Occupy Congress January 17th, 2012
Via Carrie Dann @ NBC
CarrieNBCNews Carrie Dann —
"You don’t have to sit back & take it any more," "reach beyond the confines of the Beltway." Big push against "insiders" (read: Mitt/Newt)
CarrieNBCNews Carrie Dann —
More Perry: “Americans were snookered” by “Wall Street highrollers” who were “betting against America.” Harsher than usual.
CarrieNBCNews Carrie Dann —
Populist Perry this AM in Nashua: “What’s wrong with America can be diagrammed on a napkin… Straight line between DC and Wall St”
occupy hk, central, hong kong
Consented to by General Assembly November 30th, 2011 | PDF
We have been captives of corrupt economic and political systems for far too long. The concentration of wealth and the purchase of political power stifle the voices of the increasingly disenfranchised 99 percent. Corporate dominance subverts democracy, intentionally sows division, destroys the environment, obstructs the just and equitable pursuit of happiness, and violates the rights and dignity of all life.
Occupy D.C. is an open community of diverse individuals, facing different forms of oppression and impacted by economic exploitation to differing degrees, but united by a shared vision of equality for the common good. The harsh economic conditions that have plagued the poor, working class, and communities of color for generations have begun to affect the previously financially secure. This acute awareness of our common fate has united us in our struggle for a better future. We recognize that inequality and injustice systemically affect every aspect of our society: our communities, homes, and hearts. To build the world we envision, we commit ourselves to overcoming our personal biases so we can successfully challenge systems of oppression in solidarity.
We are peaceably assembled at McPherson Square, practicing direct democracy on the doorstep of K Street, the epicenter of destructive corporate and governmental relationships. Recognizing that the term ‘occupy’ is associated with exploitation, violence, and imperialism, we are reclaiming it to mean the peaceful liberation of public space. In this disenfranchised city, we are insisting that our economic and political systems serve the people’s interests. Now is the time to advance and complete the struggles of the many who came before us.
We are assembled because…
A better world is possible.
To all people,
We, the Washington D.C. General Assembly occupying K Street in McPherson Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble and reclaim the commons. Re-conceive ways to build a democratic, just, and sustainable world.
To all who value democracy, we encourage you to collaborate and share available resources.
Join your voice with ours and let it amplify until the heart of the movement booms with our chorus of solidarity.
*These grievances are not all inclusive.
The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.
by Naomi Wolf
US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.
To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.
I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.
Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.
That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.
The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).
In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.
But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.
Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.
So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
On Friday, Naomi Wolf made the attention-grabbing accusation in the Guardian that federal officials were involved in, indeed ordered, the violent crackdowns against Occupy Wall Street protesters that we’ve been seeing across the country these past few weeks.
Congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to authorise mayors to order their police forces - pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS - to make war on peaceful citizens.
I don’t have much to add to Holland’s critique. Wolf gets many of her facts wrong, and Holland shows it.
The problem, though, is bigger than that: The reason Wolf gets her facts wrong is that she’s got her theory wrong. And while many were quick to jump off her conspiracy bandwagon once Holland pointed out its flaws, I suspect that one of the reasons they were so quick to jump on it in the first place is that they subscribe to her theory.In-depth coverage of the global movement
We still don’t have nearly all the who-what-when-where-why-and-how of the crackdowns - and there’s certainly nothing wrong with raising questions, pursuing leads, and investigating claims regarding the involvement of the feds - but the quickness and ease with which Wolf reached for the top-down conspiratorial national government story, well in advance of the facts we know, provides us with a teachable moment of how many tend to think about political repression in the United States, and how we might think about it instead.
Like many critics of state coercion in the United States, Wolf seems to assume that political repression requires or entails national coordination and centralised direction from the feds. This fits with a larger tradition in the United States that sees centralised and national power as the handmaiden of tyranny, and local power as its antidote. Throughout much of the twentieth century, that was the argument of conservatives, who opposed federal involvement in such “local” matters as Jim Crow. But since the 1980s, that position has steadily migrated to the left as well.
