So do we!
So do we!
At any one time, Israel holds in excess of 9000 Palestinian prisoners. In fact, 700,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel since 1967. Prisoners include children, women, and Palestinian government officials.
Thousands of Palestinians are arrested for no apparent reason, and held without charges, or a trial for years at a time. This is called administrative detention, and is a clear violation of international law. Israel arrests Palestinians, even children, for reasons such as walking on settler only roads within occupied territory. Many Palestinians are arrested simply to keep Israeli jails full, as Palestinian prisoners have been used in negotiations in the past. Hence, for Israel, Palestinian prisoners are nothing more than commodities to be traded later on.
Many prisoners have no visitation rights, as such, they are separated from their families for years at a time. This is even true for child prisoners. The families of the prisoners are hardly ever informed about the reason for the arrest, and often don’t see their relative from the moment of arrest, where Israeli soldiers often state “we just want to speak with them for a minute”, only to disappear for years.
Vast numbers of Palestinian children are held in Israeli prisoners. These children can be as young as 12. Israel, in violation of international law, regards anyone above 16 as an adult, and furthermore, any Palestinian above the age of 14 can be tried as an adult, and held in the same prison as adults.
According to various studies, anywhere between 85% and 98% of Palestinian prisoners are tortured in Israeli prisons. The process of arresting a Palestinian is often degrading and violent, including bashing, insulting, and stripping detainees.
In prisons, these prisoners are subject to violent interrogations, and are often forced to confess in order for the torture to cease. When incarcerated, the prisoners are tortured in a variety of measures, including; sleep deprivation, beatings, forcing prisoners to be seated in painful positions, choking. The conditions are also appalling, with prisoners forced to endure extreme heat and extreme cold. Prisoners are also humiliated and mocked by Israeli guards.
These are facts! What is also a fact is that no one outside of Israel says a word about these injustices. THAT TOO is a crime! COMPLICITY KILLS!
RAISE YOUR VOICE NOW TO END THESE ZIONIST CRIMES!
Police violence against Jerusalem’s Palestinian citizens increases
|The Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said on Thursday that Israeli police violence against Jerusalem’s Palestinian citizens is increasing. B’Tselem confirmed that it has documented dozens of incidents in which police officers used excessive violence.
Commenting on the assault on Talal al-Sayyad by Israeli police using electric-stun guns, B’Tselem said that such attacks are classified as increasing and deliberate violence by the Israeli police. “Israeli police spray huge amounts of pepper gas at the faces and eyes of Jerusalem citizens and they also use stun guns which are only supposed to be used against dangerous persons,” added the human rights group in a written statement.
B’Tselem has documented many attacks and filed complaints with the authorities but has faced “official Israeli inaction regarding investigations against police officers”.
Talal al-Sayyad was attacked by Israeli police using stun guns, which caused a neurological spasm, when he tried to protect some children from attack by officers using the same weapon in a park in west Jerusalem.
Related report on the growing violence against Palestinians …
Double Take / A night on the town
After the beating of Arab youth in Zion Square this month, a nighttime stroll in downtown Jerusalem reveals the tension simmering under the lively pub scene in the city center.
By Joel Greenberg
Youth in Jerusalem’s Zion Square at night, where a vibrant bar scene and rising racial tensions have led to recent violent confrontations. Photo by Emil Salman
The security men in khaki vests had the Arab youth pinned to the sidewalk, twisting one of his arms behind him as he screamed that he was in pain.
It was a late summer night on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road, nearly a week after the pummeling of a young Arab by a group of Jewish teenagers a few blocks away in Zion Square, an attack police called an attempted lynch.
This time it was the security guards assigned to Jerusalem’s light rail system who were holding an Arab down, saying that he had resisted a security check before boarding the train. The youth, who was held on the pavement for more than half an hour as Israelis and tourists strolled wordlessly by, said from his lock-hold that when he objected to a search, he was wrestled to the ground though he had offered no physical resistance.
An Arab man from the Old City was outraged by the sight of the youth being held so long on the sidewalk, in full view off passing pedestrians.
“Is this how you treat a human being in front of everybody like that?” he thundered at the security men. “What kind of democracy is this?” A Jewish onlooker said the security men were doing the right thing, telling me “they would do the same to you if you refused to be checked.”
Eventually, police officers showed up, handcuffed the young man, and took him away. The onlookers dispersed, and the street slipped back into its normal rhythm – a last blast of summer downtown, with people jamming cafes, restaurants and pubs late into the night.
Under the throbbing nightlife, however, a menacing current has erupted in episodes of violence, sometimes fueled by alcohol and often stoked by the festering conflict with the Palestinians.
In the noisy alley outside Zolly’s pub, where he works, Ahmad Kamal, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, said that a day earlier he had been cursed and beaten by a group of Jewish youths who assaulted him on his way home from work in the wee hours of the morning. Complaints about such attacks to the police, he said, were usually not followed up.
Yasser Julani, who works at a neighboring restaurant, showed a scar on his neck he said was caused when he was cut by a bottle fragment in an assault by Jewish youths. “There’s racism between Jews and Arabs because of the situation,” he said. “But the Jews I work with are like brothers.” On the night of the beating in Zion Square, he recalled, the mob, which chanted “Death to Arabs,” was driven away from the area of his restaurant by both Arab and Jewish workers.
Ahmad Shweiki from Silwan, who was walking back from a night downtown with a friend, said he wasn’t afraid to go out, but sometimes carried a personal tear-gas canister in case of trouble.
Yossi Milman, a young Israeli who said he was a regular in the bar zone near Zion Square, said the violence was often provoked by what he described as indecent passes by Arab youths at Israeli girls. “They see things here they don’t see in their villages, and they have a hard time controlling themselves,” he said. “They harass girls, touching them, and people come to help.”
A similar motive was cited in the recent beating in Zion Square, which police said followed a complaint by a Jewish girl that she had been harassed by an Arab.
But the violence is not only between Arabs and Jews. Several weeks ago, a young Israeli was badly beaten by other Israelis when he came to the aid of his brother, who was jumped by a group after he objected to their attempt to board a taxi ahead of him.
The tensions have not deterred Palestinians from East Jerusalem and those with permits from the West Bank from visiting the downtown area in the western part of the city. A few blocks away from the incident near the light rail station, Ismail Abu Ajra from Bethlehem sat on a bench with friends after an evening out and some shopping downtown. They were enjoying a rare visit thanks to Israeli entry permits issued in large numbers this year for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “It’s more alive here,” he said.
