Sunday, February 19, 2012

ccupy Des Moines To Preempt January 3rd Iowa Caucus / Occupy Iowa Caucuses / Common Dreams

December 27, 2011
10:54 AM

Occupy Des Moines To Preempt January 3rd Iowa Caucus

"Occupy Des Moines has the first in the nation caucus now, not the political parties"

DES MOINES, Iowa - December 27 - Occupy Des Moines will stage the first-in-the-nation "Occupy Iowa Caucus" - otherwise known as the "People's Caucus" - tonight, Tuesday, December 27th at 7:00 pm, 504 East Locust Street, pre-empting the political parties January 3 Iowa Caucus.
"We're holding the first in the nation caucus now, not the political parties," said Olivia Sandbothe, a Des Moines Area Community College student and Occupy Des Moines volunteer.
As is the case at Republican and Democratic Party precinct caucuses, Occupy Des Moines' "Peoples Caucus'" attendees first will introduce and discuss resolutions representing the grievances raised by the movement and the 99 percent. They then will break into candidate “preference” groups, but with a twist. Instead of indicating preference for the presidential candidate they support, participants will state their preference for the candidate whose headquarters they intend to occupy over the next three days of non-violent action.
“People are sick and tired of being ignored by the political establishment in both parties, tired of having the common good placed last when it comes to government’s priorities,” said Ed Fallon, a campaign volunteer. “Holding the Peoples Caucus before the two major parties’ January 3rd precinct caucuses is our way of telling America’s corporate and political elite that we demand that our voices be heard, that the public good must come first.”
Organizers reiterated their commitment not to disrupt the official January 3rd precinct caucuses, and stated that they are hoping hundreds of people from Occupy movements across Iowa, the Midwest, and the country to participate in the week's actions and events.
"We'll occupy the jails too, if that's what it takes to make our voices heard," Sandbothe said. "Enough is enough. It's time to put communities before corporations and people before profits."
Occupy Des Moines is part of the grassroots Occupy Wall Street movement working to make fundamental and systemic changes to our economy and our political system, and end the climate of corruption and corporate greed that has put our democracy in a chokehold.
Teach-ins will also be held from 10am to 5pm today at 500 East Locust Street. The schedule is below.
Tuesday 10:00:00 AM
How do we strategize to win, and what does victory look like? (Hour 1) Paul Engler, Occupy Los Angeles

Tuesday 10:00:00 AM
What is different about this Crisis! (hour 1) Tony Smith

Tuesday 11:00:00 AM
How do we strategize to win, and what does victory look like? (Hour 2) Paul Engler

Tuesday 11:00:00 AM
Citizens United : How Did We Get Here Stephen Toothman

Tuesday 11:00:00 AM
What is different about this Crisis! (hour 2) Tony Smith

Tuesday 02:00:00 PM
Community Organizing and Public Narrative (Hour 1) Paul Engler

Tuesday 02:00:00 PM
To Big To Fail : Large Banks as a National Security Risk Stephen Toothman

Tuesday 02:00:00 PM
Early History of Corporate Personhood Maggie Rawland

Tuesday 03:00:00 PM
Community Organizing and Public Narrative (Hour 2) Paul Engler

Tuesday 03:00:00 PM
How to get along with the 2% of the 99% that you can't stand! Arianna Norris-Landry, Occupy St. Louis

Tuesday 03:00:00 PM
Occupy Your Workplace - Crash Course in Union Organizing Jennifer Marsh, Occupy Iowa City

Tuesday 04:00:00 PM
From Seattle to #Occupy: Measuring the Impact of Mass Mobilization Mark Engler

Tuesday 04:00:00 PM
Feminism and Occupy: Why Gender Issues Matter in the Movement Laura Kacere, Occupy DC

