activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Category: law enforcement versus activists

officer who turned activist’s bike upside down without consent conducted an unlawful search

On May 20, a Santa Ana police officer cited outspoken activist Igmar Rodas for riding an unlicensed bicycle. The Santa Ana municipal code prohibits riding a bike that has not been registered. On Wednesday, however, a judge ruled that the officer conducted an unlawful search by turning Rodas’s bike upside down without his consent. According to the Just Cause Law Collective,

Law enforcement officers can search without a warrant under a wide variety of circumstances. Among these, there’s only one situation in which you have any chance of preventing the intrusion—and that’s by saying “I don’t consent” when the police ask whether they can search. This is a powerful tool for using your civil rights, as important as remaining silent and asking to see a lawyer.

The judge upheld another citation Rodas received, though, for bicycling on a sidewalk in a business district. Rodas said he went on the sidewalk to get out of the officers’ way. He plans to appeal.

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watchlisting guidance sets forth inclusion criteria, evidentiary standards, and procedures for placing individuals on no-fly list

The no-fly list, a secondary watch list derived from the main terrorist watch list, is used to prevent people from boarding aircraft. It consisted of 16 names before September 11, 2001. As of early 2012, it included approximately 21,000 names.

The only requirement for labeling someone a terrorist and barring him or her from flying indefinitely is that a federal agent must believe the person poses a ‘threat’ of engaging in terrorism. The definition of terrorism is broad enough to include civil disobedience. According to today’s press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights,

The criteria for placement on the broader terrorist watchlist, which grew by nearly half a million entries in 2013 alone, are even lower. Social media postings, including, presumably, posts to Facebook and Twitter, can apparently by themselves result in placement on a watchlist, as can “travel for no known lawful or legitimate purpose to a locus of terrorist activity” …

judge in são paulo temporarily suspends order evicting families from illegally occupied site

Several days ago, approximately 2,500 families aligned with the Homeless Workers’ Movement occupied an area of private land in close proximity to the World Cup stadium in São Paulo, Brazil. A local court issued an eviction order on Wednesday, giving the families 48 hours to leave. According to a World Bulletin article,

The families are largely local residents who say they have been priced out of their homes by rents that, in some cases, have trebled in value. They blame speculation due to the World Cup stadium. … Officials at São Paulo City Hall were quoted by the G1 news portal as saying that the number of squatter settlements has increased rapidly in the last three months, to some 90 sites.

The Homeless Workers’ Movement said it would resist against any forced eviction by police. In addition, the organization’s legal team appealed the court’s eviction order. In response to the appeal, a judge temporarily suspended the order on Thursday night.

There will be another hearing in the case on May 23.

shareholder meetings declared extraordinary events, giving police broader powers

Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meeting will start tomorrow morning in Charlotte, North Carolina. City Manager Ron Carlee declared the meeting an “extraordinary event,” giving police broader powers to search people in the area. According to today’s WBTV article,

Officials want to be cautious about Duke Energy’s meeting because of the heated controversy over its recent coal ash spill, and the fact that the company’s coal ash policies have attracted protestors to its shareholder gatherings before.

The 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was also declared an “extraordinary event.” Bank of America’s shareholder meeting on May 7 will fall into the same category. The WBTV article states that “the bank has been the target of large protests over its mortgage and foreclosure-related activities.”

government officials establish pilot civilian review board in anaheim, california

Almost two years after residents took to the streets in protest regarding the fatal police shootings of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo, government officials in Anaheim, California have established a pilot civilian review board to monitor the city’s police department. Civilian oversight of law enforcement has been in existence in a variety of forms across the U.S. for more than 50 years. According to a New York Times piece by Oakland police misconduct attorney John Burris,

After 25 years of taking police officers to court for misconduct and after reviewing countless internal affairs’ complaints and related investigations, I have concluded there is little evidence that the public should rely on the integrity of the police department to police itself.

The Anaheim review board will not have access to police personnel files, unfortunately, and will not have subpoena or investigative powers. Subpoena power means the ability to require witnesses to provide testimony. For even a modicum of reliability, a review board must have the ability to interview all witnesses, including officers, and have access to all evidence needed to complete investigations.

protesters temporarily block deportation bus from leaving downtown san francisco

Yesterday more than 100 protesters, many of whom were undocumented immigrants, surrounded an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus carrying shackled detainees and deportees. Approximately 20 of the protesters blocked the bus despite threats from federal immigration officials that they could face felony charges. According to Rebecca Bowe’s San Francisco Bay Guardian article,

At one point, ICE officials told the activists that the protesters could be charged with felony false imprisonment if they did not get up and move. But in the end, federal officers merely escorted them away from the bus and released them on the sidewalk around the corner.

