Several days ago an article appeared in The Atlantic chronicling the supposedly brotherly love that the Philadelphia Police have for protesters coming to the city for the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The article consists of an extensive interview with Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson Lieutenant John Stanford. The general thrust of Standford’s comments is that the police are looking to protect both public safety and everyone’s right to express themselves freely (hence the “brotherly love”). He sticks to this line even when asked fearmongering questions about whether police feared a Dallas copycat shooter could emerge from the DNC protests.
In spite of this brotherly love, Standford made one comment that should jump out to anyone concerned about free speech. According to the article, Standford conceded that the police were “already monitoring some of the groups who have received demonstration permits.”
Kris Hermes, who has written extensively about the conduct of police during the 2000 Republican National Convention (RNC), has noted in the past that the Philadelphia Police Department is banned by a consent decree from infiltrating political groups. As a result, in 2000 they had Pennsylvania State Troopers infiltrate protesters for them.
Standford’s comment about monitoring groups that apply for permits is disturbing and raises troubling questions about free speech. However, it also raises even more questions about who was monitored, what did the monitoring consist of, what government body did the monitoring, and did it comply with the city’s longstanding consent decree. As a result, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation plans on a filing a Right to Know request concerning the monitoring of political dissent and uncovering the full facts of what happened.