Nel's New Day

November 19, 2011

Police Fight the Occupy Movement

What are the police doing about the Occupy Movement? A Google search shows 131,000,000 hits on police abuse in relation to the Occupiers, most of them describing police officers using pepper spray and nightsticks. For example, the image of an 84-year-old woman has received a huge number of hits. Anyone following the Occupy Movement in the news also remembers the abuse of the Oakland police resulting in an Iraq veteran losing his ability to speak because of  police actions. When the police don’t brutalize the protesters, they intimidate them.

Kicked out of  Zucotti Park, some demonstrators took refuge in churches and other shelters. As several of them slept at a United Methodist church on the Upper West Side, a plainclothes detective walked through the sanctuary, apparently counting heads. At the same time, his partner was asking questions at a homeless shelter in the church’s basement. “It is disconcerting that they would actually enter the sanctuary,” said the Rev. James Karpen, known as Reverend K, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, on West 86th Street. “Here we had offered hospitality and safety, which is our business as a church; it just felt invasive.”

Another police action is to ticket and threaten citizens for minor offences. An example is the $60 ticket for honking a horn in Denver (CO). After Daniel Garcia supported the protesters by honking his horn two or three times (something I do occasionally in my small Northwest town), he was pulled over by the police. According to the officer, there’s a city ordinance against honking in a non-emergency situation. The police officer actually searched the car, including the trunk. After ticketing Garcia, the officer said, “If I see you over here again, we’ll pull you over and impound your car for disturbing the peace.”

According to Garcia, his court date is December 23 (Happy Holidays!), and he plans to plead not guilty. The day after he received his ticket he watched another officer ticket someone who stopped to pick up a protester at the park. Other Denver residents reported being ticketed for stopping to drop off supplies for the protesters.

In Portland (OR) Police Chief Mike Reese told the media that the Occupy Movement was keeping them from important business—like investigating a rape. In fact, the 9-1-1 call for the case came during the day rather than during large-scale Portland police deployments and involved a sexual assault that had happened two days earlier. The police had already indicated that they didn’t consider that call a top priority emergency call.

The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. On November 17, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler acknowledged PERF’s coordination of a series of conference-call strategy sessions with big-city police chiefs. These calls were distinct from the widely reported national conference calls of major metropolitan mayors.

PERF has issued a guide against the Occupy Movement that encourages the use of undercover officers and snatch squads to “grab the bad guys and remove them from the crowd” and urges local law enforcement to use social media to map the Occupy movement. An earlier guide advocates the use of embedded media to control police messages, the use of undercover cops to infiltrate protest groups, the use and pitfalls of preemptive mass arrest, an examination of the use of less-than-lethal crowd control weapons, and general discussion weighing the use of force in crowd control.

TV watchers cheer when the protesters in the Middle East emerge victorious against tyrants but criticize anyone who wants equality in theUnited States. They encourage anti-Obama protesters to carry weapons but ridicule protesters who refuse to leave a site because they believe in equality.

According to writer Joshua Holland, probably 97 percent of police act professionally toward protesters.  One of the 97 percent is  former Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis who was arrested during the Occupy Wall Street protests.  “They complained about the park being dirty,” he said. “Here they are worrying about dirty parks when people are starving to death, where people are freezing, where people are sleeping in subways and they’re concerned about a dirty park. That’s obnoxious, it’s arrogant, it’s ignorant, it’s disgusting.”

The other 3 percent are armed and dangerous and know that they’re unlikely to be held accountable. It’s time to do something about the 3 percent who are working for the top 1 percent.

 

November 18, 2011

Occupy Movement Occupies Small Towns

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:53 PM
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I am fortunate to live in a small Northwest town. Although the newspaper has become conservative, many of those who write to the editor are not. Following is a letter to the editor; I wish I wrote as well as the author of this letter does.

“When I’m able to, I join the group that you may have seen at the intersection of … from 11 to 1 on Saturday. As I hold my sign and wave to the mostly supportive folks driving by, I talk to the other participants. We are a diverse lot, young and old and in-between, the employed, the unemployed and the retired, students, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers, computer programmers and teachers. It’s a pretty good cross-section of America, at least of 99% of America.

I’m grimly amused at the feigned confusion of the pundits on TV, radio, newspapers and blogs about the Occupy Movement. “What is their message?” they ask plaintively. “What are their demands?” C’mon now. It’s about economic injustice. It’s about the richest 1% of Americans and corporations who have, over the course of years, amassed an ever increasing portion of our wealth, and are using the power that money brings to ensure that they get what little we have left.

Banks, insurance companies, communication providers, and goods and service providers of all kinds have pursued the holy grail of increased profits quarter-over-quarter for so long that the only thing left is to bleed their “customers” of every last penny, while providing less and less value for the dollar. The Koch brothers made 53 billion dollars (Yes, that’s Billion, with a B) in the last 6 years speculating in oil futures, in case you’re wondering why gas prices are so high during a global recession.

