Archive for October, 2011
The counter-attack of city authorities to clear the “Occupy” movement has now led to a serious injury, leaving protester Scott Olsen critically injured by an injury to his brain from a police projectile. Oakland police attacked a peaceful encampment on Tuesday at 5:00 am, after massing 500 police, for hours. Within minutes, hundreds were driven away, and police destroyed everything.
Tuesday evening, over 1,000 people gathered again in downtown Oakland to protest the eviction, and they were attacked viciously with tear gas canisters shot into the crowd, concussion grenades, and reports of rubber bullets.
While New York Mayor Bloomberg was not able to carry through on his eviction plan of Occupy Wall Street on October 14, because thousands of people answered a call to defend it, we continue to hear rumors and threats, as the New York Post, Fox News and other reactionary media outlets argue for more police repression.
Last night, hundreds from Occupy Wall Street marched uptown to protest the police attack on Oakland, and have adopted the slogan “We are All Scott Olsen.” I’ve been on the phone all afternoon with a young woman arrested last night in the march who received a puncture wound in the leg from being beaten up by police. She’s still awaiting arraignment, and may be there until Friday.
The authorities cannot tolerate such gatherings in public space. Huge numbers of police are surrounding the encampments, and any marches proceeding from them. Is there anyone that thinks, if there were just more police, that would solve any of the underlying problems causing people to take to the streets in a mix of desperation, anger, and hope?
Kristin Gwynne writes today on Alternet about Scott Olsen:
The videos of his injury (below) are heartbreaking. The victim is lying in the street, bleeding from the face. Demonstrators run to help him, and a cop tosses a canister at the crowd gathering around the injured vet. It explodes. Carried out by a group of organizers, Olsen emerges from a cloud of smoke, bleeding from the head, his eyes in a daze. His body is limp, with his arms dangling above his face. When they scream “what’s your name?” he can’t respond. His hand moves, but his eyes stare straight ahead. The crew screams in horror “MEDIC!! MEDIC!!!”
Jon Stewart was shocked by the Oakland police attack.
“They were concerned about a public safety threat, so they did this? [cue footage of tear gas clouds and exploding stun grenades].”
There’s no evidence yet that the police attacks are deterring people from their righteous occupations in the U.S., as the much, much, more violent state repression against the spring uprisings beginning in Tunisia did not, and has not stopped, the people, who continue in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen to battle the authorities.
Occupy Oakland is back, bigger than ever, and for the time being, the city has backed off with the heavy police presence, at least for now. Occupy Wall Street is sending them $20,000 and new tents.
We need our own version of mass support for the occupations. If you can’t get to one right now, get into print, get online, get on the phone, and weigh in:
“Hands off Occupy!”
In this season of 10-year anniversaries, one almost got by me, just as it almost got by many of us on October 26, 2001. The Ashcroft Justice Department, which could hardly find a case of discrimination against a Black person or a woman to prosecute, and was busy dismantling its Civil Rights division, had apparently been busy elsewhere. Even before 9/11, they had written the USA PATRIOT Act (that’s “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” for those of you not patriotic enough to think that up yourselves).
They had cobbled bits of nefarious repression not included in the Clinton administration’s also egregiously-named 1996 “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This law has its own deep problems, as a vehicle for stepping up federal executions, and criminalizing protest. The Bush regime built on it, and not because of the 9/11 attacks; a bill that long could not have been written in 15 days.
But let’s just be clear. The Patriot Act is domestic political repression, widening the government’s power to spy on people electronically, break into our homes and offices physically in “sneak and peak” operations, view our email, reading habits, photos, and much more.
I thought this might be a big day: 10 years of a huge escalation of repression, but found a total of 38 articles in a Google search on “USA Patriot Act” published on the anniversary.
Carol Rose, in Boston.com points out how the act is actually used
The Patriot Act hasn’t been about getting the bad guys – namely, terrorists or even criminals. The government had the power to do that without the Patriot Act. Instead, the Patriot Act gives the government the power secretly to collect and forever keep information on ordinary people who are not suspected of doing anything wrong…It gives the Feds virtually unchecked power to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.
Carrie Johnson, for NPR quotes the ACLU’s report on the Patriot Act:
“We’re now finding from public reports that less than 1 percent of these sneak-and-peek searches are happening for terrorism investigations,” says Michelle Richardson, who works for the ACLU in Washington. “They’re instead being used primarily in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.”
The ACLU filed suit today to learn more about the secret use of the Patriot Act, citing an example of how there is no check on its use
One section in particular, Section 215, gave the FBI unprecedented authority to obtain “any tangible thing” for an investigation related to international terrorism or espionage. The FBI has the power to use Section 215 to collect records held by businesses such as hotels, banks, stores, and internet service providers. They need to show only that the information is “relevant” to an investigation and, in 2010, every single 215 request was granted.
