Following a sweeping judicial ruling on Jan. 22, activists and journalists may soon have access to additional information on the circumstances surrounding the arrest of more than 1,800 people during protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC) in the summer of 2004.
Responding to litigation filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the New York Times, a federal judge rejected New York City’s efforts to block voluminous RNC-related materials – including police videotapes, Pier 57 environmental and “police exposure” reports and NYPD pre-convention training manuals – from public view.
“The public has an important interest in knowing what was behind the NYPD’s mass arrest and detention of protesters during the convention,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn after the ruling.
Among the evidence to be released, and of particular concern to many RNC arrestees, will be three environmental reports documenting potential health hazards at “Pier 57,” an empty building on Manhattan’s far West Side used to hold hundreds of those arrested at convention protests. A series of articles in 2005 by Drew Poe, first published on NYC Indymedia, reported that the City had information as early as May 2004 that Pier 57 contained “asbestos, lead and multiple fire hazards.”
Additional evidence ordered released includes videotapes of mass arrests at Church St. and Fulton St. in lower Manhattan and at Union Square East on Aug. 31, as well as internal NYPD charts documenting the time between arrest and arraignment for hundreds of protesters.
An earlier, limited release of convention-related materials documented the political considerations involved in the City’s selective granting or denial of dozens of RNC related protest permits.
The NYCLU has delayed the latest document release while the City decides whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.