Update: I missed this NYT front-section story on the PCJF's document trove, published on Christmas Eve. The tl;dr: The FBI used counterterrorism agents to investigate Occupy Wall Street, "including its communications and planning," according to newly disclosed (and highly redacted) agency records. It's the best analysis I've seen, and mea culpa for having not seen it before this post was published.
Violent crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in cities around the US may have been coordinated between local law enforcement, the federal government, and banks, even before protests began, according to a trove of documents requested by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to the PCJF, the 112 pages of documents show the government communicated throughout the crackdown effort with financial institutions through the Domestic Security Alliance Council, an entity created by the FBI in 2005 that "enhances communications and promotes the timely and bidirectional effective exchange of information keeping the nation's critical infrastructure safe, secure and resilient."
The documents add to an increasing pile of evidence that the government treated OWS as a kind of domestic terrorist threat, and engaged in widespread surveillance and counter-intelligence gathering in an attempt to quell the popular movement.
According to the PCJF's analysis of the documents, they reveal "that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did 'not condone the use of violence' at occupy protests."
"FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."
Arrested. Twittering from police van— mollycrabapple (@mollycrabapple) September 17, 2012
Earlier today, artist Molly Crabapple was one of a number of people arrested at events marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. By various estimates, more than a hundred people have been arrested there today. Crabapple tweeted from the police van. Over the past year, she has produced a wide array of work related to #OWS, including portraits, street-art templates, and illustrations for coverage in The Nation and other publications.
UPDATE, 4pm PT: Reports from Chicago of police attacking protesters and journalists, chemical weapons being readied for use, and possibile imminent "weaponized" use of LRAD.
NATO protests in Chicago: Police van drives into protesters, web video reporters detained, held at gunpoint (photos+video)
"Occupy" movement participants and an array of protest groups are among those gathering in Chicago this wekeend to demonstrate outside the NATO summit. Sunday, protesters are ramping up for the largest demonstration of the weekend. So are police and Homeland Security agents. Today, thousands of demonstrators are marching to the convention center where President Obama and other world leaders are meeting. Four men have been arrested on terror charges. Lawyers for the men now referred to by some protesters as the "NATO 4" claim undercover agents set up a bomb plot, and entrapped the suspects.
Saturday night, at about 10:40PM local time, a Chicago Police van "drove into a crowd of demonstrators who were attempting to cross westbound over the Jackson Street bridge at the Chicago River," according to this video report and testimony from people who were present.
Read the rest
Josh Stearns, a reporter who has covered the Occupy movement extensively, asks, "Why is this children's book teaching my kid about SWAT vehicles and Riot Control practices?" From his blog post:
Visiting the local library yesterday my son picked out a book all about police. I was stunned when, after pages and pages of info about police cars and police offices, there were these two pages about Riot Control Trucks and SWAT Vans.
Even after months of tracking conflicts between police and the press I still have a profound respect for much of law enforcement and the jobs they do in our communities. However, the descriptions of water cannons being turned on protesters and the taunting opening on the SWAT page, “Someone’s causing a lot of trouble…,” all seemed out of place. Given the increasingly militarized response we have seen to citizen protests, seeing Riot and SWAT teams portrayed this way in a children’s book was troubling.
German riot police carry a demonstrator fully covered in paint as police clears the camp of occupy protestors in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, May 16, 2012.
I'm digging the look of this Occupy Wall Street khaki street jacket by EGOLOGICS on Etsy. (thanks, foslforever)
A large crowd of protesters, between 2,000 and 5,000 by various estimates, are marching through the streets of New York right now to draw attention to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The Florida teen was shot to death last month, in a case that has generated widespread outrage online.
Tim Pool has been running a live video stream of the march.
Here's a quick link to the relevant Twitter hashtag (#millionhoodiemarch), to follow tweets from people who are there. Seems like a lot of youth are present at this one, perhaps more so than at recent Occupy marches in New York. People are wearing hoodies, carrying bottles of iced tea and throwing Skittles in the air: Trayvon was wearing one, and holding that candy and beverage when he was shot. So far, police presence is high, but interactions are peaceful, and the crowd is doing its thing without much NYPD aggression. That could change before the night is through.
The parents of the slain teen are present, and addressed the crowd earlier.
Heard that a local news outlet claimed that there were dozens of people out here. There are thousands. #millionhoodies— EBONY Magazine (@EBONYMag) March 21, 2012
"[W]hat's been pretty seriously under-covered is this past weekend's amazing outburst of out-of-control NYPD tactics on Occupy Wall Street," writes Choire Sicha at the Awl, along with a roundup of links and videos illustrating just how out-of-control those NYPD tactics are.
Just one month ago, the Manhattan District Attorney's office subpoenaed the Twitter account of Occupy Wall Street participant Malcolm Harris, aka @destructuremal. Today, Jeff Rae received word of the same. He has published a copy of a notice he received from Twitter, which was accompanied by a copy of the DA's subpoena. A cover letter from the DA's office indicates that Rae was one of five total accounts subpoenaed. Who are the other four? And why?
