Monday, March 26, 2007

NYPD saves world from hippie peacemongers
Bicycle held as lethal weapon

Your blogstress is most gratified to see that, two-and-a-half years after the fact , the extreme and unconstitutional level of surveillance and free-speech impediment resorted to by New York City Police during the 2004 Republican National Convention remains of interest.

Today, Jim Dwyer's page-one piece from yesterday's New York Times ranks among the paper's "most e-mailed" articles, meaning that it's making the rounds beyond the paper's usual (and significant) readership. Before anyone thinks wistfully of the possibility of a presidential candidacy by New York's mild-mannered Mayor Michael Bloomberg, your Webwench humbly asks such a one to reconsider in light of the news of the widespread and worldwide spying done by New York's finest in the year leading up to the convention.

And beyond the spying was the nasty little tactic of detaining people just before they were to begin their protests, only to release them without charge some 24 hours later. Dwyer tells of one particularly interesting police intervention on an artist:

At the other end of the threat spectrum was Joshua Kinberg, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design and the subject of four pages of intelligence reports, including two pictures. For his master’s thesis project, Mr. Kinberg devised a “wireless bicycle” equipped with cellphone, laptop and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street.

The messages were printed in water-soluble chalk, a tactic meant to avoid a criminal mischief charge for using paint, an intelligence report noted. Mr. Kinberg’s bicycle was “capable of transferring activist-based messages on streets and sidewalks,” according to a report on July 22, 2004.

“This bicycle, having been built for the sole purpose of protesting during the R.N.C., is capable of spraying anti-R.N.C.-type messages on surrounding streets and sidewalks, also supplying the rider with a quick vehicle of escape,” the report said. Mr. Kinberg, then 25, was arrested during a television interview with Ron Reagan for MSNBC’s “Hardball” program during the convention. He was released a day later, but his equipment was held for more than a year.
Your blogstress had the pleasure of covering aspects of the convention for the New York Blade and the Washington Blade, arriving in New York on August 29, 2003, to find a city frightfully unlike the one in which she had toiled, lo, so many years in the magazine biz. All of midtown was in some state of lockdown. The city in which anything once went had become the city where no one could go from Point A to Point B -- at least, not without one's papers.

Inside the convention hall, GOP goons ruled the day.

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