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Cops Use Nets to Snag Tourists, Journalists

New York Daily News | September 1 2004

In their zeal to keep protesters in line, the NYPD has added some unlikely weapons to its arsenal: plastic netting and scores of undercover cops on scooters.

The nets have been used to trap numerous people at demonstrations, including tourists, journalists and legal observers - arrests that have confounded protest organizers and civil rights lawyers.

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said police tactics have grown more aggressive as the convention progresses.

The nets were seen first on Sunday, during the massive anti-war march, and again yesterday in lower Manhattan.

Rosaleen Johnson, 64, from Massachusetts got netted with her son, Robert, 29, and his friends, while standing in Times Square Sunday.

"They were charged with disorderly conduct, which was incredible. We were just standing there doing nothing." She was released but Robert spent 36 hours in custody before being released.

At a protest on Fulton and Church Sts. near Ground Zero yesterday, the NYPD net snagged a handful of tourists and some journalists.

Dan, 22, got caught coming out of the subway: "I'm just a tourist. I have no idea what's going on. I have tickets to 'The Producers' tonight."

Cops claimed they had warned marchers before bringing out the net, but a Daily News reporter who also got caught in the net heard no such warning.

Demonstrators also complained about the use of plainclothes cops on scooters during a Monday protest on Eighth Ave. Video shot by legal observers shows several scooters driving directly into the crowd and running into people.

A detective on one of the scooters was pulled off and badly beaten.

Last night, cops on bicycles plowed into demonstrators at W. 28th St. and Broadway, and at Herald Square, hitting people as they went. A News reporter was jabbed in the ribs with a handlebar at Herald Square. The officers then used the bikes as barricades.

Mayor Bloomberg defended the aggressive tactics yesterday.

"This isn't something like it's supposed to be a fair fight. We have laws," he fumed. "You break the law [and] you're going to find yourself arrested. Period. End of story."

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