|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MARCH 12, 2004
|CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights
Jen Nessel (212)614-6449
CCR response to Morganthau on Comments on Arrests at G.O.P - Rights Group Says D.A. Should Start Reviewing Police Mistreatment of Demonstrators and Curtailment of First Ammendment Rights
NEW YORK - March 12 - The Center for Constitutional Rights today called on Manhattan District Attorney Morgenthau to investigate the NYPDs hostility to protests in the City instead of making irresponsible comments about 1,000 arrests per day at the upcoming Republican National Convention in order to bolster his request for additional funding. Morgenthau testified at a City Council hearing that the Convention will bring significantly increased arrests and that the NYPD anticipates that we could have up to 1,000 arrests a day.
CCR Legal Director Jeffrey Fogel asserted, in a letter to Morgenthau, that there was no factual basis to believe that any arrests would be needed, no less 1,000 a day. The groups that are planning demonstrations during the Convention, said Fogel, are furthering the highest goals of a democratic society embedded in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, he asserted, what we have seen in our city is a police department that believes that certain people or groups, i.e. the Republican Party, have greater free speech rights than the Citys own residents. The police department simply does not seem to understand that it has the responsibility to uphold and ensure the free speech rights of those protesting on an equal footing with those inside the Convention.
Fogel went on to note that the experience with last Februarys anti-war march organized by United for Peace and Justice, was a harbinger of what was to follow. The police continue to want to limit protests, in both time and space. They continue to insist on using tactics, such as pens, which are unnecessary, dangerous and serve as a discouragement to those who wish to express their views. Your statements about the extent of arrests anticipated will also serve to discourage free speech.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has a long history of supporting the rights of demonstrators to express their opinions, starting with the civil rights movement in the South and, most recently, with its lawsuit against the NYPD for unlawful arrests and mistreatment of demonstrators arising out of an anti-war protest in the City last spring.
Fogel challenged Morgenthau to stop making wildly inaccurate predictions of what will happen at the Convention and start investigating why the NYPD continues its anti-free speech approach to demonstrations. That, he said, would be a service to the people of New York and the First Amendment.