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Excerpt: "On Monday, the New York Police Department sent its warrant squads after an unusual set of suspects ... officers had an ulterior motive: gathering intelligence on the Occupy Wall Street protests scheduled for May 1, or May Day.'

NYPD at Occupy Wall Street Protest. (photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)
NYPD at Occupy Wall Street Protest. (photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)

Police Accused of Effort to Spy on Occupy Protesters

By Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times

03 May 12


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


n Monday, the New York Police Department sent its warrant squads after an unusual set of suspects: people who had old warrants for the lowliest of violations, misconduct too minor, usually, to draw the attention of those squads.

But those who were questioned by the warrant squads said the officers had an ulterior motive: gathering intelligence on the Occupy Wall Street protests scheduled for May 1, or May Day. One person said he was interviewed about his plans for May Day. A second person said the police examined political fliers in his apartment, and then arrested him on a warrant for a 2007 open-container-of-alcohol violation.

Officials have yet to respond to questions about the tactics, but one police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters about police policy, said the strategy appeared to be an extension of a policy used at events where crowd control could be an issue. Before certain parades that have been marred by shootings, for example, the warrant squads have tracked down gang members who live nearby to execute outstanding warrants, no matter how minor, the official said.

But the department's use of this tactic as part of its strategy for policing the Occupy Wall Street movement raises new questions about the surveillance efforts by the Police Department, which faces restrictions in monitoring political groups.

Zachary Dempster, 31, said he was wakened at 6:15 a.m. Monday by plainclothes police officers who entered his apartment on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn and herded him and two roommates into the living room. There, Mr. Dempster said, the police announced they were there that morning to serve an open-container warrant on one of the roommates, Joseph Ryan, a musician who goes by the name Joe Crow Ryan. But then one of the officers led Mr. Dempster back to his room for questioning.

"The officer said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?' " Mr. Dempster recalled. "Do you have plans for May Day?"

"I said, ‘I'm not going to talk to you without my lawyer present,' " Mr. Dempster said, adding, "It didn't seem right."

Mr. Dempster had been arrested on an assault charge in January during a fracas at an "Occu-Party" that the police broke up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He speculated that the police probably associated him with the Occupy movement, based upon that arrest.

But Mr. Dempster said that he was not particularly involved, beyond visiting Zuccotti Park, the protesters' main encampment, in the fall. He noted, "I haven't even Facebook-liked Occupy Wall Street."

"Possibly they were casting a net to see what they could pull in," Mr. Dempster said about the visit to his home on Monday.

Although Mr. Dempster was not arrested, he said the police arrested Mr. Ryan.

It is unclear exactly how many times the police inquired about May Day activities during warrant checks on Monday.

Gideon Oliver, a lawyer who has represented Occupy Wall Street protesters, said he heard of five addresses where the police had shown up in the last week to inquire about May Day activities and event organizers.

Mr. Oliver said that he believed the visits, reported on Monday by the Web site Gawker, were intended to discourage people from "engaging in First Amendment activity on May Day."

"I was surprised by the fact that bench warrants would be used as a pretext to this kind of activity as opposed to the officers knocking on the door and saying we want to talk to X, Y and Z," Mr. Oliver said.

Paul J. Browne, a Police Department spokesman, did not respond to repeated calls over the last two days seeking comment.

About an hour after the police visited Mr. Dempster's home, a warrant squad stopped by another home in Brooklyn, again to serve an open-container complaint. "I woke up in bed to a rather large detective standing over me with a flashlight," said Sean Broesler, a resident of the home. He said that he and his roommates were brought into a common area.

"Our apartment is well-known as one where political activists live," said Mr. Broesler, who declined to identify his roommates or give his address in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He said the officers claimed to have warrants in the name of previous tenants whose mail they still sometimes receive.

Mr. Broesler said he was arrested on a 2007 open-container violation for which he had failed to appear in court. He said a second roommate was also arrested on a warrant.

Although officers asked no questions about political activities, Mr. Broesler said they were drawn to what was on the coffee table. "We had May Day literature and they were leafing through them," he said.

Mr. Broesler described himself as a regular last year at Zuccotti Park and said he participated in occupations at the New School and New York University.

"Why would they be going to activists' houses and using pretexts to get in just before May Day when they could have picked me up at any point in the past?" he asked.

See Also: NYPD Raids Activists’ Homes Before May Day Protests your social media marketing partner


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For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

+7 # DPM 2012-05-03 09:57
Who can pull surveillance and gather information on the .10% of the people that direct our economy and politics?
+5 # JH Gordon 2012-05-03 10:47
The 1% are well protected. They use our money to do it. They use our money to control us. The one thing they absolutely couldn't stand is if everyone in Occupy and anyone with common sense demanded a small change in the IRS Tax Code.

End the Tax Deduction for political contributions. (And save democracy in the process.)

Let corporate boards try convincing stockholders to fund lobbyists and hack politicians from profits.

JH Gordon
How to burn down Wall St. and get away with it.
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-05-03 11:20
In this "Information Age" our only hope is to overload the system with as much "information" as possible so that it simply cannot keep track of it...e.g., if everyone simply included phrases like Occupy Everywhere in every single email they sent out to everyone there would be no way for the state to sift out which were "real" and which were not...we have to be creative the yippies of old who would get on the phone (knowing that they were being bugged) and call for people to meet at such and such a place at such and such a time so that this is where the cops would go while they were always intending to be somewhere else. The state is clearly only going to become more and more repressive (and it should be clear to all by now that this will be whether we are under a right-wing pig like Rudolph Giuliani or a more "moderate" "social liberal" one like Mike Bloomberg or whatever you think he is Democrats like Obama whose constitutional law professor view of the constitution seems to be that he can detain (forever), assassinate or bomb anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world simply on his say so without every have to charge, try or convict anyone of anything, ever. Time to talk about tactics that can minimize the state's repression since we are technologically way beyond being able to prevent the state from actually doing this stuff.
+3 # Michael_K 2012-05-03 12:37
Basically: a conspiracy to deny 1st amendment rights...

Interesting how that old cliche about vertically-chal lenged people and mad abuse of power turn out to be so accurate.. We need to get rid of the mini-mayor ASAP
0 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-03 17:07
0 # Willman 2012-05-03 18:56
And the right wing nuts are attempting to deny voters their right to vote using another set of legislative tactic.
It all comes down to suppression of the common people to maintain and further the status quo of the 1/10%.
The police are paid a pittance but continue on with their orders from above in hopes of a decent retirement.

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