Archive for the ‘Police Brutality’ Category

Don’t Suppress OWS Rally and March on February 28

February 29, 2012

Yesterday, February 28th, people gathered at Union Square in New York to protest the brutal suppression of the Occupy Wall Street movement which spread all over the country.  Nationally coordinated police raids were carried out in the dark of night, injuring peaceful protestors and destroying their personal property, as well as the People’s Library at the New York occupation.  The only violence done was by the police.

A group of people in New York, both within the Occupy movement and from those like me in the community who have been inspired by it and supported it, formed an Ad Hoc Committee Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement and planned the rally and march.

Unless otherwise noted, all the photographs below were made by Scoboco.

One of the people at Union Square for the rally expressing the view of many present

People listening intently to those on stage

At this event, a little different from many, there were in Acts 1 and 2 of this rally drama, occupiers on ladders in the crowd showing in words what it was like to experience the eviction  and something of the nature of what the occupation movement actually did.

Occupier Desiree above the heads of the crowd on a ladder telling her story about the eviction

Attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler, who has been arrested for doing so, spoke about taking the movement to Black and Latino neighborhoods.  Signs from the stage said things like “They stole our shit!” and “They were violent, but we got arrested!”

In Act 3, about the effects of the Suppession of OWS, attorney Norman Siegel, who is bringing a lawsuit against the city for the destruction of the People’s Library in the eviction, was one of the  speakers. Professor Andrew Ross from NYU, part of Occupy Student Debt, addressed that issue, which affects many of our young people

Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary with his daughter Bethany sang a special version of The Great Mandala at the end of Act 3.  He had also performed  a set of songs including Have You Been to Jail for Justice as people gathered on the Square beginning at 4pm

Act 4 was where Voices of Conscience, several prominent people from different arenas, spoke about why Occupy is important and called us to act to resist the suppression of it.  Susan Sarandon, who has been arrested with the occupiers, was one who has herself acted courageously. Andy Zee spokesperson for Revolution Books also spoke in this section.

Noam Chomsky could not be present, but sent a video that was screened in Act 4, photograph unattributed

Rev. Steven Phelps, senior minister of the Riverside Church, concluded the spoken part of Act 4. Then, Outernational, the musical group that had also done a set before the rally began, played their rousing Fighting Song.  Part of the lyrics were Go! Go! Go! encouraging us to go on the march.

Outernational (photograph unattributed)

Travis Morales, who was one of the two Narrators  with Alice Woodward, then called us to march to Liberty Square behind the huge puppet of Lady Liberty.

 

 Lady Liberty

NYPD out in force.

What are the corporate masters afraid of from a group of peaceful, if noisy, protestors?  Why did the NYPD don riot gear and evict them from Liberty Plaza last year in a raid coordinated with similar ones across the country?  Why were they present in the hundreds  at this rally and march of completely peaceful people?  The only answer is that the ruling corporate elites of this country do not want change, do not care about the inequality, and are willing to pay for violent suppression of it.

Fortunately, persons like Peter Yarrow on stage and at the head of the march may have helped temper the response to this protest event.  We all arrived at Liberty Square, where we chanted “Whose park? Our park?”  We have made a beginning of a response to the suppression of OWS.  We need to keep moving forward to support this movement.

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Averting your eyes?

February 29, 2012

“Then force entered in; might making right; power and its tool, violence, and its most devoted ally, the averted eye.”*

There is so much injustice in US society that to catalogue it all would take pages. Yesterday’s Don’t Suppress OWS event focused on that directed toward the peaceful protestors of the Occupy Movement, who had brought to national attention the staggering economic equality that exists in this country.

All the injustices are connected. The police state at home, the wars and brutality here and abroad, the devastation of the planet, the abrogation of rights, and on and on.

Are you averting your eyes? I know that some people are not. They act in some way to stop the madness that reigns in this society. Some give money to support things like yesterday’s action. If you didn’t, you still can here or go to the event website where on the right hand side there is an address where you can send a check . If you prefer other organizations or issues, there are lots of places to make a difference with your contribution. Find one and give what you can. Then you will know you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Some people go to the streets. If you haven’t ever done that, you are missing an experience not like any other. Do it now. Then you and others will know you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Some people organize protest at all levels. There is so much work to be done at computer terminals, in meetings, in courtrooms, on the streets. Find an organization and do something to help it. Then you will know that you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Failure to do something, to act, is averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

I am profoundly grateful for all the people on this planet who are working wherever they are to stop violence and injustice. I know that we are all connected in a vast web. I call on everyone who has not yet taken action to join us. We have right on our side. We will be able to answer our own consciences when we are asked how we could have lived in this time and allowed these horrors to happen with the true reply that we worked to stop them.

