Occupy Wall Street Protesters Concerned about Police Surveillance
Protesters from Occupy Wall Street continue to report troubling incidents of excessive police surveillance.
A lawyer representing three protesters who were arrested and allegedly strip-searched by New York City police in November, told the New York Times that his clients are considering a lawsuit against the city for violating their constitutional rights. “Not only are the police disrupting people’s rights to free expression,” said Vik Pawar, the lawyer for the protesters. “They are taking pre-emptive steps by arresting people who might be just thinking about exercising their rights.”
The Times report includes numerous interviews with organizers who have been monitored, intimidated and in some cases, arrested by city police.
From the Times:
On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.
Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.
All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Moyer-Sims, 20, said members of the Police Department’s intelligence division asked about her personal history, her relationship with other protesters, the nature of Occupy Wall Street and plans for upcoming protests.
“I felt like I had been arrested for a thought crime,” she said.
Mr. Pawar said that the police had charged his three clients, Ms. Moyer-Sims, Angela Richino and Matthew Vrvilo, with obstructing governmental administration, but that the Manhattan district attorney’s office had declined to prosecute them.
Now they are preparing to sue the city, Mr. Pawar said, adding that the arrests had violated their constitutional rights.
“Not only are the police disrupting people’s rights to free expression,” Mr. Pawar said. “They are taking pre-emptive steps by arresting people who might be just thinking about exercising their rights.”
Though Occupy Wall Street has largely faded from the headlines, organizers are planning springtime demonstrations in an effort to revitalize their movement. And they are troubled by what they consider continued monitoring by the police.
This is just the latest news regarding governmental monitoring of the Occupy movement. In February, an internal Department of Homeland Security report about Occupy was published by Wikileaks, spoke of the agency's efforts to "control protesters" within the movement.