The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy  The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.

by Naomi Wolf

This post is a reprint and can be found here.

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, andpenned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Hypocrisy and Audacity: Welcome to the USA

Am I an American?  Is our country for real? I am appalled at our audacity.  Condoleeza stands up and tells the Russians that it is not 1968, that countries do not invade other countries, take over their capitals, and overthrow their governments?  I heard a recording of these words coming out of this woman’s mouth.  Does the word HYPOCRISY mean anything to anyone anymore?  The radio reported this like it’s just news.  No one gasped in shock at the irony.  No one commented.  On what planet do we all live on that her statement makes the news but not the meaning behind her words?

The radio announcer went on to say the US is dismayed at reported human rights abuses.  Again, are we joking?  The USA, the progenitor of modern torture techniques, is dismayed the Russia may be perpetrating human rights abuses?  The USA, who has done NOTHING in Darfur and other places where masses of human rights abuses are committed on a daily basis, is dismayed?  Are we joking?

The arrogance of our government is astounding.  I am utterly appalled.  Why do we continue to put up with this? Why is the mass of our population so blinded to the realities of this administration?  When will we stop putting up with the lies, the hypocrisy, the violence, all of it?  I can see it now:  it is a few years hence.  We all have chips implanted into our necks.  We are all being herded hither and thither among various shopping centers.  We can’t buy what we want because we don’t have jobs or money or homes.  The government, angered that we aren’t buying, turns off our chips, making it impossible to go anywhere or do anything because the chips are required to operate a car, ride a bus, fly on a plane, do anything.  Then we start to cry we cannot believe this is happening to us.

Welcome to the future people.  It’s happening now.  You can believe it and try to change things or poke your head back into your bible, blind yourself in front of the advertising machine, or numb your brain with substances.  We are responsible for the state we are in.  This is supposedly a democracy (though I think valid arguments could be made against this assumption).  If it is a democracy, then we are responsible for the people running the show.  We decide whether we will allow this to continue, indeed that it has happened at all.  Americans are responsible for what we have become.  Ultimately, Americans are responsible for where we end up.  Do we want to be arrogant monsters who are hypocritical in everything they say or do?  Because that is where we are.  The question is whether we are going to stand up, grow up, and take responsibility to change things before we destroy ourselves and our planet.

Just Say No

Welcome to the USA, where citizens are assumed to be out of “compliance” in their own country, where their own identification no longer satisfies officials they are who they say they are, where those born here are considered to be running afoul of the law and forging their identities unless and until they can get a computer to agree they are who they say they are.  Social security card, driver’s license, passport?  Nahhhh…those aren’t proof you are who you say you are.  If some computer somewhere says you don’t exist as you’ve proven, then you don’t exist, and it becomes your job to prove it by calling some stranger and providing the same information you have already provided in the forms of documentation.  Then somehow, maybe, you’ll become a citizen.

What a load of fucking crap.  When are people going to stop putting up with this terrorist crap?  When are people going to realize that having to endure shit like this is a worse threat than the highly unlikely possibility someone will bomb us?  It’s all about control on the part of a very few.  We need to stop allowing them to take control.  We need to stop complying simply to prove our innocence, to prove our citizenship. Too many people say I will comply because not complying makes me look guilty.  Fuck that!  If you aren’t guilty, you aren’t guilty.  Not complying does not make you MORE guilty!

Today the bank I chose here to start new accounts called me to tell me their “compliance department” claims my social security number has too many names on it. The “compliance department” in charge of making sure terrorists don’t open bank accounts.  Guess what, fuckers?  Timothy McVeigh had a social security card.  Being a US citizen does not keep one from becoming a terrorist.  Want to know why my social security number has more than one name?  It is because some minimum wage flunky fuck at the credit reporting agency imput the information incorrectly.  It is also because I was married in a patriarchal culture and changed my name then because I was too ignorant at the time to know better.  It doesn’t mean I forged my social security card, driver’s license, and passport.  It certainly does not mean I’m a terrorist.

I told the bank I did not appreciate being called a liar.  I said that being told I need to prove further who I am, that telling me my proof was not good enough was akin to saying my proof was a lie.  I told them that if my proof of identity was not good enough, I would take my money elsewhere.  I explained that I was not going to comply to prove my innocence, that they needed to prove my guilt.  I told her I knew most people would go along with this charade as evidence of their good faith, but that I needed no such evidence.  I said I was not going to waste my time proving further I am who I am, that they could spend the time disproving I am who I am.  The kind lady who had to put up with me told me she would do some research and get back to me.

The irony in this is that I was told this was somehow for my own good, proving someone else wasn’t using my number.  How many people stop and believe that bullshit?  I’m trying to put money in their bank, I say I am Lara Gardner, I give documents I am Lara Gardner, their computer says my social security number has other names on it, so now I’m not safe?  What a load of fucking crap.  This has nothing to do with anything for my own good and everything to do with control.

There are fourteen characteristics common to fascism.  One of these is an obsession with national security, using fear as a motivational tool to control the masses.  I will not be a pawn in the government’s tool chest of fear in order to create the illusion of control.  If we are truly free, we should be free to open a bank account with money from another US bank without being accused of being a terrorist.