Michelle Richardson of the ACLU warns us of more to come, says NPR.
“The White House’s cybersecurity proposal right now makes the Patriot Act look quaint,” Richardson says. “And really, the collection that it would allow would really outpace anything that’s probably being done under the Patriot Act.”
The ACLU calls for the act to be reformed.
I say the whole thing is unjust, fascistic, and should be repealed. It’s the government that should be transparent, providing privacy for its citizens, and not vice versa.
Despite the Obama administration’s announcement Friday that U.S. combat troops are finally leaving Iraq — giving rise to the popular perception that “Iraq war is over”– I ask those who are celebrating to consider: where is the joy coming from?
It’s been ten years now since Donald Rumsfeld’s brain went “9/11 = attack Iraq,” apparently minutes after the WTC was hit by airliners. From that moment, when the world’s largest military machine began planning it, through today, after over a million Iraqi deaths, this war and occupation has never been legitimate, just or moral!
Tens of millions of us who care about humanity protested to prevent the Bush regime from getting the coalition it sought to attack Iraq; much of the world was convinced the U.S. was not invading to “save” Iraqis but to advance its own imperial agenda. Our actions did contribute to this loss of legitimacy as the United States military ran into deep geopolitical difficulties in the region (remember, Bush and Cheney planned to sweep through Iraq as a gateway to dominating the rest of the region, including Iran, a strategy that has, shall we say, not gone well.)
The Nobel Peace President, who promised an end to war on Iraq, isn’t exactly blazing a peace trail. The Bush Regime set this time frame of “withdrawal” in 2011.
In fact the Obama administration, through the State Department, pursued very hard the plan to keep U.S. fighting forces in Iraq beyond this year. It was the Maliki government, which in general has been very compliant to its U.S. funders, who balked at allowing U.S. military to stay because the terms demanded by Obama included immunity from local prosecution for the troops.
Think of that: The widest sustained, imperialist government sponsored, mass war crime, destroying a whole country, displacing 4.5 million from their homes, the turning of a secular society into a bloody sectarian battlefield, was to be justified and continued only on the basis of immunity from the victimized country!
Glenn Greenwald specifically attributes the Iraqi government stand to the revelation of a cable
released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama administration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.
War crimes in 2003; war crimes never prosecuted at the hands of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and one can go on into the dozens, as War Criminals Watch does.
I am not celebrating!
More to come on the continued U.S. State Department presence of fighters; the black operations, and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. contractors staying in Iraq.
Remember, George. W. Bush, the master of creating his own reality, announced that it was over on May 1, 2003, in his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech, wearing his pseudo-airman’s costume:
“Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before.”
Any commander in chief of an illegitimate occupation should be very careful what he announces.
The mass civil disobedience led by Carl Dix and Cornel West on Friday tapped into a deep well of rage and anger at the racial profiling by the NYPD which is concentrated in “stop and frisk.” Carl and Cornel were joined by 34 locking arms in front of the 28th Precinct, and hundreds more in support, including a contingent from Occupy Wall Street, based on a unanimous decision at Thursday’s General Assembly to endorse the action.
We marched through the streets of Harlem, greeted by fists pumping and smiles. This mass resistance could potentially change how people respond to systematic racial profiling, an issue which is going to be fundamentally decided in the streets, with a diversity of people putting something on the line.
Dix and West see Friday’s action as the first of a new stage of mass resistance to “stop and frisk,” as a door to exposing and fighting the New Jim Crow. There will be no stopping mass racial profiling without mass resistance. It has begun.
The action resonated because it hit on a profoundly sharp and deeply entrenched, politically explosive contradiction of the all around criminalization and mass incarceration of Black & Latino people, one that touches to the very core of what this country is about and what holds it together, or could tear it apart (and which has historically done so). The police lashed out, and held two young organizers who had spoken in many schools, both of whom were not released until Saturday night on charges of resisting arrest.
Carl Dix was the featured speaker at the October 22nd march to stop police brutality from Union Square to the LES with close to 1,000 marchers, bolstered by Wall Street occupiers. Carl, joined by Cornel, has been speaking to thousands around the country, calling for a movement of resistance to stop these policies.
From Carl, in the Huffington Post Black Voices, Why I Am Getting Arrested Today
This policy is wrong. It is illegal, racist, unconstitutional and intolerable! It is just one of the many pipelines into the wholesale mass incarceration of a generation of Black and Latino youth. Today there are more than two million people held in prison in the U.S. That is the largest prison population in the world! And its not just men; more than one third of all women imprisoned in the entire world are in prison in the U.S.
