Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Will the Walls Come Tumbling Down? Diversity of Tactics vs. Nonviolent Strategies for the Occupy Movement

Thursday, December 15, 2011 7- 9:30pm at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland, CA (just blocks away from Oscar Grant aka Frank Ogawa Plaza
*Featuring: *
*  Josh Shepherd - IVAW and Navy veteran and activist
* Kazu Haga – Trainer of Kingian Nonviolence, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
*  Matthew Edwards: Anarchist Organizer, Conscientious Objector, Phd student  in the History of Consciousness.
* Melissa Merin: Works with children and works towards the eradication of white supremacy and racism, of patriarchy, and of social and systemic oppression everywhere.
* Paolo: Anarchist Organizer and Occupy Oakland participant.
* Rev. Phil Lawson - Methodist Minister, justice advocate & civil right activist
*  Sean O'Brien - Sean O'Brien: Anarchist Organizer (The Holdout, UA in the Bay) who has also done work with Environmental Non-Profits and local Direct Action groups like DASW.
*  Starhawk - Global justice activist, global trainer, and organizer, and award winning author of 12 books.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Public health and Occupy"

2011-11-29 by Sasha J. Cuttler, R.N., Ph.D, nurse and SEIU Local 1021 activist []:
OPINION On November 17, Mayor Ed Lee's administration declared OccupySF a "public health nuisance." The mayor and other city officials are using this declaration as a justification to evict the OccupySF camps.
But rather than being a nuisance, the Occupy camps are reclaiming public space and voices while making health disparities more visible. Dozens of health organizations are making statements of solidarity, including the American Public Health Association, with more than 30,000 members, which recently passed a resolution with overwhelming support of the Occupy movement.
San Francisco officials say that overcrowding and inadequate sanitation are causing a threat to public health and safety. But as noted by public health nurse Martha Hawthorne, "When is the last time city department heads have left their offices and taken a walk through the Tenderloin, just minutes away from the San Francisco Occupy site? Smells of human waste? Evidence of street drug use? Garbage on the street? It's there and has been for years, the inevitable consequence of the lack of affordable housing and years of cutbacks to mental health and substance abuse funding in San Francisco."
As far as overcrowding of tents, Hawthorne goes on to note: "Overcrowding? Go anywhere in the city with a public health nurse. You'll see multiple families living in one flat, sharing a kitchen, having their own tiny room if they are lucky and can afford it. People sleep in shifts and live elbow-to-elbow in garages, basements, closets, old office spaces — and they are the ones we nurses can see, because at least they have an address. "
The one percent is attempting to maintain control by blaming the victim. Rather than blame the marginalized for their misery, the Occupy movement opens an opportunity for dialogue and mass mobilization while providing tangible assistance to those in need of help right now. Homeless and mentally ill individuals have been receiving food and shelter at Occupy encampments everywhere.
The Occupy movement is making visible the public health consequences of insatiable corporate greed. Income inequality is closely paralleled, unsurprisingly, by poorer health outcomes. The rich are not only getting richer, they are living longer, healthier lives than the majority of us in the 99 percent.
Despite months of Occupy experience world-wide, the only evidence of ill health and injury directly related to the camps can be found in the hundreds of nonviolent activists exposed to clouds of tear gas, fountains of pepper spray, myriads of beatings, and volleys of rubber bullets. These incidents of state-sponsored violence can cause lasting health impacts on the individuals who are exercising their right to free speech and assembly.
We can do better than this. We need to use this gathering as a reminder that health care is a human right and do everything in our power to help, not hinder, the populations we serve.
Like thousands of other public health workers, I believe that the Occupy movement is creating an incredible opportunity that needs to be protected and expanded. Public health does need to be protected — and one of the best ways is through engagement with the Occupy movement, not through its eviction. 2

Monday, November 28, 2011

"No to Co-Option: MoveOn is the Opposite of the Occupy Movement: MoveOn’s History of Undermining Progressive Causes in Support of the Corporate-Dominated Democratic Party"

2011-11-28 by Kevin Zeese []:
Kevin Zeese serves as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and an organizer of Popular Resistance. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.
While most of the comments about my article on Van Jones and our GeneralAssembly’s call for independence from the Democratic Party and Democratic Party front groups were positive, a few people don’t seem to know the history of MoveOn.
Please do not misunderstand my criticisms of MoveOn and other organizations in this article as criticism of the many good people in these organizations. We have some people from MoveOn and other groups working with us at Occupy Washington, DC.  It is the leadership of these groups that misdirects people into the Democratic Party, supporting Democratic candidates and weak and often counter-productive Democratic Party positions.  We welcome MoveOn members to the Occupy Movement, but we do not want their leadership misdirecting the movement into the Democratic Party which is dominated by Wall Street and other big business interests.
Many occupiers are growing increasingly concerned about the attempted co-option of the Occupy Movement by Democratic Party operatives.  I focused on Van Jones because he has been appearing in the media talking like he is occupying somewhere.  I don’t think he is sleeping in a tent in any Occupy, but he sure gets a lot of attention from the corporate media as if he were an occupier. The corporate media seems to want to anoint him as the leader of the Occupy Movement. And his Rebuild the Dream website makes it look like it was the Occupy the Highway Movement, even though no one from Rebuild walked the 220 mile journey from New York to Washington, DC.
But I am equally concerned about groups like SEIU – a union that has already endorsed President Obama – and has been described by Glenn Greenwald as attempting to co-opt the Occupy Movement. Also of concern is Campaign for America’s Future which holds annual conferences that seek to spotlight Democratic candidates and get people to spend their time and resources electing Democrats.  If their strategy is to elect Democrats that is fine, just do it somewhere else.  The Occupy Movement is the opposite – we are independent of the two parties. We see the system as corrupt and working to elect people in that system as joining the corruption rather than stopping it.
Regarding MoveOn, which has done mailing after mailing using the Occupy Movement, it consistently supports the Democratic Party and undermines progressive causes. They started as an advocacy group for the Democratic Party and have remained such. It began seeking to end the impeachment of President Clinton for lying under oath about sexual harassment.  They work hard to keep liberals and progressives inside the Democratic Party so that they will not form an independent movement to hold Obama and the Democratic Party, as well as Republicans, accountable.  MoveOn refuses to acknowledge their constant betrayals of the people by the Democratic Party.

Using non-profit front groups to undermine progressive movements is consistent with the tactics of the Democratic Party. In return for big funding from Democratic Party donors these groups are told what they can do and say by Democratic Party operatives. During the health care reform debate MoveOn was part of a coalition called Health Care for America Now.  The name of the coalition was eerily similar to the long-established single payer advocacy group, Health Care Now.  But rather than advocating for an end to insurance-dominated health care as single payer would do, the well-funded Health Care for America Now (spending at least $50 million to support ObamaCare) advocated for the Obama health law, which is a more deeply entrenched insurance industry domination of health care.  A law that even forces Americans, for the first time in history, to buy a corporate product and in this case a seriously flawed product.
Rebuild the Dream, a MoveOn Project, continues to undermine real health care reform by using the new language of the single payer – “Improved Medicare for All” – in their issue demands. But, Rebuild waters down this demand to protect the insurance industry.  When you read the details rather than a real improved Medicare for All system that eliminates health insurance they merely advocate that people be offered the opportunity to buy Medicare as another insurance policy.  Their last paragraph makes all the arguments for single payer, but then pulls back to merely offering Medicare as one insurance option. Their language is essentially the public option using single payer language. No doubt the vast majority of MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream members support single payer (two-thirds of Americans do) and real progressive change, but Van Jones’s Rebuild uses similarities in rhetoric to fool them and keep progressives inside the Democratic Party rather than developing the kind of unified independent movement that is needed to push for real change. We need to challenge the insurance industry, not work with Democrats who take millions in donations from them.
MoveOn did this to the peace movement in 2007 after an anti-Iraq War vote gave the Democrats control of the House of Representatives.  The anti-war movement was in full force pressuring members of Congress.  The Democratic leadership put forward a bill to end funding for the war unless “benchmarks” were met and allowed war funding for four big exceptions that would allow the war to continue, such as fighting terrorism, protecting American interests, and training the Iraq military.  Twenty peace groups united to oppose the Democratic plan to continue war funding.  Every vote was needed by the corporate-Democratic Party leadership to continue war funding.  At the last minute, MoveOn came out in support of the weak Democratic plan and provided cover to Democrats, relieved constituent pressure, and allowed the war funding to continue.
Not surprisingly, there is confusion among liberals and progressives who support the common agenda of ending the wars, economic justice and environmental protection.  We’re sometimes asked if Rebuild the Dream is part of Occupy Washington, DC.  The answer is an unequivocal NO. Occupy Washington, DC is an independent movement that will hold the system, big business and both parties accountable for corporatism and militarism.  And we will not go away or be absorbed by MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream and its Democratic Party allies.  We are critics of the machine, the corrupt, dysfunctional system, which the Democratic Party has always been and continues to be part of.  We welcome Dream supporters. We would even welcome the leadership.  All they need to do is renounce the Democratic Party and President Obama.
MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream can prove us wrong if they come forward with a non-partisan statement saying they will fight against any elected official, of any party, in any office, who has not lived up to the anti-militarism and anti-corporatist agenda, especially the president.
Until that statement is made Democratic Party operatives and their allied groups should back off the Occupy Movement.  You have a different strategy – working inside the Democratic Party, working inside the limits of the corrupt machine while we want to transform American politics.
Get out of our way.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Monopolist Media Management: An example on how foreign protesters are celebrated, and the Occupy! campaign is silenced...

"Time" weekly newsmagazine is owned by a monopolist conglomerate whose leadership is hostile to democracy and human-rights around the world, except when directed to support "protests" against enemy governments. The coverage of the Occupy! campaign by "Time" newsmagazine is selective, and is written without context, or without any reference to the human-rights abuse against many Occupy! protesters or their demands. However, internationally, "Time" produced an issue of their newsmagazine with a cover celebrating the violent protesters in Egypt who are working against a government declared as an enemy of the USA...

"Comparing U.S. & World Covers for TIME Magazine"
2011-11-25 by David Harris Gershon, posted at "Daily Kos" []:
Each week, TIME Magazine designs covers for four markets: the U.S., Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Often, America's cover is quite, well – different. This week offers a stark example.