Down the street, at Zion Square, a group strummed electric guitars. They were black-garbed ultra-Orthodox Jews, newly religious men who had clearly played much rock-and-roll in a previous life. One bearded player with sunglasses and sidecurls picked a tune, a cigarette wedged between his fingers sliding across the frets. The song was the Pink Floyd hit: “Wish you were here.”
Study: NYPD Abused Basic Human Rights at Occupy Protests
US police show epidemic suppression of protests
The NYPD ‘consistently violated basic rights’ during the Occupy Wall Street protests and showed a ‘shocking level of impunity’, when dealing with protesters, according to a new study (pdf), published on Wednesday.
Protesters screamed in pain after police cornered them and sprayed them with pepper spray at an Occupy Wall Street Protest (Photo/Jefferson Siegel)
The report, by the Global Justice Clinic at New York University’s School of Law and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School, conducted over an eight month period,examined hours of video footage, documents, press reports, and conducted extensive interviews with protestors and witnesses from the Occupy protests and encampments. The findings paint a disturbing portrait: authorities across the US will now suppress protest at all cost, even if protests are lawful, peaceful, and of no threat to the general public.
The study details the increasingly common practices of “excessive police use of force against protesters, bystanders, journalists, and legal observers; constant obstructions of media freedoms, including arrests of journalists; unjustified and sometimes violent closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and corralling and trapping protesters en masse,” the report states.
“Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity, arbitrary and selective rule enforcement, and restrictions on independent protest monitoring also raise serious concerns. The government has also failed to make transparent critical policies concerning law enforcement activities.”
The report is the first section of a several part series covering police response to Occupy protests in cities around the US, revealing a national epidemic abusive of power.
Sarah Knuckey, at NYU School of Law, told the Guardian: “All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking”.
“Many interviewees cried while speaking about their interaction with the police – they still carried a sense of trauma.”
The report lists a total of 130 incidents of excessive or unwarranted force by New York police.
The authors of the report are using the research as a basis of written complaints made Thursday to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD, the state department of justice and the United Nations.
The report claims the NYPD has also violated international human rights law, stating:
“Full respect for assembly and expression rights is necessary for democratic participation, the exchange of ideas, and for securing positive social reform. The rights are guaranteed in
international law binding upon the United States. Yet U.S. authorities have engaged in persistent breaches of protest rights since the start of Occupy Wall Street.”
Israeli NGO: Police beat handcuffed detainees in Palestinian solidarity protest
Complaints filed over alleged use by police of Taser electroshock weapons, beating and kicking bound detainees, racist verbal abuse and sexual harassment of female detainees.
By Akiva Eldar
The Justice Ministry has received complaints of severe police violence against demonstrators, including the use of Taser electroshock weapons, beating and kicking bound detainees, racist verbal abuse and sexual harassment of female detainees.
The complaints were filed to the ministry’s department for investigation of police officers by the Adalah advocacy group two weeks ago, after a demonstration in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners outside the prison clinic in Ramle.
According to Adalah’s letter to the police investigation department, after most of the demonstrators had left, about 30 of them formed a protest vigil near one of the prison gates and police commandos at the site attacked them with extreme violence and arrested eight of them.
A few of the remaining activists came to the Ramle prison station to wait for their colleagues’ release and started singing. One of them, Dorit Argo, wrote in a personal statement to the department that police commandos attacked them in a frenzy of violence and beat them up, using tasers on them, kicking and swearing.
“A policeman shouted at me that I’m a whore and if I open my mouth he would smash my face. I said he was threatening me and he kicked me, pulled my hair and threw me to the floor of the room the men were held in. Some of them were in a locked cell and others were on the floor. Two of the men were bound and blindfolded. A cop tasered all those on the floor. I managed to avoid direct contact with the taser but felt the electric shock. None of the detainees resisted, even slightly. The cop threatened that if he hears us talking he will taser us again … Throughout the evening cops and officers mocked our names, our dress and our appearance,” she wrote.
An officer named “Shimon,” who didn’t like one of the women’s reply to his derisive comments, pinned her to a wall, pointed his taser at her and threatened to use it unless she sits quietly, Argo said.
Another detainee, Eden Dror, wrote in his statement, “We heard the women shouting. A few bound youngsters were brought into the room, some screaming with pain. The first one I saw was Jihad – he was cuffed and a commando behind him pushed him and choked him with a tape. The others’ feet were bound bent on the floor and the policemen punched and kicked them. As they screamed in pain the policeman shouted ‘dumb Arabs, die,’ and I heard the sound of tasers being used on the prisoners lying tied up on the floor. Shimon spat in a detainee’s face, tasered him and shouted ‘you’re a hero, want to be a shahid (martyr )?’”
The policemen sexually harassed the female Arab detainees, calling them “whores” and saying “I’ll f— you” and “I’ll smash your face up,” Adalah attorney Orna Cohen wrote to the department.
Two other female detainees and a man who happened to be at the police station and witnessed the policemen’s violent behavior also attached statements to the complaint.
A police spokeswoman told Haaretz that due to the severe suspicions rising from the complaint the police passed it on to the Justice Ministry department.
Pundits can argue back and forth over what Occupy’s May Day achieved, but I just can’t get over the police presence
A number of reports have pointed out that the Occupy calls for a May Day general strike drew tens of thousands in the street Tuesday — with actions from the militant to the family-minded — in cities across the country, particularly in New York and Oakland, Calif. The culmination of scheduled action in New York — a mass march of around 30,000 union workers, immigrant workers and OWS supporters that descended (with a permit) on Manhattan’s financial district — felt powerful from within, as chanting bodies jostled south. But I jumped over the barricades, which hemmed in the crowd, and walked a few blocks away. Only a muffled din signaled the crowd’s presence nearby; that and the constant flow of riot cops flooding past me and the police vans lining the street as far as the eye could see.
Ample ink has already been spilled (outside the mainstream press, that is) about May 1, some praising Occupy’s success in staging events like teach-ins and the permitted solidarity march, which garnered a diversity of support from union and community groups; some point out the obvious — that no May Day actions actually shut down any of America’s vast metropolises; some have decried the property damage carried out by participants in Seattle; Reuters first reported the day as a “dud” and then recanted, noting it “far from a dud.” We could debate forever, using different, incommensurable metrics, as to whether May Day was or was not successful. But when I think about my Tuesday on strike, my memory is of New York City shrouded in an impenetrable blanket of police.
