The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has decided not to prosecute two high-ranking officers for pepper spraying and punching Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters in 2011 — events OWS activists claim were acts of police brutality against non-violent protesters. Activists recorded video of the incident showing NYPD Deputy Inspectors Anthony Bologna and Johnny Cardona using pepper […]
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has decided not to prosecute two high-ranking officers for pepper spraying and punching Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters in 2011 — events OWS activists claim were acts of police brutality against non-violent protesters.
Activists recorded video of the incident showing NYPD Deputy Inspectors Anthony Bologna and Johnny Cardona using pepper spray against non-threatening protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The pepper spray incident took place near Union Square on Sept. 24, 2011. In a separate claim, OWS protester Felix Rivera-Pitre was punched in the face by Cardona on Oct. 14 during a demonstration in the financial district of Manhattan. Rivera-Pitre claims the violence came unprovoked.
“If you see the video where I was struck by this white shirt cop, I was walking away from him, I was not walking toward him. I saw this happen not only to me, but to other people,” Rivera-Pitre said in an October 2011 interview.
Despite clear video footage documenting what protesters believe was an excessive use of police force, the District Attorney’s office decided last week against prosecuting the officers for any wrongdoing. “After a thorough investigation … we cannot prove these allegations criminally beyond a reasonable doubt,” the DA’s chief spokeswoman Erin Duggan said.
Ron Kuby, a lawyer representing victims in both cases, called for assault charges against the officers and criticized the DA for not acting. “[It took] almost 19 months to decide he would do nothing,” Kuby said.
“Despite the overwhelming proof on videotape, seen around the world, [New York County District Attorney] Cy Vance Jr. has shown that he will do nothing to disturb his cozy relationship with the police, even in the face of the clearest wrongdoing.”
Separate lawsuits against the city, police department and the officers involved in both incidents are still pending.
OWS protests came in response to the 2008 financial collapse, an event that wiped out $11 billion in personal wealth, eliminated millions of jobs and led to 10 million home foreclosures. Protests fizzled after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the Nov. 15, 2011 eviction of Zuccotti Park, the central encampment of the OWS movement. Without a base from which to organize demonstrations, once-robust marches that had drawn thousands waned in New York and across the country.
From the start of the demonstrations, police and intelligence agencies viewed OWS as a terrorist threat.
FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) in December 2012 reveal that from the inception of the Occupy movement, U.S. intelligence agencies treated OWS as a potential criminal and terrorist threat, despite the group’s commitment to peaceful assembly.
The documents also show that as early as Aug. 19, 2011, the FBI in New York had been meeting with the leaders of the New York Stock Exchange and local businesses to discuss Occupy Wall Street protests that would not begin for another month.