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News ::
Football rioters encoraged, protesters repressed
20 Feb 2002
Police apply a double standard to sports hooligans and radical protesters.
On Sunday, February 3, the New York and Boston Police Departments were confronted with crowds of hundreds of young people flooding into the streets of the cities they patrol.

That afternoon in New York, Anti-Capitalist Convergence led an unsanctioned march through Manhattan?s East Village to protest the World Economic Forum and the local and global issues surrounding it. Police moved in quickly and cracked down on the march with pepper spray and billy clubs, violently arresting over 80 activists, journalists, and legal observers.

Later that evening, in Boston, football fans packed the streets in celebration of the New England Patriots? Super Bowl victory. With beers in hand, fans all over the city poured into the streets to start bonfires, swing from traffic signals, jump on cars and generally whoop it up for hours after Adam Vinatieri?s game-winning field goal.

Boston Police, for the most part, stood idly by, making one arrest on Lansdowne Street and three near Fanieul Hall, according to Boston Police Media Relations representative Joe Young. Trees, traffic signals, "Don?t Walk" signs and numerous automobiles sustained reported damage from the acts of the fans.

But the actions of each crowd are not the point. It?s the actions of the police and legal systems in these situations that speak volumes of the political climate of America.

More than 25,000 New York police officers stood guard outside every major corporate entity in Manhattan to protect corporate property. In Boston, handfuls of cops watched as a drunk and disorderly mob smashed public and personal property. Who do the police serve? Whose interests do they protect?

In Boston, those arrested were simply given citations for willful and malicious destruction of property. In New York, after being harassed and mistreated, the arrested demonstrators were detained for over 24 hours and each is facing multiple trumped-up misdemeanor charges (See snake march article and WEF coverage starting on page 8).

Police were willing to tolerate hordes of football fans gather and loot on the streets of Boston, but harshly curbed the rights of political demonstrators in New York to assemble and voice their objections to the WEF, corporate globalization and the system in general. Those with dissident views are repressed while law enforcement determines that it is acceptable to break laws if it?s in tune with good, wholesome, American consumer culture. You can bet that if an over-anxious fan at Kenmore Square tried anything suspect near BU?s luxury hotel construction site, he would have been apprehended.

As dissent comes under extreme scrutiny from the media and the government, it is important to acknowledge this double standard; important to recognize the right to free assembly; and important to defend that right by exercising it and confronting the bodies that seek to curb it.
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