Having reported on, and participated in Occupy actions for seven months, heavy police presence is by no means unusual. Cops routinely flank banks when protests are called outside, they surround squares where Occupy groups gather, and are swift to disperse any attempts (even when legal) to assemble against capitalism in New York’s public spaces. But on Tuesday, I left downtown Manhattan shell-shocked.
It began on Monday night, when the NYPD, aided by the FBI, raided the homes of prominent activists in New York. Following these preemptive, unwarranted visits — during which activists were questioned about May Day plans – the police presence throughout Manhattan on May 1 was incomparable to anything I’ve seen in my three short years in the city. Friends, whose time in New York and its radical subcultures far predate mine, agreed; they’d never seen anything quite like it.
Notably, the unpermitted “Wildcat March,” called by New York anarchists and anti-authoritarians, was surrounded by hundreds of police before the 300-strong crowd could even leave its rallying point at Sarah D. Roosevelt park. Barely reaching the sidewalk from the park’s steps, a line of cops stormed into the march’s front banner, snatching and grabbing three participants. I joined a running splinter group as the crowd was chaotically dispersed into smaller marches; we then proceeded, almost one cop to every striker, as we made our slow way to regroup at Washington Square Park.
I didn’t head to the Union Square rally to join crowds swelling to over 10,000; I missed the hundreds of guitarists marching alongside Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello in a “guitarmy”; I missed musical performances, free food and free lectures from prominent thinkers like Francis Fox Piven and David Graeber. Instead I wandered around Manhattan in shock and awe with a handful of co-strikers, counting as I passed every block: at least four cops per corner. The buzz of a police helicopter overhead continued all day; I couldn’t count the number of police vehicles.
Writing for In These Times, Rebecca Burns points out that the police have changed their tactics since the early days of Occupy. Although on May 1 Oakland police once again deployed tear gas, we did not see the mass arrests or large crowd kettles typical of police responses in previous months. Burns notes: “Unlike the now-familiar Occupy scene of demonstrators being arrested en masse in dramatic, late-night evictions, May Day protesters in many locales were arrested individually throughout the day, in some cases for crossing over onto sidewalks or, according to local media on the scene in Oakland, seemingly at random.” There were only a reported 97 arrests in New York relating to May Day activity.
Snatch-and-grab police tactics intimidate crowds, but do not lead to the sort of dramatic mass arrest scenes that capture national headlines; it’s a more insidious form of crowd control. It is worth adding, however, that there was no shortage of police aggression: At one point I saw firsthand as a marcher was grabbed by police in the Lower East Side, his face slammed to the street. When pulled up and taken away, officers covered his face with his T-shirt so onlookers could not see the blood.
Then, after the mass evening march in New York had finished and no more than a thousand people had moved to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial park at Manhattan’s southerly tip, the NYPD once again covered the area. Some remaining hundreds of the May Day participants had gathered for a mass general assembly; others milled around, sharing stories about the day or dancing to the ever-present drumbeats. The police encircled the small concrete park in time to disperse the relaxed crowd at 10 p.m., when the park closes. Clad in riot gear, the number of officers kept growing; hundreds and hundreds on foot and in vans surrounded the memorial park and every office building, street and corner. The NYPD is the seventh largest standing army in the world, and on the evening of May 1, New York felt like a city under military siege — it was terrifying.
Those of us who have been inspired by Occupy over the past year, those who see the importance of reclaiming and repurposing space (for public use that is not commerce), and who see the necessity of manifesting in the streets, are not fizzling or losing momentum. We are, however, being trampled, pushed, threatened and dispersed at every turn by well-armed, militarized police forces who once again made clear: We are not allowed to assemble on our own terms in this country.
Source and more reports can be found HERE
Bank city of Qalqiliya. (MaanImages/Khaleel Reash, File)
Around 7,500 Palestinians under-18 years old have been detained by Israel since 2001, an average of nearly two children every day, DCI says.
Documenting testimonies of 311 children detained by Israel over four years, the report found that three-quarters of children say they were subjected to physical violence during Israeli detention.
Some 95 percent say they were held in hand ties, and 90 percent tell of being blindfolded. A third were strip-searched during detention, according to the report testimonies.
Most children experience a “coercive interrogation,” DCI said, noting that while initially protesting innocence, at least 90 percent finally plead guilty, “as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 per cent of cases.”
“Unlike Israeli children living in settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian children are not accompanied by a parent and are generally interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, or being informed of their right to silence,” the report notes.
Most children confess to stone-throwing, the report says. The Israeli army says that rock throwing is a serious offense that can cause injury or death.
“Palestinian boys, sometimes as young as 13 or 14 engage in stone throwing by hand or sling shot on Israeli cars, or army vehicles,” said Arye Shalitar, an Israeli military spokesman.
“It sounds like the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is just arresting kids, but people don’t understand that these kids are very violent. Instead of playing soccer they are endangering the lives of Israelis.”
But DCI says much of the pattern of abuse amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and Israel fails to provide effective complaint mechanisms.
At a minimum, the report recommends that Israel end night raids, administrative detention, solitary confinement and other ill-treatment. But it adds: “no child should be prosecuted in military courts which lack comprehensive fair trial and juvenile justice standards.”
“No one should be under any illusion that the treatment documented in the report can be eliminated so long as the friction points (of settlements and military roads) remain and Palestinian children are treated as second-class individuals,” the report says.
Be sure to read the report from the NYT at the end of this post….
To celebrate the 6 month anniversary of the #Occupy Wall Street Movement, representatives of the 99% reoccupied Liberty Plaza / Zuccotti Park yesterday
NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD LEGAL OBSERVER INFORMING OWS OF THEIR RIGHTS IF BEING THREATENED WITH ARREST.
A CAREFUL LOOK AT THE FOTO SHOWS THE PERSON BEING ARRESTED.
ON THE A FOTO U CAN SEE THE POLICE WORKING THEIR WAY THRU TO MAKE THE ARREST.
FRM WHAT I WAS TOLD THE CHAP WAS SETTING UP A TENT. AN UNDER-COVER COP STARTED TO ARREST HIM. THE PROTESTERS PROTESTED WHICH BROUGHT IN THE OTHER POLICE.
THE GUY WAS THEN “DE-ARRESTED”. I ASKED , IF THE GUY WAS ARRESTED, THEN DE-ARRESTED WHY IS HE BEING ARRESTED NOW. IT WAS EXPLAINED TO ME THAT “DE-ARREST” MEANS THE GUY WAS PULLED AWAY BY HIS COMRADES, HE THEN BEGAN TO RUN AWAY. AS HE RAN, ALL THE SPECTATORS WERE YELLING “RUN” “RUN” “RUN”.
