Penn Student Questioned at Her Dorm by Philly PD Homeland Security over #FergusonPHL Posts


University of Pennsylvania student organizer Laura Krasovitzky outside her dorm room. Photo: Joshua Albert


By Kenneth Lipp and Dustin Slaughter

Recent organizing and demonstrations around the issue of police accountability in Philly, set in motion by grand jury decisions in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY not to indict police officers who gunned down unarmed African American men, have taken a new, though rather historically familiar, twist.

Laura Krasovitzky, a University of Pennsylvania student organizer, tells The Declaration that she was visited on the morning of December 8th by a Philadelphia Police Department detective, who she soon learned was in the Homeland Security Bureau, asking about posts in a Facebook group.

“The detective told me he was there because of specific language I used in the notes I posted on the ‘Ferguson to Philly’ Facebook group after the town hall meeting of Dec. 2. He had the notes printed out,” Krasovitzky says.

Krasovitzky, who says she is active in several causes but has been mostly focused on work with Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), which has been heavily engaged in actions responding to both the Ferguson and Staten Island non-indictments. SOUL staged a die-in attended by hundreds last week, and was represented at a December 2 town hall meeting held by community organizers in response to the verdicts. That community forum produced a list of “movement demands” – and language contained in that list brought Detective Ray Rycek to her dorm room at 11:00 AM.

He wanted to know about language in the notes which Krasovitzky had posted to the page, notes the student organizer had collected from various participants in a related working group from the Calvary meeting, she says, which described “targeting” the Christmas Village at Love Park, “targeting” disgraced and rehired Philly cop Jonathan Josey, and “targeting” Commissioner Charles Ramsey in an upcoming protest action. The Dignitary Protection Division detective told Krasovitzky that this was considered threatening, and questioned her regarding any plans for violence against the Commissioner or other persons.

Before eventually asking if she was being detained and upon being answered in the negative stating that she had nothing further to say, she completed a form which the detective had brought with him, containing Krasovitzky’s personal information, including her address and date-of-birth. On the form, in which she responded to concerns over “notes posted…in regards to targeting abusive cops (e.g., Jonathan Josey), Charles Ramsey…and the Christmas Village,” the Penn senior and prolific activist was quoted by the detective:

“We are peaceful. We would not harm the Police Commissioner, visitors of the Christmas Village, or abusive cops. I have nothing further to say.”

She refused to sign the form but says the detective told her she could take a photograph of the document, which she shared with The Declaration. You can view a copy redacted for her privacy by clicking the thumbnail below.

"Interview Record" from the Philly Police Homeland Security Unit

“Interview Record” from the Philly Police Homeland Security Unit

The Declaration learned of the interview via a representative of Philadelphia IAC, an initiating organization with the Ferguson to Philly Emergency Response Network, which released a statement regarding other police responses to the same December 2nd town hall meeting in West Philly. According to Philly IAC’s statement, the day after the event held at Calvary United Methodist Church, an unidentified member of the Philadelphia Police contacted the church’s sexton and complained about the meeting and “red-baited” organizers, telling sexton Ed Fell they were communists.

Calvary Methodist has not responded for comment.

Krasovitzky said she was rattled by the visit from law enforcement, and reluctant to speak about it until friends encouraged her to go public.

“This is clearly full intimidation, it’s what they do,” she said in an interview last night.

She is seeking answers from the university regarding what policies allowed the detective to be given access to the private facility to reach her dorm room.

A senior police department official has not yet responded to our inquiry regarding this matter.

Editor’s note: A correction has been made to this piece: PURP did not release the statement in response to PPD Homeland’s visit to Krasovitzky; Philly IAC did. We apologize for the error.

For updates to this story, follow The Declaration via email, and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

There are 34 comments

  1. Phil Perspective

    Kenneth & Dustin:
    Has the PPD had anything to say about this? Also, it’s interesting in light of the video that Mayor Nutter has made the cops watch. Sounds like PR ass-covering while doing what they’ve always done.


  2. You didn't see that coming?

    It was done by the book.
    Police are given full access to a residence when asked. Its not her private house, she’s living on Penn property and if they are okay with allowing the police access to dorms, there’s nothing she can do.
    Its not intimidating. You don’t just go around “targeting people.” If a police report said that the PPD was going to “target” a group of people there would be outrage, so be more balanced.


    1. Dustin Slaughter

      Thanks for reading and commenting. So:

      If it’s permissable to allow police into a dormitory without a warrant, Penn admins haven’t told her that.

      As for you taking issue with “intimidation”, she clearly stated she felt so.

      Explain “balanced” when we offered PPD a chance to comment, and they did not?

      By the way, what line of work are you in?


    2. Dustin Slaughter

      Thanks for reading and commenting. So:

      If it’s permissable to allow police into a dormitory without a warrant, Penn admins haven’t told her that.

      As for you taking issue with “intimidation”, she clearly stated she felt so.

      Explain “balanced” when we offered PPD a chance to comment, and they did not?

      By the way, what line of work are you in?


