100 CENTRE STREET–The National Lawyers Guild held an emergency press conference this morning to denounce the apparent denial of basic rights to those arrested in this week’s protests. Yetta Kurland, of the Guild, called special attention to a pregnant woman, Kate Lalier, who has been held since 8 p.m. last night and not yet given food; and to five women currently being detained who are daisy-chained together, one of whom has a broken foot. There have also been reports of people being denied medications needed for chronic illnesses, and of people suffering chemical burns from sitting or lying for hours on the floor of Pier 57, which is covered with a thick sludge of diesel oil and other chemicals from the vehicles usually kept there.
Of the at least 250 people arrested last night, only 20 have been released so far. Six were freed with desk appearance tickets last night, the common procedure for those arrested on misdemeanor charges.
In addition, seven National Lawyers Guild members, who are meant to be neutral legal observers, have been arrested on the streets, some thrown to the ground and one struck on his bicycle by an officer on a scooter. Several of the observers are among those who have been released.
On several corners of Times Square last night, people were penned in with orange plastic netting and arrested en masse. “We believe that this is not legal,” Bruce Bentley said of the netting tactic.
But the focus of particular ire from Councilmembers Margarita Lopez and Charles Barron, who spoke, has been the systematic infringment of people’s right to counsel. Normally at demos like these, the National Lawyers Guild gets the names of arrestees from friends or witnesses and uses those lists to invoke the individuals’ right to seek counsel. Clare Norins, a National Lawyers Guild attorney, was attempting to do just that at 100 Centre Street last night, and stated today that she was told by courthouse employees that there was an order that for this week there would be no “notices to warden.”
This means no one can meet with an attorney until his or her case is docketed, minutes before the accused sees a judge. That’s one reason people are being held for up to 34 hours, only to be released with desk appearance tickets.
Councilmember Lopez pointed out that after the February 15 United for Peace and Justice march, successful lawsuits were brought against the city to stop the practice–and strategy–of prolonged detention. “We are seeing an escalation and perfection of police tactics,” she said. “We are losing our constitutional guarantees.”