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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Police spy on protesters against school closings, in violation of our civil rights

See this video of the NY Police Department, taking photographs of parents, students and teachers, who were peacefully protesting on Jan. 21 on the mayor's block, against his proposals to force mass closings of public schools and their takeover by charter schools. We were exercising our constitutional right under the First Amendment to publicly demand that these destructive policies be stopped.

Meanwhile, a reporter from the Village Voice caught on videotape police taking photographs from the roof of and inside the Rudolph Steiner school, directly adjacent to the mayor's house.

In 1985, the federal court ruled that it is illegal for the New York City police to take photos of protesters, unless they have cause to believe that a crime may be committed.

The city signed a consent agreement that year, restricting police surveillance according to these rules, called the Handschu agreement. In the case of this peaceful protest, there was no such cause and this is clearly intimidation tactics, and/or a violation of civil rights.

The police responded to inquiries from the press yesterday, by claiming that they were taking pictures for "for crowd control planning purposes," which, on the face of it, sounds absurd.

The administration's surveillance of critics of its education policies does not occur in a vacuum. Remember how in 2007, it came out that the DOE had assigned an employee to tape Diane Ravitch, and was keeping a dossier on her?

And subsequently, it was revealed that Chris Cerf, then Deputy Chancellor, had assigned several of his staff to closely monitor our NYC education list serv, among others?

This is what Diane wrote at the time, after the DOE had gotten Kathy Wylde to publish an oped in the NY Post, attacking her:

"The public schools need involvement by parents and local communities. They need a lively and open public forum in which decisions can be debated before they are finalized. The public should have a voice in what happens to the children of the community. This I promise: I will continue to analyze the facts and the evidence to the best of my ability, without fear or favor. I will not be intimidated."

Neither will we.

See Group Claims NYPD Violated Protest Rights‎ (NY1); Civil rights lawyer Siegel snaps at NYPD for protest photos outside Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse (Daily News); Voice Video Shows NYPD Snapping Photos of School Demonstrators at Mayor Bloomberg’s House (Village Voice); and video of our press conference (thanks to David Bellel).


Unitymustgo! said...

Are you really surprised? How much press coverage did you receive? Any mentions on any local news or a blurb in any papers? I just got the latest UFT Chapter Leader update e-mail from the UFT this morning. Any mention?? Nope not a one. I'm sure no mention in the NYTeacher UFT newspaper either. I applaud every person that showed up. Thank you for fighting the fight that needs fighting.



Anonymous said...

Not surprised that the UFT did not mention anything about this disgusting reaction.
This is the same UFT that kept quiet when the mayor ran for his illegal 3rd term.
Unity Caucus should have been led into retirement years ago. The same cast of characters win each election.
Recently, with the stock market showing improvement, the 8 1/4% on fixed returns is being lowered to 7%. Why?
We need term limits for UFT officials. They need to be back in the classroom to know what is going on. Let them see what they have negotiated for the membership.
How many people are aware that the UFT President and other union bigwigs receive double pensions?

Anonymous said...

What about the photographer that is snapping away at the speakers at the schools closing hearings? He took more than the usual number of photos per subject; he stood next to and fraternized with DOE staff for the event. This photographer (wearing no press tag) pointed the camera towards the crowd. Given that there is very little press coverage at these hearings, and that it is rare when the press run photographs, I am suspicious: is this someone that is working for the DOE? I saw the same individual, overzealously shooting photos of speakers and audience members last night at the Brooklyn PEP meeting. Given that the police were doing surveillance work against protesters at Bloomberg's residence, I am suspicious for added reasons that the city is building a dossier of protesters. Can we say chilling effect?