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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pre-crime Arrests and Other Curious Facts of Life in the USA Today

A woman cop blurted out, “Look, we all know that eventually you guys were going to do something. So why should I follow you around town just waiting for you to do it? It’s a lot easier for all of us this way. You guys knew you didn’t have a permit, what did you expect?”

Was the NYPD inspired by Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report where pre-crime police arrest those before they can do wrong? Or was it simply a call made pretty high up the food chain that the cost of a little bad PR about “civil rights curtailed” and a likely wrongful arrest lawsuit down the road were a small price to pay to put a dent in the rising chorus of anti-RNC voices in the streets?

Mainstream media would laud these “successful police tactics” later under headlines such as “protesters clash with police” I later read.

"You are not going anywhere until Bush leaves town” I would hear a few times from various jailers over the next 48 hours.

This is part of the description Jeff Paterson wrote of his arrest and detention in New York City during the 2004 Republican national Convention. It is a very interesting account providing the picture emerging today of police effectively performing a function more consistent with that of a political tool rather than a law enforcement or public safety agency.

Simply put, it is a well carried out plan all around. Everyone did their job well. Organizers followed police instructions to proceed down a specific sidewalk. Cops methodically took up positions for the coming ambush. A “warning” was issued, and the arrest announcement was given. Police troop movements seemingly prevented any possibility of escape.

But escape many did. Television crews with anchormen in suits, women in “Republican” looking dress, and a few others that could prove that they were indeed “good Americans” in the wrong place at the wrong time. My “Independent Media Center Working Press” badge displayed on my camera strap did not suffice for a free pass. While NYPD Police Officer Western who arrested me paused momentarily on the question of rounding up the media, his supervisor quickly clarified that my IMC press credentials were indeed “arrest-able.”

So, this is quite curious. Since when does American law stipulate that you are subject to arrest not based upon what you have done,- or conspired to do,- but merely based upon your appearance?

This is an interesting account. It is also a scary account,- not because of what is described there, but because it is hard not to view this as a test conducted by the authorities in order to see how far they can get in using abusive and unconstitutional tactics in suppressing and criminalizing dissent and free speech. I think this is a call to all Americans valuing their constitutional freedoms to rise up and decisively denounce these tactics,- regardless of whether they support the demonstrators arrested in New York City or endorse their message.

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