Police Abuses Reported Growing Across US
October 26, 2011
Paul Harris / The Guardian UK & David Hench / Portland Press-Herald & Joe Macaré / In These Times
From author Naomi Wolf's arrest in New York to shootings in Tucson and Florida, US police are facing growing allegations of abuse of power. In Chicago, police arrested 130 protesters involved in the Occupy Chicago demonstrations and denied them phone calls and sleep. In New York, a deputy inspector created headlines worldwide when he pepper-sprayed young women trapped behind a police barricade. Police have attacked children, the elderly and have Tasered people in handcuffs.
Police Brutality Charges Sweep Across the US
Paul Harris / The Guardian UK
NEW YORK, NY (22 October 22, 2011) -- From Naomi Wolf's arrest in New York to shootings in Tucson and Florida, forces face allegations of abuse of power.
Officer Michael Daragjati had no idea that the FBI was listening to his phone calls. Otherwise he would probably not have described his arrest and detention of an innocent black New Yorker in the manner he did.
Daragjati boasted to a woman friend that, while on patrol in Staten Island, he had "fried another nigger". It was "no big deal", he added. The FBI, which had been investigating another matter, then tried to work out what had happened.
According to court documents released in New York, Daragjati and his partner had randomly stopped and frisked a black man who had become angry and asked for Daragjati's name and badge number. Daragjati, 32, and with eight years on the force, had no reason to stop the man, and had found nothing illegal. But he arrested him and fabricated an account of him resisting arrest.
The man, now referred to in papers only as John Doe because of fears for his safety, spent two nights in jail. He had merely been walking alone through the neighbourhood.
The shocking story has added to a growing sense that there are serious problems of indiscipline and law-breaking in US police forces. Last week the feminist author Naomi Wolf was arrested outside an awards ceremony in Manhattan. She had been advising Occupy Wall Street protesters of their rights to continue demonstrating outside the event. Instead, as she joined the protest, she was carted off to jail in her evening gown.
That incident is only the most high-profile of many apparently illegal police actions around the protests. One senior officer, deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, created headlines worldwide when he pepper-sprayed young women behind a police barricade.
A report from the New York Civil Liberties Union recently looked at police use of Taser stun guns in the state, and revealed that in 60% of incidents where they were used, the incident did not meet the recommended criteria for such a weapon. Some cases involved people already handcuffed and 40% involved "at risk" subjects such as children, the elderly or mentally ill. "This disturbing pattern of misuse and abuse endangers lives," said the NYCLU's executive director, Donna Lieberman.
In Los Angeles, officers in the sheriff's department are accused of physically abusing some prison inmates and having sex with others. An internal report, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, revealed allegations that included beating people visiting relatives in jail.
In Pittsburgh, there is the case of Jordan Miles, a high-flying high-school student stopped by three plainclothes policemen. Miles, 18 at the time, was walking to his grandmother's house and had no idea who the men were, as they did not identify themselves. He ran, but the officers caught him and beat him so badly that he ended up in hospital. He is undergoing neurological treatment for memory problems and has had to drop out of college.
Yet it was Miles who was charged with aggravated assault – a case that a judge later threw out. His mother, Terez Miles, said: "We are no strangers to police brutality in the city of Pittsburgh, but what they did was terrible and then they lied about it."
In Chicago, Jimmel Cannon, 13, was shot eight times by police who claimed that he had a BB gun in his hand. His family said that he had his hands in the air. In Tucson, Arizona, former marine Jose Guerena was killed by a Swat team on a drugs raid. They found nothing illegal, but Guerena was shot 23 times.
The list goes on. Miami is still dealing with the fallout of the fatal shooting of Raymond Herisse. He had been driving a car out of which police claimed gunshots came. However, it took three days before they produced a weapon. They also confiscated and destroyed the phones of people trying to record the incident.
"There is a widespread, continuing pattern of officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply," said Chris Calabrese, of the American Civil Liberties Union. Campaigners say the spread of camera phones is why so many incidents of brutality are appearing.
In another recorded call, Daragjati complained to a friend: "I could throw somebody a beating, they catch me on camera, and I'm fired." Some activists have taken that to heart. Diop Kamau, a former officer, runs the Florida-based Police Complaint Center, which investigates allegations of police abuse nationwide. "Police are now facing an onslaught of scrutiny because everyone has a cellphone," he said.
Kamau said that many police departments still had a culture of secrecy and many officers believed that there was little likelihood of punishment even if caught. "The police fill in the blanks. They say what happened and they will be believed," he said.
