Monday, July 31, 2006

Court docs: '04 GOP convention protests blocked for political reasons?

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune. Front Paged at ePluribus Media

Each day brings us another sad example of how our rights in this country are being suppressed, eroded or disregarded. Sometimes it is in the name of "fighting terrahTM", sometimes it is in the name of "following the rule of law" and more often than not we actually find out that it is really in the name of "putting on a pretty face for political purposes".


Today is one of these times. According to today's NY Times, court documents in the lawsuit over the denial of permits for peaceful protests during the 2004 GOP Convention here in NYC, Bloomberg and his office were less concerned with the potential destruction of the Great Lawn or public safety than they were over the political fallout of massive protests against the Republicans and their failed warmongering policies.


Of course, this also begs the question of whether all of the false arrests that were made (which have already started to result in settlements with plaintiffs) were truly "unfortunate accidents" or whether there really was an underlying motivation to keep as many protesters, first amendment be damned, out of the spotlight and portray the "everything is just peachy - nothing to see here - move along" façade that was the ugly invasion of NYC by the dirty icky republicans.


The four new documents released today are on the Partnership for Civil Justice website and seem to indicate that both "Mayor Mike's" and other City officials' reasons and testimony regarding the denial of permits were either false or contradictory to prior assertions and evidence.


If you remember back to the summer of 2004, a judge blocked the protest on the Great Lawn because:

"This court cannot blind itself to the daunting security concerns facing this city during the Republican National Convention," U.S. District Judge William Pauley III ruled Monday. "There are serious questions whether the Great Lawn can safely accommodate the proposed rally at this point."


Of course, this disregards the fact that there have been numerous concerts on the same Great Lawn which held hundreds of thousands of people. Of course, this also goes hand in hand with the "free speech zone" caged society that has been shoved down our throats.


A brief synopsis of three of the four newly released items is below:


New Documents Reveal that NYC's Mayor Moved to Block Protest in Central Park During RNC


These documents include emails and legal memoranda regarding the denial of permits for political demonstrations during the GOP convention. One of the most damning is this email dated April 30, 2004 which includes the following:

It is very important that we do not permit any big or political events for the period between August 23 and September 6, 2004. This is the blackout of permits from PD for the Republican National Convention. It's really important for us to keep track of any large events (over 1000 people) and any rallies or events that seem sensitive or political in nature.


Mayor Bloomberg's Sworn Statement in Conflict With Documentary Evidence


These documents provide background with respect to Bloomberg's sworn testimony that he had "no knowledge at all" regarding the permit application for a civil rights, anti-war rally on the Great Lawn during the RNC, by the National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition. What they also show is his ongoing involvement, both personally and through his office, with respect to emails, meetings, denial letters that were to be issued with respect to the permits and the potential recourse by the groups whose request was denied. A snippet from an email from Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to Mayor Bloomberg which was released:

"Following your call, spoke with Ray [Kelly, Commissioner of Police] about 10 minutes ago. Coincidentally, our lawyer and Chief McManus and the Law Dept. are meeting at this very minute to agree on the language and strategy of the letter rejecting the Arab-American rally on the Great Lawn . . . I assume the rejection letter will go out today. I will let you know."


Not really good to be caught, um, "stretching the truth", especially when there are so many documents that show otherwise.


City's Representations for Denying Protest Permits During the RNC Proven False


The assertions made by representatives of the City under oath with respect to damage to the Great Lawn, the requirement of tickets to any formal gathering, as well as the denial of a permit due to the "lack of a rain date" were all proven to be false.


In fact, there is testimony by the same official which contradicts earlier testimony with respect to whether there would be damage to the Great Lawn. There are assertions by the Parks Commissioner claiming prior testimony about the requirement of tickets to be false:

[u]nder examination at deposition, Commisioner Adrian Benepe admittted that it "is not accurate" to represent that "Since the renovation of the Great Lawn, events have been ticketed.". Benepe also conceded that most large events are not ticketed.


We also have the following testimony contradicted by numerous documents as well as admissions by city officials:

City attorneys told the Court that "We have not allowed any large event on the Great Lawn in the absence of a rain date since its renovation. So we're not treating this group any differently than we've treated anyone else. We've treated the Philharmonic that way . . ."


Lastly, looking to the ever important covering of the political ass, we have documents released from just after the Convention that show the real intent that underlied the denial of permits:

just after the convention ended, Parks Department officials told the organizer of a commemorative event for John Lennon that they could not offer access to the Great Lawn because, as one marketing official wrote, "we had to admit that it was going to be difficult right after all our problems with the rally requests for the park and right before Mike's re-election."


"There are practical and political reasons for this decision," said an e-mail message to the organizer, "which follows, as you know, very closely on the heels of the court cases during the RNC."


Lovely. Just lovely. This is your republican party at work. Suppressing our rights to save their political careers. Playing politics with the Constitution. Lying under oath.


Had enough?

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