“The police,” Nick continues, “then started moving the onlookers, including myself, down the street, telling us that we would all be arrested if we refused to move. A large bald-headed policeman from an NYPD ant-terror unit told me that if I did not move I would be arrested.”

Nick told him that he lived on this street and wanted to walk the opposite direction to his apartment. The anti-terror unit enforcer told Nick if he didn’t move, he’d be arrested.

But wait, as a second cop moved purposely toward Nick, the first one waved him off, pointing to my son and saying he was just a “victim of circumstance.”

Nick, however, decided not to get shoved into a cell—and what would happen to our innocent dog, Lulu?—and while being herded down our street by the first cop, he caught sight of a “plain clothes officer walking behind the bald officer with a video camera. This was just one of at least two plain clothes officers who were doing nothing but filming the protesters—as well as anyone on the street just looking at the protest.”

Fellow New Yorkers, let this be a warning to you: When you see demonstrators being orange-netted by Ray Kelly’s police on your street, scurry right home and don’t go out again until the coast is clear for the First Amendment!

More from Nick: “Many of the NYPD officers on the scene were wearing NYPD TARU insignia. TARU stands for the Technical Assistance Response Unit. TARU is the NYPD intelligence surveillance unit. They are the ones who take videos of protestors and download the images into a database that can be used to track a protestor's activity.”

My fellow New Yorkers, pay attention to this: “This is done with the help of highly sophisticated facial recognition software funded by Federal spy agencies including the NSA [the utterly omnivorous National Security Agency], the CIA, and DARPA. TARU's past surveillance activities have been covered by the Village Voice.” 

So there was Nick, wholly unaware that his face was being memorialized in a network tracking the protest history of persons caught in the protest—or just observing it.

Nick has shown me a range of evidentiary videos on the Web, including those by the overall protest organizer, Occupy Wall Street, on YouTube. Also, Ed Pilkington (“Wall Street Protests Reveal Slice of America’s Barely Tame Brutality,” CommonDreams.org, September 27) adds: “It’s the officers’ insouciance that is most shocking. They engage the pepper spray as if they were handing out parking tickets and just as calmly walk away.”

In my next column, I’ll focus on what must and can be done about this culture of police abuse permitted under Kelly. As Wiljago Cook of Oakland, California—a protester since the first day of Occupy Wall Street—said, “Police brutality wasn’t ever really on my agenda, but my eyes have been opened” (Washington Post, October 3).

Occupy Wall Street has expanded to cities across the nation—with clamorous rhetoric but with hardly any specific real-life changes demanded in how to make Congress and the executive branch restore this to a self-governing constitutional country—attention to NYPD’s lawlessness has faded.

Going up Fifth and Park avenues while chanting: “Hey! You millionaire! Pay your fair share!” doesn’t bring the hordes of America’s jobless any change they can believe in.

Did you know, as the Voice reported on April 16, that the NYPD “has a $20 million payroll of cops who don’t work because they have ‘killed or assaulted people, violated civil rights, beat up their wives or girlfriends, driven drunk or hurt bystanders,’ according to a report by the New York Post.” It’s dubbed the “rubber-gun room.”

And did you also know—reported on WNYC on June 13—“Last year, the city paid a historic $136 million to settle claims against the NYPD. More than 40 percent of these settlements stemmed from civil rights claims or things like excessive force and false arrest”?

Have you heard our lordly mayor say anything about that?

Peter Vallone, chair of the City Council Public Safety division, has proposed legislation (WNYC, June 13) that “would bring more transparency and accountability to the whole police tort claim process.”

Vallone is usually a strong supporter of the NYPD, but his eyes have also been opened over time, and so his bill “would require that the city’s lawyers disclose to the City Council specifics on all settlements reached on behalf of the NYPD including the precincts and officers involved.” It should also include the NYPD “white shirts”: lieutenants, captains, and inspectors who bullied some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

What has happened to that bill? In any case, the New York Civil Liberties Union, whose eyes are never closed to this NYPD culture, has outlined “what a good oversight system of the police department would look like. We think,” says the NYCLU, “the Vallone bill is a good start, but it’s not enough.”

The public will be encouraged to join in with recommendations, including the huge number of New Yorkers over the years who have been stopped and frisked. And not only them. Commissioner Kelly is certainly welcome to participate. But the mayor’s too busy screwing up the traffic with bicycle lanes.

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