Yes, what you see is TIME devoting its cover in international markets to a critical moment in Egypt's revolution – perhaps the most important global story this week – while offering Americans the chance to contemplate their collective navels (with a rather banal topic and supposition, to boot).
This is not an isolated incident, for perusing TIME's covers [] reveals countless examples of the publication tempting the world with critical events, ideas or figures, while dangling before Americans the chance to indulge in trite self-absorption.
Witness these stunning dichotomies:

Viewing these covers, a question must be asked: do these moments of marketing (through a choice in covers) reveal more about Americans, or about the state of American journalism?
I fear the answer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Oakland: “We shut down the port!” demonstrators say (Ongoing analysis)

2011-11-03 from "Oakland Local" [“we-shut-down-port”-demonstrators-say-ongoing-analysis]:
Protestors blockading the port

Editor's Note: The following are reports "from the field" by Oakland Local writer and photographer Eric Arnold as he continues to cover the Occupy Oakland movement in downtown Oakland.

"We shut down the port!”
Wednesday - 3:25 p.m.
A crowd of about 4,000 is at 14th and Broadway, listening to Boots Riley speak. “People have a common enemy: the system,” he says.
(Boots Riley leads the march to the port)

3:40 p.m.
Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” sparks a mini-flash mob of dancing frenzy. Boots announces that seven buses are on their way to pick people up and take them to the port.

4:05 p.m.
The buses start leaving.

4:15 p.m.
The crowd begins to march west on 14th, toward the port.

4:30 p.m.
Crowd chant: “Strike, occupy, shut them down, Oakland is the people’s town!”

4:40 p.m.
The residents of City Towers apartments on 14th Street cheer as the march passes. “Join us!” the marchers yell.
(Marchers surge toward the port.)

4:45 p.m.
There is a huge catcall as the crowd passes under the BART tracks by the I-580 on-ramp in West Oakland. Overheard: “This march is a mile wide.”

4:55 p.m.
On the overpass, heading toward the port. Crowd chants: “Justice for Oscar Grant!”

5 p.m.
The port dinosaurs loom; bike-mounted portable speakers play a Bob Marley tune.

5:10 p.m.

About 20 protestors are blocking a truck on its way to the port. The driver honks his horn continuously. It’s deafening. The crowd starts clapping. Three more trucks line up behind the first. A helicopter circles overhead.

5:15 p.m.
Councilwoman Desley Brooks is sitting on the side of the street, watching the truck scene. It’s quite possible that she’s the only local elected official to actually camp out with the Occupiers and to go on the march. Eventually, the trucker stops bleating his horn.

5:25 p.m.
Occupy SF folks are holding down a gate at the port. The march surges forward.

5:35 p.m.
“We already have a victory. We’ve already made history,” an 'OO' organizer tells the assembled masses. The crowd splits into two sections. The “general strike” banner takes the left road, the “occupy Oakland“ banner takes the right. Richmond Spokes’ Brian Drayton plays Toots and the Maytals’ “54-46” on a boombox strapped to his bike.
(An estimated 10,000 people marched on the port)

6:10 p.m.
The general strike contingent waits at Seventh Street and Middle Harbor Road. Other marchers are considering taking over the Bay Bridge. The idea results in a police scramble, but doesn’t actually come to fruition.

6:30 p.m.
About 15-20 marchers are in line at a taqueria truck inside the port area. Hungry marchers stock up on iced tea and burritos. Meanwhile, there’s a report 300 cops are at West Grand, guarding the freeway entrance.

6:45 p.m.
The “occupy Oakland” banner group is blockading two entrances. Hundreds of folks are moving in a circle, preventing container trucks from exiting.

7:10 p.m.
About 20-25 cops and several vehicles remain at West Grand, near the freeway entrance. No marchers are attempting to move onto the freeway, and eventually the cops leave.

7:30 p.m.
About 350 people remain in the occupy Oakland banner group, occupying a port gate next to the Oakland Army base. A man in an American flag shirt says, “Wanna hear an interesting story? I asked the police to leave and they left.”

7:40 p.m.
Two women gyrate to a techno beat playing from a portable beat machine.

7:45 p.m.
There’s a report that police are going to Seventh and Broadway.

8 p.m.
About 400 people are assembled at Seventh and Maritime, waiting for confirmation that the port is shut down. The crowd cheers longshoreman going home and chants, “We shut down the port!”

8:25 p.m.
A line of bored CHP cops protect the I-880 on-ramp. The cops are polite, helping marchers cross the intersection.

Thousands participate in strike
Wednesday - 10:30 a.m.
Arriving at 14th and Broadway. A huge, diverse crowd just marched from 14th and Telegraph. There is a large truck with a sound system on 14th at the foot of the plaza. Rapper Mistah FAB addresses the crowd: “They looking for a reason to shut us down.” They don’t understand the power is in the people,” he says emphatically.
FAB says he represents the part of the 99 percent that is the youth. “We’re not here to destroy Oakland,” he adds.

10:45 a.m.
Another hip-hop group, BRWN BFLO, performs a song called “Powerful People” in the plaza bowl.

10:50 a.m.
A Native American ceremony featuring Ohlone Indians, along with Buddhist monks, takes over the plaza stage. They are beating traditional drums, burning sage and chanting. “Come and join us in our struggle to protect our sacred lands … this is Ohlone territory,” says a man wearing a feathered headband. He’s holding a staff with an eagle head.

11 a.m.
There’s not a single police officer in sight. The crowd at 14th and Broadway keeps swelling. There are BHS and Mills students, teachers, organized labor, anarchists, hippies, black and brown folks, Asians, you name it. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays on the sound system, followed by “Get Up” by the coup and dead prez.

11:10 a.m.
There’s a report that students and teachers from CCA are trying to shut down Bank of America and Chase banks.

11:15 a.m.
A speaker from Causa Justa says those two banks have been shut down, along with Wells fargo and Citibank. “We closed the four largest banks,” she says. At least 1,000 people and maybe more are in the intersection of 14th and Broadway, chanting “hella hella occupy.”

11:25 a.m.
Mayor Quan’s husband, Dr. Floyd Huen, is spotted in the crowd. He’s holding up a 99 percent sign.

11:30 a.m.
Boots Riley reports that many longshoremen didn’t show up for work, in a show of solidarity. "The port is halfway closed,” he says.

11:55 a.m.
Oakland rappers Mistah FAB, Richie Rich, and D Labrie are spotted in the crowd.
Around the plaza, there are prayer and meditation circles, performances by singer-songwriters and hip-hop groups, and Occupiers in tents.

12:15 p.m.
Various speakers are talking about their personal reasons for being there. “Wachovia and Wells Fargo’s trying to steal my house. They stole my neighbor’s house,” one man says.
The overall effect at the 14th and Broadway intersection is almost overwhelming. There’s a lot to take in, a steady stream of motion seemingly coming from all directions, people everywhere. The crowd continues to grow,
(Protestors hold up a banner at 14th and Broadway)

12:20 p.m.
A march passes by 14th and Franklin. Along with teachers and organized labor, there are kids on scraper bikes. Just down the street, at 14th and Webster, another march heads toward the plaza. Again, there's not a single police officer in sight.

Hip-hop demonstration and rally engages youth of color
Nov. 1 - 4:30 p.m.
Thus far, probably the least-represented constituency in the Occupy movements - not just in Oakland, but elsewhere - has been youth of color.
That was all remedied by today’s jobs and education rally/hip-hop concert, “Swag’n 4 Justice,” an event produced by Urban Peace Movement, along with United Roots, the Ella Baker Center and other youth groups.
“Swag’n” was able to mobilize the 16-24 urban demographic, with particularly high numbers of Asian-American and African-American kids, about a couple hundred in all. The tactic of using hip-hop to engage this demo isn’t particularly new - many of the organizers behind the event have essentially been doing the same thing for a decade - but it is effective. “Swag’n” was as well-organized as any event, which has happened since Ogawa plaza was rechristened in honor of Oscar Grant, and more polished than most.
Performers included Askara  X, Brandon, J-Million & O-Zone and DJ Fuze. The material had all the elements of turf rap or KMEL-ready R&B, but with conscious lyrics (sample: “taking care of what you got/ even if it’s not a lot”), which addressed themes like the struggle, economic reality and the need for motivation and self-determination.
In-between performances, speakers engaged the crowd in call-and-response with slogans like “more jobs = less violence” while hammering away at a few talking points: trying to get jobs for local residents from the Oakland Army base, eliminating lack of incarceration as a condition of employment, and better education.
(Oakland youth, "Swag'n 4 Justice")

5:12 p.m.
A moment of silence is held for Mac Dre, the Bay area rap pioneer killed on this day in 2004. DJ Fuze played a few choice Dre tunes, resulting in spontaneous dance ciphers breaking out. Yes, we have now reached the point where Mac Dre is considered “old school" - even his later material such as “Feelin’ Myself” - and it should be noted that a bunch of teenagers bouncing around to “Thizz Dance” is actually a form of ancestor worship, a ritual tradition dating back to the origins of dance as an art form.
Ella Baker ED and Port Commission nominee Jakada Imani also speaks to the crowd. Imani is the only stage performer wearing a suit, and if his comments ( “it wasn’t an accident that you were born;” “stand up Oakland”) came off as a bit generic, well, it’s been more than 10 years since he was a member of Communist hip-hop act Red Brigade.
“Swag’n 4 Justice is with the Revive Oakland coalition,” explains co-emcee Rayne Smith. “Our goal is to get thousands of jobs. Not just any jobs, jobs that are quality jobs.”
Smith notes that the rally brought out “a very diverse group as far as age, race, everything and that’s a great thing because the jobs that are gonna be on the Army base are from youth on up to people much older.”

5:41 p.m.
J-Milli-on and O-Zone perform their popular song “The Real Oakland.” They are followed by Queen Deelah, who says, “if we can transform Oakland, we can transform the world” before jumping into a song called “Transform.” Deelah has great energy, and it’s always nice to see a female emcee onstage, especially a conscious one.
Urban Peace Movement founder Nicole Lee speaks to the perception that youth of color have been underrepresented in Occupy movements.
“That’s what we hope to contribute to this, we want to carve out a space for young people, people from the flatlands of Oakland to participate … we stand in support and solidarity with the Occupy movement because it’s the same message.”

6:03 p.m.
The crowd is wowed by an impressive exhibition of turf dancing by the Turf Feinz and Turfin 24/7, as Fuze plays electro-hop and Casual’s all-star tribute to the Town, “Oakland.” The dancers’ acrobatic moves draw a phalanx of photographers to the front of the stage to witness yet another Oakland-identified art form.

6:15 p.m.
Heavy gusts of wind overturn many of the tents - whose number is back up to 150 or so - in the plaza; Occupiers scramble to right their temporary homes. The overall energy is palpable, just 15 hours before the general strike demonstration is scheduled to start. A sense of anticipation fills the air as Occupiers await what tomorrow will bring.

Agenda announced for general strike
Oct. 31 - 4 p.m.
Occupy Oakland organizers held a press conference today announcing their agenda for Wednesday’s general strike, which is expected to draw thousands of people to Oakland. The announcement took place at the intersection of Telegraph and Broadway, a symbolic and historically-significant location: 65 years ago, in 1946, the last general strike to take place in America was also announced from that very same corner.
The speakers focused on four main themes: foreclosures, education, labor, and police brutality. The Occupy Oakland movement, explained Louise Michel, was “sparked by the need to end police strikes on the community.” It’s a movement, she reminded the assembled media, with “no leaders, no political parties” which is attempting to “take back control from corporate power which perpetuates all forms of oppression and the destruction of the environment.”
The decision to move ahead with a general strike, she said, was made by “overwhelming consensus” by a general assembly of thousands of Oakland residents the night after “brutal police attacks” on demonstrators and the subsequent re-occupation of “Oscar Grant” plaza.
“We call for a general strike against the 1% because we know that their wealth is produced by the work of the 99 percent,” Michel said. Organizers plan to picket any workplace or school which takes disciplinary action against people participating in the strike.
Michel was followed by hip-hop musician Boots Riley, who announced a march on the Port of Oakland at 5 p.m., to “shut it down and blockade the flow of capital on the day of the general strike, as well as to show our solidarity with the longshore workers against EGT in Longview, Washington” – a company whose profits last year were 2.4 trillion with strong ties, Riley said, to Wall Street.  “This is just one example of Wall Street’s corporate attack on workers,” he added.
The entire world, Riley said, is “fed up with the huge disparity of wealth.”
Up next was labor organizer Clarence Thomas, a third-generation Oakland longshore worker, who said, “this is a movement about fighting corporate rule with worker power.”
Over the past 30 years, Thomas explained, American workers have increased production, yet “wages have remained stagnant.” That gap, he said, represents corporate profits, which “the 1% have been living off of,” to the detriment of the 99%.
“This is not about a crisis on Wall Street,” Thomas said. “This is capitalism run amok. Capitalism has failed us.” Billionaires produce products in America by people working for slave wages, he continued, “and the only way that’s gonna be turned around is when the workers rise up.”
Pat Brooks, the next speaker, was more succinct. Speaking on police brutality, she said, “we will not take it any longer.”
Brooks was followed by Nell Myndham, who said she wanted to send a message to Chase bank: “I need my home more than they need one more [foreclosure]."
There have been 30,000 foreclosures in Oakland, she said, 905 of which are in three zip codes, disproportionately affecting blacks, Latinos and the elderly.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America have more than $2 trillion in assets apiece. We’re calling,” she said, “for investment in our communities.”
Javier Armes followed with a statement on public education in Oakland. The same day the Occupy camp was raided, he said, five public schools in East Oakland were scheduled for closure – a financial crisis perpetuated by the accumulation of a an eight-figure debt by the Oakland Unified School district in 2003. “If the system cannot maintain schools for our children, we will take over our schools and run them ourselves,” he vowed.
Organizers also noted the solidarity of the Egyptian people with Oakland’s Occupy movement, as well as the connection between labor and liberation. “all over the world, people are marching in solidarity and looking at Oakland, “ Riley said.
Though the strike was called for by Occupied Oakland’s general assembly, it has been joined by the ILWU and SEIU, two of the strongest organized labor groups. Additionally, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana has released a memorandum which promised that city workers will not face disciplinary actions from the city.
On Wednesday, there are three calls for convergences at 14th and Broadway, at 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. The march to the port begins at 5 p.m. sharp. All day, the general strike will feature speakers, bands, and DJs, promising what one organizer called a “festive” atmosphere. More info is online, at

Saturday night march takes it to ‘the hood’, confrontations mostly avoided
Oct. 28 - 6 p.m.
Looking at the Occupied camp, it would be hard to tell that Tuesday morning’s police raid had even taken place. Once again, hella tents line the grassy field in the plaza – about 50 of them. The kids’ tent and medical tent are back in action. Occupied Oakland is rebuilding its infrastructure.

8:30 p.m.: The now-familiar thudda-thudda of helicopter engines permeate downtown Oakland. There are at least two choppers in the air, monitoring the movements of a march against police brutality, which followed a speak-out on the same topic. The ABC 7 live feed shows a line of riot cops and hundreds of marchers, although the precise location is difficult to determine from the aerial view.

9:15 p.m.: The march - about 400 or 500 strong - has reached 13th and Broadway, chanting, “this is what democracy looks like” and “the people united will never be defeated.” A large banner reads “justice for Oscar Grant;”  many are holding shields depicting skeletons with crossed hands, which say “stop police brutality.” Many in the crowd are in Halloween costumes, which blend in perfectly with the masked protestors.

9:33 p.m.: As the crowd reaches 19th, it chants, “we are Lovelle Mixon.” Just then, the lights on the Paramount Theater go out.

9:50 p.m.: A suggestion is made to march through “the hood” - West Oakland. The marchers do just that, veering down Adeline, then West, chanting “whose streets, our streets!” Curious onlookers, most of them African American, come out of their houses to watch. Some join the march. One man runs out, chanting “f--- the police!” The crowd cheers him.

10:15 p.m.: A line of police block the freeway off ramp at 17th street. There is a brief stand-off, which has the potential to turn ugly, but thankfully doesn’t. OPD are on their best behavior; there are helmeted officers, but the riot squad is nowhere to be seen. Police captain Ersie Joyner is on-hand, providing leadership to the rank-and-file.

Some of the protestors appear agitated at the sight of the cops, but the few who voice epithets are quickly over-shouted by chants of “peaceful protest.” The potential crisis is averted as the march turns eastward on 17th, over the overpass, and back toward downtown and the plaza.

10:25 p.m.: A graffiti tagger is heckled and chastised by a few protestors who remind him that the vandalization of personal property is not one of the goals of the Occupied movement. The tagger runs away. One marcher is overheard remarking, “the revolution is exhausting.”

10:30 p.m.: Someone—it’s unclear who—breaks a window at the OPD office at the northwest end of the plaza. A bunch of photojournalists run up to the window to document the damage. A couple of protestors ask the media pros why they need to take pictures of the broken window. An AP photog shrugs and says, “I’m just doing my job.” A young white guy using a pair of leopard-skin panties as a mask asks another photographer with a press credential, “who are you?” The irony of an anonymous individual questioning a credentialed member of the media about his identity seems lost on Mr. Leopard Panties.

10:35 p.m.: At the corner of San Pablo and 16th, an argumentative discourse takes place over “a bunch of white people tagging houses in West Oakland.”

10:45 p.m.: Back at the plaza, a young woman with pink hair writes in chalk, “the love speaks without words and always speaks the truth.”

10:50 p.m.: There’s still a lot of activity going on. About 75 people line the bowl, sitting and talking, as the people in tents prepare to spend another night in the Occupy Oakland camp.

Michael Moore: “we have killed despair”
Oct. 27 - 2:15 p.m.
A blind veteran named Richard Casolla, who was hanging out at a shrine to injured veteran Scott Olson in Oscar Grant plaza, shares his story.
On Tuesday, he was tear-gassed, he says, and “couldn’t breathe for four blocks.” The gas carried all the way down to Sears, he says. Casolla also says didn’t hear any kind of warning before the gas went off. He’s planning to file a lawsuit, he says, against both the city and the police.
There are now more than 40 tents set up in the grassy field.
In the amphitheater bowl, an Islamist prayer session attended by about 25-30 people is happening.
The Occupied site buzzes with activity. There are many onlookers, occupiers, journalists,and lawyers milling about.

2:45 p.m.
A guy starts ranting about media not being part of the 99 percent. When asked what media outlets he’s referring to, his lists all the network stations: "2, 4, 5, 7.” He also says he has no Internet access.

3 p.m.
Hip-hop journalist Davey-D, SF rapper Sellassie (wearing a Raiders jacket) and KPFA funk DJ Rickey Vincent share a brief conversation with Jeff Wozniak, a civil rights attorney defending the accused Nortenos against the gang injunction.
“We need gang injunctions against some of these cops,” Davey quips.

3:10 p.m.
About 50 people stand in line, waiting to get a freshly-printed “Hella Occupy Oakland” poster. Directly adjacent, about 25 people are lined up for chicken and vegetable sandwiches.
Musician Kev Choice, just arrived from Atlanta, takes a look-see. Choice says he’s been following the events in Oakland, and wanted to check out the Occupied zone for himself.

