Saturday, June 07, 2008

NYPD explains May 3 incident: photographer ejected (at FCR's request) "to maintain peace"

I couldn't get an answer as to why I was removed from the privately-owned, publicly-accessible plaza outside the Atlantic Terminal mall on May 3, as counter-protestors gathered in response to the "Time Out" rally. However, Brooklyn resident Sidney Meyer at least got an explanation for why photographer Adrian Kinloch was ejected: The police were acting in response to Forest City Ratner's request.

That doesn't answer why I was removed. I suspect that, after I greeted Kinloch, who was surrounded by police officers, the cops simply classified me as a Kinloch confederate, even though I said I was there only to take notes and talk to people.

That doesn't say much for Forest City Ratner's vaunted pledge, “When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

Citizen compliment/complaint

Meyer offered both praise and complaint in a note sent May 7 through NYC.gov:
I want to compliment the precinct and Boro North commander that policed the recent Atlantic Yards demonstration on Saturday May 3rd at the corner of Vanderbilt [Avenue] and Pacific Street in Brooklyn. The police did a great job of separating the crowd and making a potentially explosive condition run smoothly. Even when the counter demonstration moved to an un-permitted spot, the police brought in extra troops from Brooklyn North and handled it very well. My one complaint is that at the place the counter demonstration assembled, the police (at the request of Atlantic Yards supporters) prevented accredited news reporters from taking pictures on or from public or open property.


(For the record, neither Kinloch nor I had police press passes, though we both contribute to Brooklyn print publications as well as publish online. I don't disagree with Meyer's general praise--the police had to respond flexibly in a volatile situation, and they kept things calm.)

NYPD: "maintain peace"

Meyer got a response (right) dated May 22 from Deputy Inspector John Cosgrove. I'll note that he got more details out of NYPD than I did, given that all I learned was that there was no misconduct.

Cosgrove wrote:
During demonstrations or protests the NYPD maintains a neutral position. It was not the intent of the supervisor involved to prevent access to or use of public property. It was his intent to maintain a peaceful demonstration. Often supervisors have to make determinations to protect the rights, property, and safety of all involved quickly without rehearsal or reference. When presented with the circumstances of the Atlantic Yard protest, the supervisor assumed that the property was private and at the request of the Ratner Corporation requested that an individual leave said property in order to maintain peace.

A scary camera?

The only problem with Cosgrove's explanation is that there was no evidence of a non-peaceful demonstration. Project backers were just continuing to gather; there was no confrontation yet with project opponents, who were several blocks away.

Rather, I think that the police made a judgment--"without rehearsal or reference," in Cosgrove's words--based on little evidence. That doesn't bode well for the privately-owned, publicly-accessible open space promised for Atlantic Yards. And it makes NYPD, which otherwise did a professional job, appear too willing to do the bidding of a powerful developer.

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