FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Christopher Ott, Communications Director, 617-482-3170 x322, cott [at] aclum [.] org
BOSTON — Following the heavy-handed police crackdown against "Occupy Boston" shortly after midnight on October 11, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today began seeking information on the processing of the 141 people who were reportedly arrested, such as whether or not officials are questioning them about political activity and associates. Arrestees with information to share about their treatment and processing are encouraged to email info [at] aclum [.] org.
"Political expression deserves the highest level of protection under the First Amendment, and it is unreasonable to suddenly and forcibly oust peaceful protestors from streets, sidewalks, and parks that have long been used as places for peaceful expression," said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "As the 'Occupy' demonstrations spread in Massachusetts–most recently to communities including Northampton, Worcester, and Falmouth–we hope that officials will recognize that public streets and parks belong to the people, and will not interfere with the demonstrators' rights."
The ACLU of Massachusetts is also concerned that information about Occupy Boston participants is being fed into domestic surveillance efforts. Boston Police Department (BPD) video-recording of demonstrations has become commonplace, and participants at other events, such as a 2009 protest at the Israeli Consulate in Boston, have reported being detained and interrogated about political activities and associates. In August, the ACLU of Massachusetts and National Lawyers Guild of Massachusetts filed suit on behalf of eight Boston-area political groups and four individual activists, in order to compel disclosure of information that has been withheld from the public about BPD surveillance operations, as well as the collection and sharing of information with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies.
Boston officials have so far given conflicting and inconsistent explanations for the crackdown on Occupy Boston at the Rose Kennedy Greenway on Oct. 11. They cited public safety issues, even though the demonstrators remained peaceful; rules and permitting technicalities, even though these appear not to be enforced for others; and concern for the welfare of the Greenway's lawn and shrubs, even though the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy apparently did not ask for the police to remove demonstrators. In an interview with WBUR, Mayor Menino claimed that "civil disobedience doesn't work for Boston," ignoring the historical relevance of the practice to the City's "Freedom Trail."
ACLU information about the rights of demonstrators is here.
Details about the lawsuit to obtain information about Boston police surveillance activities are here.
For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, click here.