April 9, 2003

Police to Anti-War Protesters: Go Easy

Staff Reporter of the Sun

The police union has kicked off a series of radio advertisements criticizing the violent behavior of anti-war demonstrators, some of whom, they say, have targeted and injured New York City police officers.

"During recent protests against the war in Iraq, some people attacked New York City police officers as if it were our fault that we had to go to war," says the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, near the beginning of the 60-second ads, which are broadcast on five popular radio stations.

"We ask you to remember that police officers play a critical role in allowing the expression of free speech, one of our most cherished rights as Americans," Mr. Lynch says, with militarystyle trumpet music in the background. "The reason you are able to protest is because of the police officer who is protecting your right to free speech."

Hundreds of anti-war protesters have been arrested in New York since the start of the war, mostly for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration.

But a handful of protesters have assaulted police officers with their fists, their feet, and, in the case of the March 20 protest march, with a mysterious homemade pepper spray.

"There is a number of people who come…to have a violent confrontation with the police," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters after that event. "We have to anticipate violence, prepare for violence, because there are people who want these confrontations."

The anti-war coalition which sponsored the March 20 event, United for Peace and Justice, has accused the Police Department of using excessive force during to control the crowd.

"Our concern is not with the PBA, but with the NYPD’s policing of protest demonstrations," said a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, Bill Dobbs. The spokesman declined to comment further on the ad campaign.

Throughout the one-week campaign, almost 100 ads will be broadcast on 1010 WINS, WXRK-FM, WFAN-AM, WCBS-AM, and WABC-AM, at a total cost of $70,000, according to a PBA spokesman, Al O’Leary.