raw NYPD brutality, spawned by Kelly, Bloomberg and Quinn




stills captured from video on NYCindymedia site

On Thursday I wrote about a demonstration in which I had participated (put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA], Assemble for Rights NYC, and other groups and individuals), which was directed against Council Speaker Quinn's support of newly-adopted NYPD regulations restricting the right of assembly. I included in that entry a dozen or so still pictures I had taken.

They weren't enough to tell me about the full measure and shape of the violence I witnessed that afternoon. Last night I saw this footage of the Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective documenting the most violent images of Police aggression I've witnessed in almost twenty years of street activism.

Go to this NYC indymedia page and click onto the link under the heading, "Video Footage showing aggressive arrests by NYPD during the peacefull parade". Note that the video is composed of segments from several cameras, so there is more than a single presentation of some scenes.

It was already clear to anyone who hasn't tried to avoid thinking about the quality of civic life in New York that this city's police ranks and leadership are both out of control and a physical and Constitutional threat to its citizens, and not just those seen by "the finest" as "the other", so this footage should not come as a revelation to any of us. But the problem neither begins nor ends with the failures of the uniforms on the street. Our appointed and elected representatives and municipal executives, far from fulfilling their responsibility to police the police, continue to aid and abet their crimes and outrages. Officials are content with a ritual mourning of the dead and arranging photo opportunities with the survivors, visiting the homes and attending the funerals of their prey - while paying tens of millions of dollars of our public treasury in court awards to the growing number of victims of police and government brutality.

Chief of Police Kelly is dead wrong about his so-called "parade rules", the Mayor Bloomberg knows it and the best I can say about the Speaker of the City Council on this issue (she is also my local representative) is that Chris Quinn appears to have a tin ear on First Amendment issues. Our rights and freedoms to speak and assemble are not subject to political negotiation, the convenience of our law enforcement officials (or their macho "control" neuroses), the swift traffic (and free street storage) of private automobiles, or our politicians' ambitions for higher office.

For a long time I lulled myself into thinking I could continue to distinguish between what has been happening in the country at large and what is going down here in the land I call home, but today I realize I can only be thankful that New York doesn't have a foreign policy and weapons of mass destruction.

[images from Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective via NYCindymedia]

I wasn't there, and agree that the parade rules are constitutionally illegal, but these "protestors" are doing nothing but purposely antagonizing the police. It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for them. To yell obscenities at the officers here doesn't help your cause. They are not directly responsible, they are just doing their measly jobs. Bloomberg and this city's government are directly responsible for the state of the police here...what you see is what you get on a $25,000 base salary. I think the protestors are lucky only three were arrested.

I was there.

Yelling obscenities is unwise, yes, but not cause for physical violence or arrest. The police started it when a senior officer began shoving people who were walking around a barrier while carrying a banner on Church Street. That's when everyone stopped and the yelling started.

The burden of discipline and proportion is on our paid professionals, and they have routinely failed in their assignment, often miserably, sometimes tragically.

This police department is notorious for its violence, and only citizens are made to suffer for it. Officers, as we have seen historically, and continue to see today with a dismaying regularity, almost always go free, even when accused of manslaughter or murder, and neither the institution as a whole nor its leadership has ever been disciplined for its fundamental failures.

I should add that most of the members of the force do not live in the neighborhoods they serve, and in fact most of them don't live in the city which pays them, and this is reflected in attitudes on both "sides". Individual officers too often fail to understand or respect the people whose homes and streets they police, and many New Yorkers think of the NYPD as an occupying army.

I have mixed feeling about the protest. I have been saying repeatedly in different forums that I think having Quinn as the prime target is wrong. Why didn't anyone target Gifford Miller during the out of control police response to the RNC protests in 2004.

I strongly believe Commissioner Ray Kelly and Bloomberg should be the main focus. If you want the council to rewrite the Parade Law so as to strip the police of having so much latitude in how they set parade standards, you need to start with the Public Safety Council chaired bu Peter Vallone Jr. This would mean organizing in Astoria rather than at City Hall and also actually writing the new legislation and lobbying for support before screaming at Vallone or the committee members.

I strongly agree with James, swearing or saying angry things at a protest is not grounds for arrest (so long as you are not verbally making physical threats). As far as people deliberately stepping into the street, doing so is an act of civil disobedience. I love CD and think it's a very powerful activist tool. However it carries the risk of arrest. Once you legalize an act of civil disobediance it is no longer a CD.

If Times Up! has orderly bike rides that obey traffic but may have signs, whistles and other things to identify them or their issues, they should not be arrested. If they choose to stage a ride where many bikers choose to go through red lights and stop signs and use the size of their ride to take over traffic and disobey traffic signals, that is a very powerful action of Civil Disobedience. It will carrty a reasonable risk of arrest. Should the NYPD permanatly conficate their bikes or hold riders for several days? Absolutely not!

