FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.
The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is urging his City Council to enact strict new restrictions on many forms of protest on Wednesday, January 18. Local advocates say the Council is distracted by a fierce redistricting battle and that the new ordinance is likely to pass unnoticed, unless there’s a huge outcry.
Occupy Rogers Park and Occupy South Side started an urgent petition on Change.org to tell Chicago’s aldermen to block these new restrictions on free speech in Chicago. Sign their petition now telling the Chicago City Council not to pass the Mayor’s new anti-protest legislation on Wednesday.
According to the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal, the proposed ordinance imposes impossible-to-meet requirements, confusing restrictions and sky-high fines on protest organizers and participants, including:
- A 2-hour time limit on all protests;
- An increase in minimum fines from $50 to $1000 for violations of “parade regulations”;
- A curfew in public spaces; and
- A requirement to pre-register “attention-getting devices”, including signs and megaphones, at least 1 week before the event.
Perhaps most startling is the provision that would allow the Mayor’s office to sign no-bid contracts with security companies — whose employees may lack suitable training and oversight to prevent gross abuses.
Occupy Rogers Park and Occupy South Side started the petition because they believe that “this ordinance is a direct attack on anyone in this city who might ever walk a picket line, attend a rally, or stand in solidarity with others in support of a cause.” They want to flood City Council’s inboxes with messages opposing Chicago’s proposed anti-protest legislation, and make sure this message is heard loud and clear before Wednesday’s vote.
Thanks for being a change-maker,
- Weldon and the Change.org team
Freedom of the press:
Occupy Wall Street is in the middle of one of its day-long marches in New York Tuesday, protesting the National Defense Authorization Act, but for those following along on the Global Revolution livestream, the real action is happening in the broadcast studio itself. That’s because police have apparently just raided the Brooklyn studio of Globalrevolution.tv and taken some of the project’s key volunteers into custody.
The raid Tuesday follows a notice to vacate that police delivered to the Bushwick studio on Monday night. Victoria Sobel, a Global Revolution volunteer, said Vlad Teichberg and a guy named Spike, both of whom maintain the live feed aggregator, had been taken into custody by police, along with four or five others.
If you were following along earlier today, you may have been startled at about 1:45 p.m. to see the live feed cut away from the street-level action and to the face of Vlad Teichberg, one of the main organizers of Global Revolution. The new shot showed a large, graffittied space where Teichberg and a couple of colleagues were confronting a man they identified as the landlord, who had apparently broken in their door. They put the camera on him, he threatened to call the police, they said he had no right to come into the space by force, and he eventually left.
But Sobel said that was just the start of the day’s conflict. Shortly after the confrontation, the police arrived. “Within the past hour, the police came in and removed people that were inside the studio,” she said. “I believe the police just began knocking on the door and saying they would kick the door down and saying they would arrest people on the spot.” The Global Revolution studio is now locked, Sobel said. The live feed has finished its Hawaiian broadcast and is playing a pre-recorded video. “The message is that even if they take the space, the [broadcast] will continue to be maintained,” Sobel said. But right now, it seems to be out of commission.
Police and buildings department officials had served the Buswhick, Brooklyn space with notices to vacate on Monday night, declaring it ”imminently perilous to life.”
Nice made up excuse.
> local PUBLIC law enforcement agencies distribute flyer on ‘domestic threats,’ to protect corrupt businesses from criticism
> local PUBLIC law enforcement agencies include in said flyer a warning that protesters might try to record and embarrass them (as if this is the police’s business)
> local PUBLIC law enforcement agencies denounce the ‘anti-capitalist profile’
The police are not the 99%. They are the armed watchdogs of privilege and convenience for the corporate and financial class. They are here to protect an ideology, and they freely acknowledge that in the flyer obtained by Occupy London.
Police across the US have been criticised for their actions in clashes with Occupy Wall Street protesters. The man who led the police response to the Battle in Seattle protests at the 1999 WTO meeting blames the post-9/11 militarisation of American policing.
"Law enforcement across the country is pursuing the same tactics that failed so miserably in Seattle," Norm Stamper tells BBC World Service’s Witness programme.
"There’s a lack of patience, there’s a lack of imagination and there are clear over-reactions to the challenges the police perceive. It is all so disheartening."
In November 1999, Chief Stamper was one of the main officials charged with managing the huge numbers of demonstrators who brought the city to a standstill in protests against the launch of a new round of global trade talks…
Chief Stamper says he has learnt his lesson but that other US police forces have not. He blames what he calls the militarisation of the police in America.
In the years following 9/11, the federal government provided military equipment to police forces across the country and instilled in them a military mindset, all in the name of homeland security, the former police chief says.
Police State Tactics On Display Nationwide
In the last couple of days, police at Occupy protests:
- Bludgeoned peaceful protesters at Berkeley … and then said that the protesters’ locking of arms was “violent”
- Beat and reportedly broke the ribs of a peaceful protesting, 70-year old, Pulitzer prize winning literature professor at Berkeley (and see this).
- Punched a woman in the face for showing a court order to the police stating that the protesters can be in the park
The Guardian’s Laura Pennie notes:
Law enforcement is there to protect a wealthy elite from the rest of the population
A teenage girl holds a hastily written sign saying: “NYPD, we trusted you – you were supposed to protect us!”
The sentiment is a familiar one. Across Europe, over a year of demonstrations, occupations and civil disobedience, anti-austerity protesters have largely shifted from declaring solidarity with the police – as fellow workers whose jobs and pensions are also under threat – to outrage and anger at state violence against unarmed protesters. Following last month’s police brutality in Oakland, and today’s summary eviction of the Occupy Wall Street camp, American activists too are reaching the conclusion that “police protect the 1%”.
“Who do you guys work for?” Shouts one Manhattan protester, as police load arrestees into a van. “You work for JP Morgan Bank!”
And the Washington Post’s James Downie writes:
As hard as the NYPD and New York City’s government might try to obscure the truth though, one truth remains: At 1 a.m. this morning, in the heart of New York City, protesters exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly were swept away by the state, while that state also did all it could to prevent media coverage. No matter what one may think of the occupiers or their cause, nothing they’ve done justifies blockading the press or ignoring court orders. Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other New York leaders who ordered the eviction should take a long, hard look at their handling of the occupation. This morning’s action may not be what a police state looks like, but it’s certainly how one begins.
As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a “media blackout” and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation.
The city blog Gothamist put it this way: “The NYPD Didn’t Want You To See Occupy Wall Street Get Evicted.”
As a result, much of the early video of the police operation was from the vantage point of the protesters. Videos that were live-streamed on the Web and uploaded to YouTube were picked up by television networks and broadcast on Tuesday morning.
At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.
Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”
That reporter and two photographers with him declined to speak on the record because they are freelance workers and lack some of the job protections of full-time employees. But as they sipped coffee on Tuesday morning in Foley Square, where some of the protesters had regrouped, they expressed surprise at the extent of what they described as police suppression of the press.
What are your limits, America? You’ve largely looked the other way while peaceful protesters are cleared out across the country under the guise of “order” and “cleanliness,” even when those who come in to “keep the peace” end up creating a huge mess and violation of civil order.
Will you now look the other way as freedom of the press is done away with? Will you now ignore the fact that, in even trying to report on the suppression of civil liberties, you will be targeted by the police state?
What will it take?