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tearing the rag off the bush again


NYPD abuse of authority big factor in arrest
"Balls Across America" direct-action campaign launched

September 24, 2009

The Yes Men:

Andy Bichlbaum, co-founder of activist group the Yes Men, emerged after 26 hours
in New York City's central lockup with all charges against him dismissed.[1 ]

"The judge just laughed," said Bichlbaum. "The police had a less well-developed
sense of humor - and, it turned out, much less regard for the law. But all in all,
I'm ecstatic that they arrested me."

At 10am Tuesday, Bichlbaum was arrested and charged with trespassing, after he and
21 "Survivaballs" [2 ] gathered on New York City's East River and announced they
were to going to "take the UN by storm" from the water, since all the land
approaches were sealed. Once at the UN, they would supposedly use the Survivaballs
to blockade the negotiations and refuse to let world leaders leave the room until
they'd agreed on sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, as Secretary-General
Ban Ki-Moon has demanded.[3 ]

The event was a "scenic and mediagenic way to call attention to what our leaders
need to do in the run-up to Copenhagen," said Bichlbaum. [4 ] It was also the
official inauguration of the Yes Men's "Balls Across America" series of civil
disobedience actions, inspired by the call for direct action on climate change by
website .

Minutes after the balls began wading into the water, law enforcement swooped in on
the protesters by land, sea, and air. In order not to harm their attackers, the
balls admitted defeat and waddled out of the water and off the beach. Seven
participants were given tickets for trespassing, and one - ringleader Bichlbaum -
was whisked away to "the Tombs," New York's central processing facility at 100
Centre Street, due to an unpaid ticket for bicycle riding through Washington
Square Park.

Bichlbaum's arrest led to hilarious prime-time coverage on CNN.[5 ]

"Sleeping on concrete was a challenge, but I met a lot of interesting people, and
my arrest meant major prime-time news coverage we wouldn't have otherwise had,"
said Bichlbaum. "That's the whole point of civil disobedience. Thanks to my
momentary discomfort, our symbol of the stupidity of not taking action on climate
change was seen by tens of millions of people. It all worked out great, and I
remain grateful to the NYPD for having accidentally made our event successful
beyond our wildest dreams."

Despite Bichlbaum's gratitude, one thing stuck out for his attorney, Wylie
Stecklow: in filing his report, the arresting officer had lied through his teeth.

"The officer said he'd seen Bichlbaum jump over the fence, which was obviously
impossible, since the police arrived after the Survivaballs had all entered the
beach," said Stecklow, who defended Bichlbaum at his arraignment yesterday
morning. "And the officer said there were prominent signs posted to the effect
that entering was forbidden - also untrue." [6 ]

"Perhaps the NYPD thought that if an officer did not swear that he saw Andy climb
a fence, AND that there were signs providing notice that this area was off-limits,
a judge might have dismissed the case," said Stecklow.

According to Stecklow, officers swearing to facts they couldn't possibly know is
an all-too-common occurrence. "Often, during mass arrests, we see a Supervising
Officer assigning junior officers to write up the paperwork. But these junior
officers end up becoming the 'arresting officer,' requiring them to swear to facts
that are not within their knowledge. This leads to constitutional violations and
wrongful arrests, and undermines the confidence that citizens should have in the
criminal justice system," said Stecklow.

The NYPD has, in recent years, been found guilty of making numerous
unconstitutional arrests in cases of political protest, and then falsifying their
statements to fit the arrests. There have in particular been several well-known
cases involving the tackling and arrest of bicyclists, with false excuses then
written into police reports. [7 ]

"My case doesn't matter in itself," said Bichlbaum. In fact, I'm really happy it
turned out as it did. But I hope we can help expose the systemic and nefarious
culture of lying within the NYPD, that has had the effect of criminalizing protest
in New York City."

"The police have to be told very clearly that they can't lie and expect to get
away with it," Bichlbaum added. "The stakes are far too high."

"We need to strengthen oversight of the police by those who empower them in the
first place - you and I, the citizens of New York City," said Stecklow. "Right
now, at a bare minimum, that means giving teeth to the formerly well-intentioned,
now powerless body of the Civilian Complaint Review Board."

"Unfortunately, even when we have video proving police statements to be false, no
one seems interested in investigating," added Stecklow. "That's got to change."

After reading the arresting officer's complaint against him, Bichlbaum decided to
file a complaint with the CCRB in order to hold this officer accountable for his
false statements."It's not much, but at least this guy will have to explain his
story under oath. And then next time, maybe he'll think twice before filing a
false statement to make the crime stick."

The Yes Men hope their next actions won't depend on police misconduct to make them
a success. "With 'Balls Across America,' our goal is to get arrested fair and
square, all across this fair land of ours," said Yes Men co-founder Mike Bonanno.
"It's a great way to get attention for a crucial issue."

[1] Bichlbaum actually received an Adjournment with Contemplation of Dismissal,
which normally results in full dismissal in New York State
( ).

[2] The Survivaball ( ) made its first appearance in 2006,
when "Halliburton representatives" attended a conference on catastrophic climate
change and demonstrated the functionality of the large inflatable suits which keep
corporate managers safe from global warming
( ). That hoax, and many more like it, are
documented in the new award-winning documentary film, The Yes Men Fix the World
( ), which opens theatrically in New York
October 7, before opening nationally October 23.





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