Friday, February 03, 2006

NYT: "Surveillance Prompts a Suit: Police v. Police" (Jim Dwyer)

The demonstrators arrived angry, departed furious. The police had herded them into pens. Stopped them from handing out fliers. Threatened them with arrest for standing on public sidewalks. Made notes on which politicians they cheered and which ones they razzed.
Meanwhile, officers from a special unit videotaped their faces, evoking for one demonstrator the unblinking eye of George Orwell's "1984."
"That's Big Brother watching you," the demonstrator, Walter Liddy, said in a deposition.
Mr. Liddy's complaint about police tactics, while hardly novel from a big-city protester, stands out because of his job: He is a New York City police officer. The rallies he attended were organized in the summer of 2004 by his union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, to protest the pace of contract talks with the city.
Now the officers, through their union, are suing the city, charging that the police procedures at their demonstrations -- many of them routinely used at war protests, antipoverty marches and mass bike rides -- were so heavy-handed and intimidating that their First Amendment rights were violated.

[. . .]
The lawsuit by the police union brings a distinctive voice to the charged debate over how the city has monitored political protest since Sept. 11. The off-duty officers faced a "constant threat of arrest," Officer Liddy testified, all but echoing the complaint by activists for other causes that the city has effectively "criminalized dissent."

The above is from Jim Dwyer's "Surveillance Prompts a Suit: Police v. Police" in this morning's New York Times. West was the first to note the article in this morning's e-mails and he noted that it reminded him of an episode of The Simpsons "when Lisa gets all the students to protest and the police are called in but instead of busting up the strike, they end up joining the students."

Also from the article, on questions reportedly asked by the police at a 2003 anti-war rally:

The dozen people who submitted affidavits said the interrogations went far beyond basics. Among the questions, they said, was whether the country would be better off if Al Gore had been elected, whether they hated President Bush, whether they belonged to other antiwar groups, what schools they attended, and whether they were politically active. The police denied asking those questions.

We'll note Danny Schechter's "Reporting From the Gulf: What's Next For Al Jazeera?" (

Doha, Qatar, February 1: Doha is the capital of the country pronounced Cutter. It is a Gulf state run by a modernizing Emir not unlike the fictional wannabe killed in the movie Syriana.
The ruler, His Highness (HH) Sheikh Hamad Bib Khalifa Al Thani, presides over the country on a Peninsula. He rules an incredibly wealthy desert nation, with just 743, 000 people, that sits on top of one of the world's largest reserves of natural gas. He has two American bases in one corner of the country and US universities building medical schools and other institutions of higher learning in another. He's launched an airline that is already one of the best in the world, and has turned this city into a giant construction site with a humongous airport and new skyscrapers in the works.
Yet, Qatar is not really known globally for these audacious and expensive accomplishments. It's known for an Arabic language satellite channel -- that until recently was squeezed into a building one Arab leader called a "matchbox" -- Al Jazeera.
Many Americans think of Al Jazeera as tied to terrorism because they occasionally air tapes recorded by Osama bin Laden. In the West it has inspired fear, been denounced on Fox News as "terror TV" and "culturally Arab" in pejorative putdowns, and reportedly President Bush once discussed bombing its headquarters, as in "taking it out." (Channel executives say they have still not had any official explanations from Washington for these "documented threats.")
Al Jazeera turns ten this year. It was a child of a failed BBC-Saudi partnership. When that relationship self-destructed, its journalists found a patron in the State of Qatar that invested over a hundred million dollars to turn an idea into a global brand - some say the 5th best known in the world -- and force in broadcasting news that has won the confidence of nearly 40 million Arab people worldwide.
Al Jazeera has been embattled. Two of its offices were bombed by the US military. Two reporters have been killed and another is in Guantanamo. Another was accused of supporting terrorism in a trial that most press freedom groups found deeply flawed. Several governments, including Iraq, have closed their offices.
That's why it is sponsoring a forum this week to discuss "Defending Freedom, Defining Responsibility." is here along with a wide international gathering of journalists, media scholars, press freedom groups and intellectuals. U.S. Independent media is well represented with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, Stephen Marshall of Guerilla News Network, and Iraq reporter Dahr Jamail among others. There are delegates from England, France, South Africa, Turkey and all over the Arab World.

Remember that Democracy Now! "continues its special broadcast from Doha, Qatar" today (listen, watch or read).

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