*From Ursula Le Quin’s The Dispossessed, Harper Voyager 2011,p.256 p.

No Tear Gas, No Rubber Bullets…

February 15, 2012

Women Maced in NYC

Peaceful activists in New York and across the country have been viciously and brutally attacked for assembling and  speaking out about the massive inequality in this country.  They have also been arrested and held on trumped up charges, as though they were at fault when they are only exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The night before and into the morning after the first threatened eviction of OWS from Liberty Square in October,  I remember remarking vividly that the only people I saw with guns (and also clubs and night sticks) were the police.  The occupiers were completely unarmed.  They had only their moral courage to defend themselves.

George Packard, a retired Episcopal bishop who was detained by the NYPD while bringing water to the occupiers at Liberty Square, and later arrested in an Occupy Wall Street action, said the action February 28 “is the absolute preface to any other actions. It’s a question of process even before we take to the streets–how is it that there is this coordinated effort to stifle our free speech?! Mayors on conference calls simultaneously rousting encampments? Renegade cops taking aggressive initiatives because it makes superiors smile? Tear gas and rubber bullets fired into the ranks of Occupy Oakland? Enough!”

With Bishop George Packard, I say Enough!.  I will join the Bishop and thousands of others to make it clear that this suppression of OWS and the Occupy Movement is an assault on the the rights of the people of this country and is not to be accepted.  Click here to join Bishop Packard, 700 others,  and me in signing the Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement.  Then join us in the streets on February 28th.

In NYC:

Tues Feb 28 Union Square
No Rubber Bullets – No Beatings  
No Tear Gas – No Mass Arrests
Drop All the Charges Against Occupiers  
Don’t Suppress OWS!  Stand with Occupy!
4:00 pm Gather 5:00 pm Rally 6:00 pm March

 Contribute to the expenses of the rally

Join the Mass Action on February 28

February 15, 2012

The Occupy Movement is exposing the inequality that exists in the US.  The power elites are not answering that exposure with rational discourse.  There is no acceptable reason for such a system.  They respond through their paid officials and police with brute force.  It is so telling.

Scott Olsen, injured with police projectile at Occupy Oakland.  Scott is one of the signers of the Call for Mass Action against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement.  See other signers and sign here.

As a member of the ad hoc committee planning a mass action to resist the violent suppress of the peaceful Occupy protests, I encourage everyone to join in the mass action wherever you are.

Bishop George Packard, first over the fence.  He is also a member of the ad hoc committee and a signer of the call

For those

In NYC:

Tues Feb 28 Union Square
No Rubber Bullets – No Beatings  
No Tear Gas – No Mass Arrests
Drop All the Charges Against Occupiers  
Don’t Suppress OWS!  Stand with Occupy!
4:00 pm Gather 5:00 pm Rally 6:00 pm March

Contribute to the expenses of the New York rally

For people in other places, organize something and let us all know about it.

Where to Sign the Call to Stop Suppression of OWS

February 2, 2012

Here is the website where you can sign the call to stop the suppression of OWS.  Join the action in NYC on February 25th.  More details forthcoming.

See the link on ReaderSupportedNews and Michael Moore’s website.

Responding in NYC to Oakland Police Brutality Against Occupy Oakland

January 29, 2012

Before I even arrived at 6:30pm at the arch on Washington Square Park, I could hear the drum circle in action, but the next thing I noticed was a huge NYPD presence. In response to the violent suppression of peaceful occupiers in Oakland yesterday, the OWS and others called for a march starting at Washington Square Park this evening, Sunday, Jan 29th, at 7pm. Once again, the inordinate police presence reminded me that I must join with others to resist the repression of dissent and the specific suppression of the Occupy movement, the most eloquent expression of dissent in recent memory.