Tuesday 04:00:00 PM
Organizing for Change 101 Hugh Espey
For more information, contact or visit and Follow us on Twitter: @OccupyCaucus, @OccupyHawkeye, and #occupydsm.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The 99% Spring April 9-15, 2012 -- 100,000 Americans Will Train for Non-Violent Direct Action / Common Dreams

February 15, 2012
Things should never have reached this point.
Every day, the American Dream seems a little farther away. More of our grandparents are being thrown from their homes. Our mothers and fathers can’t retire because their pension funds tanked. Our brothers and sisters are burdened by student loan debt. For our children, budget cuts have resulted in crumbling schools, skyrocketing class sizes, and teachers being denied the supports they need to do their best. Our friends and family are being denied collective bargaining rights in their workplaces and are falling further and further behind. Our neighbors are being poisoned by pollution in our air and water.
The numbers are staggering: in recent years, millions of jobs have been destroyed, homes foreclosed, and an unconscionable number of children live in poverty.
And worst of all: this is no accident. It is a result of rampant greed—the deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%, by those who amass ever more wealth and power at our expense.
We are at a crossroads as a country. We have a choice to make. Greater wealth for a few or opportunity for many. Tax breaks for the richest or a fair shot for the rest of us. A government that can be bought by the highest bidder, or a democracy that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The choice is in our hands. This spring, we will act on that choice and rise up in the tradition of our forefathers and foremothers. We will not be complicit with the suffering in our families for another year. We will prepare ourselves for sustained non-violent direct action.
From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to:
Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.
This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time.
We know great change is possible. We inherit a history of everyday people standing up for their own dignity, freedom, and self-determination, shaping our direction as a country. The seamstress in Alabama who launched a bus boycott. The farmers in New England and Virginia who imagined we could be a free nation. The workers in Flint, Michigan who occupied their plant to win collective bargaining rights. The farmworkers in California who liberated our fields. The women in New York who dreamed they could one day speak with equal voice. The mother who stood up in Love Canal to stop the poisoning of her community. And the students who risked their lives during Freedom Summer to register voters.
In the last year alone we watched the teachers and fire fighters of Wisconsin stand for the rights of workers. And we joined those who Occupied Wall Street, inspiring us to stand with the 99%.
We will rise this spring, because we DO hold these truths to be self evident—that all men and women are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Will you rise with us? Can we count on you to join us April 9th to 15th to stand with the 99% for America?


Sarita Gupta
Jobs With Justice
Bob King
United Auto Workers
George Goehl
National Peoples Action
Ai-jen Poo
National Domestic Workers Alliance
Justin Ruben
Joy Cushman & Judith Freeman
New Organizing Institute
Liz Butler
Movement Strategy Center
John Sellers
The Other 98%
Mary Kay Henry
Service Employees International Union
Van Jones and Natalie Foster
Rebuild the Dream
John Wilhelm
Phil Radford
John Cavanaugh
Institute for Policy Studies
Scott Reed
PICO National Network
Tracy Van Slyke and Ilana Berger
New Bottom Line
Leo Gerard
United Steel Workers
Daniel Cantor
Working Families Party
Larry Cohen
Communications Workers of America
Victor Sanchez Jr
United States Student Association
Becky Tarbotton
Rainforest Action Network
Randi Weingarten
American Federation of Teachers
Brian Kettenring
Leadership Center for the Common Good
Randy Jackson
Saket Soni
National Guestworker Alliance
Bill McKibben and May Boeve
Sharon Lungo and Megan Swoboda
The Ruckus Society
Ian Inaba
Citizen Engagement Lab
Patrick Reinsborough
smartMeme Strategy & Training Project
Rachel LaForest
Right to the City Alliance
Brigid Flaherty
Pushback Network
Tim Carpenter
Progressive Democrats of America
Bob Callahan
Change to Win
Michael Leon Guerrero
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Roger Hickey
Campaign for America’s Future
Aaron Ostrom
Fuse Washington
Jeff Ordower
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment
Karen Scharff
Citizen Action of New York
Marianne Manilov
Bruce Klipple
United Electrical Workers Union
Pablo Alvarado
National Day Laborers Organizing Network
LeeAnn Hall
Alliance for a Just Society
Leslie Moody
The Partnership for Working Families
Teresa Cheng
United Students Against Sweatshops

