RealNews

Police Stop Collecting Data on Protesters' Politics

When a series of large antiwar protests began nearly eight weeks ago, the New York Police Department started questioning hundreds of people arrested at the demonstrations about their prior political activity and recording the information in a database. But yesterday, after the practice came to light, the Police Department said it would destroy the database, created with a debriefing form, and largely abandon the initiative, which civil libertarians and constitutional law experts said was deeply troubling. “After a review, the department has decided to eliminate the use of the Demonstration Debriefing Form,” Michael O’Looney, the department’s chief spokesman, said in a statement. “Arrestees will no longer be asked questions pertaining to prior demonstration history, or school name. All information gathered since the form’s inception on Feb. 15 has been destroyed.” Several constitutional scholars and civil libertarians said that the practice raised grave questions about whether asking people about their political affiliations or activity would have a severe chilling effect on protest and speech that are protected by the First Amendment. Full Story

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