Sunday, September 12, 2004

POLITICS: A Walk in the Park

Read this and ask yourself what the United States will look like if we have four more years of Bush.

In an opinion article whose primary author was credited as Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York lauded himself on the results of "18 months of careful planning":

As the host of the Republican National Convention, New York City can take great pride in how it performed…. Most of the security aspects of the RNC played out the way we anticipated.

So nice to know it all went the way you'd planned.

From the conservative Washington Times, dateline August 27:

After the convention starts, those who misbehave could end up at Chelsea Pier 57 on the Hudson River, which has been converted into a temporary jail in case mayhem ensues.

So they had plenty of time to plan for multiple arrests, choose a safe venue, get in extra personnel to handle processing. And of course, this was all just in case of mayhem. Right?

From the not notably liberal Christian Science Monitor:

But many of those arrested are upset about the length of their detention in what they called a "grimy garage," as well as the number of innocent bystanders caught up in the police dragnet. "There were Chinese food delivery men, German tourists, people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Mike Epstein, an amateur photographer who was held for almost 30 hours before being charged with disorderly conduct.

Critics point out that police need probable cause to make an arrest. Some also think authorities should have obtained a warrant before using a net to subdue crowds. "If you're a peaceful protester holding up a sign that says the Republicans or the Democrats are leading us down the wrong path, you have a right to do that without being swept up," says Mr. Dershowitz. "There's something unseemly about using a net."

A friend of mine, a pre-med student, was in Manhattan during the convention. He wasn't a protester, but he reports that the cops were counting groups of people walking along. If there were 20 or more in a clump, the cops arrested them all, regardless of what they were doing or whether they were really together or simply in proximity. Given the usual density of people on the New York City sidewalks, it doesn't surprise me at all that a lot of innocent people were arrested. The size of a "crowd," however, does. Twenty people might pass for a crowd in my hometown, a rural crossroads. But in Manhattan, 20 people walking near one another is business as usual.

A Vietnam vet who was swept up in an arrest net says:
"Something happened here I thought would never happen," Arrington says. "You expect it in the former Soviet Union, or Saudi Arabia maybe. But New York City? It's like they took the Bill of Rights and threw it in the trash can. To be arrested for standing on a sidewalk for disorderly conduct? It's beyond ridiculous. It violates people's rights. I'd have never believed it if you told me this would happen in the middle of New York City."

Who actually was responsible for Pier 57?

My 21-year old daughter disappeared from NYC last Tuesday afternoon when walking with friends through a park where no protest was being held -- and was held prisoner -- without being charged -- by the NYPD for three days. The first day and night she spent in an unsafe and inhumane facility at Pier 57 ("Little Guantanamo") provided by the Republican Party.

Yes, it was managed by the Republican National Committee. It was leased by the RNC to hold political dissenters who disagreed with the Bush administration. The second two days, my daughter was in a city jail in Manhattan, where her treatment improved.

The notorious Pier 57 (owned by the Hudson River Trust--a city/state consortium) was dubbed "Little Guantanamo" by reporters who also got caught up in police sweeps and who said it looked like the Guantanamo Bay prison built by the USA to hold the Al Qaeda terrorist political prisoners in Cuba. Pier 57 was leased by the RNC before their convention. They arranged for the NYPD to put up the chain link holding pens with razor wire on top in the old Pier 57 warehouse that had oil, gas and asbestos dust on the floor from a previous fire. . . .

Warning signs that reporters saw posted around Pier 57 said not to enter without protective clothing and mask. My exhausted daughter, with hundreds of others, tried to sleep that first night ...on the chemical-covered oily, cold cement floor of these pens, without food or water, without being read her rights, without being offered a chance to post bail, without seeing a judge although the National Lawyers Guild offered to represent them pro bono, without being charged or told why she was arrested and handcuffed and taken there, without being allowed to make a call to a lawyer or friend or parent or anyone -- all cell phones were confiscated as "terrorist weapons." Her purse was taken. She had nothing but the clothes on her back. Meanwhile...ordinary criminals arrested that same day in NYC for burglary, rape and heinous crimes were processed by the courts in less than 10 hours. My daughter, who had committed no crime, was incarcerated for three days incommunicado. . . .

I recall that when the Democrats held their convention to nominate Senator John Kerry as their candidate for President, there were only 6 people arrested, if I remember correctly. At the Republican National Convention to elect Bush as their candidate, there were thousands arrested. I suspect that Republicans might say this was a good thing. Being tough. This group-roundup tactic is called by the Republican party "preventative detention" (like the "pre-emptive war" in Iraq). It is used to terrorize those who might protest Bush's agenda when he is in town. America, wake up. Hitler told the German people that they would have to "give up a few of your rights that we can fight the enemy." That's what Ashcroft said, about the misnamed PATRIOT ACT. Wake up, America. The American flag that proudly waves by MY front gate and is on the back window of MY car...doesn't seem to be the same American flag that the Republican Party is waving."

Emphasis added.

From the NY Daily News:
The City Council got ready yesterday to turn a spotlight on controversial police tactics used to corral protesters during last week's Republican convention. . . . "From the health point of view, it's very questionable any court would have allowed use of a bus garage, even in an emergency," said City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Governmental Operations Committee.

Well, it wasn't an emergency. Everything was carefully planned.

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