The story behind the 2004 GOP convention protest arrests

In the coming days, you are likely to be reading a lot of stories about several lawsuits that have been filed against the NYPD on behalf of some 1,800 protestors who attended anti-Bush ‘festivities’ around the RNC convention in the summer of 2004. A federal judge on Friday ordered the NYPD to release some 600 pages of ‘secret’ documents related to its preparation for the protests that took place at the 2004 GOP convention.

The civil liberties groups involved in the lawsuit would have you think that those arrested were targeted because they merely ‘opposed Bush.’ But it’s really not so simple, as former NYT reporter Judith Miller explains here (emphasis added):

The courts will eventually decide whether such surveillance and policies derived from it were legal and appropriate. But my reading of the 600 pages of intelligence reports, coupled with interviews of senior police officials, a review of speeches, and documents involving the law suits, suggests that the department’s surveillance effort was largely threat-driven. It was prompted by legitimate concerns about how to assure the safety of both New Yorkers and protestors, 65% of whom came from outside the state.

While the line between appropriate and illegal surveillance of political groups is not always obvious or as a matter of law clearly drawn, the police complain that the department’s actions have not been framed in the context of the threat New York was facing.

In an interview, Mr. Cohen [deputy police commissioner for intelligence in NY] argued, for instance, that a balanced appraisal of the city’s surveillance effort should have emphasized the “ongoing and continuous threat” confronting the police. Since 9/11, he said, the city has experienced or prevented 11 separate terrorist plots, roughly two a year–beginning with the still-unsolved anthrax letter attacks of October, 2001, in which five people died (one in Manhattan), to the thwarting of a plot in July 2006 to destroy the PATH subway linking New Jersey to Lower Manhattan and blow up the retaining wall at Ground Zero to flood lower Manhattan.

The 18-month period between the selection of New York and the convention itself was “the most intense threat period of the post September 11 era to date,” Mr. Cohen said. Six terrorist attacks by al Qaeda-related or inspired groups in far-flung Casablanca, Jakarta, Istanbul, Moscow and Madrid killed nearly 300 people and wounded more than 3,000 during that period.

The police also had to expect and prepare for the worst because of the violence surrounding earlier large protests since 1999. “Inadequate advance understanding, or knowledge of the plans and intentions of those prepared to commit violence, undermined earlier efforts to contain disruptions, Mr. Cohen said. At Seattle’s WTO protest in 1999, for instance, a relatively small group of activists among crowds of at least 50,000 people triggered grotesque mayhem–violent confrontations with the police, $3 million in property damage, and numerous injuries and arrests.

Mr. Cohen said, and his intelligence files suggest, that the police were concerned about four categories of protestors: anarchists and others openly committed to violently shutting down the city; a second, far-larger group intent on acts of civil disobedience to disrupt proceedings through peaceful if illegal means; individuals with criminal histories embedded in both these groups; and people who had previously tried to hide or alter their identities when arrested. It was the need to ascertain true identities, he said, that led to the decision to fingerprint those arrested. This, in turn, required the police to arrest demonstrators who were violating the law, rather than give them summonses, since people are fingerprinted only after an arrest.

Eight weeks before the convention, activists designated Aug. 31, 2004, in online postings as a day for civil disorder, the “Day of Chaos,” or “A-31.” Groups of anarchists began identifying protest targets in public advisories, press releases and on Web sites.

For many, Madison Square Garden, the convention site, was “ground zero,” which activists discussed entering with false identification. Others planned to prevent delegates from reaching the convention by blinding bus driver windows or disabling charter buses, lying under vehicles, and using rented cabs and flotillas of bicycles to clog bus routes.

A least 24 hotels throughout the city hosting state delegations were identified on Web sites as delegation hosts at which protestors could converge to harass delegates and disrupt normal hotel business. Reinforced police presence at the Warwick, the Westin and Roosevelt, Commissioner Kelly said in a 2004 speech, prevented demonstrators from “rushing” the delegates’ hotels.

