FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Civil Rights Legal Groups Demand Records on Federal Law Enforcement Involvement in Coordinated Crackdown on Occupy Movement
PCJF and NLG Mass Defense Committee File Multi-Agency Requests
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests today with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Park Service (NPS) requesting that the agencies release information that they possess related to the involvement of federal agencies in the planning of a coordinated law enforcement crackdown that has taken places in multiple cities against the Occupy Movement in recent days and weeks.
The FOIA to the various federal law enforcement agencies states: “This request specifically encompasses disclosure of any documents or information pertaining to federal coordination of, or advice or consultation regarding, the police response to the Occupy movement, protests or encampments.”
The Occupy Movement has been confronted by a nearly simultaneous effort by local governments and local police agencies to evict and break up encampments in cities and towns throughout the country. It is now known that mayors and other local officials have met together on conference calls in recent weeks and developed a coordinated strategy to dislodge and break up the encampments using common talking points including a public pretextual rationale to justify police action.
Mara Veheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice and the co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Mass Defense Committee, states: “The severe crackdown on the occupation movement appears to be part of a national strategy to crush the movement. This multi-jurisdictional coordination shows that the crackdown is supremely political.”
“The FOIA requests seek critical information regarding the role of federal law enforcement agencies,” Verheyden-Hilliard explained. “The Occupy demonstrations are not criminal activities, and police should not be treating them as such. This protest movement for social and economic justice has captured the imagination of the country. The coordinated effort of law enforcement to suppress it is a reflection of its political challenge to the status-quo.”
“We see the scapegoating of these movements, the attacks at night, and in general tactics designed to terrorize and to scare protesters away,” stated Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild. “This request is critical to the transparency that is required in order for the people of the United States to be informed as to the U.S. government’s action in regard to free speech activities.”
Read the Freedom of Information Act request here.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit constitutional rights legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices and government transparency in operations. It is counsel on the Barham and Becker class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million and major changes in police practices. The PCJF previously brought the successful litigation in New York challenging the 2004 ban on protests in the Great Lawn of Central Park. It is counsel with the National Lawyers Guild in Oakland, CA challenging police mass arrest tactics. It won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org.
The National Lawyers Guild was formed as the nation’s first racially integrated voluntary bar association, with a mandate to advocate for fundamental principles of human and civil rights including the protection of rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The Guild has championed the First Amendment right to engage in vigorous political speech for 75 years. The Guild has a long history of defending individuals accused by the government of espousing “dangerous” ideas, including in hearings conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and other examples of governmental overreaching now popularly discredited. See e.g. Kinoy v. District of Columbia, 400 F.2d 761 (1968). Since then, it has continued to represent thousands of Americans critical of government policies, from civil rights advocates and anti-war activists during the Vietnam era to current anti-globalization, peace, environmental and animal rights activists. Its Mass Defense Committee is a coordinated body of hundreds of lawyers, legal workers and law students who are defending the free speech rights of the Occupy actions around the country.