Occupy Los Angeles May Day event. Police helicopters hover above Pershing Square.
Occupy Los Angeles May Day event. Police helicopters hover above Pershing Square.
The Occupy Coachella Valley trial continues today. Here are some of the more interesting developments:
1. AOL/Huffington Post is still fighting to prevent one of their Patch editors from testifying on what she saw that night. We are not only up against the City of Palm Desert and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, but also a multi-billion dollar media company as well. How are we going to compete with high-priced corporate lawyers from Culver City?
2. There is now a “contempt of the court” hearing set because the Riverside County Sheriff’s department has refused the judge’s orders to release the operational information surrounding the police’s crackdown of Occupy Coachella Valley’s protests. Just so we are clear what is happening: the police thinks they are above even the court itself that they are OPENLY DEFYING the judge’s orders. This ought to worry reasonable people when the police they are trusting to uphold the law are openly flaunting it. If I was not aware of what has been going on the past ten years in America, I would be frightened. However, the police’s defiance of the law is frankly not that surprising.
3. In some way, the City of Palm Desert’s attempt to silence legitimate speech has succeeded, with the center of the protests now shifting away from city hall. However, they are wrong to think that they could bully me or anyone into silence for long. The trial, if it proceeds, will itself become a platform upon which we continue this struggle.
4. If I were to attend a school in San Francisco, the requirement to attend the trial will quickly become cost-prohibitive. If it is the city’s plan to ruin my education or bully me into poverty, I will not let them.
Occupy all and occupy together!
Occupy Coachella Valley protesters in court today for the first of the pre-trials.
Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like:
Four of the five Occupy Coachella Valley protesters accused of camping in a Palm Desert park without a permit as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement could face up to 180 days in jail, if convicted.
Mary Elizabeth Walker, 22, Stephen Finger, 58, Jayel Aheram, a 27-year-old who is known as Jack Lee Noftsger III, all of Palm Desert, Dustin David Powell, 29, and Ryan Cartwright, 21, both of Palm Springs, face a misdemeanor charge of unlawful assembly.
All but Aheram have pleaded not guilty, because his arraignment is not scheduled until Jan. 17.
Cartwright faces two additional counts of resisting a police officer, which means he could face up to a year in prison.
FILE PHOTO: Jayel Aheram, an organizer of the Occupy Coachella Valley group, protests in Palm Desert, Calif. on Oct. 24, 2011.
I was also told that the sheriff’s department printed out copies of my Facebook statuses as part of their police report. Can we say creepy?
From The Desert Sun:
The taxpayer cost for recent Occupy Coachella Valley protests in Palm Desert is about $89,000.
City officials say the costs added up because of overtime for police, code enforcement and public works employees.
City Manager John Wohlmuth says most of the expense was for police overtime in October and November when the protesters camped in Civic Center Park and marched down El Paseo.
Councilwoman Cindy Finerty says the cost of enforcing city laws was too much.
Occupy organizer Jayel Aheram agrees, telling the Palm Springs Desert Sun ( http://mydesert.co/sBk3UW) that the city could have given money to charities rather than harass protesters.
The police state is expensive. That the city elders authorized these expenditures to suppress legitimate dissent on a small, mostly unused parking lot is pure irresponsibility. Palm Desert could have used that money to help people instead.
I just learned that the City of Palm Desert spent $88,786 suppressing Occupy Coachella Valley.
It might seem like a paltry sum, but the long-term occupation lasted only eight days with ten arrests total. That is about $9,000 per arrestee or $11,000 per day.
Read my account of Palm Desert’s crackdown of Occupy Coachella Valley.
How could the city justify the use of that much money, and for what? A campaign of police intimidation and suppression of legitimate speech.
What else could the City of Palm Desert have done with $88,786?
The City Manager should be ashamed of himself and the city council as well for authorizing such spending.
At one point during his speech, Paul said: “The American people are waking up….They’re tired of what they heard from the two parties and get promises.”
“If the Democrats promise one thing, then they get in and act like Republicans. Republicans promise something, they get in and act like Democrats. But the people are upset. They are getting angry. They are speaking out and I think it’s very healthy.”