Once the financial industry lobby got the safeguard legislation provided by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 nullified, the way was clear for banks and investment houses to invent financial instruments that provided no value except for the robber barons who collectively made billions. They made money selling junk mortgages and made more money by betting that the mortgages would default. It was a win-win deal for them, but the American people lost 7.5 trillion real dollars. Pension plans and life savings were trashed, but those in the financial insiders circle made billions.

So when the banks and giant insurance companies teetered on the brink of collapse from paying off these sucker bets, the American people got to bail them out, while their homes are foreclosed because the banks are sitting on giant piles of cash that we gave them, refusing to modify or refinance our mortgages.

The “Occupy” movement is not about resenting the wealthy. The 99% seem pretty content to let the avaricious hoard the money, if that’s what they want. Perhaps a little too content. While we weren’t paying attention, they bought our political system and the “free press.” They gave themselves huge tax reductions and tax loopholes, forcing a drastic reduction in tax dollars for infrastructure and education, and essential assistance for the poor, the sick, the elderly, veterans, students and a host of others. Not content with that, they now use their billions to promote a program of social engineering, to mold our country to their liking in order to guarantee an unending supply of workers who will be willing to settle for whatever crumbs fall from their table.

But they went too far. They’ve robbed the younger generations of a future. Students graduating from college these days have debt that will take a lifetime to pay off, if they can ever get any kind of decent living wage job. Young people these days live with their parents or with multiple roommates, because most of them can’t afford to live any other way.

People who see no future don’t have much to lose. They have to make things change. Some of the young people I talk to at the Occupy Newport demonstrations have no faith in our political system, and why should they? Their whole lives, they have watched as money and power have gradually corrupted our national political system until the claim of a representative democracy is a joke. Go ahead, call your congressman and ask for a meeting to talk about the things that are vital to you. You won’t waste your time, will you? You know the lobbyists will get an audience, but you will not. You know that the big campaign contributors will be heard, but you will get a form letter, if you’re lucky.

I don’t pretend to know where all this is going. I do know, like a growing number of Americans, that something has to change. We need to wake up, to confront what we have allowed to happen, and to figure out how to change it. That’s what the Occupy … movement is all about. The group has a Facebook page, and a website. They hold a General Assembly every week, as well as the gathering at the highway intersection on Saturday. All are welcome. We are attempting to find our way forward, to collectively agree on what we should do and then take action. This is the most positive development I’ve seen in America since the civil rights movement. Please join us.”

Thank you, Bill Dalbey. May there be millions of people like you across our nation.

November 16, 2011

Occupy Movement Celebrates Second Month Anniversary

The Occupy Movement celebrates its two-month anniversary tomorrow–ten days shorter than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. In the beginning, media didn’t report on it. After the police attacked the peaceful protesters, attention swiveled to Wall Street to watch passive people get pepper-sprayed and arrested. As the movement started sweeping across the country and around the world, more and more media attention focused on people protesting the inequities between the top 1 percent and the rest of the population. Now it’s moved to the top of the media headlines.

Conservatives’ first approach was to denigrate protesters’ actions. Tea Partyers deplored the fact that Occupiers didn’t go home like nice, well-behaved people. Those same conservatives forgot that they behaved so badly in town hall meetings with their Congresspeople had to be call off these meetings or monitor them with a strong police presence.

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) called them “growing mobs” before he decided they were all voters and said that they were “justifiably frustrated.” “They are out of work. The economy is not moving,” Cantor said. “Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid, and I get it.” It was a short-lived change: he’s back to cutting benefits for the poor and middle-class.

The police continued to physically abuse the protesters in Oakland until an Iraq veteran went to the hospital in critical condition with head injuries, and the mayor called them off. The stricken man has since been sent home although he hasn’t regained his speech. Other cities followed the more peaceful approach—for a while.

After mayors from 18 large cities conferred, police started on Sunday to drive protesters out of their camps across the country from Oakland (CA) to New York City. Police destruction of these areas went so far as to throw the New York Occupy Wall Street library, over 5,000 books, into a dumpster along with everything else including shredded tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clothing, food, and electronics. Told that their library was being saved for them, protester librarians found only a few boxes of books, destroyed laptops, and one chair at Sanitation.

City officials claim that their actions against the protesters came from the violence surrounding the camps although those not associated with the protest movement including undercover cops perpetrated many of these actions while the actual protesters tried to stop them. Because of this movement, the homeless and mentally ill are now highly visible, something that city officials try to oppose.

