Day of Rage

Behind the scenes of the NYPD crackdown at the GOP convention

"You got to be kiddin' me!" Monahan responded.

Monahan walk-jogged up Fulton Street and stopped the march after half a block, causing it to bunch up. According to his deposition, he said he spoke with Hedemann and explained that heading up Broadway against traffic was dangerous to the marchers, pedestrians, and the police monitoring them. Monahan claims Hedemann's response was "don't come."

Hedemann told the Voice he doesn't recall speaking with Monahan. He remembers telling Galati they'd stay on the sidewalk and follow traffic rules, which meant they didn't need a permit or police escort.

"The Miami Model" deployed in New York City: surveillance, preventative mass arrests, and extended detentions
photo: Richard B. Levine
"The Miami Model" deployed in New York City: surveillance, preventative mass arrests, and extended detentions

According to the film shot by Schiller's partner Jon Fine, who was across Fulton Street, about 90 seconds after the demonstrators set off, Monahan yelled out, "You are now blocking the sidewalk. If you do not disperse, you will be placed under arrest." He repeated the warning to the bunched-up crowd, then seconds later, began to give it a third time, but stopped halfway through and ordered his officers to move in. Less than 45 seconds after issuing his first warning, Monahan, who wasn't using a bullhorn, ordered everyone arrested for blocking the sidewalk.

Bob and Neal Curley walked only 20 feet before the march was stopped and were half a block away, far out of earshot, when Monahan gave the warnings.

In the city for an annual father-son outing, the Curleys were as interested in catching the show De La Guarda that evening as in protesting the war in Iraq. They chose this demonstration after seeing a story on it in The New York Times.

Bob Curley, a labor lawyer from Philadelphia who was wearing a "Re-Defeat Bush" T-shirt, had no idea what was going on until the big Irish-looking cop walked down the block yelling, "Surround them." Curley turned to his 17-year-old son and said, "Let's get out of here." Before they could move, the orange netting came out. They were searched, handcuffed, and put on a bus, where they considered it a victory that they convinced an officer to allow "two white-haired 80-year-old women," who had been rear-cuffed, to be cuffed in front.

Schiller would soon join the Curleys at Pier 57—"like something out of the movie Children of Men . . . this huge, dark detention center, hundreds of cops, huge, dark chain-link cages with razor wire on top." The floor was covered with soot and oil, and there were only a few benches. The Porta Potty was in another cell and required an officer's escort. No heat. The bologna sandwiches were a color Schiller had never seen before.

Schiller spent 14 hours at the pier and another 12 or so at an overflowing Central Booking, shuffled in and out of at least eight different cells.

According to a police memo released last month, the average arrest-to-arraignment time for demonstrators incarcerated on August 31, 2004, was even longer than Schiller's: a staggering 32.7 hours. The time it took for those arrested for non-RNC-related offenses that day was 14.9 hours. Ultimately, of the 1,802 RNC-related complaints drawn up, 88 percent ended in some type of dismissal: 1,092 resulted in adjournments in contemplation of dismissals (ACDs), in which the cases were dismissed if the arrestees stayed out of legal trouble for the next six months; another 463 cases were dismissed straight out by the district attorney; and 35 cases ended in acquittals at trial.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said they consider the ACDs to be "plea deals," meaning that "the law is broken, the arrest is appropriate, and an ACD is a commonplace deal." (Barry Kamins, president of the city's bar association, said an ACD "from a legal standpoint is a dismissal"; there's no admission of guilt and eventually the case is sealed.) Browne also said the fact that 26 percent of the arrests were dismissed "was not a reflection on the arrests," but rather on the fact that the cases involved "relatively minor offenses for which the participants had already spent time in jail." (The official reason given by the prosecutor who dismissed the cases was "the police likely created the impression among the participants that the march had official sanction.")

Lastly, the spokesman added that while most of the RNC arrests were done in a timely manner, the delays on August 31 were due to an unexpectedly high number of arrests over a short period.

Moore, the defense attorney, said that given the amount of time and resources spent on preparation, it's inconceivable the police were simply caught off guard.

"The police decided, 'These are our streets, we don't want any of these folks getting out and doing this again,' " Moore said. "For police departments, the best demonstration is no demonstration."

There's a perception among some arrested that day, like Schiller, that the police were taking their orders on A31 from the White House. Thus far, there's nothing in the thousands of pages of discovery in the case that makes that link. But as Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, pointed out, "You don't need a conspiracy theory to know that the city did something terribly wrong in the policing of the demonstrations and processing of people who were arrested just for exercising their rights."

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