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Morning Spew

It’s Thursday and the NYPD’s Response Is Violence

A new round of calls to disband the NYPD’s notorious SRG unit, and other links to start your day.

6:01 AM EDT on October 13, 2022

A rally calling for the abolition of the NYPD’s notorious SRG unit on October 12, 2022. (Scott Heins / Hell Gate)

When the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group was formed in 2015, department leadership insisted that the unit would specifically focus on counterterrorism. 

"They will not be involved in handling protests and demonstrations," the then-Chief of Department (and soon-to-be commissioner) James O'Neill told reporters. "They'll have no role in protests. Their response is single-fold. They'll be doing counterterror work."

Except, right from the start, that was a lie. The SRG has been deeply involved in protest response, with the now $90 million per year unit responding to protests big and small, often with a Long Range Acoustic Device in tow. The group was at the forefront of the NYPD's response to the uprisings in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, and was deeply involved in the trapping and attacking of protestors, legal observers, and medics during an ambush by NYPD officers in Mott Haven in June of 2020. 

Despite the clear threats to the First Amendment posed by a group of officers who are literally trained to violate protesters' rights, the city council has in past years voted to increase the SRG's budget. 

Now, a group of city councilmembers is getting behind a bill that would limit the purview of the SRG, while organizers with the New York Civil Liberties Union and other activists are calling for its abolition. 

The NYCLU has found that officers who are part of the SRG have an abnormally high number of misconduct complaints compared to regular officers, by a factor of two. 

In City Hall Park on Wednesday, organizers spoke about why the unit, which has recently taken the lead on responses to anti-homeless sweep demonstrations, needs to go. 

"We see the SRG as a terrorist organization, not as an anti-terrorist organization," said Imani Henry of Equality for Flatbush. "We've encountered the SRG responding to fireworks in Flatbush, showing up in riot gear, pulling people out of their homes, arresting people where they've lived for decades."

The city council bill, introduced by Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé, would prohibit the SRG from policing nonviolent protests. 

"We know that the SRG is an antidemocratic unit that violates our First Amendment rights to assemble," said Ossé. 

The bill, which has 20 cosponsors, is currently stuck in committee. 

Here's what else is happening in the city where we like to nonviolently exercise our First Amendment rights: 

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