I'm glad James posted pictures of Pier 57 where I was held during the RNC. I still have respiratory problems from breathing in the filth there. During the RNC I chose to participate in a "die in." It was an act of Civil Disobediance and I knew I probably would be arrested. Right now I am part of the RNC lawsuits. I'm not claiming that I have the right to lie in the street and block traffic for several hours without having the police carry me offg the street and arrest me. I'm suing the city because I was held in conditions the Health Department allegedly evaluated as being a health hazzard, because I was not able to place a call for over 28 hours because although I was arrested on Tuesday evening I was denied contact with a lawyer until a few hours before my release on Thursday and finally because the system was designed to shuffle people around WITHOUT processing them so they could be illegally held in custody until the RNC ended. Other cel-lmates of mine were not even protesting but were swept up in plastic nets that trawled the side walk of people who were lawfully congregating, following pedestrian traffic and not doing anything to tempt arrest.

The literature and statements by RHA diminish the lawsuit and the atrocities the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg inflicted on people who chose to speak out against the RNC. They claim that no CD should result in arrest. They claimthe Manhattan Pride Parade of thousands should not need a permit. They use the Stonewall RIOTS where angry queers burned down a bar and set cars on fire. Were these actions historically justified? History has proven this violent event to have been a powerful historic catalyst for LGBT Equal Rights. Still should we have laws that empower police to arrest a crowd attempting to burn down a bar and ripping up parking meters? Martin Luthor King and Ghandi never said they should not have been jailed for their protests. Breaking the law and being arrested for non violent actions was their strategy. Being physically abused during a peaceful protest by the police, being arrested for lawful orderly congregation and manipulating the legal system to deny speedy due process in line with the misdemenor offenses we were arrested for.

I think this is the absolutely right issue. Unfortunately I think RHA has the wrong strategy and the absolute wrong targets.
Jon Winkleman

Here's a link to a 5-minute video depicting the 4/19 Parade without a Permit, organized by the Radical Homosexual Agenda and also featuring Time's Up and Assemble for Rights NYC.


The video captures what happened when, at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon at City Hall, well over 50 people challenged Speaker Quinn and the new police law on assembly by taking the streets without first asking the police for permission. It features an explosion of pink, police violence directed at queer people and a flamboyant, successful, unpermitted procession through the streets on NYC.

We have a police department that just wrote a new law that says we can't congregate with more than 50 people on foot or on bikes without asking the police for permission. And we have Speaker Christine Quinn supporting the police.

Jon Winkleman insinuates that the Radical Homosexual Agenda is out on some ideological limb by opposing the police law and Speaker Quinn's support of it. But that's simply not true. The New York Bar Association, the New York Civil Liberties Union, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, the 5 Boro Bike Club, the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association and various walking tours have all argued that this new police law hinders our ability to gather and move throughout the city. 10 City Councilors have vowed to repeal the police law.

Cops don't write laws in democracies. And New York cops, who, in the last five years, have beaten protestors, illegally surveillanced them and arrested them, certainly shouldn't be trusted to dictate the terms of how and when we are able to use the streets.

Yes, Mayor Bloomberg is guilty of supporting this police law. Yes, of course Ray Kelly is guilty too. But Speaker Quinn is just as guilty.

Assemble for Rights NYC has tried hard through a letter-writing campaign and other means to convince Quinn that she shouldn't support the police law. She still isn't convinced. We're going to try to change that.

Jon rightly hints that one objective of the police law is to shut down the monthly bike ride, Critical Mass, which is continuing relatively unmolested in 799 other cities and towns around the world. But Jon also says that if bicyclists don't want problems, then they shouldn't run red lights. There are already laws governing red lights. We're not protesting those laws or the police's ability to enforce them.

We are protesting an illegitimately written law and a City Council Speaker who seems all too willing to sever her activist roots in exchange for a chance to be Mayor.

In no uncertain terms, the new police law hinders our ability to spontaneously assemble and process throughout NYC. The next time a Matthew Sheppard is killed, under Quinn and the NYPD's new rule, we'll have to ask permission to gather and process, wait three days for a response and then, if and only if the police say it's okay, we can march.

Check out AssembleforRightsNYC.org for the lastest updates in how to repeal this police law and place the entire permitting process in a civilian division of government where it should've been all along.

You are misrepresenting what I wrote. I wrote "I think this is the absolutely right issue. Unfortunately I think RHA has the wrong strategy and the absolute wrong targets."

