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Undercover Police Dressed Like Activists Arrest Anti-Inauguration Protesters

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Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reports on two undercover officers dressed like activists, wearing Arab neck scarves, who arrested a demonstrator. [includes rush transcript]

The security apparatus for the inauguration was unprecedented. More than 7,000 law enforcement officers from over 100 different agencies were deployed on the streets and throughout the DC area. There were also National Guard and Army officers at various checkpoints throughout the parade grounds. There were also undercover police, some of whom were dressed like protesters. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reports on two undercover officers dressed like activists, wearing Arab neck scarves, who arrested a demonstrator.

  • Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! producer and correspondent.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent and producer. He joins us now in our Washington studio. Welcome, Jeremy.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Amy, we were in the streets quite a bit yesterday, you and I and the crew from Democracy Now!, and we got caught in some of the most violent exchanges that occurred yesterday at the heart of a scene early on in the day when about 1,500 or so Black Bloc protesters broke off from the main dawn march and held a spontaneous march through the city and attempted to gain access to the parade ground. Then the police responded with quite a significant amount of brutality, hitting people, using some form of chemical agent, spraying people with high velocity, sort of mini cannons. And so we were kind of moving with that crew throughout the day.

AMY GOODMAN: I have to say, in that situation, what we found, one of the things as we were pushed up against the stores, people we thought were just passers-by, who were also there, suddenly at the moment where the police moved in were pushing us into the crowd, and it turned out, they were undercover police officers. They were dressed in suits.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And they also as well were people in military uniform. I remember one naval officer guy who was about in his 40s shoving people, methodically shoving them back into the direction of what was being sprayed at the crowd. The police were also using these metal whips that almost look like a larger version of an antenna on a car. They would whip them out and they were hitting people with them. So there were a number of these exchanges that happened in this area around 13th and Pennsylvania, ultimately is where it ended up, at one of the main access routes to the parade grounds where people were lining up. There were a number of confrontations throughout the day between Black Bloc protesters and then women in mink fur coats, men in cowboy hats, and some of the most creative demonstrations took place there where people were charging toward the lines where the supporters of Bush were lining up to get in, and some of the protesters would charge toward them. Then they would flee and they actually forced the police to shut down two of the access points for people going on to the parade ground. We were sort of monitoring the situation in that area, and as the day moved on and the parade ended, people started filing out of the parade grounds, and there was some people burning an American flag, and there was some arguments going on between Bush supporters and protesters. And we were interviewing people, and I noticed that a large column of riot police were sort of in a methodical way exiting the parade ground through a security tent. It appeared as though they were marching in formation, not simply leaving. And so I thought, I’m going to go check this out. This may be another attempt to confront demonstrators. Perhaps spray them again. So I started to walk over there. As I walked toward this column of the riot police that were coming out, I noticed two, what I thought were, activists who seemed to be kind of swaying into the line of riot police. So I paid attention to them, because I thought this was extraordinary. They looked like they were about to fall into them, and I thought they were going to get their heads cracked. One of them was a young woman, who had a very colorful mohawk, and the other was white male, about 6’2”, who was wearing a kafia, an Arab scarf, and a ski jacket. Both of them looked like any number of people we had seen in the streets. And so I thought they were falling into this column of riot police and that the riot police were trying to arrest the woman and that the man in the kafia was pulling her away, but as I watched it more closely, I realized that the man in the kafia, the Arab scarf, was actually trying to get this woman with the mohawk to the ground. And ultimately he put his knee in her back, he pulled out metal pair of handcuffs, not the plastic cuffs, from behind himself and he cuffed her. And the riot police seemed like they had no idea what was going on. Another man comes over also dressed like a protester, wearing a black leather jacket, also with a kafia, an Arab scarf, around him, and he sort of intervened and essentially got the riot police to understand that these two were officers who were arresting this young woman, with the mohawk. Once the demonstrators, other demonstrators, realized what was going on, they began to chant, let her go, let her go. And so surrounded by this massive riot cops, these two undercover police officers dressed not just like protesters, but like protesters wearing Arab scarves around their necks, which is very common now among Palestinian solidarity activists who are opposed to the war in Iraq. It has sort of become a symbol of the resistance in this country and around the world. And so they marched this young woman all the way up the street and put her into a police wagon, and the police beating people along the way. So this is very similar to what we also witnessed in Miami when we saw at the F.T.A.A. meetings, a plain clothes officer arrest an activist, actually taser another activist.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to talk more about the tactics of undercover police officers and lawsuits here in the District against the use of undercover police officers in one case of a lawsuit as provocateurs next week.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Amy, I want to add we will put the pictures of these undercover police officers on the Democracy Now! website and people can go to that at to see these plain clothes officers exactly as we have described them.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! producer and correspondent.

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