ACLU Responds to Disruptions at GOP Convention in Philadelpia

August 2, 2000 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Pennsylvania
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is disappointed by the turn of events here yesterday. The disruptions, vandalism and arrests were particularly troubling since the previous three days had been marked by large and peaceful protests.

Whatever the police may have done yesterday, the ACLU does not condone any of the unlawful actions that occurred. Vandalizing property, turning over trash cans, assaulting persons and shutting down the city by blocking traffic are not activities protected by the First Amendment.

However, we are very troubled by what has been reported to us regarding various actions by the police. The seizure of a warehouse in West Philadelphia and the arrest of 70 individuals who were at that warehouse raise many questions. Did the police have probable cause to seek a search warrant and detain every person who was at the warehouse? Or was this a preemptive strike aimed at thwarting the First Amendment rights of individuals who had no intention of engaging in violent protest?

We have heard stories of protesters being trampled by police horses and being struck by police officers. Although several news stories have indicated that the police acted with restraint, we have received complaints from protesters who were injured during yesterday’s events.

The ACLU acknowledges that the police were operating under difficult circumstances. By and large they displayed commendable restraint. In contrast to Seattle, the Philadelphia police avoided using tear gas and pepper spray or sweeping up those who were peacefully and lawfully protesting.

The ACLU will continue deploying legal observers throughout the rest of the week. Those observers play an important role as eyewitnesses to the events occurring in Philadelphia.

The ACLU hopes that the streets of Philadelphia will remain calm and that individuals will be able to continue exercising their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner.

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