I think the police have been increasingly out of line from Giuliani onward. I have been there first hand at that chaos during the Matthew Shepard Candlight Vigil, where members of G.O.A.L. who showed up off duty with candles were shocked by the uniformed polices' actions. I was at the War Resisters Ground Zero protest during the RNC and watched the police "preemptively arrest" 300 people including legal observers, tourists, rake out delivery people, peddestrians on their way home and others. I myself was arrested later. In the 5 prior CDs resulting in my arrest I had previously participated in during ACT UP's heyday, I had never seen such flagrant and horrible abuses of the system.

I think RHA has poor strategy and has chosen poor targets because...

1) Commissioner Kelly and the Mayor are directly responsible for the new standards. They should be the prime target. I feel the same way anytime there is a fare increase or transit strike many people focus their anger on the Mayor of NYC when it's the MTA is a state authority and the governor has much more direct control. If you don't like Quinn approving or brokering the compromise, which while not perfect IS 1000X BETTER than the original plan. Still if you want the council to change the parade law, you need to give them some guideline for what would be a more balanced and fair law. Also asking the speaker of general members of the council for supportis moot unless you can demonstrate having support on the Public Safety Committee. Temper tantrums don't change things. ACT UP was effective because in addition to the angry protests we also worked inside the system, had in hand proposals with better ways of doing things and we learned how the system worked so we could change it. We did.

I like the proposed legislation on the Assembleforrights.org website. The real question is how do we make it law? Unfortunately most leftist organization I support will get the back bench council members to sponsor and introduce the legislation. Yes many of them are ideologically closer to our issues than the committee chairs or more influential council members. However in the real world most of this legislation is doomed.

Organize in Astoria. Find bikers who are members of strictly recreational bike clubs, community groups that gather outdoors, see if there is a Quaker or other activist church in Astoria, find which unions have active shops in Astoria and then sell them on this legislation and urge them to push Vallone Jr to be a sponsor. If you can't, looking at their list of who opposes the parade law, get Bill DeBlasio or David Weprin rather than a Charles Barron to sponsor it. Remember if Vallone is dead opposed and has no local pressure to support it, it will die in committee before it ever sees the light of day. Then Chris Quinn, Rosie Mendez and everyone elses opinion won't matter.

2) An act of Civil Disobediance is just that. If you choose to participate don't be a baby about the consequences. When ACT UP was first formed we were taught CD by Quakers and veterans of the Vietnam anti-war movement. The first thing we learned was if you participate in a protest there is some risk of arrest. If you decide to participate in a direct act of CD you must be prepared to accept the consequences.

Now do not twist my words. Misdemenor acts of civil disobedience should carry a reasonable risk of being taken into custody, being charged with disorderly conduct or crimminal trespass and barring an outstanding warrant or possesion of contraband or a weapon at the time of arrest, should result in an expedient desk appearance ticket release within a couple of hours and then either community service or most probably an ACD.

The NYPD are breaking the law if women or trans persons arrested are separated and given a full cavity search without just cause, people are denied timely access to a phone or lawyers, people are put through the system without just cause, people with prescription medications are denied access when put through the system, the police respond violently to an otherwise peaceful demonstration, police confiscate cameras, video, film and bicycles and keep them for no good reason, permits are denied for certain political gathering but are given to other whose gatherings are of a similar dynamic and size but are not political in nature. There are the cases where we should not accept our fates.

In old ACT UP most all of our demos were unpermitted. Everyone was informed that there was always some risk of arrest. We had trained marshalls and CD training in advance to try and minimize that risk for those who were there to simply hold signs and shout. The risk was always there and people had to decide for themselves what risks they would accept.

3) In my strong and informed opinion, the actual written rules are less important than how the police actually respond during an assembly. Each precinct is different. Each police chief is different. Under the old parade laws ACT UP's pre-Giuliani demos techically needed a permit. However we would gather inb large numbers and the head marshalls would negotiate on the spot and a compromise would be worked out as to us taking half of the street, the route we would take and where we would go. This general precident of willing to negotiate with unpermitted demonstrators was very productive and allowed all of NYC to have full freedom of speech while not completely shutting down traffic. If your goal is to shut down traffic or intentionally defy the police and antagonize them, then you are choosing to to do a CD and you should refer to section "2."

On the Asseembleforrightsnyc.org we site they point out that at the 3/30/2007 Critical Mass rides those arrested weren't event charged under the new Parade Permit rules. The rules are paper mean nothing if the police are determined to stop you anyways.

Changing whatis written on paper mean diddley squat if the police continute witr their culture to squash all actions of dissent. Focus on policies for how police respond to non-violent protests, rallies and gatherings.