The Occupy Chicago Arrests: Rahm Emanuel's 'Dry Run' for G8 and Nato? by Bernard Harcourt / The Guardian/UK / Common Dreams

Published on Friday, February 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Never mind free speech, Chicago's mayor wanted to show protesters who was boss ahead of May's summits, says attorney

The most interesting revelation from Wednesday's mass court hearing at the Daley Center in Chicago on the Occupy arrests – probably the single largest joined criminal case in the Chicago's history – was the suggestion that Rahm Emanuel may have personally ordered the arrests of the peaceful Occupy Chicago protesters back in Grant Park in October 2011. At least one of the affidavits submitted by Thomas Durkin, a lead attorney for the defendants, suggested that. As Durkin argued:Occupy Chicago protesters in October 2011. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
"This was Mayor Rahm Emanuel being Mr Tough Guy to show the world that they can come for G8 and Nato. It's as simple as that. There was no need to make mass arrests on this night. There was no need to show Mr Tough Guy. It was a show of force. It was stupid."
The evidence is starting to point that way. Shortly before 11pm, on Saturday 15 October, a police supervisor with rank told the Occupy protesters that they were going to be allowed to stay in Grant Park and protest, so long as they kept the volume down. It was actually an ironic moment when the "human microphone" started urging protesters, in its uniquely reiterative way, to be quiet so that guests in the neighboring hotels could sleep. It had a surreal element to it – but that fit nicely with the performative aspects of the Occupy movement.
It also matched the circumstances of the protest. The assembled group of about 700 protesters (down from 2,000 to 3,000 because of the looming fear of arrest) was entirely peaceful, well-dressed, and respectful. To any reasonable police professional, this did not call for mass arrests.
Protesters were surprised when, later, the Chicago Police Department announced that anyone who did not vacate Grant Park and walk across the street on Michigan Avenue (where the police appropriately exercised its discretion and allowed continued protest) would be arrested – which they were. They were then cuffed, booked, fingerprinted, detained in jail some for up to 17 hours, placed on bond with travel restrictions, and prosecuted in criminal court.
For a long time, it has been a mystery as to why the police turned around. But the mystery may now be solved. Here's verbatim from the affidavit that the presiding judge, Judge Thomas More Donnelly, reviewed yesterday:
At approximately 10.15pm, a leading organizer with Occupy Chicago, flanked by Chicago police officers, made an announcement over our PA system that one of the officers in charge had told us that while we would be violating the park curfew, we would be allowed to remain in the park as long as we kept the noise down so as to not disturb guests in hotels across the street. The police officers flanking the organizer, who did not raise any protest but rather remained silent, gave to this announcement the air of officialdom. Several officers nearby me seemed to further validate the official character and finality of this statement by expressing their excitement that they would soon be able to leave Grant Park. The police did not disperse, however, and approximately 20 minutes later, a police officer who appeared to be in charge reiterated that we would have to leave the park by 11.00pm. This resulted in considerable confusion and uncertainty for all present. After this second announcement, I heard many individual officers comment that it was Mayor Rahm Emanuel who had intervened and insisted that we be asked to leave the park … We continued to interact peacefully with the police. The police officers whom I spoke with after 11 gave me the impression that they were waiting for a political decision to be made regarding our situation."
Durkin may well be right that the arrests were "a 'dry run' by the Emanuel administration for handling protests during the G8 and Nato summits in May."
Another interesting tidbit from the hearings: Joey Mogul, an attorney at the People's Law Office and one of the lead attorneys on the recent $6.2m Chicago Police Department settlement for improper arrests at the 2003 anti-war rallies – does anyone see a pattern? – leaned over to me with a fascinating question: if the City is arguing that the parks need to be closed at night from 11pm to 6am, then how come they remain open for corporate speech 24/7? Aren't the McDonald's, Chase, Exelon, Boeing, etc, signs, advertisements, images, also speech? How come they get to be there 24 hours a day?
A quick look at Chicago's Millenium Park gives you a vague idea of how much corporate speech litters the park. This is from Wiki, but check out their own map here.
The mass court hearings resume Thursday at 1.30pm at the Daley Center. The presiding judge was shocked to hear, yesterday, that the 300 arrestees has been placed under bond with travel restrictions and been told that they could not travel over the winter holidays because of their court cases. The judge was palpably astonished. It's completely outrageous given how peaceful and articulate the Occupy protesters are in Chicago.
With the coming G8 and Nato summit meetings, the allusions to Chicago '68 are increasing in the media. But when asked whether they hope to emulate the protests of May '68, many of the protesters say no. Those days refer to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, famously captured by Walter Cronkite's statement – after Dan Rather was belted to the floor by security personnel – that "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan."
When asked, Joe Iosbaker, one of the Occupy protesters, responded:
"Would I like to have my head beat in and be tear-gased by the Chicago police? No, I have no desire to emulate that whatsoever."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Punishing Protest, Policing Dissent: What is the Justice System For? by Erik Hoffner / Common Dreams

