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Cops say there was no 'escort' for bank protesters

A tempest developed in the conservative blogosphere over the weekend, with the D.C. police at the center of the storm.

The controversy surrounds a May 16 protest organized by liberal group National People's Action and the Service Employees International Union. Hundreds of protesters targeted two homes in Chevy Chase, Md. -- one belonging to a Bank of America attorney, the other to a J.P. Morgan Chase lobbyist -- for raucous rallies decrying Wall Street's efforts to influence bank-reform legislation.

The protests had already garnered much attention from conservative activists upset that liberal activists would target bank employees at their homes. Then Big Journalism, a Web site started by digital media mogul Andrew Breitbart, published an item on Friday claiming that D.C. police officers had "escorted" the protesters to the residences. The item was picked up by influential bloggers, and yesterday, the Washington Examiner published an editorial titled "No more police escorts for union thugs."

Assistant Chief Patrick Burke, who oversees homeland security and special operations for the city's Metropolitan Police Department, denies that the protesters were ever "escorted." Rather, he said, standard procedure is for police to monitor mass protests both to keep protesters safe and prevent any mischief.

"Essentially we'll shadow you, make sure nobody's being hit by cars, that you're complying with traffic laws as much as possible," Burke said Tuesday. "We did not have knowledge of what their addresses were going to be or even that they were going to leave Washington, D.C."

Marcus Mrowka, an SEIU spokesperson, confirms that the organizers didn't notify police ahead of time.

About a dozen uniformed officers, Burke said, were tasked with keeping an eye on the rally, but none crossed the Maryland line. One plainclothes detective, he said, inadvertently crossed the unmarked border while on Beach Drive, but radioed Montgomery County police as soon as she realized where she was -- on Leland Street, about three blocks from the District.

Cpl. Dan Friz, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County police, provided a reporter with entries from his department's computer dispatch system. A dispatcher received an initial call from a neighbor shortly after 4 p.m. Less than 10 minutes later, a report indicated that D.C. police were "on scene advising very large crowd." Another message citing D.C. police referred to protesters massing on Leland Street.

Friz, who wasn't on the scene that day, said he inferred from the dispatch language that there were multiple D.C. police units on the scene but could not verify how many. Three people present at the rally, including Mrowka, said they saw no D.C. police on the scene in Chevy Chase.

There was nothing improper in the way that District police handled the situation, Friz said Tuesday. "It wasn't like the D.C. cops were running lights and [blaring] sirens," he said. "Do we do motorcade escorts all the time? Absolutely. But I don't think that was the case here." And D.C. police are under no obligation, he said, to notify his department if officers are merely observing a crowd.

The accounts from Burke and Friz are seconded by D.C. police union chief Kristopher Baumann -- known for bulldogging the MPD brass on any questionable use of police resources. He said Tuesday that he had made his own inquiries within the department and didn't find anything inappropriate. Baumann said he had reviewed video posted at Big Journalism and at other sites and was unable to find any police presence at all.

Burke saw some irony in the to-do: "It's funny, because typically I'm getting a lot of grief from the other side of this -- the unions and the protesters saying we're overzealous against them."

By Mike DeBonis  |  May 25, 2010; 2:49 PM ET
Categories:  Mike DeBonis  | Tags: Big Journalism, D.C. police, Dan Friz, MPD, Metropolitian Police Department, Montgomery County, Patrick Burke, blogs  
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Fortune reporter Nina Easton was present and took pictures of the protest. Has anyone contacted her to confirm whether, or not, Washington police were present and in what capacity?

At this point we're relying on union activists and police spokesmen who weren't present.

Posted by: rheinstein | May 25, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Why is this report described in terms of this story being a tempest created in the conservative blogs? Since when do the conservative blogs have to be the only source of reports on outrageous behavior by shouting protesters trampling on the front lawn of a private citizen while disturbing the peace in a residential neighborhood on a weekend? Where is the mainstream media coverage of this story? Is this blog entry all that the Washington media will do to warn private citizens in our local area who might work for lobbyists or live in their neighborhood that they are at risk of having shouting protesters invade their private property and terrorize their children?
These protesters terrorized a teenage boy home alone in the Bank of America employee's home and police in two jurisdictions were aware of the dozens of protesters loudly making their presence known in a residential area, not in front of places of business on a work day.
It appears that the police were probably intimidated since your story ends with this statement: "[Assistant DC Police Chief] Burke saw some irony in the to-do: "It's funny, because typically I'm getting a lot of grief from the other side of this -- the unions and the protesters saying we're overzealous against them." Were the police afraid to act to protect citizens whose private property was trespassed upon because they thought the unions or protesters would complain about overzealous police action?

