NYPD have a “discussion” with OWS protesters in 2011
Last night, several Occupy Wall Street activists were paid a visit at their homes by the NYPD who wanted to inquire about the activities they had planned for today’s mass protests. Gawker’s Adrian Chen reports that Gideon Oliver, the New York Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild’s president, told him, “They were asking what are your May Day plans, do you know who the leaders are—these are classic political surveillance questions.”
In the first case: activist Zachary Dempster said that six NYPD officers broke down the door of his Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment at around 6:15am this morning. Dempster said they were armed with a warrant for the arrest of his roommate, musician Joe Crow Ryan, for a six-year-old open container violation. But Dempster believes this was an excuse to check in on him, as he’d been arrested in February at an Occupy Wall Street Party that was broken up by cops, and charged with assaulting a police office and inciting a riot.
WTF? SIX COPS knocked this guy’s fucking door down for a SIX-YEAR-OLD OPEN CONTAINER VIOLATION??? Talk about a flimsy excuse for a SIX COP RAID!
They got a warrant and broke a door down because of a 2006 misdemeanor? (Or is it merely an infraction?) Remarkable!
That will teach that Communist hippie about cracking open a beer in public!
That they were able to secure a warrant to break the door down is something I hope to hear Mayor Bloomberg forced to explain…
After running his ID, a detective questioned Dempster in his bedroom for about five minutes about tomorrow’s May Day protest, he said.
“They asked what I was doing tomorrow, and if I knew of any activities, any events—that was how the conversation started,” Dempster said. Dempster said he’s not planning doing much, as his case from February is still open. Dempster’s roommate was also asked about him and May Day.
About an hour later, an activist friend of Dempster’s who runs in anarchist circles said his apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, where he lives with a half-dozen other activists and Occupy Wall Street organizers was visited by six NYPD cops—possibly the same ones. The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid. The officers ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked our source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but our source said the message was clear: We’re watching you.
Another open container violation? This is real “my dog ate my homework” shit, isn’t it? Open container violations! Imagine having your door knocked down by six police officers for a jay-walking ticket you didn’t pay.
“We obviously don’t think it’s an accident that it happened the day before May Day, where people in the house are organizers,” he said.
This afternoon, NYPD also visited the home of Greek anarchist artist Georgia Sagri, who has been part of Occupy Wall Street from the beginning and led the occupation of a SoHo art gallery last October. Turns out she was giving a press conference about May Day at Zuccotti Park at the time. Police waited for about an hour outside her home, then left.
“My roommate gave me a call and told me the NYPD was looking for me,” Sagri said. “Since that time, I didn’t go home. So I’m basically on the street. My May Day has already started which is fine, I don’t mind.” She said she has no idea why NYPD visited her.
This isn’t the first time NYPD has been criticized for aggressive surveillance of protesters: The NYPD infiltrated activist groups around the country before 2004’s New York Ciy Republican National Convention. And The New York Times has ably detailed the extent to which NYPD has harassed and spied on Occupy Wall Street protesters.
“The intention behind this I’m sure is to try to create fear and silence dissent,” said Marina Sitrin, a lawyer and member of Occupy Wall Street’s legal working group, “and to keep people from coming out into the streets.”
There are several marches, blockades and acts of civil disobedience planned across New York City today. From what I can tell via what precocious few media reports there have been, the rain is ending in the city and the protests are now starting to really gear up in Times Square, in front of Fox News and in the business district. If you can’t support the actions because you can’t get out of work, there is a mass rally expected in lower Manhattan after the work day.
Interesting to note (and I’m basing this observation from sampling through the live “Occupy Wall Street Superchannel” at UStream) the protests this time are more diffuse and spread out all over New York. Whereas it may not make for the same sort of TV-ready drama that attempts to close the Brooklyn Bridge off did last year, it makes the NYPD’s job a lot harder. You can “bottle,” contain and squeeze a large group, but it’s much harder to do anything about hundred of sites happening at once. Nice to see that the tactics are evolving.