I distributed copies of the Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement with the names of some of those who have signed it and are organizing the event on February 25th until the mic check preceded the announcement that the march would being in a few minutes.

With the drums mostly in the lead (though a few straggled out along the long line to support the whole group), we headed north under the arch and up Fifth Avenue.

From Oakland to NYC, Stop police brutality,” was our cry

I did not have a camera, so I don’t have photographs of us–young and old, a wide cross section of people in this city. Below are images of the suppression on Saturday of  Occupy Oakland from Huffington Post:

Occupiers, numerous and probably noisy, but clearly unarmed and peaceful

Police in riot gun firing “less lethal” weapons

Am I the only person who finds this a totally inappropriate response, indeed an illegal and illegitimate one? These police appear to be facing an armed invasion, not a march to a vacant building by peaceful protesters.

The brutal response of the police of Oakland again and by other forces throughout the country, aided by US government officials in an unconstitutional use of federal forces in state and local policing, is more easily explained by a statement quoted by Chris Hedges today:

“‘I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,’ Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence.

“’My skills and experience—as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements—were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a “brainwasher” and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction,’ she went on. ‘During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of.'” [Emphasis mine.]

The Occupy movement is a very great threat because it not only says another world is possible, it is modeling that possibility right now.  Note Henderson’s list of 1) independent media, which the Occupy movement has as well, that allow them to disseminate information outside the corporate propaganda organs, 2)the medics which work outside heavily tax subsidized corporate medicine in the US, and 3)the legal observers who call the government’s illegal actions out are mentioned–areas where the Occupy movement also is already working outside the corporate controlled realm.  This is indeed frightening to the corporatocracy and its minions in government, not only in the US but in Canada and around the world.  A New World Is Possible, and it is taking shape right in front  of their eyes, openly, in public spaces.  They cannot let that happen, so they send in the army, let us call it by its right name.

I must resist this.  I showed up for the protest on Sunday and work for the event on Feb 25th.

I had spoken before we left Washington Square with a teachers’ union organizer who remarked on the need to let people know in the face of media misinformation that there is broad support for the occupy movement, and that in fact all but a tiny few people in this country are in the process of losing their future as well as their rights. This is not a movement of some fringe group, but one that represents the vast majority of people in the US and the world.

We continued to hand out leaflets all along the route as we chanted, encouraging others to join us. In spite of the last minute nature of this march, a presentable number of us turned out.

I will not forget a brief encounter with a man to whom I offered a flyer. He asked me if the intent were against OWS. I said that it was not, but in support of it and of the rights of all of us. He replied that he worked for a bank. Clearly, this was a man who works at a bank, not one of the small group who control them. I suggested that his job is not very secure, as he walked off irate. In fact, there is a continuing huge lay off of workers in banks, as the situation those institutions created continues to deteriorate, a fact not widely revealed in US media, but reported in that of the developed countries. I wonder what he will do if he loses his job? Where will he get support? To whom will he turn? If he were ever really to want to know the truth and to work for the good of all, he would be welcomed by the those in OWS.

The financial sector has shed massive number of jobs through early 2011, before the huge losses of the end of the year.  European researchers predict a loss of 10% to 20% of bank employees in the year 2012

And I didn’t speak, because I wasn’t a ….

December 24, 2011

At this moment I am on a train stopped in Rochester with a border patrol officer hassling an English speaking national of another country in the seat behind me.  It is 11:30 at night, the car lights are dim, people are resting, some were sleeping.  We have been violently jerked awake and alert; the tension is very high in what had been a peaceful car.  No one of us makes a sound.  The poor young man is hauled off to custody for not having proper identification.  The young woman who sat beside him did have the right things and remains with us.

I had just signed on and was going to quote German pastor Martin Niemöller for another reason.  It seems fortuitous that I had found this statement before the officer burst in.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

I felt during the incident as though I should have risen to the defense of this young man.  I do not have the skills to do that, nor the community of the occupation that Bonnie speaks about below.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had risen to his defense; probably nothing but that I, too, would have been arrested.

