Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

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.

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

What OWS is Doing

November 18, 2011

This is from a statement by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York:

“Pundits who argue for channeling Occupy Wall Street into party politics miss the point entirely. By focusing America’s attention on the dramatic polarization of wealth and by creating a new political identity — “the 99%” — we are already impacting politics in ways the Tea Party could only dream of.

“The power of our movement is that it is changing the very coordinates of how people think about politics; it is changing the political imagination. We therefore cannot accept the mandate to return to the way things were, to use get-out-the-vote drives and political action committees as our only means of making change.”

OWS on the Brooklyn Bridge Nov. 17, 2011

Read the full article by Caitlin MacLaren and Zoltán Glück  who are organizers with the New York City Student Assembly, a group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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.

Occupy Marines

October 23, 2011

The Marines, specifically veterans of that corps, are sending themselves to the aid of the Occupy Wall Street movement and bringing members of the other service branches with them.

“There is nothing more central to a free and democratic people than the right to dissent, the right to disagree, the right to stand up in the town square and be heard… I feel quite sure that in standing in solidarity with the peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement, I am doing no less than upholding my oath as an American soldier.”

These are the words of veteran Alex Limkin.  They reflect the thoughtful and serious attitude of the many veterans for peace I have met in the years since I went to Camp Casey.  Indeed, Camp Casey was originated at a Veterans for Peace conference and was supported from the start by veterans including Colonel Ann Wrigth, the organizing force behind it.

The oath of US armed forces begins with this clause:

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

Sgt. Shamar Thomas took that oath seriously as he defended the right of citizens participating in Occupy Wall Street to protest without being molested by the police.  Now his branch of the armed forces have formed Occupy Marines, with a view to securing the safety of the occupiers and the sustainability of the movement.  Watch Sgt. Thomas.


#OrganizeMarines states, “Security forces/police should be seen as potential recruits to our cause and message, not as adversaries.”

If they could help the police to see their role as defending the rights of the people rather than protecting the privileges of the few, a very great change could take place here.  If they could take their place in the equalitarian and inclusive model of social organization that the Occupy movement is creating, then, indeed, a revolution of the best sort could be possible.

Why Are They Afriad?

October 19, 2011

Night Time General Assembly

One of the young men, right this minute I can’t remember which, who spent time with Bonnie and me during the long night at the occupation asked me why the corporate powers are afraid of them.  It seems apparent from the massively inappropriate police repression that they are, but why?

I suggested to him that it might be because all they have is power and money, both of which are not inherent to their person, to their being, to their life.  Power and money can be taken away from them against their will.  The occupiers, who want to reduce the power and wealth of the corporate titans, have, by contrast, personal strength that cannot be taken from them against their will.

The first of these qualities of the occupiers is love, by which I mean the willingness to value other human beings and the natural world enough to put the common good ahead of personal interests.  They are living the antidote to greed and selfishness.

The occupiers have courage.  They live under the continual threat of being beaten, jailed, even killed  “by accident” if they were run over by a police vehicle or trampled by a mounted police officer.  The NYPD, and the other militarized forces that are hidden in it, have yet to fire on the protesters, but that could change.  All the officers have guns.  The occupiers are risking their lives for a better world for all of us.  By contrast, the titans of the corporatocracy are huddled in fear behind their “security” establishment, defending themselves and their privileges.  They know, none better, how small their numbers are and how many could be inspired by the occupiers. They know how great is the power of the peoples they have despoiled for their own selfish ends and they fear an unleashing of that power.

The occupiers have real fun, the kind no money can buy.  I am not sure what personal character trait this is, maybe a combination of several, but the occupiers have it. It has been very wet for much of the occupation.  When the sky opens up and deluges fall on them, they cheer.  They live with music, they dance.  They smile and laugh.  They are masters of the witty come back. When told by the police not to be on the sidewalk so that pedestrians can use it, they reply “We are the pedestrians.”  “I want mine back,” is their response to a sarcastic comment about “freedom of speech” from a Fox news team  member, when they have surrounded the team and and chanted “Fox News lies” until the team packs up to leave.  When the “clean up” order was postposed, after spending days cleaning up Liberty Park, some of them armed with brooms and mops and a big bucket, march joyously across Broadway to clean the plaza on the other side as well.  This joie de vivre in what could be seen as horrible conditions is a great moral strength.

