Retired officer: Cops work for the 1 percent
Former Philadelphia police officer Ray Lewis has some harsh words for law enforcement at OWS VIDEO
Retired police captain Ray Lewis (Credit: YouTube/paulus1st)
Topics:Occupy Wall Street
Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park this week, and was arrested early this morning). Here Lewis voices leveled serious criticisms against Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Police Department over their handling of the protests.
- More Peter Finocchiaro
Thursday, Nov 17, 2011 1:30 PM 06:16:15 PST
The NYPD has discredited itselfThursday, Nov 17, 2011 12:00 PM 06:16:15 PST
Tough tactics and intolerance favor the rich and flout the rule of lawAn Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested by New York City police. (Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)In early stages of Occupy Wall Street, I sometimes encountered people who harbored a legitimate concern: Wouldn’t prolonged media attention to altercations between police and demonstrators distract from the movement’s message? This apprehension always struck me as misguided. What could be more central to Occupy’s guiding philosophy than the idea that the rule of law has been subverted by corporate interests? In collusion with government functionaries and beyond meaningful accountability from the public, these interests have created a separate realm of law for themselves — one that orients the financial and political systems in their favor, to the detriment of everyone else. If this is indeed true, and the law itself is marred by a systemic corruption, then law enforcement — manifested physically in the form of police officers — is an appropriate focus for a social movement seeking redress of grievances.As Occupy Wall Street grew, the New York Police Department’s “crowd control” tactics became increasingly bizarre and aggressive: historic mass arrests, motor scooter attacks, destruction of books, ramming horses into demonstrators, putting New York Post reporters in choke holds – to name only a few. And following Tuesday’s brazen raid of Zuccotti Park, carried out in the dead of night, the NYPD indicated that de-escalation is not on the horizon. Quite the opposite, in fact. Police officials at the highest ranks, under the direction of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, have taken to simply making up the rules as they go along. In the same way that financial elites rig the political system, law enforcement elites like Bloomberg and Kelly have rigged the criminal justice system. Occupy Wall Street is hardly the only victim. The NYPD is on pace to make 700,000 extralegal “stop-and-frisks” this year alone, while its own officers skirt accountability for their misconduct. Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, who was sanctioned by NYPD Internal Affairs for pepper-spraying at least four demonstrators without provocation, received a maximum punishment of 10 lost vacation days on account of his actions. If you’re an ordinary citizen, and you get caught on video dousing people with noxious gas like Bologna did, you get summarily locked up. And if you’re young and black, expect to receive the law’s full wrath. But when you’re an NYPD commanding officer responsible for all of Manhattan below 59th street, like Bologna was at the time of his attack, you get essentially a free pass. Additionally, throughout my coverage of OWS, various police officials in plainclothes have refused to identify themselves upon request — violation of NYPD patrol guide procedure 203-09, effective June 27, 2003, which states that all “members of the service” are required to “courteously and clearly state [their] rank, name, shield number and command, or otherwise provide them, to anyone who_ requests [they] do so. [They also must] allow the person ample time to note this information.” Among the men who violated this directive are Lt. Daniel J. Albano, described in a 2009 court document as a “Lieutenant in the NYPD legal bureau and a high-level policy-making official for the NYPD.” When I asked Albano whether he was even with the NYPD, he replied, “I’m the plumber.” Another is Sgt. Arthur Smarsch. On Tuesday morning, demonstrators were allowed back in post-powerwashed Zuccotti Park for a short time. Within what seemed like a half hour, officers began to force people out again. There was much confusion. Someone finally prodded Sgt. Arthur Smarsch to explain what was going on, and I heard him say that there was a “suspicious package” in the park. He then told an NBC4 reporter his last name upon request. Smarsch was misinformed, because no other official ever mentioned anything about a “suspicious package,” nor was any search of the park ordered. I recalled first seeing Smarsch at an early-morning march on Oct. 14, when he was unusually violent with demonstrators — even by NYPD standards — for no real discernible reason. He would not provide me (or several others who asked, including members of the National Lawyers Guild) with his name. I later retrieved it by other means. Smarsch is the director of Manhattan South Borough. During the Zuccotti Park eviction, the NYPD enforced a strict no-public-access policy in both the park and its surrounding area, ensuring reporters would be virtually prohibited from observing the raid. Press, credentialed or not, were repeatedly barred from proceeding past the newly formed police line. Journalists associated with the Associated Press, the New York Times, the New York Daily News and other outlets were arrested. At one point that morning, I got stuck in a chaotic mass of people, and was nearly battered with a baton while attempting