Friday, March 30, 2007

The militant arm of the GOP

In 2004, the GOP held their national convention in New York City. The actions of the New York police department that week turned out to be another indication that fascism lives in the USA. The NYPD detained 1,760 political protesters, crowding them into a filthy pier. The detainees were exposed to the frigid New York nights common in the autumn, some without needed medical care, and many without ever being charged with a crime. The conditions were so bad, a judge finally ordered the release of those held over 24 hours, although the police department refused to obey the order.

It seemed as if the NYPD were nothing more than a militant band of the Republican party. How did the NYPD manage to detain such a large number of peaceful, law abiding citizens over the few days of the Republican national convention? Police records and interviews are beginning to show that for at least a year before the convention, teams of undercover NYPD officers traveled globally to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention.

The partisan aspect of this activity is that the US District Court has ruled that the NYPD must have "some indication of unlawful activity on the part of the individual or organization to be investigated" before monitoring political activity. However, the NYPD violated this law in its covert surveillance program. Most of the NYPD's reports about their surveillance were regarding people who were not displaying any intent to break the law.

Subjects of the covert surveillance included the likes of antiwar organizations, street theater troupes, environmentalists, church groups, and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Even three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

One of the reports was on a design student named Joshua Kinberg. There were four pages from the intelligence reports on his master's thesis project, a "wireless bicycle" equipped with cellphone, laptop, and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street. If it were to spray paint, it would have been an 'unlawful activity.' However, the report noted that the messages were printed in water-soluble chalk to avoid a criminal mischief charge.

NYPD records on Bands Against Bush reported that the group was planning a concert in New York during which, between musical sets, there would be political speeches and videos. The records said, "activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda." If this is the NYPD's idea of 'unlawful activity,' the department is clearly partisan.

It appears that the mission of the NYPD is not only to protect and serve the people of New York City. It is also to conduct unlawful covert surveillance of Americans whose politics are in opposition to the Republican party.

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