Undercover cops spy on Occupy LA

Members of Los Angeles Police Department form a blockade at the Occupy LA tent encampment outside City Hall (AFP Photo / Michal Czerwonka)
Officers within the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department have confirmed that undercover cops infiltrated the Occupy LA encampment and conducted clandestine surveillance on the protesters in the days leading up to last month’s raid and eviction.

Before cops launched a crack-down on the Occupy LA encampment on November 30, officials secretly kept tabs on protesters, using undercover officers to monitor the tent compound on foot and relying on surveillance cameras to keep tabs on the demonstrations from above. This news comes from Reuters, who were leaked the info from officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement grew from city to city across the country, protesters have suggested that cops had conducted clandestine surveillance on them but law enforcement has been hesitant to make any such acknowledgment. A senior official close to the crack down on Occupy LA, however, confirms that such was the case in the Los Angeles encampment.

After the LAPD failed to enforce an eviction warning for Monday morning, November 28, protesters in Los Angeles had assumed that they would be free to continue their demonstrations. Days later, however, around 1,000 armed officers stormed the compound, yielding upwards of 200 arrests.

Sources within the LAPD insist that more than 40 arrests before the crackdown were made possible due to surveillance systems.

While protesters are quick to question the merit and legality of unauthorized surveillance of peaceful protesters, the LAPD source speaking to Reuters says that the monitoring was not meant to thwart First Amendment freedoms but was rather a precaution used to keep tabs on participants in the movement the authorities viewed as anti-government extremists.

Sources add that law enforcement officials also actively monitored Twitter feeds of people participating in the protests in order to keep track of their actions.

"I'm not thrilled about it," Occupy LA organizer Elise Whitaker tells Reuters. "It's demeaning to the movement. It suggests that we are not who we say we are. It suggests that they don't trust us."

Across the country, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last week expressing concern for similar conduct in the Big Apple. Nadler said he was concerned with “troubling reports” of misconduct by the NYPD, including “possible unlawful surveillance” or protesters. Before the protests began in Manhattan, the NYPD had installed over 2,000 surveillance cameras. At least two of them were pointed on Zuccotti Park where the movement first took hold.