I don’t want to sound like I’m grousing, but I want to thank all those who gave our elected officials the green light to take away our civil rights after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I know they probably did this as a knee-jerk reaction out of fear. I know they probably did this because they were pissed off that someone would kill nearly three thousand innocent people who went to work that morning thinking it was just another day. However, if they did this thinking it was going to make us safer, that’s where I draw the line. In plain English, they were just fucking stupid. In fact, Ben Franklin summed it up pretty succinctly when he said:
“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
By abdicating our freedom, we’ve basically created a police state in America. If this hasn’t been abundantly clear up until now, it should be clear after seeing how the occupy movement participants have been treated. Apparently our illustrious president supports peaceful protesters, as long as they are not in the United States. In January of this year, he asked Egypt’s military to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters in that nation. Here, it’s a different story. It was recently revealed that the eviction of occupy protesters, much of which has resulted in violence on the part of law enforcement, is being carried out in conjunction with federal authorities (read: the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and federal law enforcement officials). According to one official from the Justice department, local authorities were advised to show massive police presence with law enforcement personnel dressed in riot gear. And the FBI advised that the evictions be carried out when the press is less likely to be present.
I know there are a lot of Obama True Believers out there, and I know they’ll be pissed off at me. But the reality is that he’s a deaf mute when it comes to the occupy movement. For those who believe he’s standing with the 99%, grow up. As my mother would say, he talks out of both sides of his mouth. I’m tired of giving this guy credit he doesn’t deserve. Obama has shown ZERO leadership on many fronts since his inauguration. The occupy movement is just another epic fail. Then again, it’s hard to support a movement against Wall Street when Obama’s list of top economic advisers looks like a who’s who from Goldman Sachs. It’s hard to stand with the 99% when your Treasure Secretary, Timothy Geithner, is one of the chief architects of the economic meltdown to begin with. It’s hard to be on the side of the middle class when you’re a Wall Street President.
Assault on the First Amendment
For those of you who need a refresher course on the United States Constitution, let’s take a look at the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment covers many things, but it’s pretty clear that it protects the “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” That’s what the occupy protesters have been doing: peaceably assembling…and redressing their grievances. It’s law enforcement (in conjunction with the federal authorities) that has been crossing the line, denying people their basic civil rights, and indulging in violence.
In Oakland, the police (dressed in riot gear) raided the peaceful camp in Frank Ogawa Plaza using rubber bullets, flash grenades, and gas canisters. Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, was seriously injured in the October 25 raid, suffering a skull fracture. The 24-year-old was released from the hospital in early November. At the time of his release, a spokesperson from Iraq Veterans Against the War told the press that he can read and write, but was still having trouble with speech. Mayor Jean Quan, who is hapless and way over her head as mayor of a major American city, admitted that there was collusion with 18 mayors across the nation via conference call with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss “how to suppress” occupy protests.
A week after Scott Olsen’s skull fracture, another Iraq veteran (a former Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan), Kayvan Sabehgi, was brutally assaulted by the Oakland police. Sabehgi’s beating resulted in a trip to the ICU with a lacerated spleen. The video shows a line of officers with batons moving toward Sabehgi, who was clearly walking alone and backing up away from the action as he was approached. He posed absolutely no threat: He was outnumbered and carried no weapon. After the first two strikes, Sabehgi was clearly out of the street and on the sidewalk. Yet, the officers continued to beat him with batons.
In New York, a retired New York Supreme Court justice was manhandled by police while trying to prevent officers from beating an OWS protester on the morning of Tuesday, November 15, after the raid on an OWS encampment. Karen Smith was working as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild (identifiable by her day-glo green hat), and it was her job to take down the names of those arrested.
Smith told her story to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, “I was there to take down the names of people who were arrested,” she explained. “As I’m standing there, an African-American woman goes up to a police officer and says, ‘I need to get in. My daughter’s there, I want to know if she is OK.’ And he said, ‘Move on, lady,’ and they kept pushing with their sticks, pushing back and she was crying… he throws her to the ground and starts hitting her in the head
Also beaten and arrested in the Tuesday raid on Zuccotti Park was New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (Marble Hill, Inwood and Washington Heights), a strong supporter of the occupy movement. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for attempting to exercise his First Amendment rights. Rodriguez helped organize the march from northern Manhattan to the financial district stating, “I am marching today because even as a member of the City Council, I am part of the 99%,” he said. “This fight is important for Latinos, for the African-American community, but more than any group, this is important for the working class and the middle class.”
