Posts tagged occupy
Posts tagged occupy
Under the guise of concerns about “public health and safety,” mayor after mayor ordered police to tear down encampments—a curious justification after the years of cuts to public hospitals, heating subsidies and homeless shelters that have actually endangered “public health and safety” for millions of Americans.
The total number of arrests of Occupy activists now stands at 6,475 and counting.
The treatment of the Occupy movement by elected officials and law enforcement sends an unmistakable message: Sure, you have the right to free speech, but once you try to use it, we will do all we can to stop you.
Part of this assault has involved elected officials—most of them members of the Democratic Party, which claims to stand for the rights of working people—bending the laws to ensure they can crack down on demonstrators at will.
In Chicago, where the NATO military alliance and G8 club of powerful governments is due to meet in a joint summit in May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel went the furthest—under the proposals he drove through the City Council, it’s a violation of the law, for example, for two people to carry a banner or sound amplification device that wasn’t described in a permit application filed months ahead of time.
On New Year’s Eve, Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, giving him the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, without charges. This was a new milestone in the assault on civil liberties inaugurated by George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” but continued under the Democratic Obama administration.
During this same period, the federal government disbursed more than $34 billion in grants to help transform local police departments into small armies, equipped with military-grade hardware. Under the guise of equipping themselves for “terror scenarios,” even sleepy towns like Fargo, N.D., have acquired armored personnel carriers, assault rifles and Kevlar helmets. Montgomery County, Texas, now deploys a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, just like the ones the U.S. military uses in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
No one seriously considers Fargo a target for “terrorists,” begging the question of why cities with budget crises would want to bear the enormous expense of acquiring and maintaining such arsenals.
The answer is that the emergence of a powerful social movement at a time of social crisis is precisely the “threat” for which they have been preparing.
Make no mistake that we have the right, on paper, to express ourselves and assemble as long as it is not ruled a ‘clear and present danger’. There is not question, though, that in practice we have no such right. We cannot criticize our politicians to their face without being accused of assault, we can’t assemble on public property, and verbal criticisms of police leave the critics in handcuffs and the onlookers threatened with a shotgun.
These freedoms will never be regained unless we can find a way to elect someone other than the American aristocracy- the politicians and bureaucrats within the two party system.
A Houston Police officer arrests a man for speaking his mind about the police (he says, “They don’t believe in freedom, they believe in authority,” and the police subsequently arrest him). When the crowd expresses outrage, that officer gets a shotgun and points it at the crowd.
Police beat an unarmed and surrendered protester in Oakland, then target the cameraman that caught them.
I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.
My hands were then zipcuffed very tightly behind my back, where they turned blue. I am now suffering nerve damage in my right thumb and palm.
I was put on a paddywagon with other nonviolent protestors and taken to a parking garage in Parker Center. They forced us to kneel on the hard pavement of that parking garage for seven straight hours with our hands still tightly zipcuffed behind our backs. Some began to pass out. One man rolled to the ground and vomited for a long, long time before falling unconscious. The LAPD officers watched and did nothing.
At 9 a.m. we were finally taken from the pavement into the station to be processed. The charge was sitting in the park after the police said not to. It’s a misdemeanor. Almost always, for a misdemeanor, the police just give you a ticket and let you go. It costs you a couple hundred dollars. Apparently, that’s what happened with most every other misdemeanor arrest in LA that day.
With us Occupy LA protestors, however, they set bail at $5,000 and booked us into jail. Almost none of the protesters could afford to bail themselves out. I’m lucky and I could afford it, except the LAPD spent all day refusing to actually *accept* the bail they set. If you were an accused murderer or a rapist in LAPD custody that day, you could bail yourself right out and be back on the street, no problem. But if you were a nonviolent Occupy LA protestor with bail money in hand, you were held long into the following morning, with absolutely no access to a lawyer.
I spent most of my day and night crammed into an eight-man jail cell, along with sixteen other Occupy LA protesters. My sleeping spot was on the floor next to the toilet.
Finally, at 2:30 the next morning, after twenty-five hours in custody, I was released on bail. But there were at least 200 Occupy LA protestors who couldn’t afford the bail. The LAPD chose to keep those peaceful, non-violent protesters in prison for two full days… the absolute legal maximum that the LAPD is allowed to detain someone on misdemeanor charges.