3:40 p.m.
Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks to the Occupied Oakland crowd for about 45 minutes. Moore hits all the right notes in a speech laden with media-savvy soundbites. Corporate media was not prepared to deal with the Occupy movement, he says.
“In my lifetime I have not seen a moment like this.”
Moore touches on the “militarization of local police forces” and the lack of transparency in the Department of Homeland Security budget, the “$2 billion a week" he says are spent on “illegal wars,” the corporations whose actions led people to start the Occupy movements, the false perception that America is not a liberal country.
He mentions Scott Olson: “the only place he had to worry about was his own country.” And he says, “I don’t pay you to hit me in the face with a tear-gas canister.”
There have been victories already as a result of the Occupy movements, he says: “we have killed despair. This movement has killed apathy…You have altered the national discussion.”
This week in Oakland, he adds, will go down as a “watershed moment … millions have watched, millions have been inspired by you.”
After the Oakland encampment was raided, and after peaceful protestors were assaulted by police, he emphasized, “you didn’t go away. You were supposed to go away.”
The speech ends with a baseball game-like chant of “let’s go, Oakland!”
Moore’s speech coincidentally happened at the same time as a press conference given by Mayor Quan, which was much less well-attended.
(Michael Moore addresses the crowd at Occupy Oakland)

4:15 p.m.
A man named Haroun Arsaali shares his story. On Tuesday, he says, he was marching from the library to the jail. After turning left on Washington, he passed a line of cops who “took it upon themselves to start attacking the crowd, especially those who were in front with the banner. We were basically stuck between riot police hitting us and a big crowd behind us with nowhere to go. “
Arsaali says he was surrounded, struck with baton blows, and tackled to the ground. He struggled to breathe, and passed out. He woke up being carted into a paddy wagon. He was then taken to Highland hospital, then to Santa Rita jail.
When he asked for a phone call to a lawyer, Arsaali says he was searched, and then beaten by correctional officers.  “They kicked me on my legs, then putting me face first against a wall. More correctional officers came up behind me that I could not see. One of them took my arm and basically put it in such a position, I thought it was going to snap off. I was jumped by at least four correctional officers,” he said.
“After that, I was dragged into a holding cell where the beating continued. They continued to put enormous stress on my wrist. I still have no feeling in my hand. My face was put  under the toilet and they put my hands inside the toilet. I have bruises and scrapes everywhere.”
One of the officers, he said, then stood on his face. “My jaw is still swollen,” he said. “I have lumps all over my head.” He was then told not to move or look around until he heard the door lock.
Arsaali says he did not resist “in any way shape or form.” He weighs all of 135 lbs., he notes. “These guys are all 250-plus. He also insists he didn’t throw any projectiles at the Oakland police officers before they beat him with batons, either.

4:30 p.m.
Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays in the plaza.

10:30 p.m.
The plaza bowl has become festive; hundreds of people are being entertained by the brassy sounds of the Extra Action Marching Band, following the night’s GA. There are cheerleaders with sparkly pom-pons, flag-wavers, and masked muscle dudes. Many in the crowd are in costume, as an MC on a megaphone chants, “Viva la Occupacion!” It’s completely surreal. Then again, a bit of levity is perhaps what the Occupiers needed. After all, what good is a revolution if you can’t dance to it?
Quan booed off stage, apologizes

Oct. 28 - 9:30 a.m.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has a “credibility problem,” according to the SF Examiner. After Tuesday morning’s raid which forcibly removed an estimated 150 Occupiers from their tents, she issued the following statement: "As a defense against protesters who were throwing items from the encampment’s kitchen at officers, law enforcement officers deployed bean bags and gas canisters. No injuries to protesters or law enforcement officers have been reported."
This came before Tuesday evening’s events – which did result in injuries to protestors, the most serious being a fractured skull suffered by war veteran Scott Olson, who remains in a medically-induced coma at Highland hospital.
Last night, the Chronicle reports, Quan attempted to speak to the GA, but was booed off stage and left without saying a word.
She later posted a statement on her Facebook page, which has received thousands of comments critical of her actions. Quan said she was “deeply saddened” about what happened Tuesday and added, “ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened.”
She then held out an olive branch: “I want to work with you to ensure that this remains peaceful moving forward.”
A “minimal police presence” will be in effect, Quan promised, and she hopes for “direct communication” between Occupy Oakland organizers and city staff, specifically her and police Chief Jordan.
The statement ended on a hopeful note: “I hope we can work together.”
However, it’s fair to ask whether Quan’s statement is a case of too little, too late. As East Bay Express editor and columnist Bob Gammon blogged after Wednesday’s press conference, “it seems that Quan has taken criticism from the law-and-order crowd much too seriously and has forgotten her progressive roots.”
Gammon went on to outline exactly why the Mayor’s credibility was in tatters: “Quan ... badly misread how the police raid would not only be viewed by her progressive supporters in Oakland but by liberals around the nation and the world.”
At this point, it appears that Quan is in damage control mode. She cannot hope to appease conservatives who have long been critical of her stance on crime and public safety by kowtowing to Occupiers. Yet she may have eroded her progressive base by being out of town when the police violence against demonstrators occurred and failing to give satisfactory explanations for what happened at her press conference – at which she admitted that the decision to raid the camp was made by Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana.
Reaction to Quan’s statement on the Occupy Oakland Facebook page was skeptical at best; of the 105 comments generated, not a single person expressed support for Quan’s position.
This much seems clear: If the Mayor hopes to win back the hearts and minds of liberals and progressives, it’s going to take more than an apology.

Thursday - 5:30 p.m.
As of about 4:15 p.m. Thursday, eight tents had re-sprouted in Frank Ogawa plaza. At this time, it is not known whether demonstrators will attempt to occupy the plaza overnight, directly defying the terms set forth by City Administrator Deanna Santana and Mayor Jean Quan.
Much of the narrative around Occupy Oakland in the past day has centered around the use of force by Oakland police and other agencies during Tuesday’s violent clashes. Scott Olson - a Marine who reportedly served two tours of duty in Iraq and had joined the Occupy Oakland march after participating in San Francisco’s Occupy demonstration - has become an unfortunate symbol of what many are calling excessive and brutal violence.
This video - posted on YouTube - might seem reminiscent of the Napalm scene in "Apocalypse Now" – except the targets are American civilians on native soil. In the video, as tear gas is released into the intersection of 14th and Broadway, a bloodied Olson is seen just moments after being directly hit with a projectile, as people rush to his aid, crying for medical help:
[video not available]
This video, taken a moment earlier, shows Oakland police lobbing another tear-gas grenade at demonstrators attempting to help Olson:
[video not available]
And this video, taken earlier in the day at Eighth and Washington streets, shows OPD attacking demonstrators attempting to flee with batons, before setting off tear-gas:
[video not available]
No order to disperse is heard before the gas is deployed, an apparent violation of OPD’s use of force policy. Oakland Local asked a police spokesperson about this apparent discrepancy, but has yet to receive a reply. This link has more info about specific OPD policy regarding less-than-lethal force options.
Other questions surround the use of rubber bullets – and by whom. Today at the plaza, a man displayed a nasty-looking large purplish bruise he said was sustained when he attempted to help Olson, along with a rubber ball the size of a blueberry, which he believes inflicted the wound.
Yet, according to Interim Chief Howard Jordan, OPD’s inventory doesn’t include rubber bullets. During yesterday's press conference, Jordan conceded that other police departments and law enforcement agencies assisting OPD - 14 in all - may have fired rubber bullets and/or flash-bangs. Jordan has called for a full investigation into the matter. But finding out which departments were involved - and who shot what, when, at whom  -  could present a difficult logistical chore, which may be beyond OPD’s internal capacity to do so.
The ACLU has created a form for people injured by police in Oakland on Tuesday. In a statement, the civil rights organization said, “When police respond to peaceful protest and civil disobedience with excessive force, the result is to make people afraid to exercise their free speech rights. The Constitution was intended to protect us from exactly that.”
In other Occupied Oakland-related news: People who lost personal property during Monday night’s raid are advised to call the department of Public Works at (510) 615-5566 to identify and retrieve their belongings. Filmmaker Michael Moore will reportedly address tomorrow night’s GA.

Wednesday - 11:45 p.m.
This evening's events:

9:13 p.m.: A clip of Boots Riley speaking at the general assembly is posted on Facebook.  His comments:“The world is watching us here tonight. The world is watching the Occupied Movement in general. And a general strike is the direction that we need to take this whole thing in. (cheers) Pardon my language but we need to capitalize on the momentum we have going on right now. We right now are inspiring thousands. The folks that are in the unions right now are looking for inspiration. We need to be that inspiration. We need to reach out to them and tell them this is the time in history for them to act.”

9:29 p.m.: A massive roar is heard coming from the plaza. At the plaza entrance, an amplified speaker plays the soulful intro to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” The chain-link fence has been removed; a solitary tent sits on the newly-liberated grass.
The assembly is packed, with at least 1,000 people (some estimates are as high as 3,000). The energy is powerful. “We’re gonna shut down Oakland and we’re gonna shut down the world!,” one speaker says.
“Occupy Wall Street has been unable to take it to the streets until today, when they did it with us,” another speaker says.
There is a chant of “Oakland, Oakland, end police brutality.”
A Twitter post notes that Occupy Wall Street is donating $20,000 and 100 tents to Occupy Oakland.

10 p.m.: The crowd chants, “Strike! Strike! Strike!”

10:01 p.m.: A snippet of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” plays, briefly.

10:20 p.m.: About 100 people chanting “Oscar Grant” at 14th st. BART entrance. Demonstrators heading to Occupy SF are being blocked by BART cops and not allowed to enter the station. Trains aren’t stopping at 12th Street. The “Oscar Grant” chant resumes.

10:35 p.m.: There is a huge crowd in the idle of 14th and Broadway listening to disco music. Most of them are on their way to SF.

10:45 p.m.: Only about 20 or 30 people remain in the plaza.

