Coast Guard Buffalo Sector Monitored Occupy Buffalo Movement

September 18, 2012 Updated Sep 18, 2012 at 7:07 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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September 18, 2012 Updated Sep 18, 2012 at 7:07 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - New information is coming to light about the Occupy Buffalo demonstrations, having to do with the government monitoring the group.

The Coast Guard says they kept an eye on the movement, to make sure demonstrations did not turn violent anywhere near Western New York's waterways.

Just weeks before Occupy Buffalo's one-year anniversary, the group found the government was keeping tabs on them.

John Washington, who organized the movement, says "I think it's a violation of our rights of privacy, or our right to address our grievances of the government. But in the country we live in today, it's not surprising."

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Occupy Buffalo received 13 documents showing different agencies monitoring its activities.

Washington says he expected to be monitored by the FBI and CIA, but not the U.S. Coast Guard.

Captain Steve Wischmann, from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, explains "there was no interest in infiltrating the organization in anyway shape of form. It was simply characterizing their presence and what that meant to the maritime community."

Wischmann says the Coast Guard Buffalo Sector monitored the movement through records open to the public. This includes websites, Facebook and news coverage.

He adds the Coast Guard did not conduct any surveillance or target any specific people.

Violence in Oakland, California peaked the Coast Guard's interest, after the Port of Oakland had to be shut down because of Occupy Oakland protestors.

Wischmann explains "It was on our watch -- and with vigilance if you will -- that if that threat emerged, we were prepared."

Occupy Buffalo movement stayed peaceful, with just a handful of arrests.

While the Coast Guard maintains it was just a small effort to keep the waterways of Western New York safe, activists remain skeptical. Washington questions "why, especially with all the other agencies monitoring us, the Coast Guard wouldn't use information that the Department of Homeland Security got? It just seemed extreme to me."

The Occupy Buffalo movement is now less visible, but its work continues.

Around 20 activists just returned from New York City, where they rallied for the Occupy Wall Street one-year-anniversary.

In early October, organizers plan on holding more local protests and vigils in Western New York.