The occupiers have commitment.  They are sticking it out.

Most of the US population has been distracted by the corporatocracy’s very skillful manipulations over the past decades.  Few people here have been willing to take a stand, until now.  With the exception of Camp Casey, which drew tens of thousands during the month of August 2005 and was not meant to be a permanent occupation anyway, there have not been large fixed centers of resistance.  Now there are, not just in Liberty Square in lower Manhattan but in cities across the country.

This is very frightening to people whose power and money are not inalienable, as power and money never have been.

The young man just listened to what I had to say.   I hope he felt affirmed.  These young people are committed and strong, but all people need affirmation and validation.  If I served that role for him as he got ready to face the possible brutal assault of Friday morning, I am glad.  For me, it is always good to declare the truth.

DANCING TANGO TO THE MUSIC OF FREEDOM ON TIMES SQUARE WITH THE WALL STREET OCCUPIERS

October 17, 2011

George had missed the dancing on Foley Square and down Broadway on that memorable Wednesday evening, so he was raring to go to the Occupy Wall Street event at Times Square and dance some tango.

For me, it was glorious to be there with thousands of people, the crowd stretching as far as I could see on the square where I have protested before with a handful of people many times.  It was at such a protest I met Jack.

There was, as always with Occupy Wall Street, music.  George can dance tango to anything and likes live music best, so we danced to all the music they played.  As a number of people on stilts moved about among the crowd, occasional groups of people danced in lines weaving in and out, and lots of people stood about cheering on the revolution and enjoying the celebration in the place in this city famous for mass parties, we danced and danced.  People smiled at us and took photographs.  We were interviewed several times.  George told the NPR reporter that he was “dancing to the music of freedom.”  I said how thrilling it is to be there with all these people after years of participating in protests on Times Square with very small groups.

A huge cheer burst forth at the moment when the contingent which had marched all the way from Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan arrived.  We heard the cheer but could not actually see them, nor did we know why the cheer went up for some while.  It is glorious to be participating in a movement where crowds are so large that we don’t know what is going on in other parts of it.  Strategic division of forces is one of the strengths of the Occupation.  They seldom have everyone in one place, which means that if the worst happens and all the people in one spot were to be arrested, there are others somewhere else.  There had been contingents protesting in different places all over the city, but the major cohort had gone from Liberty Plaza in the morning to Washington Square Park for a huge rally in the heart of NYU and on up 6th Avenue to arrive finally at Times Square where the party had already started.

The massive police presence would be ridiculous if it were not so malevolent.  There was not a moment of violence of any kind on the part of the protesters.  There never has been.  The only violence I have seen when I have been present with the occupation at any time is on the part of the police, who sometimes appear more and more like the keystone cops, falling all over themselves in their numbers.  If they were not so brutal, they would just be ridiculous.  Unfortunately, they can and have turned vicious.

There were arrests, the Global Revolution network thinks about 70 in all for the day, 23 in a bank downtown and the rest pedestrians during the marches.  One foot on a part of the pavement that is not “permitted” by these police can mean being clubbed and thrown to the pavement and hauled off to jail.   The bankers who are paying the police, (click here and scroll down to the entry for 1.05 pm) and who have bought most of the country’s politicians must really be scared to demand this kind of repression.

Dancing on hard pavement in high heeled tango shoes is really challenging  for a woman tango dancer’s feet and legs.

I was close to not being able to stand up any longer when we escaped just before the police closed off the barriers.

When we got home, I was able to ice my feet and apply lots of Tiger Balm, very happy to have been in the only place I wanted to be last night–dancing in celebration of the revolution.