Wednesday - 7:30 p.m.
A press conference was held at Oakland City Hall earlier today. In addition to just about every local media outlet, from Laney College to KGO-TV, there were reporters from the Wall Street Journal and other national outlets. It’s safe to say the Occupy Oakland story has become major.
While waiting, a reporter mentioned he had just returned from Highland hospital, and that Scott Olson, the war veteran seriously injured last night by a still-unknown weapon, was in a coma.
During the press conference, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and Police Chief Howard Jordan all spoke.
“Yesterday was a sad day for us,” Quan said. “We don’t want this to be about demonstrators and the police.” The city, she said, was “hoping to restore Frank Ogawa (plaza) as a free-speech area.”
Quan commented on the use of force by police as being excessive in the view of many people. The story that hasn’t been told, she said, is how cooperative and amenable OPD had been – up until the past 36 hours, that is.
Santana outlined several conditions under which demonstrators are welcome at the plaza. These included: No camping/lodging, and no violence. She also said city workers have removed 10 tons of debris and another 10 tons of personal property.
Jordan indicated his support for free speech, then defended police action as “appropriate” because “officers had things thrown at them.” A notice to disperse was given, he claimed, before the use of force was incurred.
Olson’s injury, he said, was being treated as a Level 1 incident – the same as use of lethal force - and was under investigation by Internal Affairs.
“It’s unfortunate that that happened,” he said. Other incidents involving the use of force are also under investigation, he said.
During a Q&A session, Quan, who was out of town at the time, revealed that she didn’t know when the camp was going to be raided. She later admitted that she did not make the decision to raid the camp, which was the result of Jordan and Santana assessing factors such as public safety, health and fire hazards and anti-police graffiti. The inability of fire and paramedic units to answer calls made was also cited as a factor, as was one reported incident where a man was hit with a 2x4, Santana said. Quan also noted that the camp became markedly less safe at night.
Jordan was asked about the use of force, specifically what weapons were used by OPD. The department has “no rubber bullets in its inventory,” he said, adding that reports of flash-bang grenades were actually CS (tear gas) balls. OPD used bean-bag pellets and CS gas, and no other weapons, he claimed. (Apparently batons don’t count). However, Jordan admitted that other departments may have used rubber bullets or other weapons.
Jordan also was asked why OPD had an LRAD, or sonic cannon, a weapon which is not legally allowed to be used on American citizens.
“It was not deployed,” the chief said.
The use of force at Eighth and Washington happened because officers were “doused with paint and hit with rocks and bottles,” he said, adding that in that situation, when specific individuals target police, police have the right to target those individuals.
After the press conference, police spokesperson Holly Joshi was asked to clarify OPD’s use of force policy. Jordan had appeared to explain a scenario where bean-bag pellets might be used. However, at Eighth and Washington, tear gas was deployed into the middle of a large group of people, not just those who had hurled projectiles at cops.
“Tear gas can’t be deployed at one specific person,” Joshi explained. “Tear gas is used once something has been declared an unlawful assembly and the crowd has been given an opportunity to leave, and they’re not dispersing. They’re acting violently, right? So if they’re not listening to the dispersal order, tear gas is used to disperse the crowd. Does that make sense?”
Joshi’s explanation appears to be out of alignment with what actually happened at Eighth and Washington. As witnessed by reporters, after several officers were doused with paint and vinegar, police struck demonstrators with batons. This was followed by CS canisters being set off. After police retreated southward and formed a line, it was then and only then that the order to disperse was given.
By the time the press conference ended at about 5:30 p.m., a crowd of about 75-100 people had already gathered at 14th and Broadway. One demonstrator said, “we want a peaceful fight, but we’re not planning on backing down until we’re heard. Asked if he was planning to spend the night there, he held up a sleeping bag and smiled.
Meanwhile, a young African-American male held up a soda bottle filled with rubber bullets he said he had collected off the streets - which appeared to confirm they were used by one of the agencies involved, if not OPD.

Wednesday 3:45 p.m.
The aftermath from last night's events continue to reverberate. Oakland's Occupy movement was mentioned in the BBC News' top story, while blogger Zennie Abraham noted 4,000 negative comments on Quan's Facebook page - indicating she could face political fallout long after the fumes of tear gas fade from Oscar Grant, nee Frank Ogawa, plaza.
Speaking of tear gas, Internet reports say a man named Scott Olson has a fractured skull after being struck by a canister fired by OPD; he's said to be in critical condition at Highland Hospital.
OPD's violent response to occupiers' attempts to have a peaceful assembly has been heavily criticized; the ACLU is reportedly considering a class-action lawsuit against the department. It's also being disputed whether notification of unlawful assembly was given before police fired into the crowd - an occurrence, which happened on at least five separate occasions yesterday. In the first such instance, at around at 6 p.m. Tuesday, OPD deployed tear gas against demonstrators before issuing an order of unlawful assembly. There are conflicting reports as to whether they first gave that order in later instances.
The city has issued a press release noting "At approximately 10 p.m. last night, a group of approximately 300 protesters in the area of Frank Ogawa Plaza began throwing large rocks and bottles at officers after receiving multiple orders to disperse. These violent actions prompted the use of less-than-lethal munitions including tear gas by law enforcement to disperse the crowd."
However, the Chronicle reported that tear gas was also used earlier, at 7:45 p.m., and again at 9:30 p.m. independent video and photographic evidence from numerous sources confirms the earlier incidents, which weren't mentioned in the city's press release.
The city also noted "several unsuccessful attempts to enter Frank Ogawa Plaza" which occurred between 4 and 4:30 a.m. this morning.
No official tally of arrests made was released, but the press release notes that "50 percent of the protestors arrested were from outside Oakland."
A media briefing with Mayor Jean Quan,who was out of town yesterday, Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.
 For now, the streets of Oakland are calm. A chain-link fence has been installed around the plaza's grassy field, and at 3 p.m., about 50 people had gathered in advance of a rally is scheduled for 14th and Broadway at 6 p.m. this evening. Organizers are urging that non-violent tactics be employed and have called for no direct engagement with police.

Tuesday - 10 p.m.
A rally for Occupy Oakland turned into a march, then the beginnings of a riot, before turning back into a march, which turned into a standoff.
About 1,000 people gathered at 4 p.m. at the public library for a march through the streets of Oakland. As the march headed toward Broadway, a wall of cops attempted to divert them. Cops gave way, though and the crowd marched down Broadway. A tense stand-off ensued; one protestor was arrested.
The  another line of cops were waiting at Eighth street, so the crowd went down to Washington. At Washington and Seventh, the cops made their stand. They got into it with a few protestors, jabbing them with batons and taking hits from vinegar bottles and paintballs. OPD released a flash-bang grenade, which is basically a firecracker loaded with tear gas. It does not smell good.
The march continued back to Broadway; protestors attempted to retake Frank Ogawa plaza, but were met with stiff resistance. After OPD announced it wouldn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons, the crowd dispersed, marching to Snow Park, where they could assemble without police presence. A few scenarios were proposed, including protesting Bank of America’s corporate offices. Eventually, it was decided to return to Frank Ogawa plaza, where police fired more flash-bangs and more tear gas.

Listen to the Northbay Uprising's Occupy News!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

100,000+ join Oakland General Strike!

RAW VIDEO: Chopper footage of 100,000+ Occupy Oakland Takes back Highway Uploaded 2011-11-04 by [] to []:
Absolutely enormous crowd hit the street in Oakland in support of Oakland. They took over a highway; there's got to be a good 100,000 people there.
source/Credit []

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Oakland Statement of Solidarity from the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers (2011-11-01)

We support the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as we are part of the 99%.  We campaign for  peace and justice, universal health care, good public housing and transportation, public education, and saving social security.  You can find us at Occupy Oakland on Wednesday.
We oppose cutting social security and raising the retirement age. This will lead to more older people on welfare, and fewer younger people with jobs.
We are against corporate personhood and for an amendment to invalidate this.
It is really great that people are protesting their exploitation by the 1%!
 [signed] Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers [1403 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94702] [510-548-9696] []

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Protesters Rally around Injured Veteran

Posted 2011-10-27 by "TopGunMilitary" []:
Tensions rise as Occupy Wall Street protests spread across the country after Iraq War Veteran Scott Olsen was seriously injured in Oakland, California, after police lanched tear gas into the crowd.
Police initially said they had no reports of injuries, but Highland General Hospital spokesman Curt Olsen confirmed that Marine veteran Scott Olsen had been admitted and was in critical condition.
A statement from Iraq War Veterans group, said Olsen was suffering from a skull fracture after being hit by a "police projectile."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marine Vet wounded, tear gas & flash-bang grenades thrown in downtown Oakland

2011-10-26 upload []:
Veterans for Peace member Scott Olsen was wounded by a less-lethal round fired by either San Francisco Sheriffs deputies or Palo Alto Police on October 25, 2011 at 14th Street and Broadway in Downtown Oakland.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning from the Barcelona neighborhood assemblies

Before the Spanish call-out for a global day of action on October 15, a few critical notes and words of encouragement from the Barcelona neighborhood assemblies…

"Reflections for the US Occupy Movement"
2011-10-14 by PETER GELDERLOOS []:
Peter Gelderloos is the author of How Nonviolence Protects the State (South End Press) and Anarchy Works (Ardent press). He currently resides in Barcelona.
After the courageous revolts of the Arab Spring, the next phenomenon of popular resistance to capture the world media’s attention was the plaza occupation movement that spread across Spain starting on the 15th of May (15M). Subsequently, attention turned back to Greece, and now to the public occupations spreading across the US, inspired by the Wall Street protests.

The function of the media is to explain interruptions in the dominant narrative, not to spread lessons useful to the social struggles that generate those ruptures. As such, it is no surprise that they respond to the strategically important moments before and after these mass gatherings with a news blackout.

While the central plazas of the cities of Spain are no longer occupied, in some places the momentum of May continues with force. Particularly in Barcelona, a dynamic struggle continues to evolve, including a heterogeneous and broad group of people in weekly neighborhood assemblies, protests, hospital occupations, road blockades, fights against mortgage evictions and housing repossessions, and solidarity demonstrations against the inevitable repression.

The neighborhood assemblies in particular form a strong backbone that holds up all the ongoing struggles. In about twenty neighborhoods throughout Barcelona, once a week, twenty to a hundred neighbors meet to discuss their problems, propose actions, and share news. Each assembly has a different structure, and members of each assembly gather periodically to share and coordinate between neighborhoods. Half a dozen neighborhoods had assemblies before May 15, and a couple assemblies even predate the September 2010 general strike, but the participation in these assemblies exploded after the beginning of the plaza occupations, and over a dozen new neighborhoods formed assemblies of their own.

These neighborhood assemblies are changing the face of the struggle in Barcelona, overcoming the isolation and separation of the various, pre-existing political ghettos, creating spaces of informal, intergenerational debate, gathering resources for propaganda and legal support, and preempting the isolation that is the express purpose of government repression. The neighborhood assemblies are directly responsible for at least part of the unprecedented turnout of nearly a thousand people taking the streets in a solidarity demonstration the same day that Catalan police began arresting protestors identified from the June Parliament blockade (see “Wave of Arrests Sweep Barcelona Since we’ve met our neighbors in the streets, we’re no longer alone, and the State can try to lock us up or wear us down, but they cannot isolate us.

What’s more, the neighborhood assemblies attack capitalist isolation and the enclosure of public space in the very act of meeting. Every neighborhood assembly is also an occupation that takes over a plaza, park, or street corner without permission, eroding legality and demonstrating that the city is ours. On countless occasions, neighborhood assemblies have blocked major streets as an act of protest (against a hospital closing, for example), or they have decided, almost whimsically, to hold their meeting in a large intersection and simply shut down traffic. In the feeder marches to major protests the people of a neighborhood have met to march all the way to the center, blocking every street along the way, even though they may only consist of forty people. And because of the greater social legitimacy enjoyed by the neighborhood assembly as opposed to some political faction or specific organization, the police have been hesitant to create problems because any repression would draw more people down into the streets. Temporarily, the neighborhood assemblies have negated government sovereignty in the streets; if the police ask whether marchers have a permit, they just get laughed at.

Interestingly, the plaza occupations that began on the 15th of May provided a unique opportunity for people trying to change the world to meet each other and increase our forces and understanding, but it seems that at each step, we had to pass an obstacle constituted by the original forms of the 15M movement. Similarly in the US, the starting points imposed by the Occupy Wall Street action serve as a sort of cocoon that must be broken in order to go further. A number of features that have aided the growth of our struggle in Barcelona may be useful for people in the US to reflect on in comparison with the occupations now happening in New York and other cities.

History is Wisdom

The deeper a struggle’s historical roots, the greater its collective knowledge. In the beginning, both the media and some leading activists tried to present the 15M movement as something new. But in reality, the vast majority of us who occupied Plaça Catalunya and created the movement with our own participation were informed by a lifetime of frustrations and a long history of struggles. In Barcelona, that history includes the struggle against the austerity measures (including two general strikes and a Mayday riot, among innumerable smaller actions), the student movement against the privatization of education, the squatters’ movement, anti-border and immigrant solidarity struggles, the anti-war and anti-globalization movements at the beginning of the last decade, the struggle against gentrification and the Olympics in the ’90s, the struggle in the prisons or the movement of military objectors in the ’80s, the workers’ autonomy and neighborhood movements at the end of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy, the clandestine struggle against Franco, the Civil War, and going back to the beginning of the century, the anarchist struggle against capitalism.

All of these movements constitute lessons learned that can be passed down to aid future struggles. So often, the mistakes that defeat a revolutionary movement are repeated. The neighborhood assemblies in Barcelona serve as spaces where people from different generations can share their perspectives, where those with experience in past struggles can collectivize that experience and turn it into communal property. In the beginning, the organizers of the 15M movement presented their protest model as something ultra-modern, with more references to Twitter than to the country’s rich history of social movements. This model was rejected by many in Barcelona, especially older people or those who had already participated in a previous movement. People preferred to build off their own tradition of struggle, while taking advantage of the new situation and adapting certain features of the 15M model to their use.

The historical memory of past instances of bureaucratization, co-optation by grassroots politicians, and pacification have already served to help the ongoing movement avoid a number of pitfalls. Despite attempts to centralize them, the neighborhood assemblies remain independent and decentralized, allowing for a broader, freer participation, and meaning that politicians who attempt to take advantage of these spaces are at a disadvantage because they cannot operate openly without being kicked out of the assemblies.

The memory of struggles from before the global economic crash has allowed people to move beyond a simple kneejerk response to the present crisis and instead formulate a deeper critique of the system responsible for their woes. In practice, this has meant a popular shift from complaints about specific laws or specific features of the banking system that might serve as scapegoats for the crisis, to a radical critique of government and capitalism. While the movement is heterogeneous and by no means consistent, on multiple occasions it has popularly defined itself as anticapitalist, thus drawing on a strong tradition of struggle that goes back more than a century throughout Europe.

The United States is also a country with inspiring histories of popular struggle. But it is a country with a case of social amnesia like no other. It seems that to a certain extent, the Occupy Wall Street actions exist more as a trend than anything else. The slight extent to which they draw on, or even make reference to, earlier struggles, even struggles from the past twenty years, is worrying.  The fact that a present awareness of US history would shatter certain cornerstones of the new movement’s identity, for example this idea of the 99% that includes everyone but the bankers in one big, happy family, is not a sufficient excuse to avoid this task. The historical amnesia of American society must be overcome for a struggle to gain the perspective it needs.

International Connections Feed Local Roots

The local roots of the neighborhood assemblies foster a great many advantages that have allowed these bodies to become useful tools at everyone’s disposal, provided the participants recognize them for what they are. Especially those assemblies that have remained informal places of meeting, despite the frequent attempts by grassroots politicians to herd them into some formal structure or another, serve a primary function of allowing neighbors to meet each other and share their stories, thus fulfilling a fundamental emotional need for human contact that contrasts with everyday alienation. It is the fulfillment of this need that keeps many people coming back; not just the activists who were already meeting junkies before May 15, but the old folks who had long since given up on meetings, as well as the hospital and education workers or the young students who had never participated in meetings before all this.

The assemblies of some neighborhoods, particularly the more yuppy ones that are full of liberals and authoritarian socialists, have chased away a great deal of participation by spending months deciding on a unitary definition of themselves, or otherwise using consensus or voting processes to achieve a forced and artificial unity. Meanwhile, the more fluid, effective assemblies have recognized that, as it was articulated on one occasion, “we’re not an organization, we’re a neighborhood; we don’t have unity, we have heterogeneity. The only thing we have in common is that we live in the same neighborhood and we’re trying to make things better.”

The fact that we have brought our focus to the neighborhood we inhabit spares us from the abstractions and mediations of politics, allows us to measure our success not in meaningless figures like the number of people who come out to a protest but in very real, increasingly visible quantities, such as the extent to which we know each other, to which we are no longer strangers in our own neighborhoods, and the extent to which these relations of acquaintance are transforming into relations of material and emotional solidarity.

The city, in fact, is an abstraction. In the particular case of Barcelona, most of the neighborhoods were independent villages that were absorbed by the life-devouring machine—first based in industry and now in tourism—that is Barcelona. Village/neighborhood identity was lost as the urban fiction advanced. Returning to the neighborhoods allows us to recover a human scale and distances us from the illusion of politics, which places all emphasis and power at the so-called higher levels of organization. If we ever regain power over our own lives, it will mean nearly all coordination and decision-making takes place at the level on which our own direct participation is possible: locally. This local emphasis has meant that in the attempts to create a coordinating body among the different neighborhood assemblies—a process rife with possibilities for bureaucratization or take-over by self-appointed representatives, if history is any indication—most assemblies have insisted on jealously preserving their own autonomy, putting the centralizers at a distinct disadvantage.

Notwithstanding, the localization of this movement is aided immeasurably by its international contacts. Thanks to the participation of immigrants in these assemblies, we have access to the experience of neighborhood assemblies in Argentina in 2001, the lessons of the Chilean student movement or the Mapuche struggle, or the model developed over the last several years by the Seattle Solidarity Network, to name just a few examples. And because of direct relationships of solidarity with international struggles, when the pacifists try to hijack the story of the Arab Spring or the uprising in Iceland to try and steer the movement in Barcelona towards legalism and civility, people with friends and comrades in Cairo or Reykjavik can remind everyone that those revolts were fought with sticks, stones, and molotov cocktails, and that in any case it’s still too early to declare victory.

It seems that in many cities in the US, the occupy movement is marked by a certain chauvinism that at most takes some inspiration from struggles in other parts of the world, without taking any critical lessons. The idea of “taking back America” is a tried and true strategy for self-defeat: creating a fictive community that in reality includes conflicting interests and conflicting desires and will inevitably be directed by its most powerful elements.

Actually, one need not even look to other countries to find the problem with this sort of populism. George Washington and James Madison were among the richest inhabitants of the North American colonies. They used a unifying patriotism to whip the farmers and laborers into a frenzy, do the fighting and dying for them, kick out the 1% represented by the British overlords, and then when it was all done they wrote a Constitution that preserved their privilege and power, subsequently crushing several farmers’ rebellions that rose up to contest this quiet counterrevolution. Neither did they blink, so soon after their pretty talk about “liberty,” while continuing their policy of genocide against Native Americans and enslavement of kidnapped Africans.

The American identity needs to be challenged as one of the oldest tools for getting the middle and lower sectors of US society to betray themselves and help push down those who are even lower in the hierarchy. The US could not possibly have created the largest wealth gap in the so-called developed world without the complicity of large parts of the population. Just below the 1%, there are plenty of people looking for a leg up, and they’re more than happy to pretend they’re just like everyone else if it lets them shake a few more apples from the tree.

Another disadvantage that needs to be overcome in the US is the near total absence of place. Hardly anyone is from anywhere, and most places are built according to the needs of planned obsolescence, so that local identities barely have any common foundation from one decade to the next. The landscape itself is constantly dissolving. In the US, people are born into precarity and forced mobility. In the past, the most extreme cases, the tramps, developed their own nomad culture, and these tramps were a major force in US labor struggles at the beginning of the 20thcentury, making up a large part of the Industrial Workers of the World, to name an example. But even this has been marginalized or made to disappear.

This alienation of place cannot be accepted with resignation as a simple feature of American society. It is the direct result of capitalist strategies of accumulation and State strategies of repression. How many times has the US government used the forced internal relocation of oppressed groups as an explicit strategy for social control? The only country I can think of that has done this more is China (going back, interestingly enough, through the Communist period all the way to the early dynasties).

In order to overcome the severe disadvantages created by the denial of place, American rebels and revolutionaries need to hold on to their locale for dear life, prevent its periodic reconstruction or gentrification, and put down roots. The idea of “American” as a homogenous, uniting ideal and xenophobic sense of specialness needs to be eroded in favor of local cultures and global awareness. The progressive bumper sticker cliché about “thinking globally” is not enough. People also need to understand themselves as part of those global struggles, able to influence and be influenced by them.

Take Public Space

Barcelona is a city with a long history of popular life in public space. Chris Ealham, in Anarchism in the City, describes how workers pushed into overcrowded slum housing at the end of the 19th century converted the streets into their living rooms, creating an indispensable foundation for the informal neighborhood networks that gave strength to subsequent anticapitalist movements. This street culture survived the decades of fascism intact only to be sharply and effectively undermined by the democratic regime starting at the end of the ’70s. The Olympic Games of ’92 provided a major boost to commercial urbanization, and the civic behavior ordinances, passed in Catalunya after consultation with ex-NYC mayor Rudi Giuliani, might have been the penultimate nail in the coffin of street culture. Barcelona was fast closing in on the American model of the total privatization of public space that not only prohibits—but also installs new urban architecture to engineer out of existence—anyone who is not a consumer in motion.

