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Records: NYPD Held GOP Protesters Longer

Associated Press | February 8, 2007
LARRY NEUMEISTER

NEW YORK (AP) - Hundreds of protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention were held for up to six times longer than those arrested on charges unrelated to the convention, according to city documents made public Thursday.

More than 1,800 people were arrested at the four-day convention at Madison Square Garden, where President Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term in office.

The legitimacy of the arrests was challenged on civil rights grounds in lawsuits brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of some of those detained.

A judge last month rejected the city's effort to keep secret most of the files and videotapes documenting the arrests, leading to their release.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the NYCLU, said the documents "reveal that the long detentions of the thousands of protesters arrested for minor offenses at the convention were the result of deliberate policy decisions by the NYPD."

"During the convention, you got to a judge much faster if you were a bank robber than if you were charged with parading without a permit," he said.

Instead of issuing summonses - similar to traffic tickets - police held everyone who was arrested for later court appearances. The concern, according to police Chief John J. Colgan, was the need to positively identify everyone arrested.

Records show that arrested protesters on Aug. 31, 2004, were held an average of 32 hours before appearing in court, while those arrested on other offenses were held less than five hours.

"By refusing to release demonstrators with summonses and instead holding them to be illegally fingerprinted, the department all but guaranteed that protesters would be held for extended periods of time," Dunn said.

Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, said the arrests generally were processed in a timely manner, and the delays on Aug. 31, 2001, were caused by a high number of arrests in a short amount of time.

Records in the document cache also show that many officers, sergeants and lieutenants made toxic exposure complaints about the holding pen on a Hudson River pier where arrested protesters were processed. The officers' complaints included claims of exposure to asbestos, carbon monoxide, sludge, oil, fumes and toxic materials.

Browne disputed those complaints. "The fact remains that air quality and other environmental tests that were done documented the fact that the pier was safe," he said.

 

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