Also marching with him was Altagracia Guzman, 81, a native of the Dominican Republic. Guzman said in her native language, “When I came here 45 years ago there was inequality and racism, and still to this day the same is happening, and some of it has even gotten worse.”
Police brutality now a nationwide epidemic
We have lost many of our Constitutionally guaranteed rights since the events of September 11, 2001. What is more pathetic is that those who supposedly fought to protect ‘our freedom’ in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t even immune from police brutality. We all know it’s the members of the 99% who fight in these misbegotten, illegal wars. It isn’t the children of the ‘one percenters.’
It’s clear that nobody is immune from police brutality, not even 4’10″, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, who evidently posed a huge threat to the police at occupy Seattle. Rainey, a former mayoral candidate and longtime activist, was pepper sprayed by Seattle police. Rainey, who grew up in Nazi Germany, commented, “I was tear-gassed… in Seattle when the WTO was there in Seattle. And I also was in a workshop with Arundhati Roy when she was in Seattle for the WTO. These locations, while they were pretty violent outside, were not nearly as bad as what we see now. It is getting progressively worse. Our freedoms are getting curtailed. And I just listened to the press being banned at Wall Street—this in a country where we export our sort of democracy all over the world at gunpoint.”
Rainey later appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and encouraged people to stand up for what’s right and “take one more step out of your comfort zone.” She also told AP that being pepper sprayed would not stop her from participating in the occupy movement. “I’m tough,” she said.
But perhaps the most vivid example of police brutality was the malicious pepper spraying of peaceful protesters at UC Davis. The most complete account of the incident appears in the UC Davis newspaper. The video, which went viral very quickly, clearly shows that the students were seated peacefully on the ground just prior to Lieutenant John Pike sprays the students in the face. This link will give you access to a first-hand student account of the incident. One incident not widely reported comes from Assistant Professor Nathan Brown (English Department at UC Davis) who claims that, “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.”
James Fallows at The Atlantic, offered this analysis of the UC Davis pepper spraying incident:
I can’t see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we’d react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We’d think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population. That’s what I think here.
Of course, Fox news had another take. Bill O’Reilly (the Majority Report) interviewed Megyn Kelly (also of Fox news) who insisted that the use of pepper spray was “No biggie.” Why? Because it’s a food product. No wonder a recent study showed that those who watch Fox for their news are more uninformed than those who watch no news at all. Together these two may share one brain cell.
In her letter to the protesters, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s lame excuse for taking down the occupy tents was for health and safety concerns. Really? Those occupying the campus were completely non-violent in refusing to remove the tents. They simply sat quietly with their arms linked. The only health and safety concerns that Katehi should have had were for the students who were pepper sprayed. The ACLU of Northern California has made it clear that “using pepper spray on peaceful protesters is unconstitutional.”
Oppression isn’t confined to just OWS participants. Journalists were blocked from covering the raid on Zuccotti Park as well. In a post-raid news conference, Mayor Michael 1% Bloomberg insisted that it was “to prevent the situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press,” but that’s bullshit. It’s pretty clear that he and others did not want the raid covered by the media. Several reporters were roughed up by police, including Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. Others were arrested for doing their job, including Julie Walker, a freelancer working for NPR, and Patrick Hedlund, a journalist working for DNAInfo.com.
In Washington, the assault on our rights continues
Without much fanfare and virtually no debate, the Patriot Act was extended without modification just before it was due to expire this year. This egregious, absurd law allows the government to conduct roving wiretaps as well as surveillance on people not believed to associate with terrorists. It also allows the government to tap into your personal records, such as library activity and financial details. The Democrats, with the exception of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, remained virtually silent on the subject. But Clowngress (no, it’s not a typo) has gone the Patriot Act one better.
On Monday (that’s tomorrow), our clueless public servants will take up the National Defense Authorization Act, served up by the Senate Armed Services Committee, specifically Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona). This atrocious bill would bring Guantanamo home, allowing military detention of any suspect accused (but not proven) of involvement in any terror-related offense, even if apprehended in the United States. Screw due process. Screw the Constitution. Remember, we’re milking 9/11 for all it’s worth. But here’s why Congress is so damned clueless.
The fact is that all of these laws, from the Patriot Act to the National Defense Authorization Act, and everything in between, has put the 9/11 terrorists in the “win” column. Those who wield power in this country no longer have to follow the basic tenets of the Constitution, and that includes the police terrorizing the occupy protesters. There is very little, if any, accountability required of those in a position of power. We are no longer a free society. We are a police state. The ‘American way of life’ that the terrorists had so much contempt for no longer exists.