“We have a tea party movement, we have an Occupy movement and people are saying, ‘We’ve had enough. We don’t want to be ripped off anymore. We want to do away with this crony corporatism and we want to restore individual liberty for each and every American citizen,’” Paul added.
This is why Ron Paul is being attacked by partisans from both parties: he perfectly personifies and taps into the anti-establishment sentiment that has gripped this country. When an establishment Republican like Newt Gingrich repeats the same charges partisan hacks from the Democratic Party are levying against someone, you know this target poses a threat to the moneymaking and horrifically profitable status quo.
What does Paul represent? A truly populist uprising that will strip away power from the corporatists and war profiteers that establishment Republicans and Democrats, including Barack Obama, are beholden to.
If 2008 was the rebellion, then 2012 is the revolution.
One of the primary features of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement that made it so successful (or according to some commentators, ineffective) is its decentralized and leaderless nature. This is apparent in the different focuses of the many occupations that dot the country.
In Occupy Des Moines, the focus is on the imperial presidency, with activists setting up camp in front of Obama’s reelection offices:
Occupy Des Moines activists on Saturday vowed to shut down President Barack Obama’s campaign offices and set up a camp outside they plan to maintain around the clock.
“We have every intention to keep this place closed down until we are satisfied,” said Frank Cordaro, an activist and founder of the Catholic Worker group in Des Moines.
A handful of activists went to Obama’s nondescript office in a downtown strip mall after larger rallies to mark the three-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. They had hoped to read a statement demanding Obama cut military spending by half and “dismantle our U.S. military empire … so we can create jobs, balance the budget, meet our peoples’ needs here and help the human community to heal our dying planet.”
That these activists are realizing that President Barack Obama is part of that offensive 1 percent is brilliant.
What happened to the tea party movement ought to serve as a warning to the OWS movement of the inherent dangers of co-option. It is safe to safe at this point, with establishment figureheads like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney aligning themselves with the tea party movement, that the tea party movement is dead. It is my hope that this tragedy does not happen with OWS.
The co-option of the OWS by partisan forces is a danger that befalls the movement if occupiers are not vigilant. I have warned several times on this blog (and on television on RT International) that co-option is an ever-present danger. Significant progress cannot be made by a protest movement if it is rendered ineffectual by becoming a mere arm of the establishment: an arm subject to its control and whims.
The No War But Class War Committee, the group behind last night’s email hoax claiming the SEIU withdrew their endorsement of Barack Obama, released this statement:
On Tuesday night, we released a statement on behalf of rank-and-file members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announcing that their leadership’s endorsement of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had been withdrawn. At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, we find it galling that a working class organization would pledge its members’ time and money to electing a man who has consistently served the interests of the richest 1 percent.
In 2008, the SEIU leadership gave more than $85 million of their members’; money to Barack Obama and other Democrats – at the same time they eliminated roughly 10 percent of their staff, including dozens of organizers. Here are a few of the changes that money bought them:
- A dramatic escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with record-level military spending.
- A president who promised the heads of the 13 largest banks that “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you.”
- The largest number of immigrants deported in American history.
- Billions of dollars in bailouts for banks even as social programs like Medicare are put on the cutting board.
- The fewest number of federal prosecutions for financial fraud in more than two decades.
- A Treasury Department headed by a man who aided and abetted institutionalized fraud on Wall Street.
- A record number of foreclosures, with a federal assistance program designed more to help bankers than those being thrown out of their homes.
Barack Obama is already getting heaps of cash from his supporters on Wall Street as a reward for redistributing wealth from the productive classes to the idle rich. There’s no need to give him or any other politician more of the working class’ money – no matter who wins in 2012, they’ll try to take it from us anyway. Instead, we recommend putting $85 million toward making real change in people’s lives, not just hoping for it.
Who are the 1 percent? Those who are elected or otherwise appointed to positions of power in our murderous federal government… especially the murderer at its helm.
