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August 8, 2000
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There have been some, uh, interesting remarks made by people regarding the rights of protestors and the rights of police in Philladelphia. Bijan Parsia has written an informative piece on Monkeyfist about what exactly is happening there, from a legal standpoint.
posted by queequeg (11 comments total)

 
Not really informative; it doesn't say anything that hasn't already been said here in the interminable threads on this subject. But, hey, as he says, bring the federal investigations on. We'll see.
posted by aaron at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2000


Aaron, are you saying this story is not newsworthy? then what is? napster? elian?...

In any case, for those who are still interested -- there is more than enough evidence at this point to draw at least the following conclusions:

(a) that the Philadelphia Police Department have physically tortured hundreds of the arrestees and denied them basic legal rights such as the right to speak to a lawyer -- and this was planned in advance;
(b) that of the perhaps 500 people who were arrested, only one or two committed anything that could remotedly be considered an act of violence or property damage.
(c) that more than a hundred of the arrestees were not violating the law in any way, and had no intention to (many were legal observers, medics, photographers or otherwise nonparticipants in the protests, and -- sorry -- making puppets for display in a *legally permitted* march is NOT a crime);
(d) that the police responded in the way that they did in a naive attempt (as one lawyer put it) "to criminalize political activism in this country" -- viz., a attempt to systematically suppress a burgeoning mass movement of young people who dare to challenge corporate and state power through creative, nonviolent protest.
This is not speculation. The evidence is out there, in the form of hundreds of independent eye witnesses to egregious police misconduct -- including torture, denial of medical care, and calculated misinformation.
If you still have doubts, I highly recommend watching the *full length* of this press conference (split into four parts):
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
This conference obviously does not present all the evidence, but it might inspire the nonbelievers to further investigation.
posted by johnb at 6:37 PM on August 8, 2000


No, not saying it's not newsworthy, only that it doesn't add any information to the discussions on this issue we've already had recently here on MeFi. God, please, no more Elian.
posted by aaron at 7:04 PM on August 8, 2000


Well, it may have been redundant from your point of view, Aaron, but I think Bijan's commentary takes a novel enough approach to the subject, and it's certainly insightful. I like the way it juxtaposes higher ideals (MLK, representing the spirit of nonviolent activism) and some baser particulars (the high bail situation, that vulgar pig Timoney). In general, I think the monkeyfist collective has done an brilliant job covering not only this latest event but also A16 etc (and the state of the world in general). (BTW, many thanks to Dru for the photo essay :)

posted by johnb at 7:55 PM on August 8, 2000


I'm interested in johnb's contention that "there is more than enough evidence at this point to draw at least the following conclusions" and states unequivocally that the Philadelphia Police Department has physically tortured hundres of arrestees. I can find no evidence of this, and even the ACLU denies that rumor is true. From what am I supposed to draw the conclusion that this is happening?
posted by m.polo at 10:18 PM on August 8, 2000


"...the ACLU denies that rumor is true."
This is false, m.polo. In its press release, regarding reports of "brutality", "abuse" and "serious injuries" inflicted upon the arrestees, the ACLU says, guardedly, that these reports are "credible" and worthy of investigation. (This was immediately after the release of a few victims, when the torture -related information was first formally made public) What you are probably thinking of is an outdated story (widely circulated in the mainstream media) that the ACLU had received "no reports of abuse". Unfortunately this was owing to simple misinformation on the part of the Police Department, which we can go into if you have time. Rest assured that since then, the ACLU, armed with the plenty of credible evidence, quickly backpedalled to a position with greater correspondence to reality.
Moving on to the general epistemological question you raise, I claim that there is more than enough evidence to support the conclusion that the Philadelphia police department physically tortured hundreds of the arrestees. You, on the other hand, say you can find no evidence of
to support this claim. None, really? Um...have you looked? For example, did you watch the full press conference that I linked to above? Are you telling me that that old Quaker guy (a NON-activist) is making it all up? he's lying off his ass? Or take that Legal Observer guy who was there to document the protests. Are you saying his head was never slammed onto the sidewalk, that a police officer's boot didn't mash and grind his head into the pavement with enough force to cause brain injury? That his injuries are somehow his fault? That he was lying when he said he was denied medical care or simple sanitation while in jail? I could go on and on with examples, but I must confess a personal connection here. I know honorable, nonviolent people who are in Philadelphia right now, and who have witnessed extreme brutality. These people may not be violent, but they are definitely not sissies either. They have come to expect a certain amount manhandling if they choose to engage in civil disobedience (which legally is just a fancy term for jaywalking). But this case was different by several orders of magnitude. This was a deliberate, pre-arranged effort to criminalize political dissent and dehumanize anyone (if they could get away with it) who showed the slightest bit of sympathy with the protestors or their causes. There is simply no other way of interpreting the data in front of my eyes. Not only the abuse, but the ridiculously high bail and the absurd propaganda to the effect that we are dealing with "dangerous urban terrorists" (as the ACLU characterizes the attitude of the police). No, we are not dealing with a secret "cabal" directed by "ringleaders" who conspire to...um, what? Jaywalking as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, LOL.
Ahem. To summarize, I have been following this story in an almost fanatical way for more than a week now. I have probably read every bit of public news and I have heard lots of stories off the record from friends as well. There is plenty physical evidence of injury and -- unless you believe in conspiracy theories -- the sheer number of these stories of abuse, combined with the level of independent cross-corroboration, make them very hard to dismiss as fiction. But don't take my word for it, see and judge for yourself....
Is this how a "free", "democratic" country handles political dissent?
posted by johnb at 1:10 AM on August 9, 2000