Unions, such as the ones that fought union-busting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will join Occupy protesters and liberal groups such as moveon.org and the American Dream Movement tomorrow in a “day of action” to pressure lawmakers on jobs. Since people first occupied Wall Street, President Obama presented his jobs program, and conservative legislators refused it. Events tomorrow will focus on getting lawmakers to pass federal funding for infrastructure. Republican-led filibusters blocked funding to repair government structures such as bridges, funding that would help the jobs crisis that Republicans refuse to address. A $60 billion infrastructure bill could have been funded by a .7 percent tax on millionaires, but most Republicans have zero tolerance for making the wealthy pay their share.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the nation’s largest telecom union, is coordinating two marches with Occupy protesters to coincide with the day of action. Both are tied to the battle over union contract negotiations with Verizon. In one march union members and other protesters will go from Albany (NY) to New York City; the other goes from a Verizon call center in Maryland to McPherson Square in Washington, one of the Occupy’s encampments.

After accusing the Occupy Movement as being just a bunch of hippies, conservative media has worked daily to connect Occupiers with unsavory characters. Fox started by claiming that protesters were part of ACORN, an organization that conservatives destroyed last year. Then Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and his guest, Glenn Beck, said George Soros was funding the protesters and their newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Glenn Beck reported that former KKK leader David Duke had “endorsed” Occupy but neglected to point out that Duke also endorsed the Tea Party. As usual, Andrew Breitbart rose to the top of outrageous claims when he suggested that Occupy was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The Family Research Council is battling the Occupy Movement in the same way that Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to solve the drought across the state: pray. It is calling on all its members to destroy the movement through mass prayer. “May the movement simply fizzle” is what people are called upon to say to their god.

The hundreds of thousands of people protesting across the country are largely composed of people in the mainstream—students, labor unions, unemployed workers, teachers, artists, singers, writers, former real estate brokers, political activists, in short, people who have given up on the traditional political system. A growing contingent is composed of veterans who are suffering from high unemployment but want to support their country while banks prey on them. Politicians give money to profiteering corporations as they try to cut and privatize veterans programs through proposals of capping military basic pay, limiting veterans’ health benefits, and swapping the military pension program for a 401k system.

Almost 80 years ago, more than 20,000 unemployed World War I veterans occupied Washington to support a bill that would have given them immediate cash payment of the war service “bonus” they were due in 1945, 27 years after the end of the war. Although the House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate and President Hoover opposed it. Disturbed by the “Bonus Army” or “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” the 15,000 veterans who refused to leave, Hoover called up four troops of cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear the area of men, women, and children. More than 1,000 people were injured in the incident and two veterans and one child died.

A year later the new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took a different tack with the 3,000 Bonus Marchers who converged on Washington, giving them housing and providing them with housing. Although he refused their demand for the early payment of their pensions, he offered them work in the newly formed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Ninety percent of them accepted, the Bonus Marchers voted to disperse, and those that opted to return home rather than join the CCC were given free rail passage.

Complaints about the protesters include the one about their breaking laws: they stay at the park during hours when this isn’t allowed. Protesters ask why they are arrested for not walking on sidewalk etc. while few major prosecutions of banking executives and other financial actors are prosecuted for financial frauds and other crimes related to the economic crisis. Major players causing the crisis have not been touched.

Some protesters weren’t even breaking the law when they were arrested. After about 50 people went to the LaGuardia Place Citibank to close their accounts, 23 Citibank customers were locked inside the bank and arrested. As a result, ACLU provides information about protesters’ rights.

Another objection to the protest is that they lack direction. Orrin Hatch said, “I am very concerned that they don’t seem to have any real agenda other than causing problems.” He missed the piece that protesters in the Occupy Movement seek justice for the vast majority of the people being left out of the dominant economic and political systems. The Occupy Wall Street Movement’s website states: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” The site contains contact information, news, and much more.

Specific issues addressed by protesters begin with the huge inequalities in wealth and income as people gradually realize that the government is responsive only to that tiny percentage of people who control the vast percentage of the money.  It’s the worker bees—public school teachers, police, firefighters, etc.—who get their salaries lowered and put out on furlough and sometimes lose their jobs while conservatives refuse to impose a surtax on the extremely wealthy. Conservatives refuse to close the loophole that allows hedge fund managers to pay a 15% capital gains tax instead of the full income tax on the millions of dollars they rake in every single year. Such an approach  shows that the only constituents are the wealthy. The wealthy corporations caused the private debts, but they are the only ones exempt from repaying this debt.

Although a recent poll cited only 35 percent of the surveyed 1,005 adults held a favorable impression of the Occupy Movement, these protesters fared better than anyone else. Only 16 percent said the same for Wall Street and large corporations, only 29 percent had a favorable impression of the tea party movement and 21 percent for the government in Washington. Wall Street and large corporations tied with Washington government in unpopularity, with 71 percent of those polled saying they had an unfavorable impression of big business and Washington. The tea party got a 50 percent unfavorable response and Occupy Wall Street 40 percent. If conservative legislators don’t decide to do some compromising, their numbers will only get worse.

Tomorrow: more information about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.

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