Posts Tagged ‘NYPD’

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.


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

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


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

Stop and Frisk: Whose Side Are You On?

November 20, 2011

As we were gathering on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street next to a lovely park, the police were right on top of us, standing actually in 153rd Street.  Police vans were on the opposite side of Jamaica Avenue and officers stood on three  of the four corners of the intersection.  One of us, a member of OWS with a lot of recent experience in protest, remarked to me on the arrival of a particular “white shirt,” the notorious one caught on film punching one of the peaceful OWS protesters in the face.

I had brought my zills (finger cymbals) and a pair of claves.  I played the former and the guy from OWS the latter as we sang “Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?”  I danced about as we did.  Two women about my age had brought tamborines and supported us.

Sometimes I looked directly into the eyes of the police officers close to us as I sang “Whose side are you on?”

We were all on the side of the Black and Latino youth who are are stopped and frisked, overwhelmingly for no reason at all, in the illegal, unconstitutional, and illegitimate NYPD policy of Stop and Frisk.  Young boys going home from school in certain neighborhoods like this one are famously targeted for violent groping and humiliation by the police.  Last year there were 600,000 incidents of this assault, more than one a minute every day of the year.  This year, the target is 700,000.  Here is a link to a site about the numbers.

Carl Dix

After we were assembled and those who had chosen to participate in the peaceful civil disobedience at the nearby police precinct had been advised by the legal team from the National Lawyers Guild, Carl Dix the founder with Professor Cornel West of the STOP Stop and Frisk movement, addressed us.

A veteran of racist police policies and a person who chose prison over fighting the Viet Nam war, Carl Dix is a giant in the movement and in the struggle to build a better world.  He reminded us of why we were there, not just to protest but to stop this policy.  He introduced other people who were leading this action: college students who are working to stop this and to overturn all the policies of criminalizing black and brown people that has led to the mass incarceration in the US which has the largest prison population in the world by magnitudes; a young man who had refused to be frisked, a leader of the Occupy the Hood from that neighborhood, and women from the community whose sons and grandsons have been victimized by stop and frisk.  The latter spoke movingly of what this egregious policy has done to them, their families, the youth, and the entire community.

Carl then told us how we would march to the precinct, making stops along the route to let people in the community know what we were doing.  He asked those of us who knew the chants that were now becoming traditional in this movement to lead us as we went.  He also asked that those who were going to do the peaceful civil disobedience lead the march.

Carl Dix, Students, Members of the Community who were committed to peaceful civil disobedience, joined arms and led the march.

To the cries of “Stop and Frisk is the new Jim Crow, Stop and Frisk has got to go” and “Stop and Frisk don’t stop the crime, Stop and Frisk IS the crime,” and “We won’t stop till we STOP stop and frisk,” we headed out to the 103rd Precinct, snaking through the community to let them know we were there in solidarity with them.  Carl stopped several times along the way to address the crowds of people running Saturday errands and some of us distributed flyers.  Carl always said we were there to STOP this policy.

This area was where Sean Bell was murdered and his two friends grievously injured in a hail of 50 police bullets in 2006 at this time of year on the day before his wedding.  Though community outrage did provoke indictments against the officers involved, they were not convicted in spite of a completely muddled story and no evidence that the three men or indeed anyone but the police had weapons, much less fired any, which, of course, had been the pretext for the massive and fatal firing by the police.  Another chant was “We are all Sean Bell, NYPD go to hell.”

The 103rd precinct when we finally got there, our ranks swelling slightly as people actually joined us in our march through the busy commercial area, was barricaded off.

The whole thing had felt tense to me with our police escort all the way and the siege-like atmosphere of the precinct heightened my sense of tension and menace.

This was the third of these actions, and one of a huge number of peaceful protests in New York in the past months where the protesters have not so much as turned over a trash can.  We actually picked up any litter we dropped along the route, schooled as we all are now by the OWS.  This over-reaction to people assembling and chanting is revealing of how defensive the authorities are, and, of course with reason.  This police policy is illegal and unconstitutional and is only in place because the rule of law and the Constitution no longer obtain in the New York City and in the US.

After more remarks by people affected by Stop and Fisk and some statements about the value of peaceful civil disobedience as a tool in bringing about change, those who had committed to doing so walked in groups, arms linked together, through the barriers and up the steps of the precinct where they continued to chant as they were arrested and taken off.

Arms linked, they head for the precinct door

Then began the arduous work of trying to find out where they were and to get the legal team there as well as friends, family, and protesters to support them.

It is now afternoon on Sunday and these valiant and selfless activists are still held in jail.  They have been assigned to Central Booking which means possible serious charges and maybe bail requirements.  Several of these protesters, beginning with Carl Dix, have been arrested at all of the protests and are now “repeat offenders.”

I consider myself very privileged to be on their side and on the side of the young men whose lives are impacted so horribly by being stopped and roughed up by the police for absolutely no reason.

We won’t stop till we STOP stop and frisk.

Whose side are you on?  Let your actions speak on that subject. Below is a link to a site about the STOP Stop and Frisk  where you can find out what you can do to help.

Stop Mass Incarceration is here.

Finally, they have come!

November 16, 2011

I am so proud of the  youth who are showing us all how to build a better world.  When the city destroys their camp, they do not go home and weep. Rather, they continue with their plans for a big, festive day of protest all over the city on Thursday.  The combined efforts of the city, the FBI, and other repressive agencies cannot stop them.

Return to Liberty Square

What really moved me, too, was the cooperation and collaboration of the students from a number of campuses who will walk out of classes tomorrow and rally on Washington Square before marching down to Foley Square to meet the OWS group.  I plan to be there on Foley Square again where I have been many times before with a handful of people to see again what it is like to be with a huge crowd.

If you are able to, join us there.

Here is a link to the OWS site and another to plans from that site for November 17.