|POLICING THE PROTESTS|
August 3, 2000
Following this background report, Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney discusses protests and the police response during the week of Republican National Convention.
| RAY SUAREZ: For the latest on the protests and arrests, we're joined
now by Philadelphia's police commissioner, John Timoney. Welcome to the
JOHN TIMONEY: Good evening.
RAY SUAREZ: Now that we are on the last night of the convention, can you look back at the week since Sunday and feel that both the briefings that you gave before the convention period started and the training that every officer undergoes to join this department held up?
|Protesters with their own agenda?|
JOHN TIMONEY: Without a doubt. I thought the first three days, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, went very well. There were many demonstrations. There were six on Saturday, four that were permitted, two that were non-scheduled but we were able to work out with the protesters -- again a very large one on Sunday by Unity 2000; that went without a hitch. There were minor disturbances later on which we can't control in that situation.
Then on Monday, another contentious march that was not authorized, but the folks guaranteed that they would move along, there would be no violence and we were able to work out a deal with them and we allowed them to march down Broad Street. However, come Tuesday, an entirely different set of protesters came in from outside of town, from New York and Boston and places -- and Michigan and places like that, with a plan to create a disturbance, assault police officers, commit serious property damage, ruin police cars and a whole host of other stuff. I was there at every single event.
Trust me, beginning at 4:00 straight through till about 10:00 that night we had a series of events of serious violence on police officers, fifteen police officers injured, three very serious -- one admitted to the hospital. He was in there for two days with a very serious concussion; another one with a broken arm; another one who had two lacerations to the neck. So these were serious thugs engaged, hell bent engaged in criminal activity. And anybody that would ever make the argument that they were coming in to exercise their First Amendment right need to have their head examined.
RAY SUAREZ: Once you saw that change in the mood on the streets, once these new people had begun to deploy, did you immediately have to change the manner of response, or did your original game plan still hold?
JOHN TIMONEY: We kind of changed the manner of response because the first line of defense or the first contact you have in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Police Department is the Civil Affairs unit. Those are plain-clothes officers, senior officers with a lot of seniority who are very good at calming things down. They're great negotiators, great facilitators. It was clear to us that these protesters, really anarchists were in no mood for compromise or working things out. And they were hell bent on breaking the law, getting arrested, and engaging in assaultive behavior and then being really cowards about it, hiding behind masks and other such nonsense.
RAY SUAREZ: Was there a general approach toward policing this convention that involved trying to build down confrontation?
JOHN TIMONEY: Oh, yeah.
RAY SUAREZ: Just when there was a fight over a particular perimeter, just move the perimeter, fall back and then try to contain it at a new line?
|The police response|
JOHN TIMONEY: Yeah.
RAY SUAREZ: Or were there points maybe traffic-choke points, strategic areas that you really had to or felt you had to hold fast and could not fall back?
JOHN TIMONEY: The overall operating philosophy, just so you have the background, we did not permit our officers to take individual actions, except in an emergency situation. An emergency situation would include an assault on a police officer or serious property damage. If there was, for example, sit down in the streets, locking of arms, chaining of arms where it was only traffic disruption, then a senior commander like myself and my two deputies would make the decision on when and how to arrest. That was the operating philosophy that we could kind of live with everything, take our time, absent no violence and no serious property damage. For example the very first one on Broad and Spruce, that's what took place. It took us about three hours to clear that intersection and arrest 120 people. That was it. But the protesters began to escalate it and a block away they went on an assault rampage. I went down on my bike and witnessed one officer being pummeled and the coward covered himself up with his black mask. But I spotted him in the crowd. We chased him, we never lost sight of him, and placed him under arrest.
The scene then moved about five blocks away where six or seven hundred engaged in a skirmish. The one you saw there the lieutenant -- the lieutenant that took a beating. Another officer had his gun dragged from his holster. These people -- I was there -- they were hell bent on assaulting police officers. Numerous arrests were made at that location. It then moved up two blocks up by city hall where about over 1,000 took over the street. We then began to dissect the crowd, to try and reclaim at a very slow pace, methodical pace, the intersections and forced people back on the sidewalks. It was clear to me that the protesters at this point now are starting to get frustrated. So about 300 broke off and went on a running rampage. It can only be described as a rampage up Walnut Street. Myself and about 60 or 70 bike officers paralleled them and cut them off at 18th street. They went up 17th where there was an elderly man driving a limousine. They boxed him in, jumped on top of the limousine, smashed in the hood and the roof.
When I came around the block with two other officers we confronted them as they turned over huge dumps of garbage and then were in the process of turning over a vehicle, we went to effect the arrest, put the bike down and as we were wrestling on the ground with two or three of them, about ten came over and then took the bikes and were smashing us with the bikes, the officer next to me, knocked him unconscious. When I got up, I had a tussle with a few more. They weren't even trying to run away. This was an out-and-out drag-out brawl. More officers came. We established order and made four or five arrests at that scene. Let me tell you these people were dead set on committing major violence to police officers.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me jump in there, Mr. Timoney because some of the more organized groups the ones you praised for their behavior earlier in the week said they could have actually helped you through the middle of the week but too many of their leaders, some people who were trained to diffuse situations on the street were arrested and had very high bails set so they couldn't bail out and actually try to keep the peace on the streets of Philadelphia.
JOHN TIMONEY: Well, let me tell you something. We arrested them and it's over and done with. As far as even when they were arrested, including the leaders, they didn't cooperate. They gave names as John Doe and Jane Doe. There's still 300 of them next door under the names of John Doe and Jane Doe. Even their lawyers can't convince them to cooperate. That's nonsense, the stuff you're hearing.
RAY SUAREZ: And were you using, as the ACLU and some others have suggested --using the lock-ups to clear the streets as a way of helping contain the demonstrations?
JOHN TIMONEY: Let me tell you something about the ACLU - Mr. Stephen Pressler - he actually should ashamed of himself for the allegations he's making. Those people were arrested when they broke the law, when they assaulted police officers, when they committed property damage. We have the videotapes of all of this. And so they really ought to be ashamed of themselves for trying to create pretext and confusion.
RAY SUAREZ: Police officers -- are those who were wounded were all treated and released?
JOHN TIMONEY: No. I just told you one officer was in the hospital for two days. The kid that was next to me that got knocked unconscious when the guy used a police bike a power driver and drove it and almost crush this officer's skull.
RAY SUAREZ: John Timoney, thank you very much for joining us.
JOHN TIMONEY: Thank you, sir.