Protest and Assembly Rights Project

Protestors project slogans onto members of the NYPD during a protest march. (Photo by Stephanie Keith, all rights reserved. Currently on display at CHRGJ).

In January 2012, international human rights and US civil liberties clinics at seven law schools across the United States formed the Protest and Assembly Rights Project. This joint project is investigating the United States response to Occupy Wall Street in light of the government’s international legal obligations, and promoting rights-respecting government responses to protests.  The Global Justice Clinic is a Project Director and Coordinator for this inter-clinic Project.

In June 2012, the Global Justice Clinic (NYU), together with the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic (Fordham), published the first in a series of reports of the Project.  This report, Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the US Response to Occupy Wall Street, documented extensive human rights violations in the response to Occupy Wall Street in New York City.  Documented abuses included: aggressive, unnecessary, and excessive police force against peaceful protesters; obstruction of press freedoms; pervasive surveillance; unjustified closure of public space; arbitrary rule enforcement; and transparency and accountability failures. The report called for a major independent review of New York City’s response to Occupy, for legislators to establish an independent Inspector-General to oversee policing practices, and for police to implement a new protest policing policy that prioritizes respect for human rights. The report also called for federal authorities to investigate NYC practice, if NYC refused to take the necessary steps to remedy and prevent violations.
The report received widespread coverage in local, national, and international press, including in The New York Times and The Atlantic. (Please see, CHRGJ in the News for a full list of recent press coverage of the report).
Supervised Global Justice Clinic students worked on all aspects of the project, including: project design, coordination, fact-finding, security and confidentiality assessments, legal research on subpoena risks, interviewing of witnesses, legal research, report-writing, and media strategy.  Following the publication of the report, clinic students are designing advocacy strategies to continue to push for attention to the report’s key findings and recommendations.
Clinics from NYU, Fordham, Harvard, Stanford, Charlotte, Loyola, and Rutgers are participating in this inter-clinic project.  Future reports of the project will examine responses to Occupy Wall Street in Charlotte, Boston, Oakland, and San Francisco.
Relevant documents and links: