Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Movement Brings Out a Police State for the First Time Since...

...free speech "zones" were invented in the Bush era. Remember those? (Link goes to The American Conservative. Guess they do sometimes get all squishy about free speech):

Oh, Big Daddy President, bless you for my free speech!

Yes, I was a hippie in the Vietnam era, and, yes, I did some protesting, even going so far as some of that non-violent civil disobedience -- which got me thrown out of Santa Clara University for a while -- and, yes, I remember Police rioting even then. Anyone else remember?

I bring up these two facets of protest, back in the day and during Bush's time, to remind us that there's nothing new under the sun, even as it looks pretty dark in our encroaching police state. As The American Conservative reported in 2003, here's how it was:
When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up “free speech zones” or “protest zones” where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.
Sound like free speech to you?

Last night, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the orders to clear Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, he made sure that the police also kept the press out. A Mother Jones reporter, Josh Harkinson, was able to hang in the park for a while:
"I'm a reporter," I told him.
"This is a frozen zone, all right?" he said, using a term I'd never heard before. "Just like them, you have to leave the area. If you do not, you will be subject to arrest."
By then, riot police were moving in, indiscriminately dousing the peaceful protesters with what looked like pepper spray or some sort of gas. As people yelled and screamed and cried, I tried to stay calm.
"I promise to leave once the arrests are done," I replied.
"This is a frozen zone," one cop insisted. "You could be injured." His meaning was clear.
"No, you are going to leave now."
He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park's slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.
"I just want to witness what is going on here," I yelped.
"You can witness it with the rest of the press," he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.
"Why are you excluding the press from observing this?" I asked.
"Because this is a frozen zone. It's a police action going on. You could be injured."
His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.
"What's your name?"
His reply came as fast as he could turn away: "Watch your back."
At least NYPD didn't riot...

The Occupy Oakland protesters were thrown out of Frank Ogawa Plaza just about the same time, as were occupiers in over a dozen cities across the country. Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, let slip that "I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.”

Tehran or Oakland? Not sure?

Finally -- at least in the reporting vein -- UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said about the violent police response to the Occupy Cal protesters in front of Sproul Hall this past weekend:
It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.
 To which I can only say: You've got to be shitting me. How much do we pay this guy? (As of 2010, his salary is $436,800, plus perks [house, car, etc...])

I watch this and, like Paul Krugman, it makes me sad and disturbed. I've made it clear that I favor the Occupy movement's sentiments, that income and power is shifting precipitously to wealthy elites, that corporate greed is degrading and unfair, that poverty rates and unemployment are a direct result of policies that we knew were not wise -- except perhaps in the gated communities in the wealthy suburbs.

I believe a progressive platform can be built on these beliefs and that we can save the country. I'm made all the more sanguine by recalling that we experienced this in the past -- anyone remember 1929 and the income inequality that preceded the crash? -- and we were able to undo it. Can we do it again? I don't know, but the labor movement of the 1930s was propelled by the stresses of the Great Depression. We need another movement, a progressive one, inspired by the revulsion the 99% feel in 2011 after years of unemployment, foreclosures, and sheer dread at our prospects. Will it happen? I don't know, but watching billionaires like Michael Bloomberg show themselves as the oligarchs they are gives me hope that we will get mad as hell and not take it anymore.

Start by:
  1. Unionizing.
  2. Ditching the big banks.
  3. Abandoning big corporations (don't buy, don't work.)
  4. Not voting for anyone who is clearly a tool of the corporate world.
  5. Letting your elected officials know you're on to them.
  6. Protesting, protesting, protesting.
  7. Keeping your money away from the dog track (stock market).
  8. Supporting single-payer healthcare. (Biggest financial reform we could make.)
  9. Spending as much money as we can on locally produced, non-big-corporate goods as possible.
  10. Demanding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid remain the way they are (or better), even if going back to the tax rates before 1980 is necessary (no, they're not scary).
  11. Insisting that the financial system is properly regulated (lower them margins!).
Okay, there's my 11-point plan. You got one? Well, get on it. We've got some oligarchs to hound.

PS. If you're in the Tea Party, start looking around. If you aren't rich, think about your prospects of reaching the 1%. If it's not likely, you're more like us, the 99%ers, than you think. Join us. Don't be hornswoggled. It's not too late.

Hey, Occupy Movement, we got your leader right here...
Afterthought: The NYPD's "stop and frisk" policies seem to be pure police state tactics. The New York Civil Liberties Union has analyzed its practice here, and Columbia University did a study -- in which disparities by race were evident -- and you can read it here. I bring this up because, when Zuccotti Park was opened up after the recent raid, it was surrounded by barricades and those wanting to enter were subject to stop and frisk at law enforcement's discretion (as announced in advance). Intimidation prior to any act as a matter of stated policy is the definition of a police state. Anyone disagree? Is this America, Mitt Romney's "exceptional country?"

Update: Digby digs up the darker, back story of the national coordination on ending the protests, involving the FBI and Homeland Security. Not good, must read.

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