THE POLICE CAUGHT HIM ACROSS THE STREET AND CON’T THE ARREST. THIS BROUGHT THE MASS OF OWS’ERS ACROSS THE STREET YELLING AT THE POLICE. THE SOFTEST WORDS USED WAS “SHAME” , “SHAME” .
From the New York Times
The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying
By Glenn Greenwald
It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not. The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta adeptly demonstrates with an assemblage of video how common such excessive police force has been in response to the Occupy protests. Along those lines, there are several points to note about this incident and what it reflects:
(1) Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.
The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed — or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet — many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant — to refrain from exercising their rights — out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.
The genius of this approach is how insidious its effects are: because the rights continue to be offered on paper, the citizenry continues to believe it is free. They believe that they are free to do everything they choose to do, because they have been “persuaded” — through fear and intimidation — to passively accept the status quo. As Rosa Luxemburg so perfectly put it: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Someone who sits at home and never protests or effectively challenges power factions will not realize that their rights of speech and assembly have been effectively eroded because they never seek to exercise those rights; it’s only when we see steadfast, courageous resistance from the likes of these UC-Davis students is this erosion of rights manifest.
Pervasive police abuses and intimidation tactics applied to peaceful protesters — pepper-spray, assault rifles, tasers, tear gas and the rest — not only harm their victims but also the relationship of the citizenry to the government and the set of core political rights. Implanting fear of authorities in the heart of the citizenry is a far more effective means of tyranny than overtly denying rights. That’s exactly what incidents like this are intended to achieve. Overzealous prosecution of those who engage in peaceful political protest (which we’ve seen more and more of over the last several years) as well as rampant secrecy and the sprawling Surveillance State are the close cousins of excessive police force in both intent and effect: they are all about deterring meaningful challenges to those in power through the exercise of basic rights. Rights are so much more effectively destroyed by bullying a citizenry out of wanting to exercise them than any other means. These two short video clips — regarding the openly abusive treatment of Bradley Manning and the extra-judicial attempt to destroy WikiLeaks — are how I’ve been trying to make this point over the past month in the various speeches I’ve given around the country:
(2) Although excessive police force has long been a reflexive response to American political protests, two developments in the post-9/11 world have exacerbated this. The first is that the U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons. Responding to peaceful protests and other expressions of growing citizenry unrest with brute force is a direct by-product of what we’ve allowed to be done to America’s domestic police forces in the name of the War on Terror (and, before that, in the name of the War on Drugs).
The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.
It’s anything but surprising that a country that has cheered as its Presidents seize the most limitless powers against allegedly Bad People — all as part of the ultimate instrument of citizen degradation: Endless War — cheer just as loudly when that same mindset is applied at home to domestic trouble-makers. The supreme threat has never been from foreign Terrorists, but rather from what was done by our own public- and private-sector authorities (and the mentality they successfully implanted) in their name.
(3) Beyond the light it is shedding on how power is really exercised in the U.S., this UC-Davis episode underscores why I continue to view the Occupy movement as one of the most exciting, inspiring and important political developments in many years. What’s most striking about that UC-Davis video isn’t the depraved casualness of the officer’s dousing the protesters’ faces with a chemical agent; it’s how most of the protesters resolutely sat in place and refused to move even when that happened, while the crowd chanted support (this video, taken from a slightly different vantage point, vividly shows this, beginning at 4:15). We’ve repeatedly seen acts of similar courage spawned by the Occupy movement.
It was the NYPD’s abusive pepper-spraying, followed by Mayor Bloomberg’s lawless destruction of the Zuccotti Park encampment, that prompted far more people than ever to participate in the next march across the Brooklyn Bridge. A tear gas attack on Occupy Oakland was followed by a general strike of 20,000 people. And this truly extraordinary, blunt and piercing open letter demanding the resignation of the heinous UC-Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was written by a young, untenured Assistant Professor — Nathan Brown — who obviously decided that his principled beliefs outweigh his careerist ambitions.
This is the most important effect of the Occupy movement: acts of defiance, courage and conscience are contagious. Just as the Arab Spring clearly played some significant role in spawning, sustaining and growing the American Occupy movement, so too have the Occupy protesters emboldened one another and their fellow citizens. The protest movement is driving the proliferation of new forms of activism, citizen passion and courage, and — most important of all — a sense of possibility. For the first time in a long time, the use of force and other forms of state intimidation are not achieving their intended outcome of deterring meaningful (i.e., unsanctioned and unwanted) citizen activism, but are, instead, spurring it even more. The state reactions to these protests are both highlighting pervasive abuses of power and generating the antidote: citizen resolve to no longer accept and tolerate it. This is why I hope to see the Occupy movement — even if it adopts specific demands — remain an outsider force rather than reduce itself into garden-variety partisan electioneering: in its current form, it is demanding and re-establishing the indispensable right of dissent, defiance of unjust authority, and sustained protest.
UPDATE: Regarding the last point — the uniquely effective, inspiring activism this movement is spawning — here is video of Chancellor Katehi walking to her car while being forced to confront a wall of silent condemnation and shaming. It’s not the accountability she should face (firing), but one can see from this video that it’s quite potent nonetheless; moreover, it really reveals who the actual threats are to public safety — not the protesters but rather those using force against them:
All hell is breaking loose in lower Manhattan. Police have put barriers all over the financial district and thousands of demonstrators are climbing over them and pushing past the police. Wall St. has been infiltrated. As this is being reported the radio station is playing Paul Robeson singing “Joe Hill”. The NYPD must have miscalculated – they’re probably going to bring in more police, maybe from the boroughs, and they’ll probably get more vicious. They’ve learned tactics from the “crowd control” at the big world financial meetings. The crowds are chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and “The banks got bailed out and we got sold out” and “This is a non-violent protest.” Lots of pushing and shoving from police in riot gear trying to get better control of the situation. Plain-clothes cops have emerged. People are going to be seriously hurt today.
This would not be going on if they hadn’t raided and destroyed the encampments this week. The mayors of 18 cities had a conference call and decided to shut down the encampments – the mayor of Oakland spilled the beans to the BBC about the call. Of course Bloomberg did it because he was worried about the health, safety, and sanitary conditions. So, it has been pointed out, in this city where the subways are dirty, where the garbage is piled on some streets he is worried about sanitary conditions at Zuccotti and to keep the occupiers healthy they were arrested, clubbed and pepper sprayed.
