Court Hears Arguments in NYCLU Challenge to Police Tactics at 2003 Anti-War Protests
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK – Trial began today in federal court in three right-to-protest cases brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging police practices at the February 15, 2003 anti-war demonstration here.
The cases are particularly important because they challenge practices that may be used during the protests at the Republican National Convention in August, the NYCLU said. These practices include:
- unreasonable restrictions on access to demonstration sites,
- unreasonable use of holding pens,
- the searching of demonstrators as a condition of entry to demonstrations,
- the reckless use of mounted officers in dispersing peacefully assembled demonstrators, and
- the prolonged detention in vans without access to food, water or bathroom facilities of demonstrators charged with minor offenses.
“Hundreds of thousands of people may come to New York to engage in peaceful protest at the Republican National Convention and they are entitled to be treated with the same respect as those attending the convention,”” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “”We hope that the city and the police department will learn from their mistakes and we will not have the same problems this August.””
The individuals the NYCLU is representing in the lawsuits are:
Ann Stauber, a 60-year-old diabetic woman in a wheelchair, who was herded into a holding pen on the street. She was forbidden to leave by the NYPD even after she told them that she urgently needed to find a bathroom and then return home to check her blood sugar. An officer forcibly stopped her when she attempted to leave and, in the process, broke the controls on her wheelchair.
Jeremy Conrad, a 27-year-old law student, who was trapped in a barricaded area and then injured when a horse stepped on him. When he complained to NYPD officers that the crowd could not move, he was arrested and maliciously pushed and kicked by officers. Conrad was detained in the back of a police van for about seven and a half hours without food, water or bathroom facilities. The NYPD then forced Conrad and others to stand outside police headquarters for approximately an hour and a half in 14-degree weather before releasing him.
The late Jeremiah Gutman and his family, who were hemmed in by police as they attempted to march to the rally site. Police offered either no information or inaccurate information to the trapped demonstrators. Then, without warning, police on horses drove into the crowd. While trying to protect his young son, the 79-year-old Mr. Gutman was knocked to the ground and injured.
Last year the NYCLU issued a report, “Arresting Protest,” that documents the city’s and police department’s actions at the February 15, 2003 antiwar event. The report is online at /node/21964
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