The New York Daily News recently exposed a story centered around two Occupy Wall Street activists, Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Swaye, who have been targeted by the NYPD.
In speaking with Occupy activists, it quickly becomes clear that protesters are extremely paranoid when it comes to the topic of the police. Many activists, based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, believe undercover police are constantly in their midst, or target demonstrators perceived to be the “leaders” of Occupy, even though, as the group has emphatically stated since its inception, the movement has no leader.
These suspicions are not without foundation. Undercovers do attempt to infiltrate Occupy, and most recently, two agents did so quite quite successfully in the case of the NATO 3.
Gonzalez and Swaye are a unique example of police harassment because they weren’t exactly perceived as leaders, and they weren’t suspected of committing a crime. Rather, the NYPD branded them “professional agitators,” whatever that means. Police have been circulating flyers that look suspiciously similar to wanted posters, featuring the couple’s mug shots (the two have been arrested for civil disobedience in the past), warning officers to “Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators,” and notes the “subjects’ MO” is to videotape officers “performing routine stops and post on Youtube.”
Gonzalez frequently videotapes police activity, such as stop and searches of vehicles, and other actions she perceives as police harassment. Here is video of Gonzalez filming police who are idling in front of her home.
It’s not a crime to videotape police officers in New York City, and the “routine stops” detailed on the flyers is a departmental euphemism for the controversial Stop and Frisk action, a policy of racial profiling Gonzalez expressed her disdain for to me back in January at an Occupy protest in Harlem.
The mood at the protest that day was tense—not in the usual melodrama played out between police and protesters– but between pro-Obama supporters and those criticizing the president’s policies.
However, Gonzalez did not seem intimidated by the uneasy environment and she certainly didn’t mince words. First, she criticized the president for attending a swank fundraiser.
“I’m outraged that the president of my country, who I voted for, who hasn’t done a damn thing for this country, has the nerve to come to the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem and charge $100-to-$25,000 for a seat to hear him speak—about what, I don’t know, because I can’t afford to get inside.”
Then, she moved on to criticizing the NYPD’s policy of stop-and-frisk.