Over the last few weeks, there have been many protests to stop police brutality in NYC. I’ve been at two very dynamic and inspiring civil disobedience actions to STOP “Stop & Frisk,” including the most recent on Tuesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the NYPD stops people at the highest rate. Most are young men, but I met several men way over 40, and a woman in a wheelchair who have all been stopped in the area.
28 people were arrested almost as soon as they stepped in front of the 73rd Precinct. It took until sometime today to get them all out of jail. The last young man released, a 2011 college graduate, just cannot find a job. He has no arrest record, no tickets, but they still held him almost 48 hours for not having a photo ID. He just told me on the phone however, that despite dealing with mice and nasty conditions, it was a “much-needed” experience, and he learned a lot from the men he was locked up with. Going home? No, “I’m going right back down to Occupy Wall Street. THANKS for getting me out!”
This campaign is not stopping, and I am so happy to be doing it with such vibrant, committed, radical people, from clergy to communists. A question came up at a meeting, from someone who had been arrested in the first action in Harlem, “Are we only trying to stop one policy of the NYPD, or are we thinking about more? I’ve been stopped and frisked in other cities, including in other countries.” It’s systematic.
On October 22, I was at my 16th consecutive annual protest to “Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.” Once again, heart-breakingly, the parents and siblings of people killed by the police got their chance to speak. I thought mainly of how many years the toll has piled up. And these are only a few cases! Hmm, it’s systematic.
The repression thing, too, is systematic. The policing of political protest — and I think this is why the authorities really hate the idea of Occupy Wall Street in Brownsville, Brooklyn — is about repressing dissent. Tana Ganesa asks a good question today on Alternet, “Why is OWS Blanketed with NYPD Cameras, and Are Police Breaking the Law?” She writes about the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative’s office where Wall Street firms have access to the footage taken by thousands of surveillance cameras
The surveillance gadgetry available to the NYPD, and apparently to the very finance industry forces that OWS is protesting, is sophisticated. There are license plate readers that can capture license plate numbers and match them to a database. The cameras can be programmed to alert officers to activities like loitering, and people can be followed as they move from camera to camera.
Mostly, police departments don’t have the legal authority to maintain records on people not suspected of criminal activity, but increasingly, that’s just what they do. From the first week of Occupy Wall Street, officers from NYPD’s TARU, the Technical Assistance Response Unit, have ringed the plaza, constantly scanning activity, and peoples’ faces.
This whole “police state” atmosphere doesn’t begin and end with local police departments. Ken Theisen, in Spying is US: Obama Administration Spends $80 Billion to Continue and Expand Bush Spy Programs details how these programs are growing nationally, with a budget of $80 billion over the last fiscal year
“Only” about $3.5 billion of this amount was spent on Iraq and Afghanistan according to the Department of War. So how are they spending the other $76 billion? A look at the 2010 Washington Post Series called TOP SECRET AMERICA gives you an idea of where much of the money goes.
This machine carries out a systematic, criminal repression of the people. That’s why the mission of World Can’t Wait is to end the crimes of our government.