National Lawyers Guild Issues New Report on Policing of Protests

September 23, 2010
Paige Cram
Communications Coordinator
212-679-5100, ext. 15

The National Lawyers Guild has released its third comprehensive report on government violations of First Amendment rights on the one-year anniversary of the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. “The Policing of Political Speech” documents how police over-reaction to protected speech has informed unlawful police tactics at National Special Security Events, such as the 2008 Republican National Convention and the 2009 G-20 Summit.

The report lays out age-old government tactics that have been reintroduced under new anti-terrorism policies and legislation. Spying on and infiltration of activists’ meetings, the use of agents provocateurs, raiding organizers meeting spaces and the misuse of grand juries to collect information are some of the practices that are backed up with recent incidents observed and being challenged in court by National Lawyers Guild members.

Much of the report deals with recent prosecutions of activists on terrorism-related charges based on fabricated evidence and the attaching of inflated meaning to protest rhetoric:

"Protesters' calls to "crash the convention" or "shut down the convention" are political rhetoric and are not direct calls for the commission of crimes. Despite a body of Supreme Court decisions holding that hyperbolic political speech is protected by the First Amendment, and law enforcement's own awareness that there is no threat posed, police continue to justify vast intelligence initiatives based on such protected speech."

Copies of the report are available by calling the National Lawyers Guild at 212-679-5100, ext. 15, or by downloading it from from our publications page.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

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