Posted by: dwraymond74 | May 25, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

If they had been in VA, Cuccinelli would have been there to protect his white collar cronies in two seconds flat.

Posted by: slydell | May 25, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. Over 500 people protested in a residenial neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon without a permit, and the Post ignores the story for a week. When the Post finally writes about this incident, there is no investigation into why SEIU targeted Greg Baer, what connections SEIU has with Bank of America, why they did not have a permit, or whether they violated the law with their protest. Instead we're treated to a refutation of bloggers' claims that DC police escorted the protesters. And even with this article, the Post still refuses to do any investigation and just relies on police and union spokespeople. How hard would it have been to send a reporter to ask the neighbors whether DC police were at the protest? Why is the Post dismissing this whole story? Does the Post condone SEIU's permitless protest at a private residence? Apparently so, since the Post didn't think the protest was newsworthy.
Small wonder that the Post is losing readers.

Posted by: biancaneve | May 25, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

So this is all the coverage that the WaPo is going to give this outrage. 500 hundred people protested on the front porch of an individual's private residence and WaPo repeats what the DC Metro Police have to say. Call Nina Easton and ask her what she saw and heard. What kind of reporting is this? Burying this story will only make it worse. This is a joke.

Posted by: d1carter | May 26, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

So the "protest" occurred on the 16th.

As Nina Easton wrote on the 19th:

"Sunday's onslaught wasn't designed for mainstream media consumption. There were no reporters from organizations like the Washington Post, no local camera crews who might have aired criticism of this private-home invasion."

And when, over a week later, the Post finally does a little "blog" entry it's only to defend the actions of the D.C. police?

They should have known that even if a Post "reporter" had been present, there would have been no "criticism of this private-home invasion" no matter how egregious.

So long as it's not your house, your son, right?

It's not only understandable, it's a very good thing the American people no longer rely on what was once the mainstream media.

Posted by: bertielou | May 26, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Mike Debonis is a liberal stooge who will never write anything critical of SEIU, so why would he do any research on a topic that might prove disparaging of that union?

Posted by: alvint | May 26, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The Shakepearean quote "methinks thou doth protest too much" appears to be rather appropos in this matter.
The police explanation does not pass the laugh test, nor does it pass the smell test, and this says much about their value.
That the Post got scooped by the Examiner as it did says even more about it.
The homeowner should press charges for all damage to his property and the poor kid that was terrorized should be able to successfully sue these domestic terrorists for any damages that he suffered. Since it was done and executed in a deliberate fashion by an established organized conspiring group already associated with organized crime, the RICO and Homeland Security statutes should be creatively applied to the perpretrators.
If not the so-called leaders that marched on this homeowners residence deserve to suffer the same fate.
How would a counter-demonstration inflicted upon the union thugs that perpretated this at THEIR homes be handled by police; reported? I wonder...

Posted by: obviousman | May 26, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

A view of life in the thugocracy that is 0bama's Amerika.

Posted by: NeverLeft | May 26, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The only reason I search for this story in the post was to see how you handled it. I was not at all surprised that the Post runs contrary to the opinion of most average people who are appalled by this story.
There was a time not too long ago when we could trust the Washington Post to fairly report the news. Sadly that is no loner the case. I wonder how you would react if the 500 protesters were on the lawn of one of your reporters or editors intimidating their child. Shame on you. Shame on the SEIU thugs and shame on their supporter Hussein Obama.

Posted by: chuckh1 | May 26, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

500 of Obama's brownshirts intimidate a 14 year old. And the Post repeats the DCPD's assurances. Great work! Your next Pulitzer is on its way.

Posted by: jy151310 | May 27, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

So the '. . .initial call from a neighbor shortly after 4 p.m. Less than 10 minutes later, a report indicated that D.C. police were "on scene advising very large crowd."'
And the Montgomery police saw fit to send only 3 officers.
What if a "very large crowd" descended on the Police Chief's front lawn? Do you think that the response would be the same?

Posted by: jarego2 | May 27, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"Cpl. Dan Friz, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County police, provided a reporter with entries from his department's computer dispatch system. A dispatcher received an initial call from a neighbor shortly after 4 p.m. Less than 10 minutes later, a report indicated that D.C. police were "on scene advising very large crowd." Another message citing D.C. police referred to protesters massing on Leland Street."

