BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA
DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF
Tuesday, April 20th 2010, 4:00 A
A pillow fight might seem like harmless fun – but try telling that to the NYPD.
Cops on alert for unrest recently conducted surveillance of a giant pillow fight in Union Square, sources told the Daily News.
There were no arrests at the April 3 event – touted as hipster performance art attended by hundreds of people – and no indication beforehand that anything violent was brewing, sources said.
“The NYPD assigns both uniformed officers and plainclothes officers, from Intel [Intelligence Division] or otherwise, to make certain disruption associated with these and similar events in the past don’t get out of hand,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman.
But police sources involved in the surveillance complained it was a waste of time. The pillow fight “was just about a bunch of high school kids goofing off,” one source said.
Kevin Bracken, the 23-year-old organizer who has irked cops by producing dozens of daffy public events without getting permits, said the attention paid to the pillow fight was over the top.
The NYPD visited him before and after the event to warn him he could be arrested because he did not have a permit, and they visited his mother on Long Island.
“They said, “We need to talk to your son,” Bracken said. “These were Intel guys who had been to my house before – I live in Bushwick – so obviously they know where I live.
“They were harassing her.”
A woman was arrested during a similar pillow fight last year when she thwacked a cop with a pillow.
The NYPD’s surveillance tactics came under scrutiny after it was revealed that before the 2004 Republican National Convention, Intelligence Division investigators traveled across the world to spy on groups that planned to protest.
Cops also recently questioned people in connection with the Anarchist Book Fair held Saturday in Greenwich Village, sources said.
Intelligence investigators were assigned to cafes and bars in the area and told to listen for discussions about rallies or protests, sources said. “We expect a certain degree of this because the Police Department is the Police Department,” said Wayne Price, spokesman for the fair. “But it’s just their fantasies.”