This year promises to be another historic year of people calling for change worldwide. Citizens took to the streets for a wide variety of reasons, from the Wisconsin Capitol to D.C., which hosted many actions last year including the highly visible civil disobedience of activists seeking to halt the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The resulting mass arrests, totaling over 1,200 by early September, surely played a large role in President Obama’s decision to delay approval of that climate- and water supply-threatening project.
The climate justice movement also experienced a low point this year, though, when its most visible young leader, Tim DeChristopher, was sentenced to two years in prison for disrupting a Federal oil and gas lease auction by peaceful means. Even though the auction was later shown to be illegal, DeChristopher’s case proceeded in a manner that made it clear that the government’s prosecutor sought to make an example of an activist who showed no remorse.Tim DeChristopher (photo:
For his part, Tim saw it as a necessary action to protect his future from runaway climate change, and seemed ready to prove that his movement is unafraid of such retribution when he refused to apologize or take a plea deal. As he told Terry Tempest Williams in Orion recently, “…it’s important to make sure that the government doesn’t win in their quest to intimidate people…They’re trying to make an example out of me to scare other people into obedience.” The punishing of protest is not unusual, and can result in long-term victories for those targeted, but that didn’t comfort Patrick Shea, DeChristopher’s lawyer, who said in a recent post that he’d witnessed “a miscarriage of justice, fairness, and what I believed America stood for.”
Occupiers, though, have racked up many more detentions, with 6,526 arrested in 110 U.S. cities so far, according to This wave of action and reaction has kept National Lawyers Guild (NLG) chapters and members very busy working to protect demonstrators’ constitutional rights. Founded 75 years ago to use the law to advance social justice and support progressive social movements, NLG coordinates attorneys, legal workers and law students, and provides legal briefing, case law research, legal strategy and tactical advice to activists. Over the past several months, its members have filed constitutional rights challenges, represented protesters in criminal court, trained and acted as Legal Observers®, and often provided ‘round-the-clock legal advice to Occupy encampments.
Their director, Heidi Boghosian, told me that guild members “…have probably pulled more all-nighters in the past few months than they did in all of college. But we hope that the Occupy movement continues, in as many creative incarnations as possible. For most of us, this kind of grassroots activism is what we live for.”
So I asked Boghosian this weekend how her view of the hierarchy of governmental threats to the exercise of political speech described in her 2007 book, Punishing Protest, has changed. She responded that two new significant trends are evident: “One, the use of high-technology and sophisticated military equipment, and two, cooperation between law enforcement and the private business sector, especially with regard to surveillance/spying and controlling media access to police actions.”
In some cities, such as New York, she said, “police are scanning irises of arrestees and are detaining those who refuse to be scanned. The stated purpose of the scans is to avoid mis-identifications in court, but this unregulated taking from those arrested for engaging in free speech activities is ominous; it would not be surprising if a database is being amassed of iris scans of political activists.”
NLG Director Heidi Boghosian. “Partnerships between law enforcement and corporations, including the news media, are cropping up with increasing frequency,” Boghosian said.In addition to police in Washington, D.C. using a truck with an infrared scanner to determine if individuals were sleeping at McPherson Square after they cleared tents from the Occupy encampment, other high-tech threats exist: “The federal government and local police agencies are using Predator drones with increasing frequency to spy on suspects domestically. The drones are equipped with high-resolution cameras, heat sensors and radar—it does not take much stretch of the imagination to see how the drones can be adapted for spying on political activists. These aircraft are capable of flying for up to 20 hours, making them more powerful than police airplanes or helicopters.”