4) I wish there were more long shots instead of quick jumpy editing in the footage of the arrests as it's really hard to see how things actually played out in real time. The arrest the video seems to focus on is the bearded guy in the red sweatshirt. The police say keep on the sidewalk. A few people defy them and go in to the street. In my mind they are chooseing to commit an act of CD. Bravo, I have done that countless times. When the police try and push them back on the sidewalk, which under the circumstances is an expected response, it looks like this person has his palms forward and pushed the police back. Technically any intentional unauthorized physical contact with the police can be considered "assaulting an officer of the law." The act of civil disobedience for stepping off the sidewalk has now potentially escalated from a misdemenor to a possible feloney. This genntleman and RHA can choose whatever tactics they like. However IMHO when you protest police overeaction or violence by physically pushing the police back as it appears in this video or other actions such as throwing things at the police and knocking down barracades which were not in the video you create a media narrative that underminds the credibility of your goals. Most people who watch footage of people throwing things or physically pushing the police will see even a violent polices response as justified.

There were intense debates as to the committement to non-violence in the civil rights movement. As elderly blacks were physically beaten and had dogs attaqck them during peaceful protests many wanted to respond with like violence. Was such a response morally justified? Probably. However their goal was to move the country and create change. If they responded with violence the media would focus on what the blacks were doing to the police in their edited broadcast. Few would see that the whites attaqcked first and deserved it. By committing to non-violence America saw a powerful narrative of peaceful passive citizens being beaten, firehosed and attacked by dogs. Americans became incresingly disgusted by these worst incidents of racism and were forced to confront the racist laws the Civil Rights movement were protesting. This tradition works. Unfortunately it doesn't provide the immediate cartharsis that pushing cops back does.

Again, I think this is the absolutely right issue but think RHA is persuing the absolute wrong strategy and targets.
Jon Winkleman

Jon Writes:

"An act of Civil Disobediance is just that. If you choose to participate don't be a baby about the consequences."

I find this comment to be shocking, especially from someone who has participated in CD and endured police oppression. What about people who show up to demonstrations (permitted or non) who are arrested just for being on the sidewalk, or just being in the march?

Your statement is downright scary because it is essentially "blaming the victim." Those who went to nightclubs before Stonewall risked being arrested and abused in the worst ways by the cops. (And they were horribly abused) Is your reaction "Oh, don't be a baby about it, you knew the risks?". Would you say that to a victim of police abuse? I certainly hope not.

What about wearing promiscuous clothing and getting raped? Is the person "asking for it for wearing such clothes?" If we went according to your reasoning, the answer is yes.

We all agree that the parade permit laws are terrible. But you miss some essential points.

1) Chris Quinn claims to be one of us. Yet she supports this obviously unconstitutional law. When there is outcry, her response is belitting at best (saying "I know some are disappointed) and fascistic at worst. That is, she is abdicating the job of legislator to the police.

2) We tried writing, calling etc. etc. Now there is a lawsuit going. She has ignored us and instead would commit lots of city $$ and lawyers to give the police the right to regulate 1st Amendment rights. It's time to raise our voices in different ways.

3) We know the Bloomberg is a lost cause on this issue. He compared the RNC protesters to the 9/11 hijackers. But, Quinn claims to be progressive an an activist. How can she support the police by writing them a blank check? The politicians are supposed to follow the will of the people, not the police.

4) Many of us are sick and tired of politicians betraying their base and betraying what they originally stood for. If you read the flier we handed located at (nyc.indymedia.org/media/2007/04//85348.pdf)
you'll see there are a lot of issues where Quinn is running to the right and turning her back on many causes important to the queer community. Since Quinn is ignoring us through "traditional means", it's time to let her know that through more noisy means.


I don't have time to respond to all the comments that Jon has made. But I want to at least make one point about why Speaker Quinn is a legitimate target for our ire over the new police law. First off, she didn't negotiate with the cops to change the number of people who cmust ask the new police law on assembly from 10+ people to 50+ people. Those numbers either changed over outcry from citizen groups or because, the police were playing a game all along where they wanted to demonstrate the illusion of compromise. Either way, Quinn didn't even show up at 1 Police Plaza to state, on the record and in public, her position on this issue. She deliberately ducked it so she could spend her time triangulating instead.

Speaker Quinn is a legitimate target because she wields a ton of power in City Council. She just strong-armed 37 Councilors to put 150 pedi-cab drivers out of work and curtail environmental transportation at a time when we have the dirtiest air in the country. She had to overturn Mayor Bloomberg's veto (yes, even a Republican is more progressive than Quinn on environmental issues).

Quinn didn't pass this legislation curtailing pedi-cabs because she thought is was the morally correct thing to do. She did it because she was doing a favor for her friend, Emily Giske, a lobbyist for the taxi industry. Quinn has a lot of power to push the legislation that she wants through City Council. Unfortunately, Quinn is using that power to continue the pay-to-play politics she promised to replace during her campaign.

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Published on April 22, 2007 11:59 AM.

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