The Occupy New Orleans legal team last week submitted more than 100 affidavits regarding New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) actions to Susan Hutson in the Office of the Independent Police Monitor (IPM).
In response to the complaints, Hutson, Deputy Police Monitor Simone Levine and IPM spokeswoman Ursula Price attended the group's Dec. 20 general assembly in Duncan Plaza, where protesters continue to convene for meetings even though their round-the-clock encampment was cleared from the park on Dec. 13. Hutson's staff set up a table in the park, speaking to the group as a whole as well as to individual members.
"We have affidavits, I think, from a bunch of you guys," Levine said to a group of about 30 protesters gathered in the park. She said the IPM's office would record and assess each complaint before handing them over to NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau (PIB), which is responsible for internal investigations of alleged police misconduct. The IPM office was designed, in part, to oversee PIB-initiated investigations, but Hutson says it's not uncommon for members of the public to go directly to IPM rather than PIB itself.
"Some people may not be as comfortable (complaining to NOPD)," Hutson says. "We project that IPM will have received between 250 and 275 complaints this year."
The affidavits include allegations of harassment by two NOPD officers on Dec. 13, hours before the group was evicted. According to some protesters, two police officers came into the park at 5:30 a.m. and told occupiers they must leave or they would be arrested. At the time, the city was prohibited by a federal court-issued temporary restraining order from evicting the group.
City officials acknowledge police entered the park and spoke to members of the group but deny officers told them to leave.
Other affidavits concern allegations of lost property from the first city-enforced eviction of the camp on the morning of Dec. 6, Levine says. Police gave protesters 30 minutes to leave the park that morning. If they were unable to gather their belongings in that time, the city carted off their possessions.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and administration officials have defended the action repeatedly, arguing that it was peaceful and well-coordinated, with only one arrest. Levine says she is not aware of any reports of police violence during the eviction. In an email, mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni noted that police officers handed out hundreds of written warnings over the course of four days before proceeding with the initial eviction. — Maldonado