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News :: Human Rights
Police Surveillance of Peaceful Demonstrators in Andover, MA
16 Apr 2004
For several years running, the Andover Police Department has conducted surveillance of participants in legal, nonviolent demonstrations at the Raytheon facility on Rte. 133. Officers have photographed participants in demonstrations, taken down the license plate numbers of cars parked near demonstrations, and run warrant checks on organizers whose names have appeared in newspaper articles about the demonstrations.
BACKGROUND: For several years running, the Andover Police Department has conducted surveillance of participants in legal, nonviolent demonstrations at the Raytheon facility on Rte. 133. Officers have photographed participants in demonstrations, taken down the license plate numbers of cars parked near demonstrations, and run warrant checks on organizers whose names have appeared in newspaper articles about the demonstrations.

Last year, representatives of the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse (MACC) complained to the police department about these behaviors. Nevertheless, on April 10, when we held our annual "Death and Taxes" march from the IRS to Raytheon, police again photographed demonstrators and took down the license plate numbers on their cars. They also arrested a street performer, Leslie Gabriel, on charges of obstructing a sidewalk and disorderly conduct for putting his George Bush dummy down on a small wagon to rest his arms and then delaying turning the dummy over to police until they would tell him how he could recover his property -- even though nobody was trying to walk down the sidewalk at the time, there was plenty of room to pass on the sidewalk, and Gabriel would have moved the dummy if it had been in the way of any pedestrians.

On April 13, Sean Donahue, Director of MACC's Corporations and Militarism Project, met with Police Commander, Lt. James Hashem to discuss these issues. Hashem declined to discuss Gabriel's case because he said he was not permitted to talk about a pending criminal case, but he did discuss police surveillance of demonstrators. Lt. Hashem acknowledged that the information the officers gather and the photographs they take are kept on file after the demonstration and may be shared with other law enforcement agencies including federal law enforcement agencies. He suggested that these photographs were necessary to document any acts of civil disobedience -- however this does not explain why officers would photograph people engaged in purely legal expressions of their political views, or why they would keep these photographs after a demonstration which did not involve any acts of civil disobedience had ended. In the current climate of increasing encroachments on our civil liberties, frequent preemptive arrests before mass demonstrations such as those held at the Republican National Convention in 2000, "no-fly lists," and increasing federal harassment and intimidation of nonviolent activists police surveillance of people engaged in the legal exercise of their First Amendment rights has a chilling effect on free speech. This issue has not yet been litigated in the courts, but the cities of Worcester, MA and Denver, CO agreed to stop such practices in order to avoid lawsuits. Lt. Hashem indicated that the Andover Police Department would not change its practices.
____________________________________________________________________________

ACTION:

Contact the following officials, and ask them to:
1) Drop all charges against Leslie Gabriel, formally apologize to him, and return his property and his bail money to him.
2) Cease and desist from conducting surveillance of nonviolent demonstrators engaged in the legal expression of their First Amendment rights.
3) Destroy all police photographs of demonstrators who were not engaged in acts of civil disobedience or other illegal acts, and destroy any records of the license plate numbers and identities of participants in legal demonstrations.
4) Publicly disclose the manner in which the police have used intelligence gathered on nonviolent demonstrators at past demonstrations, and publicly disclose what law enforcement agencies the Andover Police Department has shared such information with

Reginald S. Stapczynski -- Town Manager 978-623-8225 townmanager (at) town.andover.ma.us

John Hess -- Chair, Board of Selectmen hess.john (at) worldnet.att.net

Chief Brian Patullo -- Chief of Police chief (at) police.town.andover.ma.us

Lt. James Hashem -- Police Commander Jham (at) police.town.andover.ma.us

Please cc: all correspondence to karunaawakening (at) aol.com

2) Come to Lawrence District Court on May 3 to support Leslie Gabriel at his trial.

3) Send a letter to the editor of the region's daily newspaper, the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, addressing the Andover Police Department's actions -- letters (at) eagletribune.com
Related stories on this site:
STREET PERFORMER ARRESTED AT ANDOVER PROTEST

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Re: Police Surveillance of Peaceful Demonstrators in Andover, MA
29 Apr 2004
You are out of your mind.
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