All policing, no protest around the inauguration

A new National Lawyers Guild report examines how policing at National Special Security Events silences dissent

Topics: Inauguration, Riot Police, NSSE, Protest, NLG, DNC, RNC, first ammendment,

In recent years I’ve regularly noted the unabashed militarization of protest policing. Building on a system of summit security established at the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting in Miami, the “Miami Model” of militarized, weaponized policing has crystallized into standard procedure for gatherings designated National Special Security Events (NSSE).

Ahead of the presidential inauguration in Washington Monday, an NSSE that will draw 3,000 law enforcement officers and some 13,000 military troops to the area, the National Lawyers Guild has released  a report based on last year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., highlighting First and Fourth Amendment violations imported with this sort of event policing. The report notes:

The security measures taken at the RNC and DNC are in keeping with the last fifteen years of government planning for national and international political and economic meetings, which have been defined by massive expenditures on weapons and outside personnel, restrictive event permits and ordinances that limit protest activities, and the vilification of constitutionally protected speech and assembly through media manipulation and aggressive police tactics.

In both Tampa and Charlotte, an equally extensive security apparatus was put in place to control dissent. Both cities received $50 million in federal funds to beef up security, and both brought in more than 3,000 officers from outside police departments. In Charlotte, the city manager declared the DNC an “extraordinary event,” which permitted the marking off of a large part of the city in which police officers have extended authority to search and possibly arrest individuals for carrying items like hammers or glass bottles, or masking their faces. Meanwhile, Tampa introduced an “event zone” for the RNC (originally called a “clean zone” before public backlash forced a nomenclature rethink), where similar objects are banned and police authorities are extended.



The establishment of (ever-Orwellian) “free speech zones” for DNC and RNC rallies served as rankling proof that, as a base line, speech is far from free during NSSEs; you have to go to special, cordoned-off areas for that. As the NLG points out, “In advance of the upcoming presidential inauguration, the National Park Service has revoked the permit for a major demonstration at Freedom Plaza, limiting the protesters to a 10-yard wide strip of sidewalk.”

The report authors express concern that the heavy-handed police apparatus has had a “chilling effect on free speech and assembly contributing to poor attendance at convention protests despite widespread dissatisfaction with both political parties.” I’d suggest that an Occupy-inspired lack of interest in engaging with mainstream political fulcrums may have also partly accounted for relatively low protest numbers, but certainly heavy-handed ordinances and militarized police forces serve to intimidate and deter protesters.

Interestingly, the report draws on the media tactics employed by city officials ahead of NSSEs to legitimize large expenditures and protest ordinances, which regularly stay in place long after the NSSE has packed up — the DNC left Charlotte with an anti-protest ordinance on the city’s books, which allows a city manager to invoke sweeping powers that tighten permitting, suspend probable cause for searches, and ban the possession of a host of household items. Of the tired “anarchists are coming!” scare tactic, the NLG notes:

When justifying enormous security expenditures, large numbers of police, and strict event zone ordinances, authorities often refer to the need to defend NSSEs against the threat of so-called “violent anarchists.” Prior to almost every large political event, police and local politicians rationalize these measures by warning of anarchist plans to disrupt the event through violence. This strategy, based on practices of intelligence gathering and police training that rely on amorphous categories such as “anarchist,” produces a “threat amplification” spiral that consistently leads to sweeping police repression. However, these intelligence “warnings” are not simply the unfortunate byproducts of a flawed practice, but rather the desired outcome of a multi-pronged strategy of maintaining control over the populace.

NLG executive director Heidi Boghosian said in a statement that “all too often at National Special Security Events, we see law enforcement vilify protesters and trample the First Amendment in an effort to justify massive security spending and lasting crackdowns,” adding that her organization’s report serves as a “primer on the evolution of police tactics at NSSEs, which is essential to understanding the show of force that will usher in this president’s second term.”

NSSEs are spaces that reveal all too visibly — with riot gear, weapons and tanks — that dissenters are prefigured by the authorities as combat enemies. Little wonder then that the range of recommendations offered by the NLG could be folded into one: This should stop.

 

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>