A police raid of an anarchist collective in Bushwick last Tuesday — which cops claim was a mission simply to arrest two members of the commune who skipped court appearances on minor offenses — may actually have been a intelligence mission at the Thames Street compound.
New details have emerged about the April 13 raid that suggest that the police were not only picking up the wanted men, but also picking up information about the anarchists on the eve of the fourth annual Anarchist Film Festival, which took place this weekend.
“[An officer] pulled a flier for the festival out and asked, ‘Do you know what this is?’” said Sharod Andrews, one of the men who was arrested. He said that the officer wanted to talk more about Andrews’s role in planning the upcoming festival than the bench warrant for missing his court date on an open container summons.
The flier featured a doctored photograph of the pope wearing bondage gear. As such, he believes police officers were engaging in a “fishing expedition.”
Police officials disputed that his arrest was a coincidence, claiming that officers were pursuing outstanding warrants because the two men did not appear in court on their court date.
The commanding officer of the 90th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper, said cops had no interest in the Bushwick building, which houses 19 collective members, plus assorted hangers-on, beyond the men who missed their court dates.
“If they’re not doing anything illegal, and no one is wanted by the police, they have nothing to worry about,” said Kemper.
Residents of the Thames Street space aren’t comforted by Kemper’s comment.
They believe that officers saw fliers posted in the neighborhood, which included a reference to festival events that would be held there this weekend.
“There have been a lot of raids in alternative spaces in the city,” said Vlad, a videographer who declined to give his last name. “The way they did it shows a lack of respect for the people in this neighborhood, not just activists.”
Adam Weissman, an environmental activist who lives and works in the area, said that Andrews was wrongly targeted. Certainly, some of the nearly 50 people living in the space are activists and members of the Anarchist Media Collective, others, like Andrews, are merely looking for a cheap place to live in Williamsburg, he said.
“Sharod’s major hobby is skateboarding while the other guy who got arrested’s major hobby is beer,” said Weissman.
In the end, Andrews’s case was dismissed.
“The judge said I should stay out of trouble for the next six months,” said Andrews. “I don’t get into trouble.”
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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