Study: NYPD Abused Basic Human Rights at Occupy Protests

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Common Dreams

Study: NYPD Abused Basic Human Rights at Occupy Protests

US police show epidemic suppression of protests

by
Common Dreams staff

Protesters screamed in pain after police cornered them and sprayed them with pepper spray at an Occupy Wall Street Protest (Photo/Jefferson Siegel)

The NYPD 'consistently violated basic rights' during the Occupy Wall Street protests and showed a 'shocking level of impunity', when dealing with protesters, according to a new study (pdf), published on Wednesday.

The report, by the Global Justice Clinic at New York University's School of Law and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School, conducted over an eight month period, examined hours of video footage, documents, press reports, and conducted extensive interviews with protestors and witnesses from the Occupy protests and encampments. The findings paint a disturbing portrait: authorities across the US will now suppress protest at all cost, even if protests are lawful, peaceful, and of no threat to the general public.

The study details the increasingly common practices of "excessive police use of force against protesters, bystanders, journalists, and legal observers; constant obstructions of media freedoms, including arrests of journalists; unjustified and sometimes violent closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and corralling and trapping protesters en masse," the report states.

"Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity, arbitrary and selective rule enforcement, and restrictions on independent protest monitoring also raise serious concerns. The government has also failed to make transparent critical policies concerning law enforcement activities."

The report is the first section of a several part series covering police response to Occupy protests in cities around the US, revealing a national epidemic abusive of power.

Sarah Knuckey, at NYU School of Law, told the Guardian: "All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking".

"Many interviewees cried while speaking about their interaction with the police – they still carried a sense of trauma."

The report lists a total of 130 incidents of excessive or unwarranted force by New York police.

The authors of the report are using the research as a basis of written complaints made Thursday to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD, the state department of justice and the United Nations.

The report claims the NYPD has also violated international human rights law, stating:

"Full respect for assembly and expression rights is necessary for democratic participation, the exchange of ideas, and for securing positive social reform. The rights are guaranteed in
international law binding upon the United States. Yet U.S. authorities have engaged in persistent breaches of protest rights since the start of Occupy Wall Street."

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