Along with Carl and Cornel, the core group of those arrested were Rev. Stephen Phelps of Riverside Church; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem; Jim Vrettos, a professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and myself and Elaine Brower of World Can’t Wait. We were joined by students from CCNY, Columbia & Barnard; Wall Street Occupiers and, very importantly, people who have been victimized by “Stop & Frisk.” 8 of us planned to be arrested; the fact that 26 more joined on the spot shows the potential of this as a beginning of mass action.
75 people met in Harlem on Sunday to plan the next phase of the campaign. More on that soon! Join in at email@example.com. See http://stopmassincarceration.tumblr.com/ And here it is:
Tuesday November 1: Stop ‘Stop & Frisk’ Direct Action
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 – 4:00pm – 7:00pm
NYPD 73rd Precinct, 1470 East New York Ave, Ocean Hill – Brownsville, Brooklyn
On Friday, October 21st, I plan to join in a non-violent civil disobedience action as part of a new and very important, courageous, campaign to stop “Stop and Frisk.”
I am answering a call issued by Cornel West and Carl Dix to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to stop this illegal policy of the New York Police Department. Carl and Cornel say:
The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That’s more than 1,900 people each and every day. More than 85% of them are Black or Latino, and more than 90% of them were doing nothing wrong when the pigs stepped to them…WE ARE STOPPING ALL THIS. YOU MUST JOIN US IN DOING THAT.
To be clear, I have never been stopped or frisked by the New York police solely because of my appearance, as 1,900 men are, every day, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, who is also fighting “stop and frisk.” I haven’t been thrown up against a wall, detained, questioned or jacked up solely because I fit a vague description. But, I don’t want to live in a city where people have to go through this.
I have been arrested over the years, but so far, solely in the process of protesting injustices ranging from U.S. wars of occupation to murders by police, or the targeting of abortion providers by people who wanted to kill them. I believe people have to take action to stop injustice.
That’s exactly why I’m joining Carl, Cornel, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Rev. Stephen Phelps, Rev. Omar Wilks, and others in an action to stop the NYPD from what they say is a practice which is “illegal, racist, unconstitutional and intolerable.”
Carl Dix, interviewed today in Revolution, described why he, Cornel and others decided that mass resistance to “stop and frisk” is necessary
The intensifying brutality being enforced in the inner cities is like a slow genocide that could be accelerated. This must be met by unleashing resistance that is broader, fiercer and more determined. And unleashing this kind of resistance around Stop and Frisk in NYC on October 21 and nationwide on October 22 would have a powerful positive impact on the situation. It could speak to very real questions people have. It can bring to the people occupying Wall Street a sense of how the police brutally enforce inequality and oppression 24-7 in the ghettos and barrios across the country. And it can address the question many oppressed people have of whether there are any forces that would stand together with them in fighting the hell the system brings down on them or are they alone in this fight. This resistance could contribute to creating a sense that things really don’t have to be this way among a diverse and growing section of the people.
So, all of you who want to do some good, who feel beaten down, or who feel unstoppable, join this action in some way.
Follow @StopMassIncNet on Twitter.
Send a support statement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us in taking the action, or come along to cheer us. As the call says
If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don’t want to live in a world where people’s humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can’t stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name.
An irony acutely felt this week:
Tens of thousands of people in the U.S., taking the lead from millions in the Middle East, are “occupying” public spaces, seeking change in the the world as it is, standing up to authority, power, and blowing the ceiling off expectations that the vast disparity in global income “has to” be as it is. We’ve got to spread these occupations!
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military, support staff and private contractors are “occupying” two countries in the Middle East, in a mission to enforce, with a vengeance, U.S. domination over the region, employing night raids, torture, and terror towards the civilian population. We’ve got to end those occupations!
We marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush regime’s bombing and invasion of Afghanistan last week, with protests across the U.S. which were in many cases intermingled with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in all cases influenced by the outpouring of public anger at the system.
Significantly, a protest in Kabul by Afghans demanded the occupiers leave.
paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.
Detainees — and we’ve known this since November 2001, when the U.S. first set up operations at an old Afghan prison in Bagram — are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness. Because of the Obama administration’s successful argument that the prisoners are not entitled to habeas corpus rights, they have no way out.
This is in no way a departure from all the rest of the Bush war crimes begun 10 years ago. The NY Times, which editorially opposes torture, while supporting the wars in which the U.S. uses it, said today
such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of American officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured….There have been a number of instances that raise similar questions in other places, including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and El Salvador, according to a RAND Corporation report in 2006.
This systematic abuse must be working for the United States government. According to Glenn Greenwald, the Obama administration
unveiled plans for “the construction of Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), Bagram, Afghanistan” which includes “detainee housing capability for approximately 2000 detainees.” It will also feature “guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems.” The announcement provided: ”the estimated cost of the project is between $25,000,000 to $100,000,000.”
This occupation won’t be ended by Obama, or any presidents to follow him, unless people in this country demand it.
Raise your voice! January 11, 2012, we’ll be back in Washington on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, marking it with a protest/human chain of 2,200 people. We’ll stand for the 171 prisoners in Guantanamo, with no way out, and the 2,000 some at Bagram, with no legal standing. Join in!
10 Years of War – Protesting Drones Made by General Atomics
An email exchange only last week, based on research he had done, with Malachy Kilbride, brought news that he had found a lobbying office for General Atomics right around the corner from the White House. General Atomics is a manufacturer of parts for drones. Given the 10th anniversary of the US occupation of Afghanistan, and the mobilization of an occupation/encampment which began on October 6, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, we quickly decided to protest General Atomics.
3 1/5 scale models of Reaper drones, produced by Nick Mottern of Consumer for Peace, and a group of upstate NY activists. (There are 9 more drone models in the works. Hung on the drones were signs such as “assassination vehicle.”
3 banners, including a 30 foot long one saying “DRONES: making enemies faster than we can kill them.”
Symbolic representations of babies wrapped in shrouds, carried by a dozen protesters.
Assorted antiwar signs, symbols, drums, cameras, voices, and stories.
About 250 people aged 16-80.
Based on a couple of announcements and emails, we didn’t know who would march beyond supporters of Code Pink, Upstate (NY) Drone Action and World Can’t Wait. But as we gathered in the middle of Freedom Plaza, dozens materialized, and soon we took off on a march with over 200. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17729809
The original idea was to have a silent march – but we were going right by the White House. How could we be silent? On the spot we developed a chant: “When drones fly, children die! Stop the wars NOW!”
By the time we got in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we paused, partly by plan, and partly because again, we had to. Here lives the Commander in Chief who sent more troops than the Bush regime ever did to Afghanistan, and who has used drones 8 times as much as Bush did, spreading the drone war to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and even recently, Iraq. I had to tell those gathered that the slang term used by pilots of the unmanned drones — who sit at video monitors half way across the globe — for their targets, is “squirters.”
We went on to General Atomics, in a drab office building on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few people looked out the window as we marched up – we were loud. Spontaneously, dozens of people went up to the door of the building, and went in. Some held the doors open, and fairly soon, they were ejected, roughly by security guards. DC police blocked the doors, but too late, we had taken the steps. We held a one hour rally on the steps, spilling across the sidewalk and into the street. David Swanson, Malacky Kilbride, sisters from Code Pink who have protested drones at Creech Air Force Base and in upstate New York, Greg from Wisconsin, a Veteran for Peace, Ray McGovern and Ann Wright, spoke from the steps along with me.
Afterwards, I heard from quite a few people who stopped me to say that they learned much along the way about the Obama administration’s expansion of drone warfare, and more detail about how the drones are used. I could see people in the crowd, including those who were holding the “shrouded babies,” crying. I explained how in January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, I had seen a photo of a large extended Palestinian family, standing around 3 tiny shrouded bodies. Whatever the Obama administration claims — including the ridiculous assertion that “not one civilian” was killed this year by one of their drones — we know that civilians are being killed, because the Afghans, the Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalians tell us.
While several people were suggest to me, as the impromptu MC, that we get someone to speak on the “economic” issues, a fellow from Madison came up to speak, and I thought, being from Wisconsin, he’d talk about the repression on unions, and other issues that brought people to surround the state capitol this winter. But Greg spoke about how his wife and other relatives who are teachers are “sick” of having their students go off into the military because they have no jobs and no future. What an outrageous situation in this country where the only steady work people can get is as part of an occupying army!
The building’s front door was shut down for an hour. We began to get peace signs flashed to the crowd from people inside. Probably they didn’t work at General Atomics, but we made sure everyone inside heard our chant: STOP MAKING DRONES!
See videos of the rally. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731070 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731348
When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.
World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them. It said
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.
The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010. That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.
On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal. Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen. For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.
The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.
The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian. So just kill him.
“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.
Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:
the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.
Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions. Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges
Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.
The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Today, he says
This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).
Don’t want a world like this? Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it. Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.
October2011.org at Freedom Plaza. I’ll be there. Join us!