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2004-09-03

Father of Arrested Protester: "My Son Has Been Disappeared By This State

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A New York judge finds the city in contempt of court for failing to meet that state-mandated deadline for releasing arrested protesters. We hear a father of an arrested protester speaking outside the criminal courthouse and we speak with Donna Lieberman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. [includes rush transcript]

Over 1,700 people have been arrested in convention-related protests over the past week, 1,100 of them in just one day. The vast majority of them were jailed in Pier 57, a three-story, block-long pier that has been converted to a temporary holding pen.

Yesterday, a New York Supreme Court judge ordered the release of all convention protesters held for more than 24 hours without being arraigned. The judge also found the city in contempt of court for failing to meet that state-mandated deadline. A hearing is set for next week to determine the penalty, which could reach $1,000 for each illegally detained protester.

Detainees began trickling out of 100 Centre Street Wednesday night where scores of supporters greeted them. But many of those outside waited in vain as their friends and loved ones remained in jail. Yesterday afternoon, parents of detained protesters held an impromptu press conference outside the criminal court house. This is what one father had to say.

  • Tim Duncan, father of jailed protester speaking in New York City, September 2, 2004.
  • Donna Lieberman, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are going to continue talking about these protests. Over 1700 people have been arrested in convention-related protests over the last week. 1100 of them in just one day. The vast majority jailed at Pier 57, a three-story, block-long pier that’s been converted to a temporary holding pen. Yesterday in New York, the Supreme Court judge ordered the release of all the convention protesters held for more than 24 hours without being arraigned. The judge also found the city in contempt of court for failing to meet that state-mandated deadline. A hearing set for next week to determine the penalty which could reach $1,000 for each illegally detained protesters.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Detainees began trickling out of 100 Center Street Wednesday night where scores of supporters greeted them. But many of those outside waited in vain for their friends and loved ones who remained inside. Yesterday afternoon, parents of detained protester held an impromptu press conference outside the criminal courthouse. This is what one father had to say.

TIM DUNCAN: My son was arrested Tuesday night at a demonstration. A peaceful, non-violent demonstration. He wasn’t allowed to disperse. They threw the nets up on one end of the block, and then the other end of the block, and swept up everybody on the block. I have not been in contact with him that Tuesday night. I know he hasn’t seen a lawyer. This morning, I went, I have been here to wait for him to get out, to find out some kind of information. I went this morning and pinned a note on the fence back at the parking lot. I got to admit that’s something that I thought would happen in another country under a dictatorship, that when parents have children that are disappeared by the state, that they pin a note to their child on a fence saying if you get out, please contact me at this number. I never thought I would ever do that in this country to have to do that to my child, exercising his freedom to be able to demonstrate in this country. We talked to a parent who also, her son was just recently released. That son spent a day in the hospital and the parent had no idea that he was taken to the hospital or spent the day in the hospital. When my son was arrested, we got an arrest number for him, we took the number to try to get an arraignment time for that. We said he hadn’t been processed. When we showed we had an arrest number, they said where did you get that from? Later on that night that number disappeared off of the computer. They said well maybe your son has been released. We went to the place where we knew would he go. He wasn’t there. We came back this morning and found out that the arrest number had been changed from what it was previously. No one has any information. I am now in a situation where my son has been disappeared by this state, by the government of this country, by the police force. And I am pinning notes to a fence in the city park saying, "Son, if you get out, please contact me. Love, Dad." I never thought I would ever have to do that in this country. It breaks my heart for where we live and it breaks my heart for what my son is going through right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Duncan, father of one of the detainees held at Pier 57. We end this show today with Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Can you respond?

DONNA LIEBERMAN: You know, all week I have been talking about how it’s been a mixed bag in terms of policing. There’s been some good moves by the police department in protecting protests, and then there have been some problems. But yesterday, down at 107th Street, when it was clear that the city, notwithstanding the judge’s order to release people who had been held 24, 36, 48 hours on these minor offenses, I realize that I had been snookered. It was clear that preventive detention was the name of the game. That the city was taking people off the streets, and that here we have the ironic situation where the lawyers for those who were arrested were working within the system, got a court order and the city was in contempt. It was really stunning, and I think in the weeks and months to come, as the lawsuits that are inevitable from the bad arrests, from the preventive detentions, from Pier 57, proceed, that in the course of the investigation for those lawsuits, we will learn a lot about just what the city was trying to do.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Donna Lieberman, this m.o. now has been apparent for those of us who have been covering these protests around country now for years now, ever since Seattle, the moves of most police departments when they have these mass demonstrations, is to lock as many people as possible up, keep them off the streets and then deal with the fines and court actions later. Is there anything that civil liberties groups are going to do in the future to be able to prevent this kind of mass preventive detention from happening in the future?

DONNA LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, we thought we had it down. And, you know, we sat up a store front, we had monitors out at every demonstration. The Guild was on the case, ready to take risks to deal with preventive detention when it was going on. And we did what we thought we needed to. I think that as we bring to light who is responsible and why, you know, it may be that there’s political change that is the solution. But we need to find out, you know, who is responsible and then I think we can figure out how to fix it. It’s just stunning that every time there’s a political convention, democracy in action, the government engages in this kind of, you know,—

AMY GOODMAN: Donna Lieberman, we have to leave it there.

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