSFOILS.pdf