No one was arrested. Due to the Sanctuary Ordinance, which prohibits San Francisco employees from helping ICE with immigration investigations or arrests (unless such help is required by a warrant or by law), no one was handed over to federal agents either. The protesters promised to block more deportation buses in the future.

appellate court decides that officers’ names in ‘pepper spray cop’ reports must be disclosed

After the November 18, 2011 incident during which University of California Davis police officers were videotaped pepper-spraying demonstrators, the UC Board of Regents commissioned two reports. The reports reviewed the facts leading up to the incident, made conclusions regarding responsibility for the incident, and included policy recommendations to ensure that such an incident wouldn’t happen again. When the reports were issued, on April 12, 2012, the names of more than a dozen UC police officers who planned, participated in, or witnessed the incident were redacted.

The redaction of the officers’ names was the result of litigation by the Federated University Police Officers Association (FUPOA) and John Pike (the “pepper spray cop”), who originally sought to stop the release of the reports in their entirety. After the reports were released, the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee newspapers submitted a series of public records requests for complete, unredacted versions of the reports. On May 29, 2012, the newspapers initiated legal action.

The trial court ordered the release of unredacted reports containing the names of the officers. Yet FUPOA sought review of the trial court’s order. Yesterday an appellate court agreed with the trial court that the identities of the officers named in the reports must be disclosed, because the purpose of the reports was to promote accountability and transparency.

police arrest at least twenty protesters during a demonstration in são paulo, brazil

On June 2, transportation authorities in São Paulo increased bus fares from approximately $1.40 to $1.50. Yesterday more than 10,000 people responded by marching through the city’s streets for six hours, briefly blocking the city’s main road, and allegedly setting fire to at least one bus and breaking the windows of nine banks and numerous bus shelters. Security forces arrested at least 20 of the protesters and used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the rest. According to today’s CNN article,

Under heavy rain, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest planned increases in public transportation fares in Sao Paulo. The protests were led by a group known as Free Fare, which advocates free or cheaper public transportation. Police in riot gear clashed with protesters and set off tear gas…

This was the third such protest in less than a week. There have also been protests against an increase in public transportation fares in Rio de Janeiro. More than 30 people were arrested there on Monday.

manufacturers market drones before the law specifies how they can be used

They can record video images and produce heat maps. They can be used to track fleeing criminals, stranded hikers — or just as easily, political protesters.

So begins today’s New York Times article about drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles. A handful of police departments already use them, but no federal or local statutes specify how the data collected can be stored, used, or shared. For example, police officers in Charlottesville are prohibited from using such data in criminal cases, while proposals in Arizona, Montana, and the U.S. Congress would apparently allow such use as long as the police obtained a search warrant before collecting the data. A court order would also suffice according to the privacy legislation introduced in Congress on Thursday.

The New York Times reports that drones “are becoming a darling of law enforcement authorities across the country.” Last week, however, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn responded to protests by scrapping the Seattle Police Department’s plan to deploy them. As in China, surveillance that supposedly helps stop criminals or reduce crime is simultaneously used to monitor and discourage dissidents.

scientists develop “privacy visor” to thwart facial recognition technology

Law enforcement officials are increasingly using facial recognition software. It’s unclear how such technology will affect protest movements, but a study on the decreasing cost of computer data storage, published in December 2011, concluded as follows:

Within the next few years an important threshold will be crossed: For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders—every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.

Thankfully, in response to advances in facial recognition software, scientists at Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics developed a “privacy visor.” According to today’s BBC article,

The glasses are equipped with a near-infrared light source, which confuses the software without affecting vision. … Heavy make-up or a mask will also work, as will tilting your head at a 15-degree angle, which fools the software into thinking you do not have a face, according to an online guide produced by hacktivist group Anonymous.

Related clothing options include the anti-drone hoodie and scarf, counter-surveillance fashion designed to block thermal imaging technology. As surveillance proliferates, there’s a proliferation of resistance.