There are events planned for the whole day. We haven’t seen this kind of activity since all those civil disobedience activities were planned by civil rights groups when the World Fair was opening in ‘64. A really big event is going to take place about 5 PM. Groups (including unions) are meeting at Foley Sq. and marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. God only knows whose brilliant idea that was – a 2 mile walk over water in the cold where only drivers and sea gulls will see us.
And from Glenn Greenwald
It was only a matter of time before a coordinated police crackdown was imposed to end the Occupy encampments. Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests — and more — are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the U.S. has seen over the last three years (and will continue to see for the foreseeable future). A country cannot radically reduce quality-of-life expectations, devote itself to the interests of its super-rich, and all but eliminate its middle class without triggering sustained citizen fury.
The reason the U.S. has para-militarized its police forces is precisely to control this type of domestic unrest, and it’s simply impossible to imagine its not being deployed in full against a growing protest movement aimed at grossly and corruptly unequal resource distribution. As Madeleine Albright said when arguing for U.S. military intervention in the Balkans: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” That’s obviously how governors, big-city Mayors and Police Chiefs feel about the stockpiles of assault rifles, SWAT gear, hi-tech helicopters, and the coming-soondrone technology lavished on them in the wake of the post/9-11 Security State explosion, to say nothing of the enormous federal law enforcement apparatus that, more than anything else, resembles a standing army which is increasingly directed inward.
Most of this militarization has been justified by invoking Scary Foreign Threats — primarily the Terrorist — but its prime purpose is domestic. As civil libertarians endlessly point out, the primary reason to oppose new expansions of government power is because it always — always — vastly expands beyond its original realm. I remember quite vividly the war-zone-like police force deployed against protesters at the 2008 GOP Convention in Minneapolis, as well as the invocation of Terrorism statutes to arrest and punish them, with the active involvement of federal law enforcement. Along those lines, Alternet‘s Lynn Parramore asks all the key questions about the obviously coordinated law enforcement assault on peaceful protesters over the last week.
But the same factors that rendered this police crackdown inevitable will also ensure that this protest movement endures: the roots of the anger are real, profound and impassioned. Just as American bombs ostensibly aimed at reducing Terrorism have the exact opposite effect — by fueling the anti-American sentiments that cause Terrorism in the first place — so, too, will excessive police force further fuel the Occupy movement. Nothing highlights the validity of the movement’s core grievances more than watching a piggish billionaire Wall Street Mayor — who bought and clung to his political power using his personal fortune — deploy force against marginalized citizens peacefully and lawfully protesting joblessness, foreclosures and economic suffering. If Michael Bloomberg didn’t exist, the Occupy protesters would have to invent him.
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After visiting numerous Occupy sites over the past few weeks, I’ve repeatedly said that the protests are among the most exciting, inspiring and important political developments over the last decade. That’s true for several reasons: its innovative, pioneering tactics, its refusal to be pigeonholed with partisan identity, its resistance to translating itself into establishment media language, its organic form, its appropriate contempt for the nation’s political and legal institutions, its singular ability to force discussions of wealth inequality into the discourse. But I think its most impressive attribute is that it has inspired a level of activism and a sense of possibility like few other things have. It’s worth highlighting a few representative examples.
Ever since the Occupy movement began, the blog FireDogLake, with very little attention or self-promotion, has overwhelmingly devoted itself not only to covering the protests but also to creating an amazing new template to help sustain it. Exclusively relying on reader donations, FDL has sent one of its youngest and most relentless activists, Kevin Gosztola, around the country for the last two months, visiting over 20 different encampments from every region in the nation. Gosztola has been able to provide first-hand, on-the-scene reporting from all of these sites, but more important, has built a network of representatives and liasons to enable coordination and communication among site organizers.
Over the past month, FDL — with the construction of this network — has done something truly amazing. In addition to police crackdowns, it has long been assumed that the greatest challenge to sustaining the Occupy movement would be the approaching harsh winter in Northern cities. The assumption — not unreasonable — was that few people would be willing to occupy outdoor spaces in zero-degree weather or below. FDL, with its “Occupy Supply” project, is all but ensuring the elimination of this problem.
Again using nothing more than reader donations, FDL designed and then purchased a full line of winter clothing for free distribution to the various Occupy sites around the nation: hats, sweaters, scarves, gloves, socks, blankets, jackets, thermal underwear, face masks, and more. Every penny FDL raises — 100% — goes exclusively toward the manufacture and free distribution of these products to Occupy protesters. They have thus far raised close to $90,000, and spent roughly $85,000 of it on the purchase of almost 7,000 items. They have also furnished heat generators, tents, and sleeping bags to numerous sites as well.
What makes this activism particularly impressive is that it is designed to build an ongoing and highly effective support network. Rather than indiscriminately dumping the clothing at various encampments, FDL has built a network of liasons and representatives to ensure that it goes to the places that need it most, and that it reaches those who will use it for its intended purpose: primarily, the “sleeper” protesters, largely impoverished, who form the backbone of the camps. Beyond that, FDL has expended great efforts to ensure that the goods it distributes are manufactured not in Chinese sweatshops but rather entirely by American unions — a difficult challenge in this age of disappearing American industry — which in turn ensures that the workers producing the products enjoy health insurance, living wages, and a decent standard of living: aims of the Occupy movement itself.
That last point underscores one of the most significant aspects of the Occupy movement: that it is not devoted to voicing grievances as much as it is finding a model to solve them. It’s one thing to demand middle class conditions for American workers; it’s another to help sustain them by patronizing unionized manufacturers. It’s the difference between talking and doing, and that difference has quietly fueled the Occupy movement from the start.
One of the most striking conversations I had was with an organizer at Occupy Oakland right around the time that media reports began trying to demonize the camps by pointing to the homeless contingent that had become a part of them. She reacted with scorn at the notion that there was something improper or odd that some of the occupiers would be homeless, as though they are sub-human and should be hidden. But the point she really emphasized was that one of the functions served by the Oakland encampment was that it produced its own food from volunteers in a kitchen that had been built there; they were, in essence, doing something about the problem of homelessness — by feeding them — rather than simply demanding that something be done. Before the Oakland police tore it down, the site had become its own community, existing by its own rules and outside of prevailing societal norms, and one of its functions was to feed those who had no means of feeding themselves. It did not merely complain about the prevailing landscape, but rather provided an alternative form of existence and community to the one it was protesting.
