Philadelphia Cops Prepare for Protests
Drake, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Police and would-be demonstrators in Philadelphia are engaging in a battle of wits as each side prepares for protests during next week's Republican national convention.
Philadelphia police last week said they are closely watching people at the activists' private planning meetings, but officials denied accusations that undercover officers were infiltrating protest groups.
Meanwhile, activists have spread their forces throughout the city to prevent a pre-emptive police strike before the first major demonstration on Saturday, citing events during massive protests in the District in April.
Yesterday, activists accused police of trying to intimidate them by following organizers, using electronic listening devices, putting black-clad spotters on rooftops and breaking into activists' headquarters.
Several members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, an advocacy group for the poor, found electronic devices for listening and tracking a vehicle's location in the trunk of a car and in a building they were using over the weekend, a spokeswoman said.
The devices were not sophisticated, and the group speculated that authorities are using the "bugs" more as a scare tactic than for real surveillance, the spokeswoman said.
"Their primary objective is to put us on the edge and scare us away," said Beka Economopoulos, an organizer with R2K, the umbrella organization of protest groups.
Miss Economopoulos noted that a community arts center for puppet-making that a city agency had declared unsafe and shut down on Friday was reopened later that day after critical news coverage.
"That's consistent with the pattern of pre-emptive strikes" police used in the District, Miss Economopoulos said. "We're obviously frustrated, but we're not going to allow that to derail us. We have nothing to hide."
D.C. fire and police officials in April shut down activists' headquarters the day before they were to begin massive protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Activists in Philadelphia also said that black-clad police officers have broken into their offices and photographed supplies, Miss Economopoulos said, adding that the officers refused to identify themselves to an activist who saw them. …