One weakness is that there is no central organisation for the police, and local departments do not release data on complaints or allegations of abuse. "The problem is that there is an absence of research," said Professor John Liederbach, an expert in American policing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. As the list of complaints and incidents grows, that might be about to change.
US, Exporter of Democracy to Other Countries, a
Arrests Occupy Protestors at Home
(October 24, 2011) --
(1) US, exporter of democracy to other countries, arrests Occupy protestors at home - Yoichi Shimatsu
(2) More than 700 arrested in Wall Street protest; police surround protesters with orange mesh netting
(3) 92 'Occupy Wall Street' Protesters arrested in New York City
(4) New York police Stop & Frisk protestors
(5) About 130 arrested at Occupy Chicago protest
(6) 11 Occupy Cleveland protesters arrested Friday released from jail Saturday
(7) Forty people have been arrested in a police raid on Occupy Sydney
(8) Occupy Melbourne: police brutality against demonstrators - eye-gouging, punches
(9) Occupy protesters to camp in Sydney, Melbourne parks
(10) St Paul's Cathedral wants its 30 pieces of silver from Occupy London protestors
(11) Open Letter from Occupy London Stock Exchange to St Paul’s Cathedral
(12) Egypt’s top ‘Facebook Revolutionary’ now advising Occupy Wall Street
(13) State Department Agitator Advising ‘Occupy’ Movement
(14) Occupy Wall Street ‘Stands In Solidarity’ with Obama Front Group
(15) Occupy spurns endorsement from pro-Obama MoveOn: 'Don't Co-Opt Us!'
Chemical Bomb Tossed into Occupy Maine Encampment
David Hench / Portland Press-Herald
PORTLAND, Maine (October 24, 2011) ― Occupy Maine protesters say Sunday morning's attack with a chemical explosive has left them with a mixture of anxiety and resolve.
"We are more motivated to keep doing what we're doing," said Stephanie Wilburn, of Portland, who was sitting near where the chemical mixture in a Gatorade bottle was tossed at 4 a.m. Sunday. "They have heard us and we're making a difference."
Wilburn said she was startled and briefly lost hearing in her left ear when the device exploded beneath a table about 10 feet away. Wilburn's hearing returned and police said no injuries were reported.
Portland police Sgt. Glen McGary said the bomb was thrown into the camp’s kitchen, a tarped area where food is cooked and served. Protest organizers said the explosion lifted a large table about a foot off the ground.
"There was no fire . . . We had a good 20 feet of thick smoke rolling out from under the table," Wilburn said. They could see the "G" on the 24-ounce bottle and its orange cap, as well as bits of silver metal, she said.
She and a friend who ran over to look at it breathed in fumes that smelled like ammonia, she said.
Witnesses said a silver car had been circling before the attack, its occupants shouting things like "Get a job" and "You communist." They believe someone from that car threw the device, according to a statement from Occupy Maine.
The demonstrators are protesting what they describe as unfairly favorable treatment given banks and other corporate interests at the expense of working people and those trying to find a job.
Shane Blodgett of Augusta was sleeping in his tent in the middle of the park when the explosion woke him up.
"I heard a sound which I thought was a gunshot," he said, gesturing at the collection of three dozen tents that cover the south side of the park at Congress and Pearl streets.
"I was in fear for my life. I thought someone was walking around with a gun. I didn't dare poke my head out," Blodgett said. He eventually went back to sleep.
Katty Heath, originally from New Hampshire, now of Portland, said she slept through the entire event and didn't realize anything untoward had happened until she woke that morning.
Sgt. Glen McGary said the homemade bomb, which consisted of chemicals poured into a plastic Gatorade container could have caused serious injury.
Police are investigating and spent about two hours at the campsite, located at the corner of the busy Congress Street and Franklin Street corridors, collecting evidence to determine the compounds used in the explosive, organizers said.
A statement from the group said many campers fear another attack.
The car, seen driving slowly past the encampment before someone inside threw the device, is described as an older model silver four-door sedan, possibly a Toyota or Nissan.
Occupy Chicago Activists Face Second Mass Arrest;
Rahm Emanuel Sends Nurses to Jail With Protesters
Joe Macaré / In These Times
(October 23, 2011) -- The following article first appeared at The ITT List, the staff blog of In These Times magazine. For more news and analysis like this, sign up to receive In These Times' weekly updates.
On Saturday night, as promised, Occupy Chicago attempted for the second time to set up camp at "The Horse": The plaza in Grant Park on the northeast side of Michigan and Congress. And for the second time, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) responded with mass arrests, this time arresting an estimated 128-130 people who refused to leave the park and charging them with "Public Peace Violation." As of 6pm CT on Sunday, around 80 protesters were still in custody.