to record video. Some NYPD officers seemed to enjoy all this immensely, especially Police Officer Toussaint — one of the several who laughed as they pummeled everyone in their path. I saw one man get smashed in the face with a riot shield; another was knocked over the hood of a taxi. When I asked one officer why it had suddenly become unlawful to stand on that portion of the sidewalk, she answered, “You’re blocking pedestrian traffic.” Someone called out, “We are pedestrian traffic!” The officer responded, “So are we.” The officer’s remark, of course, was senseless. Taken at face value, it would presumably mean that those of us being impeded from standing on this normally open sidewalk were ourselves responsible for the ensuing obstruction of pedestrian traffic. As if the hundreds of amassed riot cops or newly erected metal barricades had nothing to do with the blockage that she so dryly referenced. It is not good that NYPD officers now live in a world where coherency of argument is no longer even an aspiration. Having spoken to over a hundred police officers throughout Occupy Wall Street, about 70 percent respond to queries by saying nothing at all, another 15 percent grunt or mutter something inaudible, 10 percent make some kind of dismissive remark, and the remaining 5 percent are willing to have a human conversation. If this is the reality of police behavior at a political demonstration in downtown New York City, what has happened to the reality of policing? The NYPD, ostensibly tasked with maintaining public order, has proven that it cannot handle political dissent without exerting anything less than military-style force. For two months, it has continuously abridged the rights of citizens to peaceably assemble, and of journalists to document these assemblies. It has lost its claim to legitimacy.Continue Reading
- Michael Tracey is a writer based in New York. His work has appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Reason, The American Conservative, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @mtracey More Michael Tracey
Occupy Philly debates: Move or get moved?Thursday, Nov 17, 2011 7:31 AM 06:16:15 PST
Sitting on a job site, the embattled movement has to make a choiceWith Occupy Wall Street encampments evicted in New York, Oakland and Portland, Ore., Occupy Philly’s 300-tent protest is one of the largest left standing. But Occupy Philly and Mayor Michael Nutter’s relationship, once a national model of protester-politician amity, has turned sour. And the mayor has signaled that he is prepared to evict protesters.
The conflict pivots about the planned reconstruction of Dilworth Plaza, City Hall’s massive concrete front lawn where protesters are camped out. Protesters voted to stay put last Friday, citing a lack of communication from the mayor about a possible relocation. The mayor held a press conference the next day declaring that protesters must leave, and last night announced that the “project’s commencement is imminent. Accordingly, you should take this opportunity to vacate Dilworth Plaza and remove all of your personal belongings immediately.”
Protesters charge the mayor with orchestrating a media campaign against them in coordination with a nationwide movement to evict Occupy encampments, and say he is attempting to divide the movement between mainstream activists and “radicals.” On Wednesday night, protesters gathered at a general assembly to discuss a situation that seemed to be rapidly spinning out of control.Continue Reading
“It has been an intentional buildup since Saturday,” says Amanda Geraci, a 29-year-old protester. “And it shows the real face of Nutter and the city, because this came right after the election. Our legal collective has been trying repeatedly to communicate and work with the city.”
Media reports and some protesters have framed the conflict around the planned reconstruction of Dilworth Plaza, ancient concrete plaza and subway hub. The federally funded $50 million project is intended to beautify the area and make it accessible to the disabled. Some protesters charge that the project is an urban renewal scheme for the rich, calling a planned ice-skating rink a decadent luxury in a time of crisis. But most protesters have said they have no plans to block the project, which would create many union construction jobs.
Last night, Patrick B. Gillespie of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council sent letter a letter to Occupy Philly, asking that they relocate.
“As you know, we have been suffering with unemployment numbers between 30-40% over the past two years. Our members are desperate for these jobs. I know anything you can do to help in changing the venue of the consciousness raising events that have been taking place on the Plaza would be appreciated by our members who will get the job opportunities.”
At last night’s general assembly, members of the legal collective reported back from a meeting with Philadelphia AFL-CIO president Pat Eiding, who said that unions had pledged solidarity with the movement but that protesters needed to relocate to maintain that support. The legal collective also reported back on meetings with staffers for City Councilwomen Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Jannie Blackwell, who said they were prepared to assist protesters.
“They were interested in helping us facilitate a meeting with the mayor or deputy mayor,” says Penelope Waige, a member of the legal collective, “to discuss the questions that the G.A. had that he never got answered in terms of what alternate sites would be available if we moved, and what sort of access we would have to water and electricity if we moved.”
