Posts Tagged police brutality
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son” said Barack Obama a day after the verdict of “not guilty” in the George Zimmerman trial. “we are a nation of laws, and the jury has spoken.”
Attorney General Eric Holder assured the NAACP that he is concerned about the case, and that “the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.”
The message here is that we — those righteously outraged at the stalking death of a black youth being justified by a jury — should remain calm. And we are told to wait on justice at the hands of a system built on slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration. Our protests are the problem, not the underlying injustice, particularly according to Democratic Party leaders, whose purpose is to keep us passive, while they appear to “handle” the problem.
Turning your attention back to 2009, Barack Obama took office in the wake of — and because of — the disaster of the Bush regime laying waste to whole countries, attacking civil liberties, and establishing a system of indefinite detention, black sites, rendition and torture which affected tens of thousands of prisoners. Obama famously said he wanted to “look forward, not backward,” and starkly disappointed people who were under the illusion that justice would be served on the Bush regime — or at least someone in charge of torture — by the new administration.
Obama and Holder did make some promises which turned out to be aimed at pacifying critics. The Justice Department “investigated” the CIA torture in Guantanamo, captured on videotape, allowing the perpetrators to get away with destroying the tapes. They decided not to release the photos of the military torture at Abu Ghraib. The Justice Department, presumably, looked into the legal justification, practice, and individual orders and responsibility for a wide range of illegitimate actions, known to be against international law, involving thousands of victims.
And then, snooze, they found nothing really wrong, or at least nothing they would prosecute. See Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA.
It’s the same old story. The rights of people under the empire don’t matter. And Trayvon Martin, to quote the 1857 Dred Scott Decision of the US Supreme Court, will likely be found to have “no rights the white man was bound to respect.”
I am not exaggerating here. WHEN has a federal investigation brought justice in a situation where crimes have been carried out, supported, or excused by government?
We indict the U.S. government. Example: For the mass incarceration of over 2.4 million people in the United States, mainly Black and Latino, a program with a genocidal impact against these groups, including torture, solitary confinement, and unjust executions.
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.
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!”