An adjunct professor teaching at Baruch College in Manhattan, Eric Linsker, was arrested early Sunday morning after an alledged confrontation between a half-dozen protesters and two NYPD lieutenants on the Brooklyn Bridge late Saturday night. Though he's not directly accused of attacking anyone, he was involved in the skirmish and made the mistake of dropping his bag which included his passport, three hammers, and a small amount of marijuana before fleeing with others. In a march of roughly 50,000 it was, perhaps, inevitable that the .001% of those expressing their outrage over the Eric Garner decision and the blue wall of silence that permitted his murder would resort to property damage and confrontation with officers. According to The New York Times:
The police said the man, Eric Linsker, had been at the center of a clash on the bridge Saturday evening as protesters began throwing objects from the walkway at the officers who were escorting a larger number of marchers in the roadway below.
The criminal complaint against Mr. Linsker identified one lieutenant as Philip Chan and the other by only his surname, Gallagher. The police said the lieutenants, members of the department’s Legal Bureau, saw Mr. Linsker trying to throw a trash bin over the side of the walkway and moved to arrest him. But a group of protesters stepped in and prevented the arrest, the police said. There were no other officers around to assist, the police said.
Left out of The Times - but not the NYPD's PR proxy The New York Post - was that the only arrest made as a result of the alleged melee, was done not by the NYPD proper, or even the NYPD's Counter Terrorism Unit (which admitted last month for the first time that it's used on domestic protests) - but the NYPD-FBI's Joint Counter Terrorism Task Force - a merging of local and federal policing that includes "the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. military, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transportation Security Administration" according to the description on the FBI's website.
From The Post's telling of the events:
Linsker was nabbed by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force around 3:45 a.m., sources said...
During a press conference about the attack, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism John Miller said cops suspect the gear inside Linsker’s bag was meant to be used in a riot.
So, a poetry professor who teaches at Baruch College throws trash over a bridge and possesses a few hammers and a multi-billion dollar Federal program designed to prevent terror attacks descends on him for the arrest? The slippery slope of our post-9/11 terror panic has reduced this question to an almost childish outcry. "Of course they would", the hipster cynic would say". "Because these punks are terrorists", the rightwing statist would say. But sometimes the most obvious and urgent questions are the ones that get entirely overlooked, so perhaps it's time someone in the media bother to question the axiom that the terms "terrorism" and "counter terror" can be arbitrarily applied whenever the authorities feel like it. The answer may reveal more about how the corridors of policing feel about domestic activism than one may assume.
From the FBI's website
The benefits of [Joint Terror Task Forces]? They provide one-stop shopping for information regarding terrorist activities. They enable a shared intelligence base across many agencies. They create familiarity among investigators and managers before a crisis. And perhaps most importantly, they pool talents, skills, and knowledge from across the law enforcement and intelligence communities into a single team that responds together.
But why? There's no indication Mr. Linkster belongs to any terror group or that any of the organizers, planners or participants are members of any designated terror organization. So why is a unit specifically designed to thwart such groups used on a handful of agitators that could easily be handled by one of the NYPD's 35,000 officers?
By happenstance, the last major American city, Portland, to hold out in creating a Joint Terrorism Task Force after 9/11 (eventually caving in 2011) delayed voting on withdrawing from the program today until January of next year after allegations of data withholding and mismanagement by civil rights groups, including the ACLU. If the Portland City Council does vote in favor of the withdrawal, it would make it the only city in the United States without such a program - a program that evidently is currently being used to monitor, police, and manage domestic activism.