NYPD May Be Using Warrant Squads to Monitor Protesters

OWS communications coordinator Shawn Carrié was walking home at 9 p.m. on May Day when nine plainclothes police officers approached him, took his belongings, placed him in handcuffs and put him in a van. He was questioned about his involvement in Occupy Wall Street and then spent the next 13 hours in jail.

Ailsa Chang of WNYC reports that Carrié was picked up on two open bench warrants from 2007 pertaining to a public urination incident. But it turned out those warrants belonged to another Shawn Carrié. The name is not his given one, but an alias he uses in marches.

The NYPD may be using the legal tactic of picking up Occupiers on old warrants to question them about their political activities. Officers went to the homes of a number of people involved in Occupy Wall Street early in the morning on May Day. In each incident, a warrant for an open container or some other long-standing violation belonging to a protester or roommate was apparently used as a pretext for questioning.

According to court officials, more than 1 million of these types of warrants currently exist in New York City.

Legal experts have said the tactic of executing these warrants to question political dissidents violates the U.S. Constitution. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, they argue, the NYPD has to demonstrate that it would have executed the warrants even if the people named in them were not involved in the Wall Street protests. –Alexander Reed Kelly

Ailsa Chang at WNYC News:

Carrié said, regardless of the infraction, the alleged practice of using old warrants as a pretext for questioning people about their political activity can chill speech.

“It’s making people scared to freely communicate, and making them feel like they’re watched. ‘Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, we’re watching,’” he said.

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