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Joseph Goldstein, "Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests"

Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests

Joseph Goldstein, New York Sun

The police department had a code-name for its plan to cope with the invasion
of tens of thousands of protesters who were expected to take to the streets
during the 2004 Republican National Convention: Operation Overlord II. The
name is an apparent reference to the secret plan for the Allied invasion of
Normandy, which was codenamed Overlord.

Reports of the planning and intelligence gathering leading up to D-Day are
a part of military lore. But the preparations for Overlord II, which resulted
in the contentious detention of protesters during the convention, are still

Over the city's objections, a fraction of the police documents from the
months before the August convention are expected to be made public in the
coming days, following a recent ruling that lifted a protective order over
them. The New York Sun has obtained several of those documents.
One document suggests that the decision to arrest — instead of ticket —
all persons whose protests were deemed illegal was made months prior to the
convention itself.The city currently faces lawsuits from hundreds of the 1,800 protesters who
were picked up in mass arrests and detained for as long as three days at a
West Side pier. The police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, has praised his
officers for their handling of protesters at the convention.

The document, dated May 2004, is a report detailing the items discussed at an
April 27, 2004, meeting of the NYPD Mass Arrest/Prisoner Processing

"No summonses will be issued," one of the bullet points on the memo reads.
The no summons policy, which the police department acted on during the
convention, has been criticized by civil rights attorneys.

"There is no question that the no summons policy was central in creating huge
delays in the release of demonstrators," an attorney who is representing some
of the arrested protesters, Christopher Dunn, said in a telephone interview.
The memo, signed by an assistant chief who has since retired, Patrick Devin,
only describes the no summons policy as being "discussed."

Still, Mr. Dunn, who is the associate legal director of the New York Civil
Liberties Union, said such a decision had already been made by the time of
the subcommittee meeting. "That is a memo that was reporting a decision that
was made elsewhere," he said. "The testimony has not been clear about exactly
when that was made."

Such a policy would appear to contradict what other officials in the police
department believed to be appropriate policy. A previously disclosed police
document, "Legal Guidelines for the Republican National Convention," says
desk-appearance tickets and summonses may not be denied merely "because a
person was arrested at a demonstration."

Another bullet point on the memo indicates that the West Side pier where
arrested protesters were later held was already then under consideration as a
possible "arrest triage site." One claim in lawsuits from protesters is that
the environmental conditions at the pier, known as Pier 57, made the pier
unfit for inmates.

Another document, from June 9, 2004, suggests that the 1,800 arrests from the
four-day convention did not exceed the number police had expected to make.
This document calls for the development of a "doomsday" plan to be used for
processing more than 5,000 arrests. The document, signed by the police
department's then-deputy commissioner on counter terrorism, Michael Sheehan,
did not indicate whether such a plan was formulated.

"Because this involves pending litigation, it would be inappropriate to
comment further," a spokeswoman for the city's law department, Connie
Pankratz, said. A spokesman for the police department also declined to

Little is clear about the decision to call preparations for the convention
"Overlord II." Mr. Dunn of the NYCLU said the NYPD had also referred to plans
for an earlier Democratic National Convention as "Overlord I."