JP police spying named top 10 free speech violation

Boston Police spying on legal protests in Jamaica Plain and elsewhere has been named one of last year’s top 10 free speech violations in the annual “Muzzle Awards.”

The Muzzle Awards is a list of “outrages against free speech and personal liberties in New England” presented as sarcastic “awards” for official bad behavior. It is compiled by Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy and civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate. Formerly published annually in the now defunct Boston Phoenix newspaper, its new home is the WGBH News website (, where this year’s winners were announced last week.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis was a Muzzle winner for his department’s years of secret spying on legal anti-war and Occupy Boston protests in files marked with such terms as “criminal” and “extremist.” That included a 2007 anti-war rally at a JP church attended by nationally known activist Cindy Sheehan and then City Councilor Felix D. Arroyo, among others. The secret spy files, maintained by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), were revealed only last year after a lawsuit by the state chapters of the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild.

Kennedy and Silverglate wrote that the files show a “grotesquely misplaced sense of priorities” and expressed the hope that Davis “now realizes he was looking in the wrong places all along—and violating the civil liberties of patriotic Americans.”

Among this year’s other Muzzle winners were a judge who banned Twitter reporting in his courtroom; Maine keeping secret all records of a $2 billion highway project; and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for her controversial prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after facing stiff felony charges for downloading an archive of subscription-based journal articles.

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