New York City

I-Team: Group Already Planning Mass Demonstration on Election Day

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Cops and protesters don't often see eye-to-eye but there's one thing they agree on: the streets of New York City are likely to be alive with demonstrations on Election Day and beyond.

A group called NYC Action Lab is already mass mobilizing for Election Day and community organizers say they won't wait for the polls to close before taking to the streets.

"It's critical that you're paying attention and taking to the streets on November 3," said Carlene Pinto, founder of NYC Action Lab. "There may be hundreds of thousands of ballots that will have to be petitioned in the court of law."

Sasha Estrella-Jones, another NYC Action Lab organizer, said New Yorkers should expect to see demonstrators gathered in front of polling places that might have long lines.

"By starting to actively engage in being out on the streets on November 3 we raise attention to the voter suppression that we're going to see that day," she said.

Earlier this month, the NYPD issued a memo notifying all uniformed officers they should be prepared for deployment because protests could intensify leading up to and beyond Election Day. But NYPD brass also said they have no indication demonstrators will be anything but peaceful as the vote is processed.

"Right now we have no specific credible threat regarding this election," said John Miller, NYPD Deputy Chief of Intelligence and Counterterrorism. "We are set up to receive any reports of voter intimidation or fraud."

One of the biggest fears for election watchers is that a claim of fraud or some other social media rumor might catch fire and inflame demonstrators. Jen Schwartz, a senior editor at Scientific American, recently participated in a table-top simulation where journalists tried to cover election night news - while she tried to distract them with baseless social media posts.

"The funny thing about participating in the exercise and choosing to be a disinformation agent is that I got to play the bad guy and I saw how easy it was to disrupt the work of all the earnest journalists in that room," Schwartz said.

Social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, are already planning efforts to slow down viral Election Night rumors that have false claims about fraud. They're also planning to put warning labels on candidates' posts which might prematurely declare victory.

Pinto said a priority for NYC Action Lab is to stay tethered to the facts. "On Election Day we have to resist propaganda and mass mobilize nonviolently," she said.

But Pinto also raised concerns about whether the NYPD will be a fair referee when monitoring street protests on Nov. 3.

This year the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the largest union representing NYPD officers, broke with tradition and endorsed President Trump for re-election. Following that, a police officer was suspended for using his patrol car loudspeaker to advocate for Trump while on duty.

"We have not seen leadership in New York City denounce the behaviors of NYPD and their political movement in endorsing Donald Trump," Pinto said.

The officer who used his loudspeaker to endorse Trump was quickly suspended without pay. The NYPD's highest ranking uniformed officer, Chief of the Department Terence Monahan, recently said political bias on the job is unacceptable.

"When we put on this uniform, we are apolitical. We have no stance one way or another," Monahan said. "We have one roll. That's to keep people safe and make sure anyone can come in and vote."

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