Whatever its political provenance, however, the problem with that position - as I argued in this piece in the Boston Review in 2005, and in a much longer piece in the Missouri Law Review[pdf] - is that it’s wrong.
From the battles over abolition to the labor wars at the turn of the last century; from the Red Squads of the twentieth-century police departments to the struggles over Jim Crow; state repression in the US has often been decentralised, displaying that very same can-do spirit of local initiative that has been celebrated by everyone from Alexis de Tocqueville to Robert Putnam. Though Tocqueville and Putnam were talking, of course, about things like creating churches and buildings roads, the fact is: If the locals can build a church or a road on their own, they can also get rid of dissenters on their own, too, no?
Even where there has been coordination and involvement from above, as in the epic cases of the Red Scare, McCarthyism, COINTELPRO, or now the War on Terror, what’s been most striking is how local police and officials have managed to manipulate that federal involvement to their own ends. As I wrote in the Boston Review:
What history demonstrates is that police officers often use their powers, with or without federal prompting, as instruments of larger political purpose. The danger of cooperation between federal agencies and local police is not that the former will conscript the latter into repressive programs the latter would not otherwise pursue, but that it allows the police to apply the legitimising gloss of national security to their own pet projects of repression. During the McCarthy era, for example, southern politicians and law-enforcement officers used the language of anti-communism to outlaw the NAACP and to arrest and indict civil-rights leaders for sedition. In the Denver case already mentioned, the police used the rubric of domestic security to keep track of not only the groups cited above but also a local organization working against police brutality in the city. This past summer, during the Republican Party convention in New York City, the NYPD preemptively arrested more than 1,500 protesters - some of them obstreperous, virtually all of them nonviolent - as well as innocent bystanders. How did the mayor justify the arrest and prolonged detainment of these individuals? By drawing parallels, according to The New York Times, “between verbally abusive demonstrators and the Sept. 11 terrorists.”
If all politics is local in the United States, as former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill reminded us, it stands to reason that a good deal of the political repression is as well.
It’s hard for Americans to be clear about this, and probably harder for non-Americans, especially Europeans, who were among Wolf’s readers in the Guardian, and have very different traditions and policies in their countries. As my friend and colleague Alex Vitale - a professor at Brooklyn College and one of the country’s leading experts on policing practices - reminded me:
The US is somewhat unique in how decentralised it is in terms of both policing and politics. In much of Europe you’re dealing with national police forces and national political parties that have real influence over local mayors - neither of which is true in the US. Local police in the US will take resources from the center and at times advice and even some coordination, but they are generally loath to give up any real autonomy. And they are quite capable of coming up with their own harebrained initiatives based on primarily very local politics. Much of the Oakland crackdown came in the wake of pressure from local business improvement associations that had little to do with national politics.
It’s not surprising that, faced with the crackdown on Occupy protests, Wolf would immediately turn to a theory of national, centralised repression. It’s part of our national DNA, on the left and the right, to assume that tyranny works that way. We’ve inherited a theory that holds, in the approving words of the Yale constitutional law scholar Akhil Reed Amar, that “liberty and localism work together”. Nothing, as Holland so ably if inadvertently demonstrates in his demolition of Wolf, could be further from the truth.
Corey Robin teaches political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin and Fear: The History of a Political Idea. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. He received his PhD from Yale and his A.B. from Princeton. You can read Corey’s blog here and follow him on Twitter @CoreyRobin.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
NaomiAKlein Naomi Klein
Just doing my morning “I’m not Naomi f-ing Wolf” corrections. Love that half the people I have to correct r journos.
3 hours ago
Nov. 22: Be It Resolved North America Faces a Japan-style Era of High Unemployment and Slow Growth.
Arguing for the resolution are:
Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner and one of the pre-eminent economists of our time, and
David Rosenberg, Chief Economist and Strategist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates.
Arguing against the resolution are:
Lawrence Summers, one of America’s most influential economists, and until recently President Obama’s director of the White House National Economic Council, and
Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group, a global political risk analysis firm.