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New York Civil Liberties Union: Stop blanket surveillance of ‘Occupy Wall St.’

The New York Civil Liberties Union on Thursday called on the New York Police Department to stop the 24-hour video surveillance of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters.

In a letter (PDF) to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the NYCLU acknowledged the city had accommodated the ongoing demonstration by allowing the protestors to remain at Zuccotti Park. But the letter expressed concerns about the the policing of the protest, particularly the actions of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU).

“At Zuccotti Park, there are at least two special cameras trained on the park and apparently recording activity at all times,” the letter said. “In addition, many members of TARU are at the park and other locations and are conspicuously and routinely videotaping protest activity.”

The NYCLU said the videotaping when “far beyond” recording unlawful activity.

“More generally, it appears to us that the Department’s approach is basically to videotape all Occupy Wall Street activity. This type of surveillance substantially chills protest activity and is unlawful. In light of the Mayor’s recognition of the peaceful nature of these protests, we call on you to stop the videotaping of lawful protest.”

The NYCLU also said the police department should allow the growing group of protesters to use tents to ensure their safety as the weather turns colder, and reverse its decision to deny a request to place portable toilets near Zuccotti Park.

Citing the 700 protesters who were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, the group said the department needed to do a better job of communicating with protesters and warning them of unlawful activity.

“Having been present at many of the major Occupy Wall Street events, we have seen situations in which officers have done an excellent job conveying information to protesters and bystanders. In other situations, however (such as with the Brooklyn Bridge arrests), communications efforts were disjointed and ineffective. This leads to unnecessary tensions and, in the most extreme examples, arrests that could be entirely prevented.”

The NYCLU said it wants to see the charges against all those arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge dismissed.

Photo credit: David Shankbone

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