Sunday, November 20, 2011

Police Brutality Toward The Occupy Movement Picks Up Speed On University Campuses

I've written a few posts here and here about OWS/Occupy Your City, police brutality and the reaction of the 1%.

Now that the movement has taken hold on university campuses, campus police are at the forefront of the "beat the shit out of the protesters," bringing to mind the police and college police actions toward protestors of the Viet Nam war (my era).

When a 70 year old, former Poet Laureate (Robert Hass) and his wife get billy clubbed by the campus police at UC Berkeley's Occupy, especially since he was there just as an observer and not even a participant, you know the U.S. is seriously a police state, no better than Libya, Syria and others.

LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies. The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.


Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.


My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.

NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.
I suggest reading the entire piece.

An ugly picture, to say the least:

This video is difficult to watch. It starts off with one officer full on spraying the handful of protestors just sitting and doing nothing. In the end of the video, the police finally leave, but not before they actually aim guns at the crowd, and one officer has two cans of pepper spray that he keeps shaking (I guess to get it up to snuff) as if he's going to simply spray it into the crowd (this is after they had already taken away the ten or so protesters that were originally sprayed). This is at UC Davis.

In New York, this is actually quite astonishing. Two churches have offered a place for the OWS group to stay and have shelter. Now, generally, churches are a sanctuary for just about anyone. But not in New York! Bloomberg and his goons keep sending in plain clothes police officers (which, by the way, have not fooled anyone, church personnel nor the protestors), but come on! Infiltrating churches now?

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) ratcheting up police crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street this week, the New York Times reports that several churches in New York City are sheltering protesters who can no longer stay in Zucotti Park. About 46 protesters spent Wednesday night in the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. However, instead of respecting the sanctuary, police in plainclothes are entering churches to monitor their conduct.

According to church officials, two police officers (one later identified as belonging to the intelligence division) asked to use the bathroom but instead “entered the sanctuary, one remaining near the door while the other advanced down the aisle, apparently counting the demonstrators in the pews.” Then, one officer went downstairs to a homeless women’s shelter and “asked for information about who was sleeping there” without identifying himself or showing his badge. The church’s Rev. James Karpen called the police actions “invasive.”
Read more at Think Progress.

Another from Think Progress, regarding police and their attempt to use undercover officers to infiltrate the Occupy movement, as if they will uncover come dirty secret, much like the right wingers and their news machines (yeah, FOX, I'm pointing my finger at you) that the Occupy movement is a liberal, Democratic organized movement, funded by, you guessed it, George Soros! Yeah, right. (shaking head)
Across the country, police have used undercover and/or plainsclothed police officers to monitor occupations and protests that are a part of the 99 Percent Movement. Earlier today, the Tennessean published excerpts from emails sent by the Tennessee Highway Patrol that confirmed not only that police were infiltrating Occupy Nashville but that they were hoping for the movement’s demise.

In a video released last month, Oakland Police Officer Fred Shavies was outed as one of these plainsclothed officers at Occupy Oakland.

SHAVIES: I’m a police officer. I’m part of the 99 percent. [...] In the ’60s when people would protest, would gather in order to bring about change, right? Those protests were nonviolent they were peaceful assemblies. They were broken up with dogs, hoses, sticks. [...] It looks like there was a square, and police shot tear gas. That could be the photograph or the video for our generation. That’s our Birmingham. So, twenty years from now this movement could be the turning point, the tipping point, right. It’s about time your generation stood up for something. It’s about time young people are in the streets. [...] Ya’ll don’t need to throw gas canisters into a group of people occupying an intersection.
At least one politician in Washington is paying attention:
“No matter how long protesters camp out across America, big banks will continue to pour money into shadow groups promoting candidates more likely to slash Medicaid for poor children than help families facing foreclosure,” said Deutch in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “No matter how strongly Ohio families fight for basic fairness for workers, the Koch Brothers will continue to pour millions into campaigns aimed at protecting the wealthiest 1%. No matter how fed up seniors in South Florida are with an agenda that puts oil subsidies ahead of Social Security and Medicare, corporations will continue to fund massive publicity campaigns and malicious attack ads against the public interest. Americans of all stripes agree that for far too long, corporations have occupied Washington and drowned out the voices of the people. I introduced the OCCUPIED Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy. It is time to return the nation’s capital and our democracy to the people.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), has introduced a bill (cute acronym) called Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining The Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED). This is a push back against the Citizens United decision.

In a memo from a prominent corporate lobbying firm to the American Bankers Association, it appears Wall Street, and Republicans are now afraid that some Democrats might benefit from the Occupy movement.

The memo was authored by lobbyists at the firm Clark Lytle Geduldig Cranford — and there are two key takeaways. The first is that some allies of Wall Street firms see Occupy Wall Street as a potential long term political threat. The second is that they see the Democratic strategy of embracing the populist message of the protests as something that could work, rather than something that is an automatic negative for Dems, as conservatives keep proclaiming is the case.
Read more here.

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holidays, this is an interesting idea from Working America. It's a challenge to "talk turkey" about the Occupy movement.

What's your favorite part of the holidays? Big meals? Mashed potatoes and gravy? Cranberry sauce? Sleeping off your meal over the big football game? How about those never-ending discussions with your family about everything from Dancing with the Stars to Congress?

Well, this holiday season, Working America invites you to embrace that quality family time as an opportunity to help Uncle Dave and Aunt Maggie make sense of what it means to be a part of the 99 percent. We're calling it "Turkey Talk."

How can you take on the "Turkey Talk" Holiday Family Challenge to talk with friends and family in a way that draws out the real issues? Here are some basic strategies and advice, along with some substantive facts and answers that will clear up myths, confusion or spin coming from the 1 percent.


Bob said...

For those handful of Democratic politicians (& Bernie Sanders) who vote like real Democrats, they have nothing to worry about from Occupy, Occupy is making a lot of other Democratic politicians squirm, & that's a good thing.

Arno said...

"When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile,
Our thoughts to them go winging
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?"
--- Doris Plenn

Carrie said...

"This third verse was written by the poet Doris Plenn, in the 1950’s, when her friends were imprisoned during the McCarthy era. At this time in American history, citizens lost their jobs, their friends, even their freedom, for being communists, communist sympathizers, or for simply being accused of being such. Cartoonists like Walt Kelly, entertainers like Zero Mostel, pastors like the Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam and Boston Community Church’s Don Lothrop, and yes, this poet Doris Plenn, stood up publicly against this persecution of friends and strangers.[1]

Whatever you may think of communism as political ideology, historians look back on the McCarthy era as a time when we fell far short of our nation’s promise. This country, founded as a haven for those seeking religious and political liberty, lost sight of that purpose in a time of fear. We became the thing we hated, a land where people could be persecuted for their political beliefs. That is a history worth remembering because at any time we could find ourselves living it again. When that day comes, or if it has come already today, let us pray that we have the saints and poets to raise a protest song.

So what gave a poet like Doris Plenn the courage to stand against the imprisonment of artists and thinkers? Raised in North Carolina, the poet had learned this song from her Quaker grandmother, who told her: “Honey, this is my favorite song, and I want you to always remember it. It was made up years ago when people like us were being thrown in jail for their beliefs." For people who are persecuted for their religious beliefs or for their political beliefs, Doris Plenn added this verse, because she could not keep from singing."

Doris Plenn