A16-DC: Police Chief's Heavy-Handed Tactics And Slick Talk No Surprise, Say Activists

Chuck0 chuck at tao.ca
Thu Apr 20 07:24:46 PDT 2000

Police Chief's Heavy-Handed Tactics And Slick Talk No Surprise, Say Activists by Christine Geovanis, DC Independent Media Cent 1:22am Wed Apr 19 '00 hammerhard at aol.com

Washington DC Metro police chief Charles Ramsey developed and refined the suppression of political dissent four years ago, at the 1996 Chicago Democratic Convention, according to Chicago opponents of police brutality. They call last weekend's heavy-handed and illegal police activity during Washington anti-IMF/World Bank demonstrations 'predictable.'

Police Chief's Heavy-Handed Tactics And Slick Talk No Surprise, Say Chicago Activists By Christine Geovanis, DC Independent Media Center, HammerHard MediaWorks/Chicago

April 18, 2000

Washington DC Metro police chief Charles Ramsey developed -- and refined -- his approach to suppressing political dissent four years ago, at the 1996 Chicago Democratic Convention, according to Chicago opponents of police brutality. And they charge that it’s predictable that the DC police engaged in some of the same kind of heavy-handed and illegal activity during last weekend's demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank.

"The paramilitary-styled police strikes against organizing centers and demonstrators in Washington DC are the same sort of attack strategy Ramsey used four years ago to shut down public protest at the DNC," says Chicago activist Dick Reilly of Neighbors Against Police Brutality. "We consistently saw this kind of crap from him when he was deputy commander of the Chicago police department -- and predictably, we saw it again during the anti-World Bank/IMF demonstrations."

Reilly, who worked as a medical volunteer in Washington last weekend, reports that medics treated scores of people seriously injured by police, including one press photographer who sustained head injuries in a beating and another Agence France reporter who was pepper sprayed. Medics also report that dozens of demonstrators were sprayed, beaten and abused in unprovoked police attacks on the streets.

"Disruption, attacks on gathering spaces, harassment, preemptive arrests, street closures, beatings, the illegal abridgement of constitutional rights -- this is classic police policy for Ramsey," says Reilly. "And predictably, we saw plenty of heavy-handed police activity – including the use of disabling chemical agents and maximum force – during the demonstrations Sunday and Monday, as well. The problem Ramsey and his masters had this weekend is that those strategies just don't work against dissent staged by autonomous, solidly organized affinity groups."

Ramsey was a key architect of the 1996 'protest pit' strategy in Chicago, which relied on deploying cops in riot gear, police horses, heavy equipment and barricades to block all access points to the DNC convention center. The strategy included confining demonstrators to several fenced-in parking lots six blocks from the site -- effectively shutting out alternative voices during the convention. In addition, Ramsey shaped DNC police strategy on the streets, which included police spying, illegal raids on gathering sites, routine harassment and arrest of suspected protesters in public spaces, destruction of activists' video and film, and a consistent refusal to grant march permits -- forcing protesters to the courts to fight for the right to peacefully assemble.

At the time,Ramsey and the Chicago police justified the strategy by arguing it ensured 'public safety' -- and would help prevent a repeat of the debacle 28 years earlier, when police rioted during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The strategy earned Ramsey accolades from both the Clinton administration and local media. But while the Chicago police won praise from the mainstream press for their 'restraint' in 1996, the courts have consistently ruled that they illegally abridged activists' right to protest -- months after police had successfully shut down marches and demonstrations.

In addition, Ramsey drew fire in Chicago for his involvement in CAPS -- the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy –- a program he promoted widely and eloquently as a method to 'unite' police and civilians in strategies to fight crime. But the program had already begun to draw fire from police accountability activists before Ramsey left Chicago to assume his current post as DC Metro police chief.

"CAPS is a joke -- and Ramsey served as its number one comedian," says Gwen Hogan of Family of Victims, a Chicago community group that helps families whose loved ones have been murdered by police.

"After CAPS was created, police murders went up, not down," charges Hogan. "And when you went to a CAPS meeting, the cops either ignored you, disrespected you, or tried to recruit you as an informer. Groups like the Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety -- which worked with the cops to create CAPS -- have been very critical of the program. It's been a total failure."

Chicago activists also believe that Ramsey's recruitment of Terry Gainer, a former director of the Illinois State Police whose family has close ties to the Chicago police, suggests that he's committed to importing Chicago's long history of police repression to Washington. Gainer currently serves as Ramsey’s deputy police chief, and he was a highly visible counterpart to Ramsey on the barricades and at press events in the last week.

But concerns about Gainer seemed to be realized this Monday, when WTOP-AM reported that he had told Black officers at the police barricades that protesters could try to ‘provoke’ them by invoking the “N-word” against them – a highly dubious assertion given the explicitly anti-racist platform of the protesters. Activists have suggested that Gainer, who is white, was employing classic race-baiting tactics with his own officers.

That’s not surprising, say Chicago observers, given that the Illinois State Police has been plagued with charges of racial profiling and targeting of minorities over the years, including under Gainer’s leadership. Last year the courts rebuffed ACLU charges of racial profiling against the state police, but lawyers have vowed to continue to document the problem and press the judiciary for redress.

Activists have also raised concerns about police intelligence work and disinformation tactics during the World Bank/IMF protests – including the wholesale denial that any incidents of police abuse occurred. Chicago observers note that during Ramsey’s tenure in Chicago, ‘counter-intelligence’ styled police tactics – known as COINTELPRO programs in federal law enforcement parlance – thrived in the city. Strategies employed by the police included political spying, extensive disinformation campaigns – often in collaboration with sympathetic local reporters – and the use of informants and police agents to act as agent provocateurs in targeted groups.

"Chicago police illegally spied on – and sometimes used agent provocateurs against -- thousands of political activists beginning in the 1960's, particularly non-Anglo groups like the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords," says Emile Schepers of the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights. "But they also spied on housewives, clergy -- anyone identified as a political dissident. The Chicago Red Squad, as the project was called, was one of the largest local law enforcement counter-intelligence programs of its kind in the country – and police tactics were so abusive that ultimately the courts forced the city to sign a consent decree barring politically motivated police spying. Recent court cases suggest that these illegal practices have continued, but Ramsey eagerly joined other command level officers in lobbying to destroy the Red Squad Consent Decree that the courts used to outlaw these actions. That suggests that Ramsey has little respect for laws that protect constitutional rights – and based on Mr. Gainer’s provocative remarks to Black officers, it appears that he shares Mr. Ramsey’s basic philosophies."

Gwen Hogan is more blunt. "Ramsey's great at soundbites and loves the cameras," says Hogan. "But his root philosophy -- use maximum force and deny everything, including basic rights -- is rotten to the core. I feel sorry for DC residents. They got a raw deal when he was hired to run their police department."


-- << Chuck0 >>

This was the year *everything* changed.

-- Commander Ivanova, 2261

Mid-Atlantic Infoshop -> http://www.infoshop.org/ Alternative Press Review -> http://www.altpr.org/ Practical Anarchy Online -> http://www.practicalanarchy.org/

Homepage -> http://flag.blackened.net/chuck0/home/

"A society is a healthy society only to the degree that it exhibits anarchistic traits."

- Jens Bjørneboe

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list