The neighborhood assemblies are starting to reverse this process, drawing on popular memory of the way things used to be, and architectural remnants such as central plazas in each neighborhood. The more modern neighborhoods that bear greater similarity with US urban spaces and have no plazas take advantage of well positioned parks.

By holding their meetings outside, without permission, the neighborhood assemblies are eroding government and commercial sovereignty over public space and creating a visible referent for self-organization. Even though only fifty people might participate in a particular assembly, thousands see that it exists, and this changes their perception of what is normal and what is possible. This is no small accomplishment. If someone were to write the definitive history of capitalism, the 20thcentury’s enclosure of public space would merit as much attention as the enclosure of communal lands hundreds of years ago, that allowed capitalism to develop in the first place.

The US, once again, is at a disadvantage in this respect. Whereas all European cities were originally designed for defense and at a certain point they had to be redesigned to put the would-be invader at an advantage, thus allowing armies to easily reoccupy cities—it wasn’t only Paris, after all, that had its commune—US cities were designed from the start according to the needs of Capital. It is no coincidence that Capital and the police forces of social control experience converging needs.

Nonetheless, public space does exist in the US, however inconvenient its shape, and it must be taken for popular struggles to advance. The occupy movement is clearly breaking ground in this respect, although the embarrassing habit in several cities of asking for permission for what is supposed to be an occupation endangers any gains that have been won.

Break Out of the Democratic Ideology

In many other cities, leading activists in the 15M movement succeeded in imposing pacifist, populist, and democratic limits to the plaza occupations, meaning that anarchists and other radicals were expelled, while fascists, among others, were included. But in Barcelona, thanks perhaps to the Catalan spirit of independence, the occupation maintained an autonomous character from the beginning, defeating an explicit attempt by would-be leaders to impose a narrow program. Not coincidentally, the Barcelona occupation maintained a greater heterogeneity and a greater force than most other cities’ occupations. And since then, the new movement has been largely reabsorbed into a broader, older, and more intelligent movement with much deeper roots: namely, the anticapitalist movement.

Within the neighborhood assemblies, which are interwoven with workplace struggles and the fight against privatization and cutbacks in health and education, the confused and populist calls for electoral reform have given way to more revolutionary visions. Just a brief scene from our meeting on Wednesday night can give an indication of the healthy effect this radicalization has had on morale:

There were perhaps seventy of us, people from our neighborhood and a few people from other neighborhoods who had come to share. This time, instead of the usual plaza, we were meeting in front of the nearby hospital that is being forced to close down or privatize. Capriciously, we had decided to hold the assembly in the intersection of two streets, shutting down traffic to cut down on the noise, win space for our meeting, and most of all, just because we wanted to, to demonstrate that the city was ours. At one point, a younger person spoke of the need to remember our prisoners and the people facing trial for fighting against an eviction or for harrassing politicians during the Parliament blockade, and not just to remember them today but to remember and support them a year from now, and as long as there are prisoners. Everybody applauded. Subsequently, a woman in her 60s spoke of the need to increase our forces, to fight harder, to get out of control, to do whatever it takes to shut this system down. People cheered loudly. Another speaker remarked on the need to support the struggle beyond any single issue, as important as the problem of healthcare is, because in truth we were struggling against capitalism.  Another urged everyone to boycott the upcoming elections. Only one of these people, as far as I know, was an anarchist, but no political division was visible. All of us were just neighbors, and each of these statements won broad agreement.

In the assemblies we look for ways to take action ourselves. What could be more tedious than sitting through a two hour meeting where we’re counselled to follow rules stacked against us, perhaps sign a petition or two, come out to a protest, provided we behave a certain way, and then leave the rest to the specialists? If someone had gotten up to speak of the need to be nonviolent or respect the laws, they probably would have been booed or ignored as a simpleton. If someone had spoken in favor of negotiating with the politicians or supporting a political party, they might have been kicked out.

The fact of the matter is, the neighborhood assemblies are not open to everyone. They are not spaces for fascists, for politicians, for journalists (at least in the case of some neighborhoods), or for bosses. They are places for building a struggle against capitalism, among those of us who are angry and who respect the principle of solidarity. As such, they fly in the face of democratic fundamentals such as equal rights, free speech, and universal participation. As much as the ideologues of direct democracy try to hide the conflict between the notion of rights and the ideal of freedom, there’s no getting around this fact. The principles of democracy were drafted by elites interested in mediating class conflict and allowing the preservation of a class society. A struggle, to challenge the foundations of this system, must be antidemocratic.

While the alternative media have generally taken a cue from the 15M movement’s self-appointed leaders and described it, in the words of these leaders, as a movement for “real democracy now,” the chants in the protests and the comments in the assemblies leave no doubt—at least in Barcelona, where this movement is strongest—people are increasingly abandoning the concept of democracy and moving towards a growing anticapitalist consensus. There is still plenty of democratic rhetoric in the movement, but every month it seems to wane, and in the most active, dynamic neighborhoods, the common ground is not support of democracy but the shared opposition to capitalism.

Meanwhile, the cities that held on to a democratic ideology quickly wasted their energies. This should not be a surprise. Movements that hope to bring together fascists and immigrants, that hope to inspire people by drafting petitions to their leaders, that ask us to respect the laws created by those who rule us, that underwrite the police’s monopoly on force, that insist on an artificial unity maintained by interminable, process-heavy and easily manipulated meetings rather than trusting the intelligence of decentralization and people’s own ability for self-organization, are destined to fail.

While we must be increasingly communicative to overcome social isolation, populism should be shunned like the plague. We do ourselves no favor by dumbing down our analysis, while we do make strategic errors more likely. Not only is populism counterproductive, it can be dangerous as well. At a peak of the global anticapitalist struggle in the 1920s, fascism appeared within the belly of the movement. Although fascism is identified as a rightwing phenomenon, it began with an anticapitalist rhetoric that blamed an obscure, elite minority for robbing “the nation,” and it recruited heavily from within workers’ movements. The bosses quickly supported the new fascist movement, giving it protection and resources, as an effective way to neutralize revolutionary struggles. The pro-democracy movement prevents the worst of fascism by promoting tolerance, but in many places it has already won the financing of forward-looking elites, hijacked growing struggles and steered them in populist, self-defeating directions, and marginalized more radical elements, directly assisting in their repression.

From the very origins of the democratic concept, “rule by the people” has always been a way to increase participation in the project of government, and “the people” have always excluded classes of slaves and foreigners, whether inside or outside of national boundaries. The question of freedom lies not in who rules, but whether anyone is ruled, or whether all are self-organizing.

In this respect, people in the United States have a great advantage over those in Barcelona. The Spanish state has experienced democracy for less than forty years, and the transition from dictatorship was a clear case of shuffling the cards, with fascists becoming conservatives and the Socialists being allowed into government as long as they didn’t try to change the ground rules inherited from the earlier system. Historically speaking, it’s an easy mistake for people here to make, calling for a “real” democracy as though their own were somehow false, or any different from any other democracy anywhere else on the planet.

The United States is the oldest continuous democracy on the planet. People there have no excuse for misunderstanding the nature of democracy. In fact, among the apolitical majority, there may well be a greater contempt for politicians and for government in general than in most other countries. The welfare states of northern Europe, for example, have successfully undermined popular autonomy and created a population of dependents and sycophants that, even today, in the face of growing abuse and governmental fascism, seem unable to constitute popular struggles. This innate American antiauthoritarianism, though it tends to remain in self-destructive or inert forms, could transform into an important ingredient for popular struggles.

In general, people in the United States face severe disadvantages in fighting power. The popular struggles of past generations were brutally crushed and critical lessons were not passed on. People have to start from scratch in a society constructed to meet the needs of money. In part because of this, people in the US have a unique opportunity to influence struggles worldwide, should they overcome the obstacles and turn these protests into something powerful. One thing is for sure: in the neighborhood assemblies in Barcelona, people have been whispering to each other, “Now, there’s even occupations starting in the US. Something really big must be happening!”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"So this Right Wing Wanker is claiming to have provoked a police assault on Occupy in DC"

2011-10-09 by Brother Jonah for "Not My Tribe" []:
And it appears he actually did so. In his words, to bring condemnation on the protesters. But since most of the people pepper-sprayed weren’t protesters, this Wanker is actually claiming to have incited a riot, for political gain, in which civilians were injured. The dork is named Patrick Howley [] an assistant editor for The National Spectator, an online “news” blog with somewhat less credibility and editorial or should I say “idiotorial” standards than a supermarket tabloid. “conservative” of course. Put this picture up on his Facebook page.

Perhaps he didn’t really do it and wants to hog “credit” for getting his fellow Americans assaulted. I know, I know, an anti-American terrorist, but he’s still American.
Here’s another theory, Maybe he’s a LIBERAL infiltrator into the ConservaTard world trying to make THEM look stupid.
Which, all things considered, would be a redundant effort to their own making of silly-looking done to themselves with, you know, not any letup whatsodamnedever.
Howley, old sot… do you even take into consideration that gas of any kind isn’t limited in its spread or effect to those at whom it’s, for want of a better word, AIMED? Every time the Pigs, like the museum guards you praise for their “courage” in resisting your staged attack,, use gas, be it tear gas or pepper spray, it’s a chemical weapon deployed against their own people. Sounds like you have a lot of God-damn fun mimicking the worst charges against Saddam Hussein. Your pig hero did, certainly.
But, Patrick, old head, you’ve got to realize something and start realizing it really soon. Those stories your “conservative” masters have you and other professional liars spread, about Asthma and CPOD in particular, being a fake illness made up to “get more black kids on Medicaid” ummm… no. They’re real and the diagnoses of Asthma predated Medicaid for about a century. CPOD is an adult-onset form of it and, apparently, what your side is attempting is to deflect the public eye from research that Ozone and other pollutants caused from using internal combustion engines run on gasoline and diesel is a likely cause of it. And they certainly make the juvenile-onset disease of Asthma very much worse.
Further, people with emphysema (P. C.: Cigarettes and smog), elderly people and infants, along with the Asthma/CPOD Americans you took the risk of hitting with gas, can DIE and in many cases HAVE died as a result of similar deployments.
In case you want a more “Conservative” source for that information, perhaps you could hit up the Collin County Prosecutor in Texas who filed charges against a 14 year old, tried him as an ADULT, for setting off a canister of Tear Gas. The charges included Assault With A Deadly Weapon. Now, I know the manufacturers of Tear Gas and Pepper spray deny any of their products being lethal. So do the makers of the Taser.
If you’d care for more on the Taser, or especially if you DON’T (mostly because you’re a narcissistic assmunch) here’s another Very Conservative Source for information on the lies the Taser company spreads, with the help of people like you… ConservaTards who conserve nothing.
There were in the space of about a week and a half two robberies committed in El Paso County, Colorado, using Tasers. The DA promised charges of Robbery W/ Deadly Weapon.
Just so you know, and remember, O Stupid One, you are “copping” out to unleashing Chemical Weapons against Americans. Many of whom were tourists actually enjoying the displays of Mechanized and Automated Baby-Killing Apparati at the Air and Space Museum.
As sick and bloodthirsty as that is, and no doubt you applaud babykilling in your blog, they’re still Americans even if I have to hold my nose while calling them that. I’m sure a narcissist like yourself will find some way to shuffle the blame onto somebody else.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Is JP Morgan getting a good return on 4.6 million gift to NYC Police? (Like Special Protection from Occupy Wall Street?)"