In some ways this was a repeat of what took place late on the Saturday night and early on the Sunday morning of the previous weekend. Once again, a crowd of Occupy Chicago participants and supporters assembled at LaSalle and Jackson in the city's financial district (where Occupy Chicago has been picketing since September 23), and marched down Jackson Avenue to Michigan and Congress, where they held a General Assembly and began to set up tents.
Once again, the CPD issued warnings related to the 11pm curfew and gave those unwilling to face arrest the opportunity to leave the area before making arrests one by one and taking down tents.
But with repetition comes escalation. While there may have been fewer arrests, my impression while at the scene was that tensions were higher than on October 22-23, with greater numbers of both police and of those protesters who, while unwilling to risk arrest, nevertheless stayed on the eastern side of Michigan Avenue rather than crossing the street.
Police also seemed less tolerant of media observers, ejecting Progress Illinois' Aaron Krager from inside the barricaded plaza despite his press pass, and moving other members of the media further back from the scene.
The biggest change, however, seems to be in the CPD's treatment of those who were arrested.
Last weekend, even some of those arrested had praised the individual conduct of the CPD and the way in which protesters were treated. A different narrative is emerging about Saturday night, and indeed the subsequent day: As of 6pm CT Sunday, the CPD was still holding an estimated 80 protesters at the District 1 station at 18th and State.
Five people who were arrested for the second time (after being arrested last weekend) will be kept overnight and brought before a judge tomorrow, with the remaining 75 expected to be released later Sunday night. It's not clear why the five second-time arrestees need to be detained further, since a sixth second-time arrestee has reportedly already been released.
Several of those arrested have claimed that only one phone call was offered for all of the roughly 130 people in total. The non-profit National Lawyers Guild has reportedly learned that those detained were denied sleep, phone calls and access to lawyers.
Members of Occupy Chicago who were prepared to face arrest for a second time always knew that the consequences would increase, including rising bail fees: Nevertheless, it seems that the CPD are working to make arrest an increasingly daunting prospect.
If Occupy Chicago wants to continue attempting to set up camp in the same location -- and it's no secret to anyone who attended either Saturday night or earlier General Assemblies that there is internal dissent on this issue -- what they need to escalate is numbers. While organized labor support was in evidence, swelling numbers to a police-estimated peak of 3,000 people, the unions' presence Saturday still did not amount to some of the wildly optimistic numbers that had been rumored earlier in the week.
One union whose members made their presence felt was National Nurses United, whose Medical Aid Tent was the focal point of the camp and the last to be taken down by police. This video shows the perspective of those who sat in front of the medical tent as police cleared the plaza:
NNU has already issued a press release condemning the CPD's actions and Rahm Emanuel in particular for the arrests of nurses and medical aid volunteers. NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said:
“Even in wartime, combatants respect the work of nurses and other first responders. Yet Mayor Emanuel and Chicago seem to care as little about that tradition as they do in protecting the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly. These arrests are disgraceful and unconscionable, and will not deter our nurses from continuing this mission, setting up the station again, and continuing to support the protests.”
Perhaps an even more telling line in the NNU press release says "Emanuel has been perhaps the most aggressive mayor in the nation in repression of the occupy Wall Street movement."
While Emanuel and other city officials no doubt want to convey that they can handle large protests in the context of the looming NATO/G8 meeting in May, it's hard to imagine that Chicago's mayor really wants to be seen as repressing a movement that his party has been trying to co-opt. Especially not when his former boss has to run a presidential election campaign out of the city next year.
So Emanuel may have brought on some seriously unwanted attention. NNU will picket the mayor’s office at 10am Monday morning, while on Tuesday at 3pm another protest has already been planned at City Hall to draw attention toEmanuel's push to reduce taxes for the Chicago Board of Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (of which the mayor is a former board member).
As for Occupy Chicago, their spirits don't seem to be dampened; even as their legal costs mount, the CPD gets tougher, and major questions remain about their next move. One protester released told In These Times' Micah Uetricht that those arrested had held a General Assembly in the holding cells of District 1.
In a press release released Sunday, Joshua Kaunert, who has been participating in Occupy Chicago for 22 days, said: "There isn’t an asterisk in the first amendment, where it says freedom of assembly as long as it’s convenient. We are non-violent, and have a right to air our grievances. The occupation will continue!”
Full disclosure: The author's wife is an Occupy Chicago participant and Press Committee member.
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