I just had a conversation with the two men next to me, one of whom, a professional photographer, had gotten to Liberty Square at 6am on the morning of the threatened eviction when Bonnie and I had been there all night.  The other, a student in Albany, had been there for a short time to support the movement.  The older man does not share my rage about this treatment of human beings, including the rest of the people on this train; he says I don’t know anything about the young well spoken man who was just hauled off. I replied that I know he is a human being and so are all of us.   The younger one says he shares my feelings, including that of helplessness and impotence in the face of this act of repression.

In a country where extra-judicial imprisonment and torture of anyone, anywhere is “legal,” the arrest of someone in this circumstance could be very serious.  Indeed, none of us is safe from this and we delude ourselves if we think we are.

I want to quote now from Bonnie’s article as I had intended to.  It is  about a different world that is already emerging, one where people resist police repression together.  She reports first hand of an incident at OWS:
“After Bloomberg’s shameless and violent paramilitary crackdown in the dead of night on OWS in Zuccotti Park last month, I attended the general assembly meeting there the night after. I was awed by the resilient communal spirit of the occupiers facillitating and attending the meeting.

“Suddenly there was a disturbing distraction to the proceedings. Some occupiers were sitting on top of a wall ledge on the south edge of the park. A few overzealous police officers were ordering them to get down. To my mind it seemed gratuitous power-flexing by the police.

“After hundreds of NYC Occupiers were roughed up and/or arrested, their tents and personal items damaged or destroyed, and metal barricades erected around every last inch of the encampment’s borders, with that night only four police-monitored entrances available, in which each entrant was carefully inspected (for sleeping bags?) while going in and clandestinely, no doubt, had his or her photo taken. After hundreds of occupiers now had to find alternative sleeping accommodations this ‘get off the ledge’ power dictum to a tiny cluster of peaceful occupiers seemed insult to injury.

“A young man near me began to aim a stream of expletives at one aggressive officer hassling a young woman in particular. I inhaled worriedly, sure that his provocation would not bode well for the individuals in direct line of police engagement. Would one hot head cop and one hot head occupier derail the civilized Occupation community this evening tending to its vital and noble business?

“Suddenly an attractive dark-haired young woman stood up on the ledge, cupped her hands around her mouth and queried loudly, ‘Should I get down from the wall?’ I twisted my head to view the crowd of occupiers behind me re-chanting her message earnestly but without inflated hysteria. How empowering for her and all of us was that rhetorical ritual! She would not get down unless called to by her Occupy community.

“I looked back to the feisty young woman and had to blink. Every inch of the ledge was suddenly — it seemed automatically — filled with bodies defiantly sitting. Had there been a lot more sitters all along and I had not registered them, or, more likely, had countless occupiers hastened to the wall to join the woman and her comrades? The message of this passionately bonded proactive community was clear, if she were to be forcibly removed and arrested so would they all be. I’d call it a ‘checkmate’ moment for the police.

“I was awed by the display of loyalty as well as savvy.

“The most aggressive policeman was clearly enraged by the dazzling dynamic and seemed all the more motivated to force the issue, but four of his fellow officers were backing away, encouraging him to let it go.

“I exhaled, believing that was the end of it. But from the front of the meeting, a message was chanted back to us that the meeting may be momentarily terminated. Again, no strident messaging. The voice of calm, conveying ‘Please stand by, we will handle this as we have handled so much already. More maturely than we have been treated, certainly.’ The police apparently were deciding if the wall incident should be used by them for more broadscale power-flexing.

“The meeting was allowed to go on. A meeting that was taking care of business. The business of finding sleeping accommodations for 300 people, which they did, informing people where they could go to retrieve whatever remnants of their personal possessions had not been destroyed by the violent police, informing the community of the status of their fellow occupiers who had been arrested, and sharing and soliciting preliminary plans for further action.”

You can read Bonnie’s full article here.

Thank you, Bonnie, for putting your body on the line with the OWS movement and for reporting on it.  Thank you to all the courageous, smart, committed occupiers who are showing us that another world is possible.

I don’t know what would have happened in this train car if I had asked my fellow passengers if I should rise to defend the young man.  The time did not seem right to try to find out, so I didn’t.  I long for the day when anyone could ask and know that the mass of other people would respond wisely and courageously  in such a situation.

Torture, Police Brutality, and Dehumanization

November 22, 2011

Though my focus both professionally and personally has been on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for almost a year, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has changed the discourse in this country, has impacted my life as well.  I find myself on the streets with the occupiers and others to address the economic and social issues that are behind all the US depredations, including torture, within this country and abroad.