One long-time reader and commenter here, Jaime Omar Yassin, has — at great personal sacrifice — more or less devoted himself to the Occupy Oakland camp. He wrote about it on an almost daily basis from the start, and — despite what he described on the first day as his “skeptic[ism] about the possibility of mass movements in the US for various reasons” – worked full-time to sustain it. Yassin has been a student over the past several years and quite impoverished. The volunteer nature of his work for the Occupy site led him to serious financial distress. When I asked him why, given all that, he continued to do it, this is what he told me:
I started coming regularly to Occupy Oakland to report on it, spending ten or twelve hours there, doing interviews and watching the community. I was very impressed with what I saw. What really sucked me in was when I began to understand the kitchen, and how it became a focal point of what makes OO unique among the occupieds. Many people I spoke to–the unusual suspects in terms of activism, poor, and unemployed–had been drawn to the camp by the kitchen, which was running 24 hours a day. They then became real participants in the camp. The kitchen also allowed them to become part of the camp immediately, allowing them to cook, serve or wash dishes, and interact with others in a tangible way, not just sitting in a [General Assembly] or meeting. . . .
It may sound corny, but the camp has given me the chance to use all of my human skills in the service of others, from conflict mediation, to crisis management, to writing and oratory, and simply providing an ear for troubled people, who can nevertheless be functioning members of society if just given a chance. I actually feel like I do that about ten times a day. There are a lot of troubled people there, they represent the people who’ve been turned away from society. There’s a lot of pent up hostility and resentment, but it comes out in the open, we wrestle with it, we are allowed to understand it and begin to know one another.
The camp has given my life real purpose, and brought out the best in me and allowed me to befriend the widest breadth of human experience anyone can imagine. While other occupies are focused strictly on the 1% issue, I think at OO a lot of us are excited about finally being able to talk about systemic problems in an atmosphere where the public will listen. We are talking about homelessness, about the right to dignity, the right to be free of harrassment and violence from police and others. I really feel like we’ve forced Oakland to have conversations its put off for a long time about violence and poverty and the city’s response to it, which is to marginalize it and ignore it, while crying crocodile tears.
Its difficult to describe, but the social construction of the camp has been part of the political movement, and our success has already been in declaring that middle class teachers, union workers, homeless people and even mentally ill people can inhabit the same political space as equals. This is the strength that we used to launch an unprecedented action at the port of Oakland, where tens of thousands responded to the call and shut down the port of Oakland as a clarion call to the nation and city. It was the largest human mass I’ve ever seen in my life. We’ve shown mainstream people that the right to assemble is a right that they can take without mediation or permission, and that the power of assembly can even push police back, as we did when we retook the camp two weeks ago. Despite the fact that it was fenced off, people took down the fence, and replanted tents. I just feel like we’re transforming society with each person who comes to the camp and becomes a part of it. We’re changing long held views about who matters and why, and what a just society should actually look like, and what powers people have to change all that.
As we prepare for the end of the camp again, I’m reminded of just how special all of these people are to me. We expected an imminent raid last night. We know that we can’t resist the demolition of the camp, and that we have lost some support due to media and city propaganda. So it looks like we’re really looking at the end again. We’re all exhausted, but it really still feels like a family. Someone I don’t even like much hugged me last night and it was so genuine and real that I had to choke back tears.
We also know that even if Occupy Oakland ends tomorrow in its current incarnation, the assembly of people gathered there will continue on in another unique social and political movement. That’s the legacy of the camp, no matter what happens tonight.
Though perhaps not as eloquent or well thought-out, this is more or less what I heard from almost every committed protester I spoke with at multiple sites over the past several weeks.
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It’s very difficult to imagine sentiments this impassioned and profound simply disappearing because of some police raids or cold weather. It’s even more difficult to imagine how one could find this movement anything but inspiring. If you want to contribute to FDL’s Occupy Supply project, you can do so here; if you want to help Jaime be able to continue to report on Occupy protests or otherwise provide him with much needed (and deserved) assistance, you can do so here. There are many people quite supportive of the Occupy movement who — for a variety of reasons — can’t or won’t physically occupy these spaces, but there are numerous ways to provide other forms of support. More than it needs anything, the country needs a potent and effective citizen movement outside of/independent of the electoral system, and nothing in a long time has provided that the way the Occupy movement has.
One of the groups of evicted Zuccotti folks were at Canal St. & 6th Ave. this morning. There were about 300-400 people there, a few still wearing pajamas, occupiers and allies, trying to get into a fenced area while many police looked on and arrested anyone that managed to climb into it including a woman in a wheelchair. By then the streets were passable, the Brooklyn Bridge was open again, the subways were stopping in the Zuccotti area, Broadway had reopened, and the helicopters were no longer circling the skies. Everyone decided to go back to Zuccotti Park.
The crowd marched along Canal St. Cars and trucks beeped their horns in approval and gave them thumbs up. Once they reached Broadway they spread out into the street. They chanted, “Whose streets, our streets”, “This is a peaceful demonstration” and “We are the 99% and so are you” as they pointed to on-lookers.
The police didn’t object and held up traffic for them. However, as they reached City Hall there was a line of police on motorcycles which forced them onto the sidewalk. Some police went to vans to take out their riot gear and put it on. There was no visible reason for this. The occupiers were walking on the sidewalk . Many were carrying copies of the judge’s order that was issued early this morning banning the police from doing exactly what they had done. As we walked one person sadly told me how their beautiful library containing 10,000 books, all arranged by subject and donated by friends of the occupation, had been trashed and dumped into garbage compactors. Needless destruction. One person compared it to “Crystalnacht” in Germany just before WWII. Another commented that the police acted with military precision and she asked if they were now the subject of the War on Terror.
When we got to Zuccotti the park was empty. What hours before was teeming with vitality and hope was now devoid of any sign of humanity. A sad sight. Occupiers, friends, and allies were not allowed in and, in fact, could barely get near it. It was ringed by layer after layer of police. The area was very crowded and many found themselves eyeball-to-eyeball with the police. Some told the police they should be ashamed of themselves. The city had gone to court to appeal the injunction – a decision would be reached by 4 o’clock. Lively discussions were going on. Everyone said their work would go on but this may have been the ‘end of the beginning’ of the process. I saw a young man who I knew was one of the people who had participated in the Freedom Flotilla to break the blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza and asked him what he thought would happen next. He replied that it would be like the flotillas, we will try again and again until we succeed.
