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Police infiltration of protest groups upsets rights activists

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  • Kasten, Kathy
    http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-spy19.html Police infiltration of protest groups upsets rights activists February 19, 2004 BY FRANK MAIN Crime
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 19, 2004
      Police infiltration of protest groups upsets rights activists
      February 19, 2004
      BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter Advertisement

      Chicago Police officers infiltrated five protest groups in 2002 and launched
      four other spying operations in 2003 -- actions that civil rights activists
      are calling outrageous.
      The investigations have come in the wake of a court decision that expanded
      the department's intelligence-gathering powers.

      In 2002, undercover officers were assigned to attend meetings, rallies and
      fund-raisers of the Chicago Direct Action Network, the American Friends
      Service Committee, The Autonomous Zone, Not in Our Name, and Anarchist Black

      Police zeroed in on the groups because protesters were threatening to
      disrupt the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue -- a meeting of international
      business leaders held in Chicago in 2002 -- according to an internal police
      audit obtained by the Sun-Times. The department made video and audio
      recordings of the protests, the audit said.

      The department would not describe what organizations were targeted in 2003.
      Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the
      police for targeting the American Friends Service Committee in 2002.

      "We cannot imagine any circumstance that would justify the intrusive
      infiltration of such a peaceful group, and we hope that the city will open
      up all of the relevant files related to this matter to explain this
      disturbing action," Yohnka said.

      Michael McConnell, regional director of the American Friends Service
      Committee, said he was outraged that police infiltrated the anti-war group,
      founded in 1917.

      "What was the officer's participation and did it affect the group?"
      McConnell asked. "This is a disturbing pattern throughout the country of
      infiltration of peace groups that are doing nothing more than fulfilling
      their rights of freedom of speech."

      In Denver last year, he noted, the police agreed to investigate only people
      "reasonably suspected" of criminal activity after American Friends Service
      Committee members and others wound up in police spy files.

      Chicago's new spying activity stems from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of
      Appeals decision in 2001 to modify the so-called Red Squad consent decree.

      The federal decree, which dated to 1982, barred the city from gathering
      information on suspected terrorist and hate groups because it violated their
      First Amendment right to free speech.
      In 2001, though, Chief Judge Richard A. Posner wrote that the decree
      "rendered the police helpless to do anything to protect the public." The
      court approved a modified decree that allows police to snoop on
      demonstrators and other groups.

      "The department has demonstrated compliance with the consent decree on every
      level," said Sheri Mecklenburg, general counsel to police Supt. Phil Cline.

      Under the modified decree, intelligence gathering must be documented. And
      internal and external audits are required to make sure the department is
      complying with the decree.
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