NEW YORK CITY POLICE TO FREE SPEECH: "FREEZE!"
NEW YORK - The 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden concluded in severe violations to freedom of speech by New York City police. The convention from August 30 through September 2 ended grievously for the hundreds upon hundreds of people who were wrongfully arrested, some spending days in jail for doing nothing more than peaceably exercising free speech, or simply by being in an area where others were doing so.
Steve Lefemine, director of Columbia Christians for Life, and Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America, spent over 30 hours in jail after being arrested across the street from Madison Square Garden on a public sidewalk for bringing a pro-life message to the convention. Although the sidewalk was open to the public with hundreds passing by, Lefemine and Marcavage were told that they were in a "frozen zone" and were ordered to leave the sidewalk. As they left the sidewalk and crossed the street to another, Marcavage asked a police Captain, "What law are we violating?" The Captain ignored the question and immediately ordered their arrests.
"It was quite evident that the New York City Police were casting nets over anyone exercising free speech regardless of their message, which in many cases snagged reporters, bystanders, and even pedestrians," stated Michael Marcavage.
Those arrested by police were taken to an abandoned warehouse contaminated with asbestos and diesel oil, which was converted into a detention center at Pier 57 on the Hudson River. Within this makeshift jail, over a dozen cages with razor-wire were erected where the arrestees were held. During Marcavage's processing, one officer, referring to his pro-life sign, stated several times, "You should have been aborted!" as some of the other officers in the area laughed.
After spending several hours in the detention warehouse, Lefemine and Marcavage, along with others, were loaded onto a police bus in plastic wristcuffs and driven at a high speed by police escort to Central Booking for further processing. When jailed, the arrestees were consistently transferred from overcrowded cell to cell, depriving them of the ability to sleep.
"Despite the outrageous amount of time I spent in jail, good still came from the unexpected situation," Marcavage said. "At times, I was chained to anarchists and militant homosexuals, and was able to witness to them, along with the anti-war protesters and the other arrestees. I was even approached and asked specific questions about the Scriptures," Marcavage concluded.
On his WABC-AM radio show stated, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg stated, "You can't arrest 1,800 people without having somebody in the middle who shouldn't have been arrested. That's what the courts are there to find out afterwards."
New York Supreme Court Judge John Cataldo is holding the City of New York in contempt for refusing to abide by his order to release some 560 people who had been detained without being arraigned for an unreasonable amount of time. The judge has fined the City $1,000 per person for failing to release them by 5 p.m. on Thursday. A hearing is expected this week to determine how many protesters remained behind bars beyond the cutoff time, and whether the City will actually be forced to compensate the arrestees.
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