Massive and effective street protest' was a global oxymoron until-suddenly, shockingly-starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester, once again, became a maker of history....The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured. Any day that Tunisians, Egyptians or Syrians occupy streets and squares, they know that some of them might be beaten or shot, not just pepper-sprayed or flex-cuffed. The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City.
"Protester" is an interesting choice of language. "Activist," or "Occupier" if the focus is on America, would have also been apt.
The related "Runner-up" interview with Ai Weiwei is a great read, too. I was surprised not to see Julian Assange or Steve Jobs mentioned in this annual foo-fah; their lives and work certainly had an impact (though neither is a simple hero in my book). The former Apple CEO, who died this year after a long battle with cancer, isn't mentioned at all.
What do you think?
Occupy Oakland demonstrators sit on top of a trailer truck outside the Port of Oakland during the Occupy movements' attempts to shut down West Coast ports in Oakland, California on Monday, December 12, 2011. OWS activists trying to shut down West Coast ports on Monday managed to close several terminals and encountered forceful responses from police, but fell short of mounting the full-scale cargo blockade they planned. Below, an Occupy Oakland demonstrator wears a tent and an "Anonymous" mask during the action. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)
Writer and comedian John Knefel reaches for his glasses as police pull him away during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City yesterday. This really great photo was taken by Jessica Lehrman in the lobby of Winter Garden, a building owned by Brookfield Property, the same company that owns Zuccotti Park. To get a different view on the same scene, check out a video that someone else was filming at the same time. You can see Knefel falling down around 6:30.
The photo and video bring up something interesting. Knefel is a writer and comedian, one of the many people documenting OWS from the inside while trying to navigate the very grey boundaries of journalist and participant in the age of Internet journalism. Personally, I think this conflict is pretty interesting. If I can get all "journalism ethics class" for a minute here, I think OWS is drawing attention to the already existing need for new definitions of who constitutes "media" and who doesn't. Why is this more confusing than you might thing? Let me use Knefel as an example.
Knefel doesn't work for a major media outlet. But he's also not just some random bystander. He's got a political podcast with new episodes three times a week. Do we only call someone a journalist if they have enough page views? Do they have to have a journalism degree? What's the line?
Knefel is a biased source of information. But so are a lot of mainstream commentators. We'd call someone from Fox News a journalist. We'd call someone from Reason magazine a journalist. We'd call somebody from Mother Jones a journalist. Having a clear political angle to your coverage doesn't make you not a journalist. Except when it does. So what are the actual criteria?
Knefel didn't have a press pass. But, as Xeni has pointed out, the press pass system in New York is incredibly convoluted and contradictory. So what if you can't get one? Does that mean you aren't a journalist? This is particularly problematic given the fact that the rules seem to be set up to favor long-standing publications with lots of resources that mostly just cover New York City. How does that fit into a globalized world? Why punish media entrepreneurship?
We live in an age where publishing is easy and the tools to do it are available to a much wider swatch of people. But our standards and rules for who gets protection as a member of the press are based on a paradigm where publishing wasn't easy and only a limited number of people could do it. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that not everybody who uses the Internet is a journalist, because being a journalist comes with responsibilities not just protections. I'm pretty sure my Dad doesn't want to hold his Facebook to the same standard that I use when writing here.
I don't know the answer to these questions. But I know we need to have this conversation. Occupy Wall Street just shows us what can happen when we keep applying old rules to a new world.
Brian Stelter has a piece in the New York Times today about language and the Occupy Movement.
I was among those interviewed for the article.
Read the rest.
Within weeks of the first encampment in Zuccotti Park in New York, politicians seized on the phrase. Democrats in Congress began to invoke the “99 percent” to press for passage of President Obama’s jobs act — but also to pursue action on mine safety, Internet access rules and voter identification laws, among others. Republicans pushed back, accusing protesters and their supporters of class warfare; Newt Gingrich this week called the “concept of the 99 and the one” both divisive and “un-American.”
Perhaps most important for the movement, there was a sevenfold increase in Google searches for the term “99 percent” between September and October and a spike in news stories about income inequality throughout the fall, heaping attention on the issues raised by activists.
“The ‘99 percent,’ and the ‘one percent,’ too, are part of our vocabulary now,” said Judith Stein, a professor of history at the City University of New York.
Well, not exactly. But, "disburse" was an interesting choice of verbs in that there headline up there.
(thanks, Alec MacKaye!)
A man leans against the wall of City Hall at the Occupy LA encampment after the 12.01am eviction deadline in Los Angeles (Reuters)
I joined The Madeleine Brand Show today to talk about independent live-streaming backpack journalists covering Occupy Wall Street. What gear are they using, how and why are they doing what they do, and how is this changing how we get coverage of the Occupy movement?
We spoke about three of them in particular: Tim Pool of "The other 99%," the 25-year old Chicago native I interviewed for Boing Boing; @punkboyinsf (J'Tao), 36, who generally covers Occupy SF, and @oakfosho (Spencer Mills), who generally covers Occupy Oakland. All of them have an abundance of passion and talent; but none of them seem to have any dough.
Both @punkboyinsf and @oakfosho are in Los Angeles right now, covering the Occupy LA story as the encampment there faces likely LAPD eviction.
LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa imposed a Sunday night deadline on the OWS activists' camp in downtown LA, but so far, police have allowed the protesters to remain, while local authorities fight it out in the courts against those who believe the occupiers should be allowed to stay where they are.
Here are their streams:
• @theother99 (Gear: mostly a Samsung GALAXY S II and an Energizer XPAL 18000,
• @oakfosho (Uses a LiveU backpack loaned/donated by Ustream, shown in the photo above).
• @punkboyinsf (HTC Thunderbolt + Ustream's mobile app).
A little footnote: @punkboyinsf, aka J'Tao, has been doing this sort of thing for a while. Here's an archived Geocities page from the '90s, when he was covering the Seattle WTO protests.
And below, here's an interview with @oakfosho by Janko Roettgers of Gigaom.
Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa has imposed a deadline of midnight tonight (12:00am Monday) for Occupy LA protesters to vacate their encampment of more than 60 days.
If they don't, LA's police chief drops a not-too-subtle hint that force may be used to remove them. Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times "We certainly will not be the first ones to apply force."
Exactly when a raid might occur is anyone's guess, but Occupiers are bracing for possible police action within the next few hours, based on comments tonight by the mayor. By various estimates, there are anywhere from a thousand to two thousand people currently present at the site.
Watch live coverage: CrossXBones on USTREAM, or Occupy Freedom LA. A chat (next to archival streams) is here. Here's a list of more streams which may or may not be live. Southern California news radio KPCC has a good liveblog going. And KPFK has a liveblog, also.
@newyorkist says, "@OccupyWallStNYC got their hands on a New York Police Department Disorder Control Unit document, allegedly picked out of a van by an arrestee."
The pull quote: "A strong military appearance, with sharp and precise movements, is a force multiplier and a psychological advantage to us."
Actually, many of the criticisms of the NYPD's tactics against OWS protesters in recent weeks involve complaints that they have not followed some of the more reasonable guidelines set forth on this flyer.
"No property was harmed during this installation," DocPop tells us about this hilarious teeny-tiny Lego Occupy. "From what I understand the piece has already been removed though I don't know by whom."
Pepper-spraying cop gets Photoshop justice: Xeni's Guardian op-ed on meme-ing of UC Davis police brutality
The nice people at the Guardian invited me to write an op-ed about the meme-ification of Lt. John Pike's unforgettable act of brutality against UC Davis students last Friday.
Photoshop out the students from that picture with your mind. Forget about Pike's uniform, let's say he's just wearing street clothes. Now, instead of a policeman spraying a less-lethal chemical weapon down the throats of peacefully seated 20-year-olds, you might be able to interpret this tableau as a figure sauntering through a garden, spraying weeds. Or maybe he's your paunchy, moustached uncle, nonchalantly dousing bugs in the basement with insecticide.
One way the internet deals with that kind of upsetting dissonance is to mock it. And that's what the internet has done with Pike. The "casually pepper-spraying cop" is now a meme, a kind of folk art or shared visual joke that is open to sharing and reinterpretation by anyone. This particular meme has spread with unusual velocity – in part, I imagine, because the subject matter is just as weird as it is upsetting.
Even Kamran Loghman, one of the men who developed pepper spray as a weapon with the FBI in the 1980s, had a hard time reconciling it. "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents," Loghman told the New York Times. And Loghman might add "insouciant" to that list of adjectives. I mean, look at the guy. He's not braced for imminent attack by a foe; he does not move with tension as if navigating a hostile environment. He's administering punishment, and his face says: "Meh."
"The pepper-spraying cop gets Photoshop justice" (Guardian)
- Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student
- Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis
- Occupy Lulz
- Occupy Lulz/Pepper Spray Cop meme continues to be funny
- After pepper-spraying incident, UC Davis redesigns website
- One day after pepper-spraying, UC Davis students silently ...
- Massive rally at UC Davis, some protesters carrying "pepper ...
- Video remix: UC Davis pepper spray incident viewed from 4 different ...
- UC Davis chancellor Katehi issues statement on police pepper ...
- After police violence, UC Davis students plan large rally Monday ...
- UC Davis course catalog, pepper spray edition
Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie.
CUNY police bully peaceful Baruch College students during OWS protest over unfair labor practices, tuition hikes
Here are some videos of police violence and beatings that occurred around 5:15 at Baruch College, CUNY, in response to an Occupy CUNY OWS protest about tuition hikes, unfair labor practices targeted toward adjunct and other faculty, and the privatization of the public CUNY system. Protesters had planned to attend a public trustees meeting, but we were not permitted to voice our grievances, in contravention of CUNY's policies and the rights belonging to a free people.
The first (below) is CUNY security and the order to disperse (protesters are occupying the building's lobby.
The second (further below) is CUNY security staff pushing and hitting protesters with nightsticks.
By artist and illustrator Bob Staake, whose work you may have seen on the cover of the New Yorker. Gonna have to add this one to the meme-stack. As I post this, word's coming in that the ACLU has just delivered a letter of condemnation to UC Davis chancellor Katehi.