The intelligence files show that activists had also planned, and later attempted unsuccessfully, to close down Wall Street, disrupt traffic at Herald Square and elsewhere, crash delegate parties, stage sit-ins in hotel and office lobbies, seal off subway stations with arrest tape and switch subway signs to disorient delegates. There were plans to vandalize retail stores like Starbucks and McDonalds with what Mr. Cohen called “brick and bomb tactics”; activists were also urged to disrupt Broadway performances attended by delegates on Aug. 31, designated as “Chaos on Broadway.”

Other businesses seen as hostile to the activists’ agenda–the Carlyle Group, Chevron, the Rand Corporation and Hummer of Manhattan–were designated for “direct actions” ranging from blocking entrances to breaking windows and setting fires. The files showed that activists with previous arrests for violent conduct were monitored by NYPD plain-clothes detectives, and that information about their convention plans was shared with police departments in other states and counties.

Activists discussed the use of disruptive tactics that had worked so well in Seattle–Molotov cocktails, ammonium-nitrate bombs with nails, live CS canisters, Tiki Torches (soup cans filled with flammable substances attached to the end of a stick) water guns filled with flammable liquids and chemical irritants, urine or paint, and mobile infrared transmitters to change traffic signals.

The files document at least eight training sessions in New York and outside that were organized by anarchists and other experienced activists. Techniques for evading or countering the police were taught. The New York City Anarchist Tribes, for example, held martial-arts training in Manhattan in January, 2004. The Syracuse Peace Council, in Ithaca, N.Y., which planned to block traffic in New York, held weekend training aimed at “building our own radical activist infrastructure.”

The “Constitutional Rights Enforcement and Support Team,” an Internet-based group, stated on its Web site that “many people who join this group will die, be wounded, or jailed” in its efforts to counter “police brutality.” Ashira Affinity, a Colorado-based anarchist group, urged members to join protests that were “strategic, ruthless, efficient, as well as chaotic.”

In addition to the usual crackpot threats posted in Internet chat rooms, such as the one by a writer who vowed to “fly a 767 into the convention and take care of the American problem on Thursday”–which the police nevertheless could ill afford to ignore–came vaguer if still troubling counsel from would-be protestors: “Give them the New York they are afraid of,” urged one listing.

In Queens, police arrested three “Black bloc” anarchists who had three imitation handguns, a butterfly knife, pellets and a map of New York City. A man arrested on Aug. 20 for criminal trespass and possession of burglary tools in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, had been arrested more than 25 times in California for various offenses.

Critics of the police complain that never had so many protestors at a political convention been arrested. But Mr. Cohen notes that the arrest of some 1,807 out of nearly 800,000 protestors is the lowest arrest-to-crowd ratio of any major political gathering. Had the arrest-to-crowd ratio at a Miami protest in November 2003 been repeated in New York, 10,000 people would have been arrested.

The convention’s only serious injury, Mr. Kelly said, was sustained by a detective who was pulled from his scooter and kicked unconscious by a demonstrator. He called the police’s handling of the event one of his department’s “finest hours,” sentiments that were incidentally shared by the Times, which editorialized soon after the convention that the “intense planning” and “well-disciplined use of force” by the police had shown how disruptive tactics could be countered.

Keep that in mind when you read this piece in the NYT, published Saturday, which was designed to make it look like the people who the police were targeting were nothing but peaceful individuals. I’m not saying that every single person arrested was a participant in what had been planned in advanced by the raging Bush-haters, but I do believe, in light of Miller’s article, that the NYPD had every right to worry and compile information on any person or group of people who were planning not merely to protest, but to create chaos by way of violence and other aggressive behavior.

In essence, these moonbats think that it is somehow legal to commit acts of violence or other forms of aggressive, threatening behavior against people they disagree with. Maybe they’d find more in common with the Russian government than ours on that front. Here’s the door, ‘bats. Don’t let it hit ya on the way out.


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