Accusations of Police Misconduct Documented in Lawyers’ Report on Occupy Protests

During Occupy Wall Street protests New York police officers obstructed news reporters and legal observers, conducted frequent surveillance, wrongly limited public gatherings and enforced arbitrary rules, a group of lawyers said in a lengthy report issued on Wednesday.

The group, called the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, which included people involved with the law clinics at New York University School of Law and Fordham Law School, said that they had cataloged hundreds of instances of what they described as excessive force and other forms of police misconduct said to have taken place since September, when the Occupy Wall Street movement began.

Although the report referred to some well-known events, including Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna’s use of pepper spray, it also detailed specific instances of alleged misconduct that had not appeared in news reports.

For instance, the report described a cafe employee stepping out of his workplace on Sept. 24 and using a camera to document arrests near Union Square before being confronted by a senior officer. The report went on to state: “Video then shows the officer grabbing the employee by the wrist, and flipping him hard to the ground face-first, in what was described as a ‘judo-flip.’  The employee stated that he was subsequently charged with ‘blocking traffic’ and ‘obstructing justice’.”

In a more recent episode, Sarah Knuckey, a law professor and one of the report’s authors, said she witnessed a police commander grab a man who was complaining of an injured shoulder while being arrested during a student march on May 30. Ms. Knuckey said that the commander repeatedly shoved the man’s shoulder while handcuffing him, then cursed and accused him of lying, when he shouted in pain. Shortly afterward, Ms. Knuckey said, emergency medical technicians determined that the man had a broken clavicle.

The report complained that there had been “near-complete impunity for alleged abuses” and said that the conduct amounted to a “a complex mapping of protest suppression.”

There have been hundreds of gatherings and marches and more than 2,000 arrests in New York City since the Occupy protests began last fall.  During that time, Ms. Knuckey said, many police officers had acted in an exemplary fashion. But, she added, multiple episodes of intimidation had created a pattern of disturbing and unlawful behavior.

A police department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  The report’s authors said that senior members of the police department cited continuing litigation in declining to talk with them.

In May, an assistant deputy commissioner in the police department’s legal bureau wrote to the authors, saying that the Police Department considered its actions lawful and added that the police “had accommodated on an almost daily basis since last fall numerous large groups of demonstrators and marchers, all with virtually no cooperation, notice or advance planning from Occupy Wall Street representatives.”

In addition to detailing 130 instances of what was described as excessive or unnecessary force, the report said that officers often stopped news reporters or legal monitors from witnessing such events.

The report also describes instances in which the authors say officers have chilled First Amendment expression through near constant surveillance with video cameras and by sometimes questioning protesters about political activities. The report also described a common practice of preventing protesters from gathering in areas that are open to the public, like parks, plazas and sidewalks.

“Attempts by protesters to understand the basis for the closure, or obtain clear directions from the police are most often ignored or answered perfunctorily,” the report stated. “Sometimes queries are answered with an arrest threat or an arrest.”

The authors called for the city to establish an inspector general to oversee the police department, a review of the city’s response to the protests, the prosecution of officers found to have broken laws and the creation of new guidelines for policing protests. If the city did not respond, the authors said, they would ask the United States Department of Justice to investigate their complaints.

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Two Charged in Fatal Shooting of 4-Year-Old in the Bronx

On Sunday afternoon, Courtney Kelly had brought together residents of a housing complex in the Bronx and others for a basketball tournament in honor of his younger sister, who was murdered in July 2010.

He also, according to the authorities, brought a gun, and by the end of the night a 4-year-old boy lay dead from a gunshot to the head as a panicked crowd scattered amid a shootout.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kelly, 26, who remains in a hospital recovering from a gunshot wound to the stomach, was charged with criminal gun possession, the police said. Investigators also arrested and charged a 17-year-old, Rondell Pinkerton, with murder and gun possession in connection with the shootout that killed the 4-year-old, Lloyd Morgan, who was playing in a playground near the Forest Houses with other children just after 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Another man, Christopher Forte, 21, was shot in the arm as he walked near the bleachers. Mr. Forte, who had surgery on his arm Tuesday afternoon, was at St. Barnabas Hospital in stable condition on Wednesday.

The boy’s mother, Shianne Norman, said her son loved basketball and dreamed of playing in the National Basketball Association. “I really feel like this is senseless,’’ Ms. Norman said through anguished sobs on Monday. “My son was 4 years old. He just turned 4 this May that just passed. He was going to school in September. He hasn’t gotten to live his life yet.”