As a reminder, Antonio Villaraigosa has referred to all of this as “the LAPD’s finest hour.”
Thank God news outlets like NPR are all over what happened there that day. Here’s what NPR has to say about it:
In the end, there was very little force used, in part because this is a new LAPD. It exercises much more restraint than it once did
Thank God for NPR, or we might actually learn about what the LAPD did to Occupy LA!
Occupy San Francisco protester Miran Istina stands outside the US Bank building on Market Street, San Francisco. Photograph: Martin Lacey
As Miran Istina puts it, she has been living on borrowed time since she was 14. Diagnosed with cancer, she was given just months to live after her health insurer refused to provide her with life-saving surgery.
Now 18, Istina, from the city of Sisters in Oregon, has spent the past three weeks living in a tent at the Occupy San Francisco protest and says she will stay there indefinitely, despite her illness.
She was inspired to take part in the protest by the refusal of her insurance company to pay for treatment for her chronic myelogenous leukaemia.
She said: “They denied me on the terms of a pre-existing condition. Seeing as I had only had that insurance for a few months, and I was in early stage two which meant I had to have had it for at least a year, they determined it was a pre-existing condition and denied me healthcare.”
Treatment would require a bone marrow transplant and extensive radiation therapy and chemotherapy, at a cost of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Coming from an ordinary middle-class background, her family has no way of paying for the surgery that would save her life.
Following her insurer’s refusal, she spent three years travelling the US looking for a healthcare provider who would give her a chance at life.
Istina said: “I went all over the place, looking for someone to give a damn, really, someone to care enough to treat me. Because we were middle class, we couldn’t afford to treat my disease. We’d be in debt for the rest of our family life.”
After repeated refusals to offer her treatment, she said: “I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life doing whatever my heart wants.”
The Occupy movement attracted Istina as she ties the corporate influence on American politics to the decision that has sentenced her to death.
She said: “The corporate influence on politics influences just about anything that happens, seeing as politicians write the plans that healthcare has to follow. It directly links the fact that insurers only pick and choose those who are actually worth it [financially]. I just happen to not be one of the ones they wanted to be around much longer.
“The decision was absolutely influenced by some corporation or some bank saying, ‘we can’t afford her. She’s not worth our money.’ In end terms, corporate greed is going to cost me my life.
“I used to be really upset about it. I’m not as much any more. I’m angry, for sure, but I think me being here might help it never happen again. That’s why I’m here. It’s that there are other people this is going to happen to if this movement doesn’t succeed and that’s not healthy. I’m done being the victim. However long I have left is dedicated heart and soul to this movement, no matter what it takes.”
She has immersed herself in the movement, becoming the chief media relations officer for Occupy SF and organising fundraising events around the city. On Thursday afternoon she led a CNN television crew on a walk through the camp, to show how they were living, explain their motives and refute claims that the living conditions are unsanitary.
She said of her new life: “My heart is finally satisfied.”
The Occupy San Francisco movement has seen up to 300 protesters take over the Justin Herman Plaza, at the Embarcadero in the downtown district since October 5.
The occupiers are given food by local restaurants and have received donations from supporters to provide supplies.
Health professionals from the San Francisco General Hospital are providing round-the-clock care for Istina, who needs strong pain killers and constant monitoring of her condition. Earlier in the month she suffered a kidney malfunction which required urgent hospital treatment.
Throughout the afternoon four police officers kept a watchful eye over the groups of tents and makeshift shelters but the atmosphere was relaxed. When the officers staged a walk-through some of the occupiers shared jokes with them. One said: “Please leave the automatic weapons outside the camp. This is a peaceful protest.”
Another said: “We’re not doing any harm. We’re just a bunch of peace-loving hippies.”
But a raid on the camp is possible at any time. San Francisco mayor Ed Lee has repeatedly insisted that the camp is illegal and all tents should be removed but so far little has been done to enforce the law.
He has threatened a raid and on Wednesday night occupiers expected police to move in, sparking a larger than normal demonstration. Two candidates for the upcoming mayoral election joined with the protesters but despite the presence nearby of riot police, the raid did not go ahead.
This should be a crime.