Addenda:

1.Ronald McGuire, a prominent lawyer who has represented protesters for more than 30 years, called the situation in Philadelphia a "civil rights disaster of the first order". He says that the treatment of the R2k activists is simply "without precedent" in modern American history -- including the civil rights era, anti-nuclear demonstrations in the 1970s etc...

2. If there's anything amusing in all this, it the failure of the Police and FBI to achieve even a basic understanding of what this movement is about. I wouldn't want to tell them this, but they look rather silly with their dark glasses, hiddden microphones and hi-tech earpieces. If they want to know what's going down, there's nothing more to learn than what's been discussed to death on the mailing lists at eGroups etc. Treating this new movement as if it were a secret, hierarchical cult is a ludicrous miscomprehension. As Han Shan of the Ruckus Society remarked in The Boston Globe:

"...one thing I'm gratified by is that they don't get it. They think they can pick off one or 10 or 50 people and end a movement that's calling for democracy, environmental protection, basic human rights. Well, we're still coming to LA."

LOL
posted by johnb at 1:40 PM on August 9, 2000


www.freespeech.org has more phillyimc coverage, the whole week. One video shows a young lady waiting for her boyfriend, she wasn't even a protester, the police throw her up against the wall and attack her. Protect and Serve. Protect and serve who?
posted by meme at 2:46 PM on August 9, 2000


Philly IMC and Free Speech have coverage and videos of the protests available online.

I found this interesting: many of the protest groups in Philadelphia applied for permits to protest, and were denied.

And I thought one of the best things I've read about the protests is this article, A Tactical Critique of Philadelphia. A protester assesses the action at Philly and points out some things the protesters there could have done better to get their message out.
posted by wiremommy at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2000


Well once again the truth wills out. The police were not there to protect and serve the people. They were there to protect and serve the visitors to Philadelphia, many of whom are supposed to be civil servants for the people.

The Philly police thought they were working in their best interests. The people from the convention had a legitimate reason for being there. The activists were there to give the republicans a hard time. The protest permits were denied because the police didn't want a confrontation. They didn't want anyone to show up and protest. It makes their job harder, and they're not paid enough as it is.

Which is why they were defending those rich guys in the suits. That's where the money is. They do a good job, they thought they'd get more money from the city next year. Problem is the city will now be suffering through a slew of legal court proceedings as all the protestors band together and sue the pants off Philadelphia, as well they should.

But who wins in all this? Did the protestors accomplish anything? This isn't the way to do it.

posted by ZachsMind at 6:33 PM on August 9, 2000


ZachsMind, interesting post; if you want I can respond at length in another thread. But briefly:

Q1: "But who wins in all this?"
A1: Among others, the people of developing countries -- the majority of whom have seen their standard of living decline under the policies of the IMF/WB/WTO.

Q2: "Did the protestors accomplish anything?"
A2: Compare the number of Americans who are worried about IMF/WB/WTO today with that number a year ago.

Any other questions?

>"This isn't the way to do it."

Seems to have worked pretty well so far. Yes, there is a lot to criticize in the particular way things were handled in Philadelphia (see Tactical Critique, linked to by Wiremommy above). On the whole it was a success, however. In any case, if you know of a more effective alternative to direct action, I would be grateful to hear about it...

posted by johnb at 1:37 AM on August 10, 2000


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