After Occupy Wall Street Police Violence, Council Members Speak Out
We, the undersigned elected officials, are deeply concerned with the excessive level of force employed by the NYPD on the night of March 17th, both in evicting peaceful demonstrators from Zuccotti Park and in arresting those who marched following the eviction.
From its inception six months ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement has consistently proven itself to be guilty of little other than bringing together tens of thousands of people to exuberantly exercise their Constitutional freedom to assemble and protest economic and social inequality in America. Yet, throughout the history of this non-violent movement, we have seen the NYPD using violent physical force against demonstrators who were threatening neither life nor property.
It is a sad reality that the events of March 17th come as little surprise to anyone familiar with the department's relationship to Occupy Wall Street's Constitutionally-protected activities. Some of us personally witnessed police officers beating demonstrators without cause, and photographic and video evidence points to further unprovoked assaults by NYPD officers, both in Zuccotti Park and in the march which followed. These images will continue to disturb residents of this city in the days to come.
As elected officials tasked with overseeing the NYPD and the public safety of New Yorkers, we are forced to say: enough is enough. We recognize the invaluable work that the department has done to protect our communities and prevent terrorism, but we cannot stand by as we become internationally renowned for the disregard our city shows for the freedom of assembly. As the New York Times editorial board put it today, while the NYPD has been given expanded investigative powers in the fight against terrorism, "the department should not interpret that as a license to run roughshod over the Constitution."
We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to exercise their leadership in protecting the rights of Occupy Wall Street, and all other movements or individuals who demonstrate in New York City. This means instructing NYPD officers, especially those in supervising roles, to use limited force only when necessary, and reinforcing the rights of the press. Regardless of whether we agree with any particular message, it is our duty to recognize that the right to assembly is the bedrock our society was founded on, and to let it be eroded now will do irreparable harm to the democracy built upon that foundation.
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
Council Member Jumaane Williams
Council Member Letitia James
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito
Council Member Stephen Levin