March 19, 2012

The Mass Defense Coordination Committee (MDCC) of the National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter condemns the violent mass arrest of over 90 peaceful protesters in Zuccotti Park on March 17th, 2012. Over 1,000 people lawfully assembled in Zuccotti Park as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s six-month anniversary celebration. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) surrounded the park, declared the park closed, cleared the park of all demonstrators, and again surrounded it entirely with barricades. The park remained closed through early Monday afternoon.

Witnesses consistently described the clearing of the park as a “police riot.” Photographs by news journalists reveal scores of people being beaten, many while in handcuffs. Video footage on Twitter and elsewhere shows police smashing a medic’s head into a glass door with such force that the plate glass fractures. At least 6 people were hospitalized. In a now internationally publicized incident, a young woman had an epileptic seizure as she was being arrested, and was further injured by police as she lay handcuffed and convulsing in the street. Many protesters were released in the middle of the night, after having been held for over 20 hours without being given any food. Many were held for over 24 hours, and then released without being charged, while others had all charges entirely dismissed. Many were still waiting to be arraigned more than 40 hours later.

The MDCC calls for a broader recognition of NYPD’s policies and practices, which routinely subject many residents to excessive force and spurious arrest. Communities of color, transgender people, the homeless, those with physical and mental health disabilities, and religious minorities continue to be subject to indiscriminate arrest and hostile policing by the NYPD. That policing, which includes the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices and the infiltration, surveillance, and entrapment of Muslim communities, is less frequently witnessed by the media, but is a constant reality for the most vulnerable residents of New York City. The NYPD’s egregious behavior toward protesters this weekend is merely one highly visible instance of their larger program of the arbitrary and brutal behavior that disrupts the health and welfare of communities city-wide. Such alarming behavior on the part of law enforcement must end.

We demand attention to these repressive, hostile and violent practices, including a federal investigation into the policies and practices of the NYPD under the auspices of Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg. Without critical scrutiny of NYPD policy and practice, the safety of New York City’s residents is more compromised than protected by the police.

The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

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