marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Sep 24 22:38:07 CEST 2009

September 24, 2009

"Balls Across America" direct-action campaign launched
NYPD abuse of authority big factor in arrest

    Contact: The Yes Men <mailto:event at theyesmen.org>

Andy Bichlbaum, co-founder of activist group the Yes Men, emerged after 
26 hours
in New York City's central lockup with all charges against him dismissed.[1]

"The judge just laughed," said Bichlbaum. "The police had a less 
sense of humor - and, it turned out, much less regard for the law. But 
all in all,
I'm ecstatic that they arrested me."

At 10am Tuesday, Bichlbaum was arrested and charged with trespassing, 
after he and
21 "Survivaballs" [2] gathered on New York City's East River and 
announced they
were to going to "take the UN by storm" from the water, since all the land
approaches were sealed. Once at the UN, they would supposedly use the 
to blockade the negotiations and refuse to let world leaders leave the 
room until
they'd agreed on sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, as 
Ban Ki-Moon has demanded.[3]

The event was a "scenic and mediagenic way to call attention to what our 
need to do in the run-up to Copenhagen," said Bichlbaum. [4] It was also the
official inauguration of the Yes Men's "Balls Across America" series of 
disobedience actions, inspired by the call for direct action on climate 
change by
website http://BeyondTalk.net.

Minutes after the balls began wading into the water, law enforcement 
swooped in on
the protesters by land, sea, and air. In order not to harm their 
attackers, the
balls admitted defeat and waddled out of the water and off the beach. Seven
participants were given tickets for trespassing, and one - ringleader 
Bichlbaum -
was whisked away to "the Tombs," New York's central processing facility 
at 100
Centre Street, due to an unpaid ticket for bicycle riding through Washington
Square Park.

Bichlbaum's arrest led to hilarious prime-time coverage on CNN.[5]

"Sleeping on concrete was a challenge, but I met a lot of interesting 
people, and
my arrest meant major prime-time news coverage we wouldn't have 
otherwise had,"
said Bichlbaum. "That's the whole point of civil disobedience. Thanks to my
momentary discomfort, our symbol of the stupidity of not taking action 
on climate
change was seen by tens of millions of people. It all worked out great, 
and I
remain grateful to the NYPD for having accidentally made our event 
beyond our wildest dreams."

Despite Bichlbaum's gratitude, one thing stuck out for his attorney, Wylie
Stecklow: in filing his report, the arresting officer had lied through 
his teeth.

"The officer said he'd seen Bichlbaum jump over the fence, which was 
impossible, since the police arrived after the Survivaballs had all 
entered the
beach," said Stecklow, who defended Bichlbaum at his arraignment yesterday
morning. "And the officer said there were prominent signs posted to the 
that entering was forbidden - also untrue." [6]

"Perhaps the NYPD thought that if an officer did not swear that he saw 
Andy climb
a fence, AND that there were signs providing notice that this area was 
a judge might have dismissed the case," said Stecklow.

According to Stecklow, officers swearing to facts they couldn't possibly 
know is
an all-too-common occurrence. "Often, during mass arrests, we see a 
Officer assigning junior officers to write up the paperwork. But these 
officers end up becoming the 'arresting officer,' requiring them to 
swear to facts
that are not within their knowledge. This leads to constitutional 
violations and
wrongful arrests, and undermines the confidence that citizens should 
have in the
criminal justice system," said Stecklow.

The NYPD has, in recent years, been found guilty of making numerous
unconstitutional arrests in cases of political protest, and then 
falsifying their
statements to fit the arrests. There have in particular been several 
cases involving the tackling and arrest of bicyclists, with false 
excuses then
written into police reports. [7]

"My case doesn't matter in itself," said Bichlbaum. In fact, I'm really 
happy it
turned out as it did. But I hope we can help expose the systemic and 
culture of lying within the NYPD, that has had the effect of 
criminalizing protest
in New York City."

"The police have to be told very clearly that they can't lie and expect 
to get
away with it," Bichlbaum added. "The stakes are far too high."

"We need to strengthen oversight of the police by those who empower them 
in the
first place - you and I, the citizens of New York City," said Stecklow. 
now, at a bare minimum, that means giving teeth to the formerly 
now powerless body of the Civilian Complaint Review Board."

"Unfortunately, even when we have video proving police statements to be 
false, no
one seems interested in investigating," added Stecklow. "That's got to 

After reading the arresting officer's complaint against him, Bichlbaum 
decided to
file a complaint with the CCRB in order to hold this officer accountable 
for his
false statements."It's not much, but at least this guy will have to 
explain his
story under oath. And then next time, maybe he'll think twice before 
filing a
false statement to make the crime stick."

The Yes Men hope their next actions won't depend on police misconduct to 
make them
a success. "With 'Balls Across America,' our goal is to get arrested 
fair and
square, all across this fair land of ours," said Yes Men co-founder Mike 
"It's a great way to get attention for a crucial issue."

[1] Bichlbaum actually received an Adjournment with Contemplation of 
which normally results in full dismissal in New York State

[2] The Survivaball (http://survivaball.com) made its first appearance 
in 2006,
when "Halliburton representatives" attended a conference on catastrophic 
change and demonstrated the functionality of the large inflatable suits 
which keep
corporate managers safe from global warming
(http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/survivaball). That hoax, and many more 
like it, are
documented in the new award-winning documentary film, The Yes Men Fix 
the World
(http://www.theyesmenfixtheworld.com), which opens theatrically in New York
October 7, before opening nationally October 23.

[3] http://nypost-se.com/news/un-chief-world-heading-for-climate-abyss/

[4] http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/23/headlines#14

[5] http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/offbeat/2009/09/23/moos.survivaball.cnn

[6] http://theyesmen.org/crimcomplaint715.pdf

[7] http://blip.tv/file/771625, 

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