The vote of the general assembly on Friday to remain at Dilworth, says Geraci, resulted from a lack of communication on the city’s part, not protester stubbornness. She says the legal collective sent the mayor a request for information about water and electricity at possible relocation sites on Nov. 7, and received no response.
Managing director Richard Negrin has called the protesters’ claims “laughable,” saying that the administration has given Occupy “unprecedented access to senior officials … the mayor left his office with myself and chief of staff Everett Gilison, and walked over to the Friends Center to meet with them under their own terms and conditions. We showed up with half the cabinet, on their terms.”
The protesters also accuse the mayor of taking part in a coordinated nationwide effort to evict protesters. After initially denying it, the mayor’s spokesperson conceded that Nutter had discussed Occupy protests on a conference call with other city leaders.
Mayor Nutter also cited an alleged rape this past Saturday in which a suspect was arrested and released; no charges have been filed. The media, following the city’s lead, has focused on fights and unsanitary conditions created by the many homeless people who have set up camp. Philadelphia occupiers, as in encampments nationwide, have struggled to deal with the flood of homeless people who have sought out free food, healthcare and the relative safety of group housing. Indeed, the protesters have been proud to offer services that a fractured welfare state does not.
Nonetheless, Occupy Philly has lost control of a clear narrative — jobs and justice for the 99 percent — that buoyed them early on. And the tone of once friendly local media coverage has flipped quickly. Wednesday’s cover of the Philadelphia Daily News, a left-of-center tabloid that ran numerous stories and editorials in support of the encampment, read “Stain on the City: How the homeless hijacked Occupy Philly.”
The general assembly is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday to decide whether Occupy Philadelphia will move or not.
Police scuffle with Occupy Wall Street protestersThursday, Nov 17, 2011 5:07 AM 06:16:15 PST
Tensions run high as demonstrators clash with officers just south of Wall Street VIDEO
(Credit: Salon/Justin Elliott)Topics:Occupy Wall Street
(Video recorded by Salon’s Justin Elliott)
DHS denies OWS eviction role
In response to internet rumor, DHS says, "Only in Portland"
DHS denies role in OWS evictions (Credit: AP/John Minchillo/Salon)Yesterday, the very funny but not exactly journalistic blog Wonkette posted a story “Surprise, Homeland Security Coordinates #OWS Crackdowns,” linking to a post in the Examiner stating that “according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.”
The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.The Examiner story, however, cites just one unnamed Justice Department source — one or two sources short of non-attributed journalistic certainty. And it appeared in the Examiner: a content-aggregating website that posts “3,000 new stories per day written by more than 55,000 ‘Examiners,’ or paid local contributors.”Continue Reading
Citing the Examiner is the journalistic equivalent of saying, “my friend Bob told me.” And for what it’s worth, DHS rejects the accusation.
DHS has not been coordinating evictions with local law enforcement agencies, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler told Salon. The only exception, he said, was Portland, Ore., where the Federal Protective Service arrested protesters in federally owned Terry Schrunk Plaza.
“Any decisions on how to handle specifics situations are dealt with by local authorities in that location,” Chandler said. “If a protest area is located on federal property and has been deemed unsanitary or unsafe by the General Services Administration or city officials, and they make a decision to evacuate participants, the Federal Protective Service will work with those officials to develop a plan to ensure the security and safety of everyone involved.”
This chaotic week of Occupy evictions has created fertile ground for rumors. And though both stories appear to be unsubstantiated, both have now gone viral: 11,000 Facebook shares of the Wonkette article, nearly 8,000 for the Examiner. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman repeated the rumor on Truthdig, as did libertarian Reason magazine. And so did the progressive In These Times.
What has been documented over the past few days, but received little mainstream media attention, is clear coordination between big city mayors in working to evict Occupy protesters. Mayor Jean Quan let it slip that mayors had been discussing how to deal with Occupy protests on nationwide conference calls. On Tuesday, after initially disputing the account, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter acknowledged that such a call had taken place.
“On Sunday, the mayor was asked at the press conference about whether there was some kind of coordinated thing going on,” Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald told City Paper. “He pointed out that he is the vice chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors: he talks with mayors and groups of mayors all the time. They do that on a regular basis. And surely the subject of the Occupy phenomena has come up, and they compare notes. And apparently, on one of these recent calls, toward the end, someone came onto one of these calls and identified herself as Jean Quan. I did not know that, so I’m correcting that for the record.”
The Police Executive Research Forum, according to the Associated Press, has also coordinated inter-city phone calls between police officials to discuss confronting the Occupy movement.