New York City police used unnecessarily aggressive tactics and excessive force against peaceful protesters and illegally suppressed press freedoms during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, an eight-month investigation by a group of attorneys found.

Those conclusions were based on hundreds of hours of video footage, detailed witness interviews, and extensive firsthand observations of the protests, according to the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, which detailed the findings in a nearly 200-page report released Wednesday.

The group, which includes attorneys from Harvard, Stanford and Rutgers law schools, called on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch an independent inquiry into the police response to the protests. Bloomberg maintained during and after the demonstrations that the police response was lawful and appropriate, with the exception of a handful of incidents.

"Reform is needed to ensure that U.S. authorities respect and facilitate -- rather than suppress -- the ability to peacefully protest," the group said.

The mayor's office has resisted previous calls for an independent review of the police response to the protests, some of the largest seen in New York City in decades.

The group said it repeatedly sought meetings with New York City Police Department officials to discuss its concerns and to share evidence of abuses gathered from hundreds of primary sources. The NYPD declined to meet, citing "ongoing criminal and civil litigation" related to the protests.

"It is our view, however, that the police actions that have been taken in connection with Occupy Wall Street activities have been lawful," Thomas Doepfner, an assistant deputy commissioner in the NYPD's legal bureau, wrote in a letter to the group in May 2012.

The NYPD, Doepfner wrote, "has accommodated on an almost daily basis since last fall, numerous large groups of demonstrators and marchers, all with virtually no cooperation, notice or advance planning from Occupy Wall Street representatives."

The report includes several chilling instances of alleged police brutality against peaceful demonstrators and lawful observers of the protests.

In one incident, a cafe employee in New York's Union Square told investigators that he was assaulted by police as he filmed a protest with his cell phone in September 2011. The man's account is bolstered by a video recording.

"Video evidence shows a white-shirted police officer pushing the cafe employee, camera in hand," the report states. "Video then shows the officer grabbing the employee by the wrist, and flipping him hard to the ground face-first, in what was described as a 'judo-flip.'"

The man said he was then charged with blocking traffic and obstruction of justice.

The report quoted many other protesters who described similarly disturbing encounters with the NYPD.

"Now I am afraid of police. I'd just never seen indiscriminate force like that," Tim Weldon, a demonstrator, told investigators. "From that point on, for me, I view a police officer as someone who can take out their baton and beat me and face no repercussion."

"Talking about it even now, I'm having a physical reaction. My chest has tightened up," Weldon said.

In a statement on Wednesday, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department "accommodated lawful protests and made arrests when laws were broken, and showed restraint in doing so."

Numerous lawsuits over the police department's tactics during the protests have been filed in state and federal court.

The lawyers' report also documents in detail police arresting, threatening and harassing credentialed and non-credentialed journalists, confiscating city-issued press passes and enforcing a media "blackout" during the Nov. 15 clearing of Zuccotti Park.

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  • Occupy Wall Street: NYPD raid on camp in Zuccotti park

    Police have begun clearing out 'Occupy' protester camps in New York. There are also claims that pepper spray is being used. The raid comes after activists vowed heightened action this coming Thursday, to mark two months since the movement began. RT's Marina Portnaya reports from New York. RT on Twitter twitter.com RT on Facebook www.facebook.com

  • Police officers detain a Occupy Wall Street activist during a march to call for NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's immediate resignation, Saturday, March 24, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Police officers on scooters escort Occupy Wall Street activists during a march and rally to call for NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's immediate resignation, Saturday, March 24, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Jumaane Williams, Ydanis Rodriguez

    New York City Council members Jumaane Williams, second left, and Ydanis Rodriguez, center, join Occupy Wall Street protesters to denounce what they say is the NYPD's excessive use of force against demonstrators, in New York's Zuccotti Park, Monday, March 19, 2012. Police arrested 73 people on Saturday after hundreds of activists had gathered to mark the sixth-month birthday of the movement. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • NYPD Officer Anthony Bologna's second unjustified pepperspray attack @ Occupy Wall Street

    Seems one wasn't enough, NYPD officer Anthony Bologna assaults more protesters unjustifiably with pepper spray and hits fellow officers AGAIN!

  • Pepper Sprayed 'Occupy Wall St.' Protester and NYPD's Cop Anthony Bologna

    UPDATE: Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna is the cowardly NYPD cop who maced these innocent women. Report this thug here: Mayor Michael Bloomberg: www.nyc.gov and, NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly: www.nyc.gov and, the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board: www.nyc.gov

  • NYPD Cop Punches Protester at Occupy Wall Street, 10/14/11

    Journalist and Reason contributor Michael Tracey is covering New York's Occupy Wall Street as it's happening. Above is footage he shot as the protesters marched through the street of Manhattan and had various stand-offs with the New York Police Department. Tracey himself reports being punched in the shoulder while filming. In the above video, around the 1.40 mark, a white-shirted NYPD officer decks a protester in a green shirt (how the incident started is unclear). Reason.tv's Meredith Bragg edited the video above from about 20 minutes of footage. Follow Tracey at twitter.com And read his October 7 story, "Occupy Wall Street: Beyond the Caricatures," at reason.com His website is mctracey.com Reason's coverage of the Occupy movement can be found at http

  • Occupy Wall Street - NYPD Gone Wild - Attacking Protesters With Motor Bikes

    NYPD officers attempt to clear the road by using motorbikes lunging towards protestors. Police were attempting to move protestors to the sidewalk, some protestors can be seen getting very mad at this tactic, someone gets arrested no doubt.

  • FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2011 a line of police officers block protesters on New York's Brooklyn Bridge during a march by Occupy Wall Street. A judge said in a ruling released Monday, July 2, 2012 that Twitter must give a court almost three months' worth of an Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets after prosecutors demand the messages to make a case for arrests. (AP Photo/Will Stevens, File)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, police arrest protesters on New York's Brooklyn Bridge during march by Occupy Wall Street. A judge said in a ruling released Monday, July 2, 2012 that Twitter must give a court almost three months' worth of an Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets after prosecutors demand the messages to make a case for arrests. (AP Photo/Stephanie Keith, File)

  • FILE, In this Oct. 1, 2012 file photo, a police officer with a bullhorn addresses a large group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement who attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, effectively shutting down parts of the roadway. A New York judge decided on Thursday, June 7, 2012, to let a lawsuit proceed against New York City police officers in the arrests of 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2011..(AP Photo/Will Stevens, File)

  • Police arrest a protester of a combined group of ACT UP and Occupy Wall Street activists who chained themaselves and block traffic at Wall Street and Broadway, near the New York Stock Exchange, on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Police used chain cutters and wrestled protesters to the pavement in the middle of Broadway. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is pushed back from the scene of an arrest by a police officer after a march in celebration of the protest's sixth month, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in New York. With the city's attention focused on the huge St. Patrick's Day Parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally drew a far smaller crowd than the demonstrations seen in the city when the movement was at its peak in the fall. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • A plain-clothes police officer arrests an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator near Zuccotti Park after a march in celebration of the protest's sixth month, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in New York. With the city's attention focused on the huge St. Patrick's Day Parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally drew a far smaller crowd than the demonstrations when the movement was at its peak. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)the dd

  • A private security guard talks with an Occupy Wall Street protester laying on the ground in Zuccotti Park in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. The Occupy Wall Street encampment is gone, but the movement lives on. What nobody knows is just how long it can survive without a place to call home after police hauled away demonstators in a late night raid. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Officers carrying plastic handcuffs wait in front of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, Monday , Sept. 26, 2011, in New York. Hundreds of protestors have been occupying the park and demonstrating daily in the financial district since Sept. 17. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano)

  • Michael Moore

    Filmmaker Michael Moore gestures during a visit to the "Occupy Wall Street" protest in Zuccotti Park in New York, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. The protesters, many of whom are camping out in the lower Manhattan plaza to speak out against corporate greed and social inequality, got a morale boost from Moore, who told the crowd they were the start of something big. (AP Photo/Stephanie Keith)

  • Protester Tobias Calzarette of Marlboro, Vt., with face guard, joins others with Occupy Wall Street as they leave Zuccotti Park Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 in New York to join a rally at City Hall. A diverse group of powerful unions joined demonstrations near Wall Street on Wednesday, lending focus, credibility and potentially hundreds of participants to a group that started out with a few college students camping out in lower Manhattan. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • After making some arrests, police officers stand in front of barricades which prevent Occupy Wall Street protesters from marching to Wall Street in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for days. Some marchers brought along their children, hoisting them onto their shoulders as they walked down Broadway. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Police officers arrest Occupy Wall Street protesters as they try to get past police barriers and march to Wall Street in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for days. Some marchers brought along their children, hoisting them onto their shoulders as they walked down Broadway. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Two New York City police officers walk alongside a protestor affiliated with the "Occupy Wall Street" protests outside Zuccotti Park after the arrest of two men in New York, on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)

  • Police arrest marchers from Zuccotti Park's Occupy Wall Street, during a protest near One Chase Manhattan Plaza on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 in New York. The protest is now in its fourth week. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • A New York Police Department guard tower looms over the Occupy Wall Street protest encampment at Zuccotti Park in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, as the protest entered it's fourth week. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Protestors participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests face police during a march towards Wall Street Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in New York. At least ten people were arrested during the march, which began after protestors heard the news that the owners of Zuccotti Park had withdrawn their request to have the park cleaned by the New York Police Department. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)

  • A protestor is arrested by a police officer while participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in New York. At least ten people were arrested during the march, which began after protestors heard the news that the owners of Zuccotti Park had withdrawn their request to have the park cleaned by the New York Police Department. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)

  • Sanitation workers gather at Zuccotti Park, the longtime Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York, to start the cleanup effort early Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police handed out notices from the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous. Protesters were told they could return, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • An Occupy Wall Street protester is taken into custody by police after being ordered to leave Zuccotti Park, the longtime encampment in New York, early Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police handed out notices from the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous. Protesters were told they could return, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • A demonstrator yells at police officers as they order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Zuccotti Park, their longtime encampment in New York, early Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police handed out notices from the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous. Protesters were told they could return, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)