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
Enjoy the sounds of the past …. and the present!
Jewish Protesters Blast Occupy Eviction
150 Demonstrators Arrested in Late-Night Raid on Park
Jewish demonstrators blasted authorities for clearing the Occupy Wall Street protest, saying Mayor Michael Bloomberg betrayed Jewish values by ordering the late-night raid.
“We are outraged by Mayor Bloomberg’s contempt for the rights of American citizens and his use of public health and safety to justify beating and macing nonviolent protesters,” said Daniel Sieradski, who organized Jewish religious observances at the protest site. “The mayor’s actions reflect neither Jewish, nor American, nor human values.”
Demonstrators vowed to retake the protest site Tuesday afternoon but a judge ruled they could not camp out at Zuccotti Park.
An estimated 1,000 baton-wielding police officers descended on Zuccotti Park around 1 am Tuesday. Within a couple of hours, they had cleared protesters out of the lower Manhattan park where they have been for several weeks.
After ordering demonstrators to leave, police moved into the park, followed by Sanitation workers who cleared tents and sleeping bags.
Several dozen protesters refused to leave, shouting, “Whose park? Our park!” Police arrested an estimated 150 people, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Associated Press.
Jewish protesters, who dub themselves Occupy Judaism, said the police action would not succeed in stopping the movement.
“You cannot evict an idea thats time has come,” Sieradski said. “You cannot evict 99% of America. You cannot evict 99% of humanity.”
By daybreak, the park was entirely cleared of protesters. Authorities said demonstrators would be allowed to return at some point, without tents and sleeping gear.
Many protestors regrouped in Foley Square a few blocks away, but it was unclear if any decision had been made about what to do next. Another group linked arms outside City Hall, which is also nearby.
Protesters obtained an early morning court order that apparently permits them to return to the park, which is near the World Trade Center site and close to the Financial District.
Hundreds were marching there in hopes of restoring the protest, but police vowed not to allow them to set up a permanent camp.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement in which he asserted the need to balance the right of free speech with public safety and health concerns.
“The occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community,” Bloomberg said.
Faces appeared to me moments before the New York City police arrested us Thursday in front of Goldman Sachs. They were not the faces of the smug Goldman Sachs employees, who peered at us through the revolving glass doors and lobby windows, a pathetic collection of middle-aged fraternity and sorority members. They were not the faces of the blue-uniformed police with their dangling cords of white and black plastic handcuffs, or the thuggish Goldman Sachs security personnel, whose buzz cuts and dead eyes reminded me of the East German secret police, the Stasi. They were not the faces of the demonstrators around me, the ones with massive student debts and no jobs, the ones whose broken dreams weigh them down like a cross, the ones whose anger and betrayal triggered the street demonstrations and occupations for justice. They were not the faces of the onlookers—the construction workers, who seemed cheered by the march on Goldman Sachs, or the suited businessmen who did not. They were faraway faces. They were the faces of children dying. They were tiny, confused, bewildered faces I had seen in the southern Sudan, Gaza and the slums of Brazzaville, Nairobi, Cairo and Delhi and the wars I covered. They were faces with large, glassy eyes, above bloated bellies. They were the small faces of children convulsed by the ravages of starvation and disease.
I carry these faces. They do not leave me. I look at my own children and cannot forget them, these other children who never had a chance. War brings with it a host of horrors, including famine, but the worst is always the human detritus that war and famine leave behind, the small, frail bodies whose tangled limbs and vacant eyes condemn us all. The wealthy and the powerful, the ones behind the glass at Goldman Sachs, laughed and snapped pictures of us as if we were a brief and odd lunchtime diversion from commodities trading, from hoarding and profit, from this collective sickness of money worship, as if we were creatures in a cage, which in fact we soon were.
A glass tower filled with people carefully selected for the polish and self-assurance that come with having been formed in institutions of privilege, whose primary attributes are a lack of consciousness, a penchant for deception and an incapacity for empathy or remorse. The curious onlookers behind the windows and we, arms locked in a circle on the concrete outside, did not speak the same language. Profit. Globalization. War. National security. These are the words they use to justify the snuffing out of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. Those who trade it have, by buying up and hoarding commodities futures, doubled and tripled the costs of wheat, rice and corn. Hundreds of millions of poor across the globe are going hungry to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively mask the reality of what is happening—murder. These are words designed to make systems operate, even systems of death, with a cold neutrality. Peace, love and all sane affirmative speech in temples like Goldman Sachs are, as W.H. Auden understood, “soiled, profaned, debased to a horrid mechanical screech.”
We seemed to have lost, at least until the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not only all personal responsibility but all capacity for personal judgment. Corporate culture absolves all of responsibility. This is part of its appeal. It relieves all from moral choice. There is an unequivocal acceptance of ruling principles such as unregulated capitalism and globalization as a kind of natural law. The steady march of corporate capitalism requires a passive acceptance of new laws and demolished regulations, of bailouts in the trillions of dollars and the systematic looting of public funds, of lies and deceit. The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrowly accepted confines of the established political order. It has turned us into compliant consumers. We are forced to surrender our voice. These corporate machines, like fraternities and sororities, also haze new recruits in company rituals, force them to adopt an unrelenting cheerfulness, a childish optimism and obsequiousness to authority. These corporate rituals, bolstered by retreats and training seminars, by grueling days that sometimes end with initiates curled up under their desks to sleep, ensure that only the most morally supine remain. The strong and independent are weeded out early so only the unquestioning advance upward. Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt writes, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.”
Our political class, and its courtiers on the airwaves, insists that if we refuse to comply, if we step outside of the Democratic Party, if we rebel, we will make things worse. This game of accepting the lesser evil enables the steady erosion of justice and corporate plundering. It enables corporations to harvest the nation and finally the global economy, reconfiguring the world into neofeudalism, one of masters and serfs. This game goes on until there is hardly any action carried out by the power elite that is not a crime. It goes on until corporate predators, who long ago decided the nation and the planet were not worth salvaging, seize the last drops of wealth. It goes on until moral acts, such as calling for those inside the corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs to be tried, see you jailed, and the crimes of financial fraud and perjury are upheld as lawful and rewarded by the courts, the U.S. Treasury and the Congress. And all this is done so a handful of rapacious, immoral plutocrats like Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs who sucks down about $250,000 a day and who lied to the U.S. Congress as well as his investors and the public, can use their dirty money to retreat into their own Forbidden City or Versailles while their underlings, basking in the arrogance of power, snap amusing photos of the rabble outside their gates being hauled away by the police and company goons.
