Tagoccupy

If You Read Only One Thing on Occupy, Read This (Updated)

For The Guardian, Naomi Wolf covers the Occupy crackdown thus far and makes some very interesting informed speculation:

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.

Guardian: The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The whole thing is worth reading, as is Wolf’s case that we’re in the midst of a fascist shift. The Tea Party has been seen as part of this shift, but if an alliance can be struck the tide can be turned.

Update: I’d been avoiding posting anything about speculation that the Department of Homeland Security had anything to do with coordinating the police raids on occupy until there was some real evidence. I thought Wolf had some new sources but, as Kenneth Huey points out in the comments, it turns out Wolf’s sources rely on that same old anonymously sourced Examiner story. But there is currently no evidence that Congress or the White House ordered or coordinated the raids, and the White House has specifically denied this. If anyone knows of any particular mayor or police chief denying DHS involvement, please let me know.

There are many other problems with Wolf’s account of the story, as detailed here. That The Guardian is still running this story from Wolf without any updates or corrections is disappointing.

It’s worth noting that another source of national coordination regarding the Occupy movement has emerged. Wes Unruh pointed me towards this story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which reveals that the international non-governmental organization The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) coordinated raids nationally. Police chiefs in several major cities participated in a series of conference calls distinct from the 18 mayor call mentioned by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. PERF has also been involved in coordinating crackdowns on anti-globalization protests. The executive director of PERF, Chuck Wexler, is also on the advisory council of DHS, leading some to refer to the organization as “having ties to” DHS (including the San Francisco Bay Guardian), but I wouldn’t (yet) read too much into this relationship.

It might also be worth mentioning that according to Tom Henderson DHS vehicles were spotted at the Occupy Portland eviction, but as Tom notes the Occupy Portland spilled into federal park, so we can’t read too much into that.

One final note on the potential federal involvement in the Occupy crackdown. I’ve noticed that Portland Mayor Sam Adams almost always mentions drug use in the camp when explaining why he flip-flopped from supporting Occupy Portland to ordering its eviction. Since 1981 there has been an ongoing erosion of military and civilian law enforcement, particularly with regards to drug law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from Diane Cecilia Weber’s paper Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

The overlap between civilian and military law enforcement was furthered in 1986 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive declaring illegal drugs a threat to national security. You can find more on this in Radley Balko’s book/white paper Overkill.

The possibility of federal involvement remains speculative, but returning to the line about drugs again and again could be a tactic to justify the involvement of the feds, at least at the level of funding.

The Majority, Including Occupy and the Tea Party, Agree On Top Issues

Zero Hedge sums up the ways in which the majority of the U.S., including both Occupy and the Tea Party, agree on the most important issues:

  • No more bailouts
  • End crony capitalism
  • Prosecute Wall Street fraud
  • End, or at least rein in, the Federal Reserve
  • Respect the constitution and our liberty
  • End perpetual war
  • Make elections fair
  • Keep poison out of our food and water

A Majority of Americans (Including Both OWS and the Tea Party) AGREE on the Most Important Issues … We Just Don’t Realize It

This isn’t to say that health care reform, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and civil liberties for women and ethnic and sexual minorities aren’t important. But with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve issue, these are issues that affect everyone, and both liberals and conservatives can mostly agree on.

I’ve been hoping for some sort of left-alliance with the Tea Party for a long time (and I’ve made my own proposal for a left/libertarian alliance, but given the debt-ceiling debate, it’s not one I think would actually go over well). It may finally be happening. But it’s not an easy proposition, there’s a big clash of cultures.

This is not a trivial challenge. A few years ago Slavoj Zizek wrote in a somewhat meandering critique of both Alexander Bard’s and Jan Soderqvist’s Netocracy and Michael Hardt’ and Antonio Negri’s Empire:

Is it then true that these tendencies (these lignes de fuite, as Deleuze would have put it) can coexist in a non-antagonistic way, as parts of the same global network of resistance? One is tempted to answer this claim by applying to it Laclau’s notion of the chain of equivalences: of course this logic of multitude functions – because we are still dealing with RESISTANCE. However, what about when – if this really is the desire and will of these movements – “we take it over”? What would the “multitude in power” look like? There was the same constellation in the last years of the decaying Really-Existing Socialism: the non-antagonistic coexistence, within the oppositional field, of a multitude of ideologico-political tendencies, from liberal human-rights groups to “liberal” business-oriented groups, conservative religious groups and leftist workers’ demands. This multitude functioned well as long as it was united in the opposition to “them,” the Party hegemony; once they found THEMSELVES in power, the game was over.

This is not, I don’t think, an insurmountable problem, but it must be kept in mind. These conflicts could destroy a coalition.

Former Police Chief: Riot Cops Make Things Worse

Occupy Portland

Above: Pepper spray incident at Occupy Portland. Below: The now infamous UC Davis pepper spray abuse incident.

Occupy UC Davis pepper spray

Former Madison, WI police chief David Couper runs a blog about improving policing. A recent post covers how police can better handle crowds and large protests. Alex Pang sums it up the advise: “Milspec gear, tear gas- bad ideas unless you WANT a riot,” but those are Alex’s words, not Couper’s.

Couper cites some research in Britain on crowd control at football (soccer) games:

“’[L]arge-scale disorder tended to emerge and escalate because indiscriminate, heavy-handed policing generated a group mentality among large numbers of fans that was based on shared perceptions that the police action was illegitimate. This had the effect of drawing ordinary fans into conflict with the police’.

“The finding here is that when a crowd perceives the police as overreacting or being heavy-handed, crowd members have a tendency to stop observing and start taking action. To prevent this from happening, Stott advocates using what he calls a ‘softly, softly’ approach—a low-key approach in which officers mix with and relate to crowd members on the basis of their behavior, rather than their reputation. If police approach a crowd with the expectation that its members are going to make trouble, it often turns out that way. This will not be unfamiliar to Madison residents or their police.”

Couper offers various bits of practical advise for the police, including:

Be able to protect officers working with the crowd. If the situation warrants it, we have a tactical unit (with full protective equipment) on standby in a location near the demonstration but out of sight. They are available as an emergency response to protect or rescue officers in or others in danger of being harmed. Their mission is to protect people first and property second. Deploying the emergency response team is a last-ditch tactic and will indicate that we have not been effective in managing the crowd with softer methods.

Improving Police: Crowds, Protest and Police

The Case for Krampus as an Occupy Mascot

Political Krampus

While there are many good reasons for members of the Occupy movement to related to the rehabilitated image of Guy Fawkes/”V”, I am personally convinced that the image of Krampus could potentially be a much more effective iconic symbol of the Occupy movement, especially in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas which is arguably one of the biggest and most lucrative times of year for large banking institutions and corporations that have been shown to have connections to less-than-equitable business practices. Krampus represents responsibility and accountability for one’s actions while more than willing to punish those who engage in harmful practices – business and otherwise.

The author lists out five reasons that Krampus would be better than Fawkes:

-Encourages radical community involvement.
-Actually aims to punish wrong-doings.
-Horns are much scarier than a mask and pantaloons.
-Makes reasonable demands.
-Hasn’t been usurped by Time Warner and was never a Papist tool.

A Season for Krampus

(Thanks Bob Jones!)

Last year I participated in KrampusCon in Portland. It would be fun to connect this with Occupy. I don’t think Krampus necessarily has to replace any other mascot or symbol, but it sure would be fun to see a Krampus contingent!

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