Since OWS calls attention to the complete failure and illegitimacy of the current social-political-economic system in the US, the occupiers are not focusing specifically on the wars and torture, but, with their skillful use of independent media including a twenty-four hour online broadcasting network, they are showing the world the brutality of militarized police state repression in the US.  The same things that led to US torture of prisoners of war obtain in torture of prisoners in the US and in the militarization and brutality of police here now.

They are forcing the New York City administration to show itself in its true colors: the servants and protectors of the corporate empire that has brought the people of this country and the world to economic distress and increasing loss of freedom, rights and dignity.  The NYPD leads signally, though the police of other cities compete well.

Below is a film still of deputy inspector Johnny Cardona punching a protestor in the face and another photograph.

Johnny Cardona hitting a protester in the face: video here

Cardona

Though NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, implies that Mr. Rivera-Pitre was at fault. This report says it appears Cardona punched Rivera-Pitre in the face in response to a “look,” and was protesting with others.

For quite some time, it has been risky to “look” askance at a police officer or to join with others in protest.  A review of entries on this blog alone alone, especially during the Republican national convention in 2008, for instance, or media coverage before this blog existed of the 2004 convention in this city,  will give ample evidence of what police here and in other cities have been doing to peaceful protesters regularly.

Philadelphia Police Captain (ret) Ray Lewis

On Liberty Square yesterday, I met the retired police Captain Ray Lewis from Philadelphia  who joined OWS, was arrested last Thursday, and stays with the Occupation, continuing to support them and engage in civil disobedience.  He spent time with me, encouraging me to continue to suggest to police officers that they join us on our side of the barriers where they really belong.  But as people gathered around us, he began talking about how to deal with the police–standing up and walking away as opposed to “going limp” when arrested, for instance.  He said it makes the police work much harder when they have to carry someone away, causing resentment among them.  He said that police do not mind civil disobedience itself, but they do mind protesters making their work hard.

I see his point of view, but some may prefer making a statement.   The job of protesters is not to facilitate the work of the police.

How is all this related to the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo (and in Bagram and the Black Sites and of US prisoners in jails and prisons…)?  A huge effort especially since September 11, 2001, by US leaders of government and media serving the corporate empire has created the idea of “enemies” who are not like “us,” not entitled to the rights of human beings like us, in short not human.  They use skillful propaganda that makes the Nazi sort look crude; and they attach it to notions of public safety and supposed threats.  The corporate media have fed this diet of lies continuously to the US public for a decade in the context of media blackout about what is really happening.

Finally, with the advent of Occupy Wall Street, there are more people willing to challenge it.  Fortunately, too, OWS is endowed with its own skillful users of media who are able to get truth out to the world.  When we were handfuls of people on Foley Square crying out against torture and war, we were negligible.  We were watched, of course, and herded behind barriers, but I never saw a beating.  Police brutality was mostly reserved for young people of color and “Muslims” in targeted neighborhoods.  Now, there are many people challenging the whole system in public squares all over the country, and via media of all kinds.  They not only chant “the whole world is watching,” they are making certain that it is.

Statements by officials reveal what the “government” is doing about Constitutional rights.  Obama, a Harvard educated lawyer, said publicly that Bradley Manning, accused of leaking information to Wikileaks, “broke the law.”  That was about a year ago and Manning has not yet been tried.  He should be presumed innocent.  Worse, Obama issues orders to kill people anywhere in the world without any form of legal process.  Raymond Kelly says that it is okay for one of his officers to hit a person in the face if he looks at an officer and is part of a protest.

The treatment of Guantanamo prisoners was not televised, so few of us know about their dehumanization. But those prisoners have been deprived of any semblance of their rights under US and international law, are presumed guilty, and are tortured and continue to be deprived of their freedom.  Anyone that the police, the military, the mayor, the governor, or the president doesn’t like is now without rights.  We are all not human when they decide we are not.  It is chilling that most of the people in Guantanamo, those already released and those still held, are entirely innocent of any violence against the US or anyone.  These men have been tortured because the US government officials said they should be.

Do not be deceived; the same things that drive US torture drive the police brutality.  None of us is safe from this