Investigators were still piecing together the details of what happened on Sunday night, and it is unclear what role Mr. Kelly played in the shootout. Additional charges against Mr. Kelly and others could be filed, the police said. At the time of the shooting, Mr. Kelly, who detectives believe is a member of the Bloods gang, was on parole for robbery. He had violated his parole and there was a warrant out for his arrest, the police said.

Investigators found shell casings from three different caliber weapons near the playground and the basketball court where the tournament was held, and they believe at least two gunmen, possibly more, were exchanging fire.

Mr. Kelly, whose age the police had mistakenly listed as 27, organized the basketball tournament to honor his sister, Troynisha Harris, 18, who was stabbed to death in July 2010 as she sat outside the Forest Houses on East 165th Street.

Sabrina Kelly, the mother of Courtney Kelly and Troynisha Harris, attended a Monday night rally, where she, along with politicians and community leaders, called for an end to the violence in the neighborhood.

“You’ve got to take these guns off the street,” Ms. Kelly said during the rally.

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Memories of Sylvia’s

Long before the Red Rooster showed up in Harlem, before the buses came teeming with tourists, there was Sylvia’s. Opened in 1962 by Sylvia Woods, a waitress from Hemingway, S.C., the restaurant started tiny, then grew and grew, becoming a place visited by nearly every local politician, music mogul and civic leader. Ms. Woods published cookbooks, hobnobbed with celebrities and became a brand long before the word became fashionable. Interviews have been condensed and edited.

Whether the food was great was a source of some debate, but the restaurant’s influence was not. Here, after Ms. Woods’s death at 86 from Alzheimer’s last Thursday, some of her best-known patrons recall the time they spent there:

Seymour Stein, founder of Sire Records When I was in my teens, maybe 17 or 18 years old, I’d come up to 125th Street and hang out at the Record Shack with people like Bobby Robinson, who was the one that discovered Gladys Knight and the Pips on “Every Beat of My Heart.” He had Fanny Mae by Buster Brown and a lot of the great doo-wop records. Sylvia’s came along, and it was just a great place to eat. There were some places before that but nothing as good. I ate the ribs and the fried chicken. The fried chicken more. Don’t remind me of it. I’m on a diet.

Al Sharpton James Brown brought me the first time. I was heading the National Youth Movement, and James was one of my biggest supporters. His son was in my group. When Sylvia’s first opened, it was a counter. Frank’s was the only other [destination] restaurant, but it wasn’t black-owned so he wanted to help a homegirl. I would eat the fried chicken. James ate catfish and greens. I took Obama there in 2007 when he had the big fund-raiser at the Apollo. I was on a diet by that point, but he had the fried chicken.

Ed Koch, former mayor of New York I would go about twice a year. The food is a little heavy but there’s lots of it, and Sylvia was a very gracious host. Whatever I had, I got greens with it. They made marvelous greens.

Doug E. Fresh, rapper and owner of the Harlem restaurant Doug E’s It was like coming home to your aunt or your mama’s house. It was really warm and the food was unbelievable. I used to take Michael Bivins from New Edition there. And I would go with Puffy when he first started. He used to help me with my styling, and I went there and talked to him about negotiating his contract with Uptown before he got his deal. It was the mecca of soul food. I was inspired to open my own restaurant because of Sylvia. There wouldn’t be a Red Rooster without Sylvia’s.

Elizabeth Berger, head of the Downtown Alliance I first got to know Sylvia and her son Van in the mid ’80s. My husband and I used to go up for Amateur Night at the Apollo when I was working for Ed Koch. I was an avid WBLS listener, and I would walk around in my purple satin WBLS jacket. Most people we knew were not going to Harlem. Then one night we wanted to have dinner after the show and someone said, “Go to Sylvia’s.” We had no idea what Sylvia’s was, but we walked in and were immediately embraced by this waitress named Melba. Within five minutes it was like we were regulars. Sylvia was from South Carolina, and she treated New York like it was a small town.

Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone Ahmet Ertegun loved it, so I went with him. We had a little party before the Rock and Hall of Fame [induction ceremony], some years back — 20 or 30 of us went there. Solomon Burke came and we had a little jam session with him. I don’t recall ever going for the food, but it was a fun hangout.

