Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terrorists Attack Wall Street!!

The New York Times was excoriated for ignoring the Occupy Wall Street action. They hadn't actually ignored it; there are articles listed on the 17th, 19th, 22nd, 2 on the 24th, one on the 25th, 2 on the 26th, and one on the 27th. That's more coverage than a lot of protests get, but the narrative was already set that the Times (and the corporate media generally) would ignore -- and so did ignore -- the Occupy Wall Street actions until the day of the 24th of September when several score Occupiers/Marchers were violently arrested, while others were inexplicably brutalized by New York's Finest, in a show of force that seemed grossly out of proportion to the "threat" posed by the marchers.

Today's story in the Times (September 27, 2011) attempts to give context to that over the top response on the 24th. That the Times would feel the need to explain police behavior -- or misbehavior -- and provide context for it is interesting in and of itself. The Times has been maligned rather fiercely for all kinds of institutional failings over the years (Judith Miller's "reporting", for example; ahem), and it looked fair to say that it's reporting and opining on Occupy Wall Street matters would, in a word, suck.

And it was assumed that, like all corporate media, the Times would defend the police.

And so it is. In today's story, headlined:

Wall Street Demonstrations Test Police Trained for Bigger Threats

we see that the excuses are already formulated. After all, this is New York, and nothing reverberates in New York like "bigger threats," ie: acts of terrorism. So, of course, the NYPD would respond to the Occupy Wall Street protests with the same verve and vigor they are trained to respond to terrorist threats. Just like they did at the Republican nominating convention in 2004. This was the same kind of thing. Yes?

Except it is nothing of the kind, not even remotely, but even after all these years, and all their experience with marches and demonstrations and protests of all kinds, most of which are essentially left alone to do their thing, even if they don't have the required paperwork, this kind of protest by this kind of person still gets their hackles up and their cans of whoop-ass out.

What's the deal? What are they so terrified of? And why such disparate treatment of most protests compared to ones like the Occupy Wall Street action that involve vaguely lefty participants and rhetoric?

The Times attempts to explain it by noting:

...[to] the New York Police Department, the protesters represented something else: a visible example of lawlessness akin to that which had resulted in destruction and violence at other anticapitalist demonstrations, like the Group of 20 economic summit meeting in London in 2009 and the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999.

In what way? Explain. There was no violence, no property destruction of any kind by the crowd, even after the police became violent toward the crowd. How, in fact, did this procession from Wall Street to Union Square and back to Liberty Plaza become seen in the eyes of the police as a "visible example of lawlessness akin to that which resulted in destruction and violence at other anticapitalist demonstrations"?

Leave aside for the moment that participants in some of those demonstrations have long claimed that violence was initiated in every case by the police, and that any violence or property destruction by members of the crowd was done by -- or at least initiated by -- police provocateurs. Leave that aside. Whatever the Occupy Wall Street actions in New York on Saturday, September 24th, 2011, were, they had nothing directly to do with any kind of violence or property destruction at all.

The police, who acknowledge monitoring organizing websites and twitter feeds of the event, must have known that from the beginning of this movement, there has been a strongly anti-violence ethic demonstrated by the participants as one of their core principles.

This is a movement characterized by non-violence, passive resistance, and mild civil disobedience. It has nothing to do with the "anticapitalist demonstrations" the NYPD claims it "represents."



In recent weeks, police commanders have been discussing the riots in London this summer, and strategizing how they would stop a similar situation in New York, said Roy Richter, the president of the union in New York that represents officers of captain and higher rank. And since August, investigators with the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have monitored the online efforts of activists to bring demonstrations to Wall Street, people briefed on the matter said.

But the British riots and the Occupy Wall Street action have nothing to do with each other. They are entirely different matters that cannot be rationally conflated, yet apparently they have been by the NYPD, and so they are being conflated by the always willing and eager to please Authority New York Times.

♫Young people speaking their minds... ♪ are apparently -- by definition -- threats to world order. ♫A thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs...♪

Well, it depends, doesn't it?

If you're a long-haired weirdo, or you hang out with them, they are terrified of you and they will do anything in their power to hurt you. If you're a TeaBagger, you're good to go.

One of the most remarkable statements in the Times piece is this:

Although the Police Department has closely monitored the encampment of protesters in the Financial District and stationed officers there, there appears to have been little discussion between the police and the protesters.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman said that the protesters never sought a permit for Saturday’s march.

The lack of communication between the two sides may have set the stage for the confrontation on Saturday near Union Square.

They are defining "communication" as having a permit for a march, which is not quite the same thing as communiction, something the Occupy Wall Street activists have been constantly engaging in with the police since their first appearance at Liberty Plaza on September 17. A major focus of their action is stating and restating the fact that the police and the activists are all part of the 99% who are being exploited and impoverished by "Wall Street." The police and the activists are on the same side.



  1. This was the headline over at the Exiled:

    Wall Street’s Gestapo Goes Wilding On Protesters

    That about covers it. I've also pointed out that to the police, effective non-violent protest will be treated as if it was violent protest, even if things have to be planted after the fact to justify their brutality. Though with a captured "justice" system and a tame media, such crude measures as planting fake evidence are likely unnecessary, for now.

    Incidentally, this includes even potentially effective non-violent protest. (The police want to make sure that anyone involved in anti-capitalist protests know it can cost them.)

    Police tend to identify with the hard right wing in this country, they know who's side they are paid to be on.

  2. I've noticed in watching the livestream of the encampment and the marches that the Occupy Wall Street activists: 1) engage the police in conversation whenever they can; their message is the same: "You're part of the 99%; join us!" Mostly the police are stone-faced, but sometimes... it's obvious which side they'd rather be on (and this includes some of the white shirts). They know their pay, their benefits, their pensions are on the line just like everyone else's. They get nothing from beating down the marchers and activists except more grief. Somebody reported a study of statistics: how many NYPD personnel are facing foreclosure, layoff, pension cuts, etc, etc. It's pretty grim.

    2) The police state tactics used against the activists in New York apparently have been lifted. It was announced last night -- don't know how true it is, but anyway -- when there was a march from somewhere to somewhere in Lower Manhattan, and the police were trying to prevent their movements and "kettle" them. People were shouting "shame, shame, shame" the way they do, and then all of a sudden, from what I recall, a supervisor came around and told the beat cops to let them go. They rolled up their mesh barricades, gave the marchers the high sign, and went away.

    So word went out that there were no more restrictions on marches in the Financial District. I doubt that's actually true, but there has been a distinct change in the heavy-handed atmosphere around action.

    3) The activists themselves are downplaying the police violence against them. "That's not what this is about." You hear it over and over. And there is no obvious hostility toward the cops who are monitoring the plaza day and night. You'll even hear them thanked for being there.

    Last night there were also a number of "suits" in Liberty Plaza who were described on the livestream as "Wall Street executives." Whether they were or not, I don't know, but it was interesting to see them. There were many more people in general in the plaza last night as well.

    The police state has not been dismantled, not by a long shot, but after Saturday's police riot, something really did change. Orders came down... but it also may have been the Blue Shirts telling their supes, "Fuck this shit, man."

    "Shame" can work. In fact, if you're into nonviolence, it's the key. And the NYPD -- NYC authorities generally -- faced so much shame after the events on Saturday something had to give. For now, it means a somewhat gentler regime.

    Of course, strategy is involved. Duplicity....

    It's a long row to hoe...