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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Federal Judge Reverses His Decision to Limit Police Public Gathering Videotaping

From NYTimes.com: In a startling legal reversal, a federal judge in Manhattan decided yesterday to vacate his own order that had greatly limited the New York police in videotaping people at public gatherings. He said the reversal was based partly on new information.

In February, the judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., issued what seemed an ironclad, somewhat scathing rebuke of the police, ruling that its surveillance teams could videotape protesters only if there was an indication that unlawful activity might be under way.

Citing two events in 2005 — an antiwar march in Harlem and a protest by homeless people in front of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s town house — the judge ruled in February that the police had broken their own guidelines for political surveillance by videotaping people who were lawfully exercising their right to free speech.

But in yesterday’s ruling, Judge Haight, of United States District Court, somewhat reluctantly set that order aside, saying he had received fresh accounts of the demonstrations from city lawyers that directly contradicted accounts provided by lawyers for the plaintiffs. The new accounts suggested that unlawful activity might indeed have been occurring, with protesters becoming unruly. “Given these conflicting accounts, the descriptions of these events in the court’s 02/07 order cannot be regarded as findings of fact by the court in areas where the facts are disputed,” he wrote.Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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