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NYPD attacks Occupy Wall Street

Saturday March 17th marked the six month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. It was a beautiful and joyous day despite a dozen or more arrests for crimes like laying down and dancing. Despite the heavy police presence spirits were. That evening we had a great General Assembly with hundreds present, using two waves of the People’s Mic to make sure everyone could hear what was being discussed. We reached consensus to sign a petition to urge the attorney general to investigate the NYPD’s spying on Muslims in New York City.

It was a beautiful evening with lots of smiles and laughter. The drum circle was doing it’s thing. There were lots of hugs and shouts of, “Happy anniversary.” We had some amazing break out groups regarding what we hope to see during May Day; what we hope to accomplish. It was a beautiful moment in a movement with lots of ups and downs over the past six months.

Around 10:00pm, Michael Moore showed up with a huge contingent of folks who had marched over from Left Forum. The numbers at the park probably surged over a thousand people. People chanted and sang. Banners were erected. Blankets were brought. The mood continued to be joyous and peaceful.

At some point past 11:00pm the NYPD claimed some of the ridiculous park rules Brookfield has made up were being broken. Rules, like, no laying down in a public park. Or even better: No setting you personal property down on the floor. Rules that any sane person would laugh at. And so this is the context given to set the NYPD loose upon unarmed, peaceful people. You can watch an interview I conducted by clicking here.

The NYPD reall seemed to ratchet up the violence, particularly against women. Cecily McMillan, a 23-year-old graduate student at the New School was savagely beaten unconscious by the NYPD and then denied medical care for nearly 20 minutes. When they finally took her to the hospital they wouldn’t let her family or her lawyer see her.

By Monday afternoon the everyone who had been arrested on M17 (March 17th) was released. Dozens of supporters stayed on jail support for hours on end to make sure that when those folks got out they would be greeted with hugs, food, and lots of love and attention. Some of the arresttees talked about how wonderful it was to hear people outside chanting, knowing they weren’t alone in this.

Everyone that came out of the Tombs had similar stories of violence and threats. Threats for not submitting to iris scans, which are voluntary. Threats that if you keep protesting we’re going to beat you worst next time. The NYPD only knows violence. And it’s evident that it can’t quite figure out why that’s not working, but rest assured it’s only making us stronger. And I’ll leave you with one of my favorite chants, one we chanted as folks were coming out of the Tombs today:

1. We are the People

2. We are united.

3. This Occupation is not leaving.

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The brilliance and necessity of Julian Assange’s Wikileaks

Since Bob Morris has pointed out that even some who are typically rebellious in their rhetoric are condemning Julian Assange, I think it’s worth pointing out how historically important Assange (and Wikileaks, of course) could be.  With the caveat that we have all yet to see the effects of what Wikileaks is doing, he has the potential to play two essential roles.

The first is the obvious role of rebel against authoritarianism.  As former Senator Mike Gravel noted in August,

I do question a classification system so prone to abuse by those in authority whose actions in the past and whose present conduct continues to derail the proper functioning of a democracy in a free society…

…accepting and tolerating unbridled secrecy… in effect subvert[s] our democracy by accepting secrecy as “the way Washington works.”

Without a doubt, the United States government is an authoritarian entity in more ways than not – spying on peaceful activists, arresting peace activists, torturing prisoners, violating its citizens’ rights at airports, waging war on four fronts, partaking in propoganda campaigns, and so much more!  The Wikileaks crew has done their duty in opposing what would have otherwise been a largely unchallenged exponential growth in despotic behavior by American, and in some cases international, government.

Assange’s unabashedely radical anti-authoritarianism is his second, complementary role.  He IS more radical than even many self-proclaimed radicals.  He has the courage to put his life at risk for the principle of democracy, as can be seen in the explanation of Wikileaks’ actions posted on the website (which is down as I write this):

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Through his radicalism, Assange has not only possibly furthered the cause in an extremely effective way, he has made it safe for more moderate people to be radical small “d” democrats.  For instance, the following was published in The Guardian as a response to the leaks:

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it…

…Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed.

Glenn Greenwald has an insightful piece today in which he points out, in other words, the benefits of Wikileaks’ far tilt toward transparency.  A key passage:

Like all organizations, WikiLeaks has made mistakes in the past, including its failure to exercise enough care in redacting the names of Afghan informers.  Moreover, some documents are legitimately classified, probably including some among the documents that were just disclosed.Nonetheless, our government and political culture is so far toward the extreme pole of excessive, improper secrecy that that is clearly the far more significant threat.  And few organizations besides WikiLeaks are doing anything to subvert that regime of secrecy, and none is close to its efficacy.

While some who support the corporate state are calling for Assange’s assassination and some self-proclaimed rebels are wary of Assange, we could do well to learn from his courage to act, and act in a way that is uncompromisingly radical.

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EU nations ‘knew of CIA prisons’

The countries knew about the prisons operating on European soil, “co-operated actively or passively” with the CIA, then lied about it and tried to cover it up, says the draft of a report to the European Parliament.

The countries include Britain, Poland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and possibly Poland. How other counties have them? What has happened to the prisoners?

Is the CIA global empire of prisons now larger than the gulags of Stalin?

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The Brooklyn Abu Ghraib

9/11 torture lawsuit heads to federal court

One disturbing incident, repeated over and over, is particularly haunting — inmates head-slammed into a wall where the staff had taped a T-shirt with an American flag printed on it. The motto on the shirt proclaimed: “These colors don’t run.” In time, that spot on the wall was covered with blood.

This happened in a Brooklyn jail after 9/11. Muslims were rounded up, held for months without charges, and repeatedly beaten and tortured. The lawsuit targets “top federal prison officials and individual guards”

One detainee has already received $300,00. The torturers shoved a flashlight up his rectum. He has returned to Egypt where presumably life will be safer for him and his civil rights more respected.

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