Thursday, May 06, 2010

Activist spied on? Man wins settlement


A 22-year-old antiwar activist from The Evergreen State College will get $169,000 as part of a settlement with the State Patrol and two other law-enforcement agencies over allegations that their officers engaged in political spying and harassment.

A 22-year-old anti-war activist from The Evergreen State College will get $169,000 as part of a settlement with the State Patrol and two other law-enforcement agencies over allegations that their officers engaged in political spying and harassment.

Philip Chinn was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving by state patrol troopers in May 2007, while traveling to an anti-war protest at the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen.

According to court documents, Chinn was pulled over after police had broadcast an "attempt to locate" his car, which was described as containing "three known anarchists."

The criminal charge was dismissed after tests showed Chinn had no alcohol or drugs in his system. Chinn sued last year, alleging false arrest and violations of his right to free speech.

The State Patrol has agreed to pay Chinn $109,000, and the city of Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County each will pay $30,000 toward the settlement. The three agencies have also agreed to pay his lawyer's fees, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates at more than $375,000.

The ACLU took up Chinn's cause because it believes the case and other allegations suggest that spying on dissidents by local enforcement, at the behest of the military, "appears to be far more pervasive than we had thought," said ACLU spokesman Doug Honig.

A spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord says the military did not provide any intelligence to law enforcement in the Chinn case.

In the spring of 2007, Chinn was a student at Evergreen and was involved in protesting the use of civilian ports for military purposes, according to one of his attorneys, Lawrence Hildes. Materiel intended for Iraq was being moved through the ports at Aberdeen, Olympia and elsewhere, and there had been a number of public protests.

Documents filed by Chinn's attorneys state that "state and local law-enforcement agencies, military entities and others" responded to the protests by developing "incident-action plans" aimed at disrupting them. The service branches involved allegedly include the Army, the Navy and the Coast Guard, according to court pleadings.

"Based on assumptions regarding individuals associated with anarchist philosophies, the Action Plan was designed to deter and prevent individuals believed to be 'anarchists' or associated with anarchists from participating in the anti-war demonstrations," according to the documents.

The lawsuit alleges that Chinn was under surveillance when he left his house in Olympia headed for a protest in Aberdeen on May 6, 2007.

Aberdeen Police Assistant Chief Dave Timmons acknowledged that his detectives had been watching Chinn and others as the city geared up to respond to the planned protest. Similar protests in Tacoma and Olympia earlier had turned violent, with arrests and vandalism, and Timmons said "we wanted to be aware of what their plans were."

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