NYPD Interrogations Of Police Protesters Are Questioned


Last December, as people arrested during protests over the death of Eric Garner in New York City waited to be released, an officer removed a 28-year-old woman from a holding cell. Leighann Starkey, a doctoral student, tells the New York Times that she was escorted to a separate area where she was asked by two detectives how she knew about the demonstrations, what social media she used to keep track of them and whether she was part of a protest group. One detective asked whether she had ties to terrorists. Another protester, Christina Wilkerson, was told she would not be released until she had been questioned; she stayed in custody for about 12 hours. “It started to feel like an interrogation,” said Wilkerson, 30. “I wondered whether they would continue monitoring me.”

The post-arrest questioning of at least 11 people during the Garner protests has renewed long-running concerns among civil liberties activists about police practices that may have a chilling effect on activities protected by the First Amendment, like protest and free speech. The 1985 settlement of a federal court case in New York City called Handschu v. Special Services Division resulted in a consent decree that defined how the city's police may investigate political activity. “When the police investigate political affiliations and political activities, that poses a serious threat to First Amendment rights,” said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The N.Y.P.D. should stop this immediately.”

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