Police arrested at least 16 people, including journalist Chris Hedges and performance artist Reverend Billy Talen, during a rally Thursday outside the headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in lower Manhattan.
The rally was held after a mock trial at the nearby Occupy Wall Street encampment, in which Goldman’s alleged misdeeds were weighed in a “people’s hearing.” The event, led by author and activist Cornell West, was broadcast live on a radio station and drew hundreds of protesters and spectators, many of whom then marched down Trinity Place towards Goldman’s skyscraper.
“The banking system has been shot through with greed,” said West, a professor at Princeton University. He marched arm in arm with several protesters, whom he referred to as his “brothers and sisters.” Some protesters held signs that read “Out of Your Ivory Tower” and “Don’t Feed the Bull.”
Reverend Billy, dressed in his signature white suit, called the Occupy movement “real, physical, actual hope,” and he blamed President Barack Obama for “drain[ing] all meaning from the word ‘hope.’” Talen added: “He’s no less corrupt than George Bush. He’s been unable to regulate these people,” referring to financial institutions.
At the entrance to Goldman’s headquarters on West Street, protesters read their verdict aloud: “Guilty of felony fraud, violating security laws, perjury before a Senate commission and the theft of $78 billion in taxpayer money.”
Several people then sat down in front with the building with their arms linked. As police handcuffed each person one at a time, some used nonviolent resistance tactics such curling up on the ground. The final protester to be arrested made her body limp and was carried away by several police officers.
The New York Times had a wide ranging report on the view of the Occupy movement from Mayors across the country. They claim that many of the Mayors of “several cities have come to the end of their patience and others appear to be not far behind.”
Point 1: The constitutionally guaranteed right to assembly is not subject to any Mayors “patience”.
[The completely unnecessary assault in Oakland was entirely out of proportion to the situation.] The people throwing things at police and being violent are not part of our ‘99 Percent’ occupation,” said Momo Aleamotua, 19, a student from Oakland. “They’re not us, and they’re not welcome.
Point 2: Anyone committing illegal acts should be dealt with individually. There is no justification for ending an entire peaceful and constitutionally protected assembly because of the acts of a few.
In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed ordered the police to arrest more than 50 protesters early Wednesday. … [He] said the last straw came Tuesday, when he said a man with an AK-47 assault rifle joined the protesters in Woodruff Park
Point 3: Georgia passed a law that made carrying an AK-47 legal in that state. The man was rejected by the occupiers and not welcome. Using Georgia’s insane law about open carry of assault weapons against the protesters is a contrived violation and extremely hypocritical.
Providence, R.I., where Mayor Angel Taveras has vowed to seek a court order to remove protesters from Burnside Park, which they have occupied since Oct. 15.
Point 4: The government has no right to continually block freedom of assembly through the legal system. The constitution supersedes all local law, and the creation of “parade rules” or “vagrancy” statutes are violations of the constitution when used to prevent peaceful assembly.
Even in Los Angeles, where the City Council passed a resolution in support of the protesters, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa warned Wednesday that they would not be allowed to remain outside City Hall indefinitely.
Point 5: There is no time limit on the constitutional right to assembly. The word “indefinite” has no bearing on this.
Even in Democratic Chicago, officials seemed to straining to allow for dissent, while maintaining order. “We’ve been working hard to strike a balance,” said Chris Mather, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel.
Point 6: The need to ensure that “order” trumps “dissent” is contrary to American political freedom. The nature of American Democracy is that we accept some level of “disorder” because we believe that freedom is important.
“It’s a significant challenge to deal with their decision-making process,” said Richard Negrin, the managing director of Philadelphia
Point 7: Because it is “difficult” is no reason for shutting down the peaceful exercise of assembly by American citizens. The difficulty is not a question, it is your responsibility to protect this constitutional right. It is your job.
The leaders of this Country need to understand that their job is not solely as a protector of the rich and businesses in their cities. It is also a requirement that they protects each citizens constitutional right to freedom of assembly, no matter how difficult.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), longtime civil rights activist, gives long and impassioned speech on the House floor in fierce support of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET and denouncing the actions of the Oakland city government. (26 October 2011)
“Don’t give up, don’t give out, and please don’t give in!”
THE OCCUPY movement’s most powerful unifying factor has been its clear and simple identification of the key problem in American society: the divide between the vast majority of the population—the 99 percent—and the richest and most powerful 1 percent.
This 99 percent/1 percent formulation isn’t just a statement about income inequality in the U.S. today. It’s also an acknowledgement that the 1 percent largely controls the government and is therefore able to rig laws, taxes and regulations in its favor.
If you look at opinion polls on questions like taxing the rich, regulating Wall Street, spending money on jobs, prioritizing economic growth over cutting the deficit or preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare, you’ll find popular, often lopsided, majorities opposed to austerity and in favor of “redistributionist” policies.
Yet the dysfunctional government seems incapable—and not even much interested—in doing much of anything to meet these popular demands. By contrast, Congress acted with tremendous speed—and with little regard for the deficit—to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for the banks and other corporations when the financial crisis struck in 2008.
In theory, we’re all equal at the ballot box, and so popular majorities should be able to force politicians to address their concerns. But the Occupy movement has caught fire because millions of Americans realize that the way Washington works in reality bears no resemblance to the political science textbook explanations.
