Did the NYPD Spy on Al Sharpton?

The reverend has threatened to sue the NYPD amid allegations that it spied on his National Action Network.

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The Rev. Al Sharpton is considering filing a lawsuit against the New York Police Department amid allegations that an informant was ordered to spy on his National Action Network in order to discredit him.

Huffington Post blogger Len Levitt, a veteran police reporter and author, reported on Monday that the informant infiltrated a NAN meeting on May 2, 2008, and divulged findings to the NYPD's Intelligence Division.

The informant had attended the NAN meeting a week after a Queens judge had acquitted three detectives of the fatal 50-shot killing of Bell and the wounding of two of his friends in November, 2006.

Angered by the acquittals, Sharpton had vowed to "stop the city" with acts of civil disobedience at major transit hubs during the afternoon rush hour of May 7, 2008.

"We strategically know how to stop the city so people stand still," Sharpton said at the time. Nearly 200 protestors were subsequently arrested on that day.

According to the police document, the informant, who was identified not by name but by a five-digit number given to him by the department, provided the NYPD with a detailed description of NAN's protest plans, including the names of prominent African-Americans set to participate, the locations where protestors would gather and the number of demonstrators who would offer themselves up for arrest.

In a prepared statement released by the organization on Tuesday, Michael Hardy, NAN lawyer and executive vice president, said that the group is weighing all legal options, including whether there was a violation of federal consent decrees.

African-American leaders from across the nation came together to express outrage at what they call a blatant attempt to discredit Sharpton with malicious and defamatory falsehoods, including allegations that "he is homosexual," according to NAN's press release.

"The NYPD's spying actions are an intolerable abuse by law enforcement, and remind us of the bad days when J. Edgar Hoover recklessly spied on Dr. King and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s," Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said in a prepared statement. "It's time for [the] NYPD to disclose the full extent and nature of its spying operation on all civil rights organizations. We will not stand for a return to this abuse of process in the 21st century."

In a comment released in the same prepared statement, Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, agreed: "If [the] NYPD is spying on civil rights leaders, it is outrageous and must be stopped. Given the serious nature of the allegations and the history out [of] which they arise, there is no acceptable response but for the city and the police department to show us all their cards. Our community must be certain that the people we count on to enforce the law are not breaking it." 

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