Gayle King, co-anchor of “CBS This Morning” Even before I came to New York, I’d heard of Sylvia’s. And I’m glad I came. I met people from foreign countries. It wasn’t just Americans. One person didn’t even know what soul food was but she said, “I had to come here.” Everybody’s been there.

Marvet Britto, founder of the Britto Agency, and publicist over the years to Angela Bassett, Foxy Brown and Mariah Carey It was the first meal I had in New York. I went with [record producer] Maurice Starr and several guys from New Kids on the Block. It was a little weird having those Boston kids in Harlem eating soul food, but this was in 1990, at the tipping point of urban culture becoming mass culture. I would see Queen Latifah and Doug E. Fresh, the girls from Salt-N-Pepa, Jay-Z and Damon Dash. Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley had standing tables. It was the Elaine’s for the urban community. Lots of African-Americans have moved away. It’s definitely gotten more touristy. And the way people eat has changed.

Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings and Phat Farm
I used to come a lot. Then I became a vegan.

Edward Hayes, defense attorney I went with some black detectives. This was when I was an assistant D.A. We ate Southern pork chops and grits, but my favorite thing was looking at the women. They were my favorite thing on the menu.

Gordon Davis, former president of Lincoln Center and parks commissioner under Mr. Koch We haven’t gone much in recent years. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of tourists. They came on the buses and the stops were the Abyssinian Baptist Church, other churches in Harlem and Sylvia’s. We all love tourists, but her death, sadly, may be the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Interviews have been condensed and edited.

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Mysterious Cuomo Memo Is Still a State Secret, but Now You Can Read It

ALBANY — In recent weeks, aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have been concerned about keeping secret a 2007 memo written by a top aide to the governor, Linda Lacewell, when Mr. Cuomo was attorney general.

An article published Monday night by The New York Times detailed how Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has been editing his record as New York attorney general, sending aides to the state archives and removing documents from public view. The administration has been particularly concerned about a memo written by Ms. Lacewell in August 2007, a month after Mr. Cuomo’s office published a report stemming from its headline-making inquiry into the use of the State Police for political purposes — an investigation known as “Troopergate.”

A copy of the memo has been in the possession of The Times-Union of Albany for more than two months. Reporters from the paper obtained it before the Cuomo administration removed the memo from public view at the archives. And on Tuesday afternoon, the newspaper published the memo on its Web site.

So what does it say?

First, the back story. The investigation by Mr. Cuomo damaged the administration of Eliot Spitzer, who was the governor, and largely exonerated Mr. Spitzer’s chief political rival, Joseph L. Bruno, who was the State Senate majority leader. Spitzer administration officials had claimed that Mr. Bruno was using state helicopters to travel to political events; Mr. Bruno had said he had done nothing improper and accused Mr. Spitzer’s staff of improperly using the State Police to compile and release his travel records.

Mr. Cuomo’s investigators concluded that because so-called mixed-use trips, which combine official and political business, were permissible at the time, “there is no legal basis to conclude that Senator Bruno’s use of state aircraft violated any state policy.”

The memo obtained by The Times-Union is a summary of the investigation, written by Ms. Lacewell, that lists Mr. Bruno’s trips and provides a synopsis of the attorney general’s findings in each one. Cuomo administration officials have been particularly concerned about one passage of the document, in which Ms. Lacewell described “a fact we did not note in the report,” that on one occasion, Mr. Bruno made a return flight to Albany on a day in which he had no official business, though official business had been conducted the previous day. Administration officials are most likely concerned that the passage might bolster concerns raised by Mr. Spitzer and his former aides that potential transgressions by Mr. Bruno were not fully examined.

But Cuomo administration officials say the passage was simply erroneous.

“The memo is technically incorrect,” Richard Bamberger, the governor’s communications director, said. Mr. Bamberger pointed out that the final investigatory report does, in fact, refer to the day Mr. Bruno flew without official business.

Although the document can now be viewed on The Times-Union Web site, it cannot be found at the state archives, because Cuomo aides recently removed it from public view, along with all other documents related to the investigation. Mr. Cuomo’s aides say the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege and as “work product,” and say the memo published by The Times-Union names witnesses who had spoken to investigators with the expectation that their names would remain confidential.

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Green Explored: Compressed Gas Vehicles

Lindsay Leveen, an expert witness and technical consultant for CRI, has written a great blog post regarding vehicles operating on natural gas. Click here or follow the link below to read the article.

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