So how does the 1 percent get away with it?
The photo above, taken by Jay Finneburgh, shows Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen being carried away after he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister thrown by Oakland police during last night’s raid on Occupy Oakland.
Video shot at the scene shows police throwing a flash grenade into the crowd as other protesters rush to help him:
Olsen did two tours of duty in Iraq and is a current member of Veterans for Peace. He’s now listed in critical but stable condition with swelling of the brain and a skull fracture. He is also on a respirator due to the doctors sedating him in order to evaluate the possible injury to his brain.
From The Guardian:
Keith Shannon, who served with Olsen in Iraq, arrived at the hospital after protesters contacted him through Facebook. He confirmed Olsen had a fractured skull, and said he had been told by a doctor Olsen also had brain swelling. A neurosurgeon was due to assess Olsen to determine if he needed surgery, Shannon said.
“It’s really hard,” Shannon said. “I really wish I had gone out with him instead of staying home last night.”
Shannon, who is also 24, said he had seen the video footage showing Olsen lying on the floor as a police officer throws an explosive device near him. “It’s terrible to go over to Iraq twice and come back injured, and then get injured by the police that are supposed to be protecting us,” he said.
This is utter brutality. Scott Olsen enlisted in the military, fought for the U.S. in combat, and is thanked for it with a severe head injury while defending his fellow citizens from police action at home. Veterans for Peace have stood with numerous camps, including Boston, where elderly members were beaten by police.
In Oakland, despite police using multiple rounds of tear gas, flash grenades, rubber bullets and beanbag projectiles on protesters, they remained peaceful. Police denied the use of tear gas initially, but confirmed it at a press conference today. It was also claimed this started because a protester threw a rock at police, while Oakland Mayor Jean Quan stated the raid was because of “unsanitary conditions” and “ongoing vandalism” happening because of Occupy Oakland.
As for police denying the use of flash grenades and rubber bullets, the video above shows use of the flash grenade, and here’s a rubber bullet picked up by a demonstrator:
How long will this police aggression against unarmed, peaceful protest be allowed to continue? Scott Olsen is merely one of its victims. We, as citizens, must demand an end to the vicious crackdown at occupy protests across the nation. Remember, be peaceful, but stand resolute.
The tides are moving in favor of occupy movements. For example, Occupy Cleveland just won the right in federal court to occupy a city park around the clock. The judge wrote the demonstrators of Occupy Cleveland had their First Amendment rights violated and ordered the city to grant the protesters a permit.
Solidarity forever, my friends. Do not let the police scare you away.
(Hint: ‘violent thugs’ and ‘all of the above’ are also acceptable answers.)
From last night’s press release from the Oakland Police Department:
Q. Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bag grenades?
A. No, the loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at Police by protesters.
The San Francisco Chronicle begs to differ:
Protesters scattered in both directions on Broadway as the tear gas canisters and several flash-bang grenades went off. Regrouping, protesters tried to help one another and offered each other eye drops.
Q. Did the Police use tear gas?
A. Yes, the Police used a limited amount of tear gas for a small areas as a defense against protesters who were throwing various objects at Police Officers as they approached the area.
California police resorted to tear gas as many as five times Tuesday, attempting to force hundreds of Occupy Oakland protesters to disperse.
So was it used to make them disperse, or was it used in self-defense? Were flash-bangs used, or were they not used? The videos certainly seem to show that they were used in copious amounts.
This is nonsense. Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan must resign.
Posted Oct. 25, 2011, 2:39 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
To all those in the United States currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call “The Arab Spring” has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in years-long struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the “free market” pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the South found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and Western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austerity-state now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosed-upon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets.
So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new. We are not protesting. Who is there to protest to? What could we ask them for that they could grant? We are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy , real estate portfolios, and police ‘protection’. Hold on to these spaces, nurture them, and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labor made them real and livable? Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.
In our own occupations of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the Square every day in tears because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important, these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are public spaces. Spaces forgathering, leisure, meeting, and interacting – these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world, particularly for the marginalized, excluded and for those groups who have suffered the worst .
What you do in these spaces is neither as grandiose and abstract nor as quotidian as “real democracy”; the nascent forms of praxis and social engagement being made in the occupations avoid the empty ideals and stale parliamentarianism that the term democracy has come to represent. And so the occupations must continue, because there is no one left to ask for reform. They must continue because we are creating what we can no longer wait for.
But the ideologies of property and propriety will manifest themselves again. Whether through the overt opposition of property owners or municipalities to your encampments or the more subtle attempts to control space through traffic regulations, anti-camping laws or health and safety rules. There is a direct conflict between what we seek to make of our cities and our spaces and what the law and the systems of policing standing behind it would have us do.
We faced such direct and indirect violence , and continue to face it . Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission; 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed, and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on the 28 th of January they retreated, and we had won our cities.
It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.
By way of concluding then, our only real advice to you is to continue, keep going and do not stop. Occupy more, find each other, build larger and larger networks and keep discovering new ways to experiment with social life, consensus, and democracy. Discover new ways to use these spaces, discover new ways to hold on to them and never givethem up again. Resist fiercely when you are under attack, but otherwise take pleasure in what you are doing, let it be easy, fun even. We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.
Comrades from Cairo.
24th of October, 2011.