Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fwd: Activists claim abuse by NYPD during street videotaping episode

NEW YORK: Police officers violated the rights of three activists by
roughing them up and arresting them after they tried to shoot
videotape of arrests being made on a street in 2005, a lawsuit
charged on Thursday.

The suit, filed against the city in federal court in Manhattan,
accuses three New York Police Department officers of "arresting,
without reasonable suspicion or probable cause," individuals who were
exercising their constitutional rights by "engaging in monitoring and
documenting police activities."

The plaintiffs — Lumumba Bandele, Djibril Toure and David Floyd —
were participating in CopWatch, a program in which local activists
patrol the streets with video cameras and tape police making stops
and arrests.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuit, the three, who are
black, claimed that they have trained themselves not to interfere
with police by keeping their distance and that the taping documents
racial profiling and deters misconduct.

"In trying to stop the police from violating the rights of others,
they had their rights violated," said Kamau Franklin, an attorney
with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit on
behalf of the three men.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and a
court order barring police from disrupting the watchdog program.

City lawyers declined comment Thursday, saying they had not seen the

In a statement the NYPD's top spokesman, Paul Browne, said, "The
individuals were arrested for interfering with police officers
engaged in the performance of their duties and were so charged."

The suit stems from an incident that began around midnight on Feb. 9,
2005, in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood after the
plaintiffs spotted officers making two arrests. When they took up
positions on the sidewalk and began taping, a plainclothes officer
asked them to leave.

"Keep moving," the officer says on the video shot that night.

"I live right here," one of the men protests.

"I don't care where you live," the officer says.

The officer appears to become angry when the men ask him to identify
himself. He finally tells them, "You're refusing to move? Put your
hands behind your back — you're under arrest."

The video then cuts off.

The men claim the officer then pushed them, knocking one of them and
the video camera to the ground. All were charged with resisting
arrest and obstruction of governmental administration; Toure also was
charged with assault.

The charges were dismissed in July 2006 after the plainclothes
officer refused to testify against the men, the suit said.

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