2011-10-02 by Yves Smith from "Naked Capitalism" []:
No matter how you look at this development, it does not smell right. From JP Morgan’s website, hat tip Lisa Epstein []: [begin excerpt] JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing “profound gratitude” for the company’s donation. “These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.” [end excerpt]
Perhaps I remember too much of the scruffy and not exactly safe New York City of the 1980s, where getting your wallet pinched was a pretty regular occurrence. My perception has been that police-related charities have relied overmuch on the never-stated notion that if you didn’t donate, you might not get the speediest response if you needed help. As a mere apartment-dweller, I can’t imagine that anyone could scan incoming 911 calls against a priority list. But the flip side is if I owned a retail store and thought the beat police would keep an extra eye on it if I gave to a police charity, it would seem like an awfully cheap form of insurance.
But what, pray tell, is this about? The JPM money is going directly from the foundation to the NYPD proper, not to, say, cops injured in the course of duty or police widows and orphans. But that is how the NYPD Police Foundation works. From its website []: [begin excerpt]
The New York City Police Foundation, Inc. was established in 1971 by business and civic leaders as an independent, non-profit organization to promote excellence in the NYPD and improve public safety in New York City.
The Police Foundation supports programs designed to help the NYPD keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, strategies and training.
The New York City Police Foundation:
* Provides resources that are not readily available through other means – to date over $100 million has been invested in 400+ innovative NYPD programs;
* Serves as a vehicle for tax-exempt gifts and grants from individuals, businesses, and philanthropies;
* Is the first municipal foundation of its kind in the country, and serves as a model for similar organizations in other cities;
* Is the only organization authorized to raise funds on behalf of the NYPD and;
* Does not solicit by telephone or use telemarketers.
* The Police Foundation works closely with the Police Commissioner to develop a strategic program agenda. The Foundation encourages and supports NYPD programs in two main areas:
* Projects, research studies, and equipment to improve the effectiveness of police activities; and
* Education, training and skill development to strengthen the partnership between the police and the public.
[end excerpt]
Given when the NYC Police Foundation was formed, it looked to have been a desperate move during New York City’s fiscal crisis (remember the infamous headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”?) When I moved to the city in 1981, pretty much everyone I knew who lived in a non-doorman building had suffered a break-in. Guiliani’s reputation was built on cleaning up a perceived-to-be unsafe city (which he did by hiring William Bratton). Even in the later 1980s, when I lived in a townhouse on 69th between Park and Madison (translation: good neighborhood), I’d be the first out of the building in the AM. The inner door to the townhouse was locked, the outer one was closed but unlocked. I’d always have to navigate my way out carefully so as not to waken the homeless person sleeping in the vestibule.
So while this effort to supplement taxpayer funding has a certain logic, it raises the nasty specter of favoritism, that if private funding were to become a significant part of the Police Department’s total budget, it would understandably give priority to its patrons.
And look at the magnitude of the JP Morgan “gift”. The Foundation has been in existence for 40 years. If you assume that the $100 million it has received over that time is likely to mean “not much over $100 million” this contribution could easily be 3-4% of the total the Foundation have ever received.
Now readers can point out that this gift is bupkis relative to the budget of the police department, which is close to $4 billion. But looking at it on a mathematical basis likely misses the incentives at work. Dimon is one of the most powerful and connected corporate leaders in Gotham City. If he thinks the police donation was worthwhile, he might encourage other bank and big company CEOs to make large donations.
And what sort of benefits might JPM get? It is unlikely that there would be anything as crass as an explicit quid pro quo. But it certainly is useful to be confident that the police are on your side, say if an executive or worse an entire desk is caught in a sex or drugs scandal. Recall that Charles Ferguson in Inside Job alleged that the use of hookers is pervasive on Wall Street (duh) and is invoiced to the banks.
Or the police might be extra protective of your interests. Today, OccupyWallStreet decided to march across the Brooklyn Bridge (a proud New York tradition) to Chase Manhattan Plaza in Brooklyn. Reports in the media indicate that the police at first seemed to be encouraging the protestors not only to cross the bridge, but were walking in front of the crowd, seemingly escorting them across:
("Police Leading #OccupyWallStreet Protesters Onto The Brooklyn Bridge Traffic Lane", 2011-10-01 []: Protesters started marching up the pedestrian walk way over the bridge while others tried to take the traffic lane. For a few minutes officers held the line and then they turned around and led the way up the traffic lane on the Brooklyn Bridge. From what I saw no police told any of the protesters to leave until they created a barricade in front of the march about halfway through the bridge. They then pulled vans and buses up to the back of the group and started arresting everyone. In total over 700 people were arrested.)
The wee problem is that the police are in the street, and part of the crowd is also on the street (others are on a pedestrian walkway that is above street level). That puts them in violation of NYC rules that against interfering with traffic. Note the protest were aware fo the rules; they were careful to stay on the sidewalk on the way to the bridge.
Over 700 of the marchers were arrested, and the media has a rather amusing “he said, she said” account, with OccupyWallStreet claiming entrapment and the cops batting their baby blues and trying to look innocent. From the New York Times []:
[begin excerpt]
But many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them…
“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested…all insisted that the police had made no mention that the roadway was off limits. Ms.[Annie] Day and several others said that police officers had walked beside the crowd until the group reached about midway, then without warning began to corral the protesters behind orange nets…
Where the entrance to the bridge narrowed their path, some marchers, including organizers, stuck to the generally agreed-upon route and headed up onto the wooden walkway that runs between and about 15 feet above the bridge’s traffic lanes.
But about 20 others headed for the Brooklyn-bound roadway, said Christopher T. Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who accompanied the march…They were met by a handful of high-level police supervisors, who blocked the way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that the marchers were blocking the roadway and that if they continued to do so, they would be subject to arrest.
There were no physical barriers, though, and at one point, the marchers began walking up the roadway with the police commanders in front of them – seeming, from a distance, as if they were leading the way. The Chief of Department Joseph J. Esposito, and a horde of other white-shirted commanders, were among them…
A freelance reporter for The New York Times, Natasha Lennard, was among those arrested….
Mr. Dunn said he was concerned that those in the back of the column who might not have heard the warnings “would have had no idea that it was not O.K. to walk on the roadway of the bridge.” Mr. Browne [of the NYPD] said that people who were in the rear of the crowd that may not have heard the warnings were not arrested and were free to leave.
Earlier in the afternoon, as many as 10 Department of Correction buses, big enough to hold 20 prisoners apiece, had been dispatched from Rikers Island in what one law enforcement official said was “a planned move on the protesters.”
Etan Ben-Ami, 56, a psychotherapist from Brooklyn who was up on the walkway, said that the police seemed to make a conscious decision to allow the protesters to claim the road. “They weren’t pushed back,” he said. “It seemed that they moved at the same time.”..
He added: “We thought they were escorting us because they wanted us to be safe.”
[end excerpt]
The part I find more interesting, which has not been as well reported, is that some (many?) the protestors who used the walkway and got across the bridge were also corralled and not permitted to proceed to the Chase plaza. Greg Basta, deputy director of the New York Communities for Change, told me by phone, based on multiple reports from people who participated in the march, that as soon as protestors got to the Brooklyn side of the bridge, they were kettled. Greg was under the impression that there were construction barricades at the foot of the bridge which made it impossible for the marchers not to walk on the street. Because the focus has been on the what happened on the bridge, the coverage of what happened to the rest of crowd is sparse.
Some confirmation in passing comes from MsExPat at Corrente [] (apparently some of the very first off the bridge were permitted to proceed): [begin excerpt]
My friends and I made it to the Brooklyn side okay–we ended up with about 350 other marchers in Cadman Plaza, a lovely 19th century park. What I didn’t find out until later is that several hundred people behind me also got kettled and barred from going all the way to Brooklyn. So I was among the lucky marchers in the middle.
[end excerpt]
But notice even then that the procession to Chase Manhattan Plaza [correction, Cadman Plaza} was effectively barred. [Note JPM may have operations nearby, Bear Stearns had much of its back office there, and if the leases were cheap, JPM may have kept the space].
We simply don’t know whether the police would have behaved one iota differently in the absence of the JP Morgan donation. But it raises the troubling perspective that they might have. Richard Kline pointed out that that local policing was important protection against control by the elites []: [begin excerpt]
The oligarchy specifically and the Right in general are far less strong in American society apart from what their noise machines and bankroll flashing would make one think. The great bulk of the judiciary remains independent even if important higher appellate positions are tainted. Domestic policing is, by tradition and design, highly decentralized, with a good deal of local control, making overt police state actions difficult, visible, and highly unpopular (think TSA). While the military is a socially conservative society in itself, it is also an exceptionally depoliticized one, with civilian control an infrangible value. Popular voter commitment to the nominally more conservative political party has never been narrower or more fragile.
[end excerpt]
So far, the JP Morgan donation is an isolated example. But the high odds of continuing deep budget cuts at the state and local level open up the opportunity for corporate funding of preferred services, and with it, much greater private sector influence on the apparatus of government. This is a worrisome enough possibility to warrant a high degree of vigilance by all of us.
Update 5:00 AM: Debra C, via e-mail, points to FreakOut Nation, which has screen shots to show how the New York Times edited the OccupyWallStreet story after it went live to make it less protestor friendly []: