MEDIA ROOTS – Felipe Messina: On Thursday, November 17, 2011, I spoke with Russia Today TV (RT) about the violent mass arrests by militarised platoons of local police, as they waged a coordinated national campaign to crush the Occupy Movement. Images of bloodied protesters flashed on the screen, as OWS 99-percenters chanted, “Show me what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!!” Even journalists, such as RT’s Lucy Kafanov, caught some NYPD fury against First Amendment freedom of the press.
Yet, Obama is nowhere to be found; his campaign promises withering in the shadow of the absurdity of his future 2012 promises. The Obama presidency has been a complete disaster thus far, as he has betrayed virtually every promise made on the campaign trail. Those who wept with joy at his inauguration were likely unaware he was put in office by banksters and Wall Street, or that he’d soon stuff his cabinet with them. To date, Obama has received more money from the financial sector than any other 2012 presidential candidate combined.
And what about his piddly Jobs Bill? Did it drown in a Democrat-controlled Senate on a technicality? Obama’s not trying to sell that noise anymore; not that it was a New Deal for the 21st Century, anyway. Obama is not, and never will be, an ally of the Occupy Movement. It is on his watch the U.S. is witnessing the most egregious police state repression against First Amendment activity.
As I mentioned Scott Olsen on RT, left with a fractured skull after being shot by rioting Oakland cops, a man named Brendan Watts was seen around the world bloodied by NYC cops with a fractured skull. However, at the moment both Obama and Biden are essentially MIA, as police state repression unfolds across the U.S.
In conversation with RT, I pointed out the Federalised character of the coordinated crackdowns against the Occupy Movement. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan had recently admitted in a radio interview that she was on a teleconference call with many other mayors across the country coordinating their crackdowns against the Occupy Movement. Once the Federal Government is involved, people can no longer ignore the Obama Administration in this national travesty against the First Amendment. So much for hope and change, indeed.
On Tuesday (11/15), Mike Ellis of the Minneapolis Examiner reported:
“According to [one Justice Department] official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.”
By Wednesday (11/16), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked on damage control claiming worries over Federal involvement in the crackdowns were overblown. Yet, DHS admitted taking an official role in at least one Portland, Oregon crackdown. And, of course, this admission may be attributable to the fact that DHS agents of the Federal Protective Service variety were photographed in action at Occupy Portland, Terry Schrunk Plaza, on October 31, 2011. So, it’s conceivable other DHS agents may have been involved elsewhere.
It’s interesting to note how in Oakland the ostensibly liberal Mayor Quan, initially tried to co-opt Occupy Oakland through photo-ops on October 15 with establishment activists of MoveOn. But faced with the horizontal principles of the Occupy Movement equalising Quan’s position of authority to genuine cooperation, feeling snubbed or assenting to pressure from above, gave the green light, before conveniently skipping town (in similar fashion to Obama’s trip to the Pacific Rim), to the militarised police state platoon raids and crackdowns.
It’s also striking how celebratory and supportive Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are about democracy movements abroad and yet draconian against grassroots pro-democracy activism toward socioeconomic justice within the U.S. It’s even more striking how little awareness we’ve had of Federal involvement in the crackdowns against the Occupy Movement.
Last month, Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, was asked by Keith Olbermann about her rights being violated, as she described the Orwellian involvement of Homeland Security in First Amendment repression at OWS’ Liberty Plaza: “Did the Department of Homeland Security have anything to do with this?”
Naomi Wolf: “Well, I have no idea if they had anything to do with this phalanx of 30 or 40 police officers surrounding me and my partner, and taking us in when we were peacefully not breaking any laws on the sidewalks. But I do know that something very disturbing happened after we were put into a police van. We were supposed to be taken to the First Precinct and, that’s the one that governs what happens on Hudson Street where we were arrested.
“But they got a call that the protesters had gone to the First Precinct with the lawyers of the National Lawyers Guild, who were gonna help us and meet us and represent us. And so they detoured, the police detoured, across town to the Seventh Precinct and misled the protesters about our whereabouts, which is very disturbing. Because in America, you know, prisoners, even for a little while, are not supposed to be unaccountable. Disappear.
“Even more disturbing, we learned that, when the protesters arrived at Ericsson Street where the First Precinct is, it was blocked off. And they said, ‘What’s going on?’ They didn’t let any protesters or lawyers through, but let people in business suits through. And NYPD said, ‘Homeland Security has frozen Ericsson Street.’
“So, to me as an American, as a New Yorker, this is very big news for reasons I don’t have to explain to you. A Federal agency can, because two middle-aged, you know, couch-potato intellectuals get arrested for not disobeying the law? They can freeze a New York City street?”
Keith Olbermann: “But even if they weren’t freezing it and the name was merely invoked, that’s its own problem. If a city police department is invoking this shadowy, national entity, that becomes its own threat to the First Amendment and freedom of assembly and all the rest.”
Naomi Wolf: “Keith, you’re completely right. And what baffles me is: Where is The New York Times investigating this? Where are our local newspapers? Where is the national newspaper? Because you block, you let Homeland Security block off, or even say Homeland Security’s blocked off one street, they could cordon off downtown Chicago tomorrow. And it’s not, like, weapons of mass destruction or a natural disaster. It’s, you know, two random people standing on the sidewalk being the excuse to close down our civil society.
“So, there’s another really scary thing, if you want me to keep scaring you, but this is scary for all of us. It’s not; it is not what happened to me and to my partner that is the worrying thing, the thing I’m distressed about. It’s that people have got to understand that this could happen to absolutely anyone. For four or five years I’ve been saying, ‘You start with Guantanamo; history shows they start with the other. It gets closer and closer and someday they come for you when you were innocent and you have no recourse.’
“When they were releasing us, the guy said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna let you go this time with a summons. But if you go down and rejoin your friends, the protesters, and you get arrested, it’ll be a real arrest next time. Here’s the camera.’ He pointed to a camera, ‘It’ll take your photograph. Here’s the fingerprint machine. We’ll take your fingerprints. It’ll go into that database, a Federal database. And it’ll follow you forever.’
“And then I said, ‘But officer, I got arrested tonight when I was obeying the law. How do I avoid getting arrested in the future?’ And he didn’t dispute that I was obeying the law. He said, ‘Well, the officers decided it was a safety issue.’ And I said, ‘But, then, what prevents any situation from being called a safety issue and trumping the law and how people are obeying the law?’ And he didn’t answer, but referred me to a section of the criminal code. But that, too, is very scary.”
Keith Olbermann: “Of course. We’ve given them the right to make up the law as they go along.”
Naomi Wolf: “You know, it’s interesting, we haven’t given them, well, we’ve given it to them by sleeping on the job.”
Today, the 99% is waking up to the totalitarian nightmare the Obama Administration is deepening after eight years of the Bush regime shredding the Constitution, preceded by eight years of the Clinton Administration’s neoliberalism and financial deregulation, which laid much of the foundation for the economic collapse we are witnessing today. Under Obama, we have witnessed similar grotesquely regressive politics, which have defined our national body politic since at least 1981 with Reagan. Some of my friends will undoubtedly set the marker further back declaring Kennedy the last legitimate U.S. President. And, of course, few of my Native American friends would accord much legitimacy to any U.S. President.
Up until the ‘70s, when there was still something of a labour shortage and wages still provided some modicum of working-class dignity, so many U.S. citizens didn’t much mind U.S. imperialism, racism, corporate greed, or the U.S. imposing its will around the world. It hadn’t hit them yet. But corruption left unchecked eventually comes home to roost.
At some point, the stink of graft in U.S. politics becomes inescapable. Never mind Citizens United. That was just the final nail in the coffin.
Take your pick. Democrat or Republican, one ends up with the same corporate, one-percenter, puppet-masters behind whichever candidate one chooses to head the two-party dictatorship. And the same applies to Congressional Democrats and Republicans. It’s time to expand the two-party system to include alternatives.
The real test for the Occupy Movement will be whether or not its supporters can maintain its momentum and integrity long enough to impact the 2012 Presidential Election and usher in a new consciousness capable of toppling the two-party dictatorship with a powerful left party challenge. Some of my friends will argue, even if that were to happen that third-party would somehow get corrupted. Well, then, don’t allow that to happen, I’d say. Stay involved, because the alternative to that would be much more radical. For those who are, have at it. But I just don’t see that at this stage of development for the U.S. consciousness. Before OWS, it was pretty safe to say progressives would either vote for Obama or not vote at all, with less than five percent voting third-party. But with the mass consciousness-raising effect of the Occupy Movement, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a huge upset may await Obama. No small wonder, then, why he’d quietly be allowing the nation’s worst police state repression of peaceful First Amendment activity.
I put more faith in the electoral system, provided the people do what nobody is stopping them from doing. People must vote their conscience rather than for the least worst, as people have done in 2008 and as far back as we can remember.
As the Occupy Movement is teaching us, change won’t just be electoral. It will come from the 99% taking their destiny into their own hands with horizontalist vigour on the local and national level.
Only then will we see more desirable crackdowns, those on corporate and banker fascism and police state repression itself.
Written by Felipe Messina for Media Roots
Image by flickr user Donkey Hotey