Man, if this story doesn’t make your blood boil I don’t know what would. In the days leading up to the May 1st protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the NYPD and the FBI launched raids on the homes of some of the protesters in a clear attempt to intimidate them:
Federal and New York City authorities paid surprise house calls to people related to the Occupy Wall Street movement this morning in advance of tomorrow’s May Day protests. At least three residences were visited by police, two by officers from the New York City police department, one by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, according to Occupy organizers and a representative of the National Lawyers Guild.
The names of the demonstrators visited have not been released. Gideon Oliver, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, which often deals with occupiers’ legal issues and provides legal observers for protests, said that he “certainly wouldn’t describe them as key organizers.” According to a top organizer, it was three members of the Occupy communications team.
“There were a number of visits between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning and at other points in the day that appeared to target people that primarily the NYPD, but in one instance the FBI, wanted to ask certain questions to,” said Oliver. “Questions included things like ‘what are your May Day plans?’ ‘Do you know who the protest leaders are?’ ‘What do you know about the May Day protests?’ and such.”
Oliver said that in some cases, police officers “came to residences saying that they were from the warrant squad looking for someone who it turned wasn’t there and took identification from other people who were present and ran them for warrants.” He would not confirm whether or not any of the involved parties were taken into custody during any point in the day.
“I’m aware of one person arrested by our warrant squad this morning on a bench warrant for failing to show in court earlier this month stemming from his discon [sic] arrest at a March OWS-related demonstration,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne in an email. “There was another individual present who, as it turned out, was wanted on a warrant for not showing for an unrelated court appearance for an arrest for public urination.”
Balko’s response is spot on:
Think about what just happened, here. On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government agents staged early morning raids on the homes of suspected political dissidents, detained them, then interrogated them about their plans and political affiliations. And of course this isn’t the first time this has happened. There were similar preemptive raids ahead of the 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis. Almost none of the charges resulting from those raids stuck, and the city has since been handing out settlement checks like parade candy.
This is simply about intimidation. It’s about the government letting the protesters know that they can come after them at any time, for any offense, no matter how trivial or trumped up.