New York Civil Liberties Union seeks probe into protest melee at Presidential debate

by on October 17, 2008 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Election, Organizing, Peace Movement, Veterans

15 arrested and at least 2 injured when mounted police are used for crowd control against peaceful demonstrators

By Patrick Whittle /  newsday.com / October 17, 2008

A day after an anti-war protester was injured in a melee with Nassau police outside the Hofstra presidential debate, the New York Civil Liberties Union called for the department to conduct an investigation into its use of horses to control the crowd. The protester, Nicholas Morgan of Washington, D.C., was among 15 people charged with disorderly conduct after the incident. Morgan and 13 others are due in District Court in Hempstead on Nov. 10 while one protester pleaded not guilty yesterday. A second person appeared to be injured but refused medical treatment, police said.

The melee happened when police refused to allow a protest group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, into the debate. Mounted police pushed a group of about 200 protesters from various organizations away from the gates, inciting some demonstrators to push back. Morgan, 24, an Iraq War veteran, was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured cheekbone. Morgan and other protesters contend he was kicked in the head by a mounted Nassau County police horse, the union said in a statement. Nassau police said it was unclear how Morgan was hurt.

A witness who also was arrested, Kristofer Goldsmith of North Bellmore, said Morgan had obeyed a police order to return to the sidewalk when he was trampled. “Stampeding a horse onto the sidewalk . . . is disturbing,” said Goldsmith, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “The order was to stand on the sidewalk and that’s where my friend got hurt.”

Lt. Kevin Smith, a Nassau police spokesman, said the NYCLU has not yet contacted the department, adding the department is reviewing yesterday’s events. “It might never be found out how this guy got knocked down. It was unrest in the street and this guy may have been knocked down by a horse, by an officer or by other people in the crowd,” Smith said.

About 350 protesters, mostly voicing opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, gathered outside Hofstra’s gates hours before the debate started. Most stood to the side, waving signs and shouting slogans.

The NYCLU issued a statement yesterday criticizing Nassau police for allowing Morgan to be injured in the fracas. Morgan was treated at an area hospital and released, police said. “It is indeed ironic that the presidential debate – an event that epitomizes American democracy – became the occasion to trample on an American’s First Amendment rights,” said NYCLU Suffolk County Chapter director Andrea Callan.  [Go here for the original article.]

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