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City Fights Efforts to Release 2004 Convention Arrest Records
Published on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 by the New York Times
City Fights Efforts to Release 2004 Convention Arrest Records
by Jim Dwyer
 

Faced with lawsuits from hundreds of people arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, the Bloomberg administration is fighting to keep secret a vast array of records, testimony and videotapes collected that week.

The city contends the materials could be embarrassing to people who were arrested, disclose police intelligence, or reveal environmental conditions that may hurt commercial development on the West Side waterfront or be useful to terrorists.

In addition, the city lawyers said that medical reports from police officers who complained of getting sick after working at a temporary holding pen were “unreliable” and “likely to contain misinformation.”

The disputed records are part of the legacy of litigation from the 2004 convention, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of the city, some to participate in the convention, but many to protest the war in Iraq and other policies of President Bush. More people were arrested during the 2004 gathering — 1,806 — than at any other convention in history, records show. Charges were ultimately dropped against 90 percent of them.

In recent court filings, city lawyers argued that they relied on a confidentiality agreement when they turned over what they called “privileged” materials to lawyers suing the city, and they urged Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV of the Federal District Court in Manhattan not to ease that agreement. The records are being sought by The New York Times.

In addition, Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, wants permission to reveal many records that his group received on behalf of seven people arrested during the convention. Mr. Dunn said the confidentiality arrangement was not intended to cloak every document in permanent secrecy. No date has been set for a decision by the judge.

Among the materials are 27 videotapes taken by the police of mass arrests made on some of the busiest streets of Manhattan. James Mirro, a city lawyer, wrote that the tapes are “highly personal and private in nature.” He also said many people would regard videos of the arrests as “highly embarrassing” and could cost people their jobs.

For the most part, videotapes of the arrests — by civilian and police photographers — have tended to exonerate the people accused. Of the 1,806 people taken into custody, 22 have been convicted at trials, while 157 have pleaded guilty.

The city also wants to withhold the “R.N.C. Executive Summary,” a police report dated June 24, 2004, that was provided to the Republican National Committee. “It discusses the potential for terrorist activity, potential methods to accomplish terrorism,” Mr. Mirro wrote.

He said that its disclosure “would chill the candor of executives within the N.Y.P.D.” Mr. Mirro made similar arguments about depositions given by three chiefs who testified about intelligence on possible disruptions of the convention.

The city also asked the judge not to disclose three reports on environmental conditions at Pier 57, a former bus depot that was used as a holding pen. The pier is controlled by the Hudson River Park Trust, which has hired a consultant to advise it on future uses. Mr. Mirro argued that “serious commercial harm” could result if the public learned what was in the reports. “Disclosures about possible environmental hazards at Pier 57, particularly alleged asbestos hazards, easily could impact the H.R.P.T.’s ability to arrange development partners,” he wrote. A park trust spokesman, however, said their real estate consultant already has access to environmental reports on the pier.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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