I just saw video of a DC and a Montgomery County spokesmen, each denying that any DC police were on the scene. And they said that the DC police called the MC police right as the buses entered MC. Both those claims are contradicted by your story here.

Isn't it interesting that the police departments are lying? I wonder if they've erased their internal records of the phone calls by now.

Posted by: erasmuse | May 27, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"About a dozen uniformed officers, Burke said, were tasked with keeping an eye on the rally, but none crossed the Maryland line."

"Less than 10 minutes later, a report indicated that D.C. police were "on scene advising very large crowd.""

OK, so which statement is the truth? Were there DC police in Montgomery County "advising" a crowd, or were there not? Either the Montgomery County dispatchers' notes are wrong, or DeBonis caught Burke in a lie. Very interesting that his article completely ignores this contradiction.

Posted by: MrsWhatsit | May 27, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If five Tea Party protestors appeared at a legislator's home to protest his or her votes on, say, Obamacare, one can only imagine the days of extensive and alarmist coverage it would generate in the Post and elsewhere.

But 500 protestors were bused to the home of a private citizen, where they illegally held forth and terrorized a member of his family. And from the Post, only this dismissive peep of a blog post about a single aspect of the event.

No matter. The mainstream press is already reaping the whirlwind of its one-sided interpretation of "the news," and is making itself less relevant daily. Meanwhile, those on the left instigating and authorizing sheer thuggery such as this event will soon enough reap a whirlwind of their own. November 2nd gets closer every day, you know.

Posted by: solidstate | May 27, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

This wasn't a protest. It was a mob, organized by SEIU. Its activities were illegal. The members of the mob broke the law. SEIU broke the law.

Anyone in that neighborhood who can demonstrate that so much as a single SEIU jackboot stepped on a blade of grass on their front lawn ought to sue the bastards.

File a complant -- get discovery. Drag SEIU as an organization and the mobsters as individuals through the legal system version of the thuggish intimidation that they perpetrated that Sunday. Fight back.

Demand to see documents regarding this unlawful act -- who rented the buses? Who paid for them? SEIU? Who there signed off on that? Where's the paperwork? Where are the emails and memos discussing the plan to assault this guy's house and threaten his family? Where are the text messages and phone records of the mobsters in which they no doubt described in real time what they were doing?

Take some depositions of SEIU officials, the mobsters, the bus drivers, the cops. Get them all under oath.

Demand a huge settlement. Cripple the union. Get a decree from the judge that requires judicial oversight for all of its future future protest activity to ensure that this gang of thugs doesn't break the law again.

Expensive? Sure -- so find an organization to take this on pro bono. How about the ACLU? Weren't the civil liberties of the residents of that neighborhood violated that day?

Strike back. This sort of uncivil, illegal conduct should not be tolerated.

Posted by: dcpost1 | May 27, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Why would the DC police need to "monitor" a situation that was no longer in their jurisdiction, unless a crime were committed? And please.... are we to believe the physical safety of the 500 purple shirts was their primary concern instead of the safety of the property owner whose rights the thugs were violating?

As disturbing as the action of the SEIU rabble was, the behavior of all involved police forces was even more egregious. Can property owners expect any response from unionized law enforcement in the future when their lawless but unionized brothers are the perpetrators?

Posted by: wave41 | May 27, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I was there, and I heard several protesters shouting racial epithets. PROVE ME WRONG.

I'm kidding of course, but notice the completely opposite treatment of this astroturf union mob versus the way the post and other left-leaning media outlets have a hissy fit about tea party protests.

Posted by: Peejay | May 27, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad we don't live in the Washington Area anymore. If I saw an angry mob on my property carrying signs with bull horns and couldn't get police protection I would have to protect my life and property.
Its sad that America has come to the brink like this. Our freedom and rights are on the line, wake up America.

Posted by: wnt-1_gone | May 28, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

You people are pathetic. As long as working folks act like good little lemmings and take whatever is forced down their throats with nary a wimpier all is well. As soon as they start to fight for what is rightfully theirs they are "thugs" and should be charged as racketeers.
You all have no right to condem people for taking offense to what the power hungry have taken from the middle class. You talk about American values but condem those that are will to fight for what's right. A greater collection of self righteous hypocrites would be hard to find. Post away, but know that working class activists could care less what you say, think, or do.

Posted by: sposito1 | May 29, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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