A Recent History of NYPD Brutality

Occupy Wall Street

Date: September 2011-July 2012

With the fall of 2011 came Occupy Wall Street, a grassroots protest movement against social and political greed, corruption, and inequality influenced by the financial services sector. The movement began in Zuccotti Park, located in New York's financial district. Though the movement was criticized for lacking focus and being a public eyesore, it quickly became one of the year's biggest stories, in particular the relationship between police officers and demonstrators, which was often volatile. NYU, Fordham, Harvard, and Stanford universities were all involved in an eight-month study of these interactions and determined that protesters had been abused and had their civil rights violated by the NYPD. This past July, the report, entitled Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street, was released.

One of the most memorable showdowns between protesters and police occurred on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1. A large group planned to march across the bridge. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said that protesters were told to stay on the sidewalk and not block the street, and were arrested when they did. The confrontation resulted in 700 arrests. A group of protesters filed a civil suit against the city, claiming that police lured them onto the bridge and trapped them. In June 2012, a judge decided that the NYPD had not given protesters sufficient warning about the consequences of entering the roadway.

Another noteworthy OWS incident involved an officer driving a scooter into a crowd that included legal observers and journalists. The scooter ran over a legal observer's leg.

In another incident, a member of the study's research team reported witnessing a protester lying on the ground, complaining of a dislocated shoulder. Initially the officer at hand chose not to arrest him. Soon after another group of officers rushed in and arrested the injured man in an aggressive fashion. When he screamed in pain about his injury, he was called a "liar" by officers.

Retired New York Supreme Court Judge Karen Smith, who was acting as a legal observer during the raucous eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, says she witnessed an officer slam a woman to the ground "out of nowhere" before hitting her in the head. Smith says she told the officer to handcuff the woman if she had done something wrong, but it was unnecessary to be so violent. Smith says the cop asked her multiple times if she wanted to "get arrested" even after she identified herself.

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