      1. mike

        At almost all schools, residence halls/dorms are spaces you can enter (including law enforcement) without a warrant. Now, id she had refused to come out of her personal room, that *might* be a different story, but not necessarily. The lease/housing agreement she signed to live on campus likely lays all this out for her, and explains when people can/can’t enter her room.
        I work in Higher Ed, and have worked in housing for years.


    3. Phil Perspective

      You’re so cute. Police have targeted people in the past. Try reading up on Fred Hampton. Try reading Devil in the Grove sometime. Try reading about Serpico. Also, the building has a front desk, I presume? Why not call her and ask her to come to the front desk? But the cops would never overreact to anything. No sirree, Bob!!


  3. Hook Em

    she said she’s going to target someone. targeting someone is to attempt to intimidate them. then she is outraged that that she feels intimidated by the cops.



    1. Phil Perspective

      Like cops don’t intimidate people all the time? Spare me your garbage. Anyway, the cops are going way overboard. Don’t they realize there are 13, or maybe more, different meanings to the word target? Like, “Lets target Mayor Nutter’s house!” As in lets protest on his block. It will get his, and his neighbor’s, attention. But reading comprehension is too hard for you.


  4. Harvey Cedar

    I love how the term “overreact” is used here. It’s not an overreaction for these groups to burn, loot, assault, and destroy, but it is an overreaction for the police to investigate when members of the group say they are going to target specific individuals and specific locations. If you don’t want to be investigated then don’t ally yourself with vicious street thugs who loot, murder, and burn.


  5. Barbara

    Interesting that the word “target” has new, darker meaning, than ever before. In marketing and merchandising, it simply refers to a specific demographic group or groups who will be interested a product. In politics and grass roots action, a target is also a person or people on whom information will most effectively be focused. In this case, the police were allowed access to this student in her dorm, with no warrant, no charges, and no other purpose than to question her about one word. TARGET. Wonder if they’ll come to speak with me, now. Jeez. Sorry, but I have a problem with Penn and the Penn Security folks over this. I want my Penn student to be safe, but I also want her to have her rights to privacya nd freedom of speech protected.


  6. Bill

    What image comes to mind when you use the word “target” ? For me, it is a circular white object usually stuffed with straw with a bulls eye painted on the center. If you are a policeman, and maintaining your skills, it is probably a rectangular piece of paper you shoot at. Both of these involve substitutes for objects of violence. so–perhaps poor choice of wording, and clarification sought and received. As others have said, intimidation is in the mind of the receiver–I won’t quarrel with that.


  7. Barbara

    Ok. So the police/Homeland Security took issue with a word used by a–what, 19 or 20 year old?–girl. Words have context. And, lest we forget, words are a form of speech…oh, yeah, they are speech. My concern is not so much that someone asked for clarification, in case the words were meant to be a threat. My concern is that Penn Security let someone into the dorm that way.


  8. Chris

    I wrote this on the Daily Pennsylvanian article so I’ll just leave the comment here, too:

    I think the problem is that day by day these protester groups are being perceived by the public (including law enforcement!) as radical fringe groups due to the nature of some of their protests (e.g. blocking traffic in Philadelphia or other cities, violent protests in Oakland, etc). They aren’t engaging in “normal” activism and as such they are attracting negative attention.

    I think its perfectly reasonable to have a quick chat with someone who writes online about “targeting” public officials, particularly when the meaning of “targeting” is vague. If you read the conversation, their only question was to ask her to clarify the meaning of “targeting.” There was no arrest, it’s merely an investigation to ensure that she had no ill intentions.

    The Secret Service regularly follows up with people who threaten the President with violence online regardless of how benign the threat is, and this is merely Philadelphia police doing the same thing for a local official. Totally reasonable IMO


    1. smithiechick

      No, they don’t. Tea partiers make claims like these all the time and get no visits. Tons of people on the internet make copious threats on a daily basis and are never questioned. This girl, however, has influence. She is a galvanizer. That’s why she was questioned- she has social power, and that’s scary.


  9. smithiechick

    Barbara, Homeland security considers peaceful protestors and activists to be threats to national security, and is therefore targeting them. That’s why they visited her. You should be concerned about this. True democracies don’t target people whose opinions differ and whose actions are peaceful. Just hope you never disagree with the government enough to sign a petition, or demonstrate to express you POV….

    “Investigative journalist Steve Horn reports that TransCanada has also worked closely with American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in attempting to criminalise US citizens opposed to the pipeline. Files obtained under freedom of information last summer showed that in training documents for the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TransCanada suggested that non-violent Keystone XL protestors could be deterred using criminal and anti-terror statutes:
    ‘… the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.’ ”


  10. Slickprogress

    They interpreted “target” as violent, just as peaceful protests have been demonized. They will not hesitate to label activists and community organizers as terrorists or supporters of violent agendas, their perspective seeks to criminalize every threat to the system that exists.


  11. Barbara

    I just hope that student organizations and young grassroots activists are well trained in peaceful civil disobedience and nonviolence techniques. In today’s police state climate, I worry that young people exercising their First Amendment Rights are at risk. Be strong, but be safe!


  12. FreeMan

    First Rule of Free People: NEVER TALK TO COPS.
    Second Rule of Free People: NEVER TALK TO COPS.
    Basically, she should have asked, “Do you have a warrant?” If not, say, “Please leave”.


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