It is vital that the occupation movements direct attention away from their encampments and tent cities, beset with the usual problems of hastily formed open societies where no one is turned away. Attention must be directed through street protests, civil disobedience and occupations toward the institutions that are carrying out the assaults against the 99 percent. Banks, insurance companies, courts where families are being foreclosed from their homes, city offices that put these homes up for auction, schools, libraries and firehouses that are being closed, and corporations such as General Electric that funnel taxpayer dollars into useless weapons systems and do not pay taxes, as well as propaganda outlets such as the New York Post and its evil twin, Fox News, which have unleashed a vicious propaganda war against us, all need to be targeted, shut down and occupied. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of all that is wrong with global capitalism, but there are many other companies whose degradation and destruction of human life are no less egregious.
It is always the respectable classes, the polished Ivy League graduates, the prep school boys and girls who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., or Short Hills, N.J., who are the most susceptible to evil. To be intelligent, as many are at least in a narrow, analytical way, is morally neutral. These respectable citizens are inculcated in their elitist enclaves with “values” and “norms,” including pious acts of charity used to justify their privilege, and a belief in the innate goodness of American power. They are trained to pay deference to systems of authority. They are taught to believe in their own goodness, unable to see or comprehend—and are perhaps indifferent to—the cruelty inflicted on others by the exclusive systems they serve. And as norms mutate and change, as the world is steadily transformed by corporate forces into one of a small cabal of predators and a vast herd of human prey, these elites seamlessly replace one set of “values” with another. These elites obey the rules. They make the system work. And they are rewarded for this. In return, they do not question.
Those who resist—the doubters, outcasts, renegades, skeptics and rebels—rarely come from the elite. They ask different questions. They seek something else—a life of meaning. They have grasped Immanuel Kant’s dictum, “If justice perishes, human life on Earth has lost its meaning.” And in their search they come to the conclusion that, as Socrates said, it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. This conclusion is rational, yet cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people when the chips are down are not those who say “this is wrong,” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.”
There are streaks in my lungs, traces of the tuberculosis that I picked up around hundreds of dying Sudanese during the famine I covered as a foreign correspondent. I was strong and privileged and fought off the disease. They were not and did not. The bodies, most of them children, were dumped into hastily dug mass graves. The scars I carry within me are the whispers of these dead. They are the faint marks of those who never had a chance to become men or women, to fall in love and have children of their own. I carried these scars to the doors of Goldman Sachs. I had returned to living. Those whose last breaths had marked my lungs had not. I placed myself at the feet of these commodity traders to call for justice because the dead, and those who are dying in slums and refugee camps across the planet, could not make this journey. I see their faces. They haunt me in the day and come to me in the dark. They force me to remember. They make me choose sides. As the metal handcuffs were fastened around my wrists I thought of them, as I often think of them, and I said to myself: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty I am free at last.”
Editor’s note: Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, an activist, an author and a member of a reporting team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize, wrote this article after he was released from custody following his arrest last Thursday. He and about 15 other participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement were detained as they protested outside the global headquarters of Goldman Sachs in lower Manhattan.
A Photo Essay of the ‘Tribunal’ can be seen HERE
Don’t miss the video at the end of this post…
by Alex Kane
Protesters in oakland carry iraq war veteran scott olsen after he was struck in the head by a police projectile (photo: Jay Finneburgh/indybay.org)
Occupy Oakland protesters got a whiff of the weekly Palestinian experience two nights ago when a crackdown complete with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades tore through their protest encampment. (See Adam Horowitz’s post here). The injury of Iraq War veteran and activist Scott Olsen, who is in the hospital with a fractured skull, adds to the obvious similarities seen in protest crackdowns in the U.S. and Palestine.
This is in addition to reports that the same arms firm supplies both the Oakland Police Department and the Israeli army with tear-gas.
Olsen was reportedly hit by a tear gas canister in his head, resulting in a fractured skull injury. Olsen was in a coma, although Reuters reported last night that “Olsen was breathing on his own and could undergo surgery in the next day or so.”
The scenes of blood streaming down Olsen’s face were eerily reminiscent of what happened to Tristan Anderson in 2009. An American activist from Oakland, Anderson was also struck in the head by a tear gas canister, although in his case it was fired by the Israeli army during a protest in the West Bank village of Nil’in. Anderson was in an Israeli hospital for over a year, and a sham IDF investigation declared the shooting “an act of war,” absolving their soldiers of responsibility.
These two cases, side by side, matter, and not just because of coincidence but for what it tells us.
The similarities between Olsen and Anderson’s injury (although thankfully Olsen seems to be recovering) and the force used on protesters in Oakland make clear how militarized the police in the U.S. are, as Charles Pierce points out in Esquire (h/t Liliana Segura’s Twitter):
Make no mistake about it: The actions of the police department in Oakland last night were a military assault on a legitimate political demonstration. That it was a milder military assault than it could have been, which is to say it wasn’t a massacre, is very much beside the point. There was no possible provocation that warranted this display of force. (Graffiti? Litter? Rodents? Is the Oakland PD now a SWAT team for the city’s health department?) If you are a police department in this country in 2011, this is something you do because you have the power and the technology and the license from society to do it. This is a problem that has been brewing for a long time. It predates the Occupy movement for more than a decade. It even predates the “war on terror,” although that has acted as what the arson squad would call an “accelerant” to the essential dynamic.
Basic law enforcement in this country is thoroughly, totally militarized. It is militarized at its most basic levels. (The “street crime units,” so beloved by, among other people, the Diallo family.) It is militarized at its highest command positions. It is militarized in its tactics, and its weaponry and, most important of all, in the attitude of the officers themselves, and in how they are trained. There is a vast militarized intelligence apparatus that leads, inevitably, to pre-emptive military actions, like the raids on protest organizations that were carried out in advance of the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Sooner or later, this militarized law enforcement was going to collide head-on with a movement of mass public protest, and the results were going to be ugly. (There already had been dry runs elsewhere, most notably in Miami, in 2003, during protests of a meeting of trade ministers.)
The militarization of the police was clearly accelerated by a “war on terror” framework, and the Olsen/Anderson injuries are the real-life, tragic consequences that these policies have. Now, an American uprising is clashing with that security-first mentality. How many more Scott Olsens will we see?