The Occupy Wall Street movement opens itself up to the possibility that in their statist worship of the military that one of their celebrated veterans might not be whom they claim to be. And indeed, it has happened with the military record of an occupier in question in Buffalo, N.Y.:
The claims of a dedicated member of the Occupy Buffalo movement that he saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are not supported by Army records.
Christopher M. Simmance has told several media outlets, including The Buffalo News, that he served as many as three tours of duty in those war zones and that he was severely injured in Afghanistan.
Service records obtained from the Army, however, show he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., for three years and he left the active-duty Army in January 2001 — before the 9/11 terror attacks.
I understand the incentive for the occupiers and the veterans among them to broadcast current or former military affiliation. Whether occupiers would like it or not, America has a strong love affair with its military stretches that all the way back to its very beginnings when it chose as its first president a military general. Somehow, the fact that the “1 percent” of us that served in the military took up arms for the benefit of the state apparatus and its interests is noteworthy to the general public.
Why else, for example, would Ron Paul supporters boast about the good doctor’s popularity with active-duty personnel? Why else did Sgt. Shamar Thomas’s rant go viral? What else made Sgt. Scott Olsen’s injuries at the hands of the Oakland Police Department more offensive than Brandon Watts’ equally horrific injuries?
But really, why are we treating veterans differently?
Others have pointed out, most notably Glenn Greenwald, the corporate media’s fixation on power and its reverence for the powerful within the military establishment. Most of America is guilty of glorifying people for doing what is arguably inherently immoral: participating in an unnecessary war that caused the deaths of over a million people. One only has to look at Veterans Day, which had transformed from a somber remembrance of cessation of hostilities into a sickening celebration of endless warfare, to see this glorification in full display. It is my hope that in occupations all over the country, occupiers resist this mindless adulation of veterans and the horrific violence the American military represents.
That is not to say that veterans do not belong in the movement; in fact, they have been disproportionately affected by the failed policies of this country’s elites. They are that bottom “1 percent” sent to die in wars started by the top “1 percent.” They are that bottom “1 percent” that make up 20 percent of suicides in this country. They are also disproportionately affected by the recession, making up 15 percent of the homeless population. Additionally, they suffer 24 percent unemployment rate or more than double the national average. Given these troubling and utterly depressing statistics, veterans have more than a right to be a part of these protests; they have an obligation to agitate.
However, leaderless movements do not remain leaderless when their members willingly allow others to represent them and there is a great risk of that in occupiers’ elevation of veterans. Injuries sustained by Sgt. Olsen are abhorrent not because he was a Marine, but because he was a person exercising his inalienable rights to peacefully assemble and to free speech. Sgt. Thomas’ agitation was admirable, not because he was a Marine, but because he was a person righteous in his indignation and anger at the violence displayed by the police against his brothers and sisters.
Occupiers everywhere need to understand that no one group of people can legitimately speak on the behalf of the 99 percent. Elevating one group at the expense of others is detrimental to the inclusive message OWS purports to have and will inherently lead to same class stratification that the movement is protesting against.
It is very admirable that many occupations have adopted the principles of non-violence and have strongly adhered to it. But why is it that they take the easy road and celebrate the past violence of some of its members? This might sound harsh, but that is the reality of elevating any of us veterans above others in the OWS movement. Our contributions to the dialog is valuable, but not the only dialog. Much in the same way that in the peace movement it is not just Veterans for Peace or IAVA that can speak legitimately against the wars, but every conscientious person who can articulate an ethical reason against the war machine and agitate on the behalf of this country’s powerless foreign victims.
The OWS movement presents an opportunity for occupiers and veterans alike to wean this country from the blind military worship that cripples our national discussion. All that must be done is to dissent from partaking in it.
Blessed are the war makers? For the sake of every occupier, I should hope not.
Your tax dollars at work.
Yet another hope and change from the Dear Leader’s goons.
On Nov. 17, protesters of the global “Occupy” movement marked the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests with marches, rallies, and various mass actions. They were protesting many things: corporate greed and its influence in our political discourse, a two-tiered justice system that favors the very rich and the very powerful, the massive bank bailouts funded by hard-working Americans, and the burdensome debt and chronic joblessness afflicting many Americans – the so-called “99 percent.” Yet in cities all across the United States, these expressions of the very American right to free speech and peaceful assembly were greeted with violence at the hands of local governments.
When one reads or watches news reports about these protests, one might think that these protests regularly devolve into a violent free-for-all that justifies or even necessitates the brutal police actions inevitable follow. “Objective” and “neutral” journalists of the corporate media too often describe these confrontations between police and protesters as “clashes,” as if the protesters are the aggressors. In truth, the violence in these so-called “clashes” are initiated by just one side: the police. In the confrontation between unarmed protesters and heavily armed and armored police, it is the police that are the aggressors and the peaceful protesters the victims. There is not an asymmetry in violence, but just violence inflicted by the State and its police.
It is understandable then why politicians and their police would react this way. The movement is a rejection of, and thus threat to, their model of society and governance. It is a dissent against the inherently violent and coercive State.
Consensus, not mandates
Despite the crackdowns, the arrests, the brutality, the Occupy movement has, for the most part, adhered to their oft-stated principle of non-violence. In their rhetoric and actions, the overwhelming majority of the protesters have been peaceful and non-violent. In their general assemblies, occupiers have adopted a decision-making process based on consensus, striving to reach near, if not outright unanimity in their decisions. The movement is leaderless, rejecting representatives to speak on their behalf. The occupiers choosing instead to represent themselves as individuals and choosing to add their many voices in this growing movement. What the occupations lack in hierarchy, they make up for in direct democracy.
Conservatives and libertarians with a desire for limited government will find their perfect government in the occupiers’ system of governance: the General Asssembly. The General Assembly, or the GA, is an open, participatory, and horizontally organized (as opposed to the traditionally vertical, or top-down, form of organization) in which every participating member has an equal voice and opportunity to affect the decision of the group. Participation in the decision-making process and direct actions are encouraged, rather than coerced. The GA is not compulsory and its directives are backed not by laws or the threat of punishment, but by voluntary association and individual action. Problems are identified by consensus and solved by the voluntary actions of its members. The GA and its direct actions are funded by charity and not by taxes, and while some in the movement profess dislike for free market principles, they are already participating in it.
It might be a surprise to the most hardcore and militant Socialists and Communists in the movement that they are participating in a grand libertarian experiment. At its core, the Occupy movement is an experiment in a voluntaryist model of society devoid of state violence and coercion. This is not mere political disobedience, but a dissension from the violent and coercive State. Whether it stays that is another matter entirely.
What have the occupiers wrought? A voluntaryist society, if they can keep it.
This editorial appears in the Nov. 21 issue of the student-run newspaper The Chaparral.
Occupy Coachella Valley
Nine Occupy Coachella Valley protesters — including a 17-year-old girl and an Iraq War veteran — camped out at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park were arrested early Tuesday morning during a police crackdown.
More than two dozen Palm Desert police officers descended out of the darkness and onto the group, which has been illegally camped out at the park since Friday night when the city of Palm Desert refused to issue another permit.
Seven protesters, including a 17-year-old girl, were taken into custody near the park’s western entrance at San Pablo Avenue just before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1. About 10 other protesters stood nearby on a public sidewalk and chanted, “Shame on you.”
From what I gathered, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department blocked roads leading to the campsite to prevent the news media from being observers, but we were lucky that the Palm Desert Patch was there, though the Patch reporter was nearly arrested.
Up to two dozen police officers in riot gear surrounded the encampment and despite their outright lies to the media, they did not in fact warn the protesters. They just started arresting people. They specifically targeted people to be arrested, making sure to arrest a lot of the key organizers, pointing at who to arrest “That one! That one!”
We were led off one by one into a white van and driven to a police station. We were shackled and chained even before we were read our Miranda Rights. They took us to the county jail in Indio and booked us. They kept us in a holding cell for hours before instructing us to sign a citation for “Unlawful Assembly.”
I flatly refused to sign it. I was rewarded with two days in county jail, dressed in orange jumpsuit, and housed with thieves, drug dealers, and other common criminals.
All of this for exercising my First Amendment rights.
Truth is indeed treason in the empire of lies.