Beside the high-tech threats, local governments preparing for large-scale protests before the political conventions are bolstering their standard toolbox with military equipment such as armed tanks. “The Tampa City Council voted to spend part of the federal grant money for the 2012 Republican National Convention— $50 million – for police “upgrades,” including a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle to supplement two older armored vehicles the city purchased through a military surplus program,” Boghosian said.
“Partnerships between law enforcement and corporations, including the news media, are cropping up with increasing frequency,” she continued. “Routinely, police shut down entire city blocks sweeping up everyone in sight, and control or prohibit credentialed journalists’ access during the process. That happened in New York when members of the press were kept away from a middle-of-the-night closing of Zuccotti Park, and in Los Angeles in late November when the LAPD shut down Occupy Los Angeles.” Boghosian noted in this case that, “Reports indicated that television news helicopters stopped sending images of officers marching toward City Hall because the news station entered into an agreement with the LAPD to not reveal their plans. The police imposed an air space blackout forbidding all but law enforcement helicopters to film above Solidarity Park.”
How much is the government reaction to Occupy changing how dissent is policed, I wondered? Boghosian answered that police have access to technology to monitor protesters in ways not previously possible. Besides facial recognition, Internet data mining, and even drones, “…a high technology facility is planned for lower Manhattan, where Wall Street businesses will cooperate with the New York Police Department in spying on citizens. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly expressed the department’s commitment to implementing a security plan that will include a centralized coordination center with space for full-time representation from Goldman Sachs and other corporate partners.”
Then there’s the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which issued a subpoena asking for three months of information from a Twitter account of a person arrested in the ‘trap-and-arrest’ of Occupy Wall Street marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge. The defense attorney, NLG member Martin Stolar, filed a motion to quash the subpoena contending that it was overbroad, was issued for an improper purpose, and constituted an abuse of the court process. He also wrote that the range of information requested suggested that the DA might be using the subpoena for investigative purposes rather than to provide evidence to uphold a charge of disorderly conduct.
Police also dealt a blow to using new media to cover protest actions when they raided the Brooklyn studio of, a website that aggregates live streaming content on the Occupy movement and arrested six of its volunteers. “Police had delivered a notice to vacate prior to the raid. Authorities claimed that the conditions in the space were perilous to life,” Boghosian noted drily.
Combine these developments with the new National Defense Authorization Act, (a broad and likely unconstitutional new law described by Glenn Greenwald as “…the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s,”) and one sees a broad and robust reaction to what Time magazine dubbed “the year of the protester.”
To the NLG’s Boghosian, not only is the NDAA unconstitutional, but also immoral and inhumane. The provisions on indefinite detention clearly violate due process and it overall “turns international humanitarian law on its head by mocking the concept that prisoners of war may be detained only until the end of hostilities,” she said. “As propaganda about radical Islam replace communism in the United States government’s rubric of fear, the executive branch abrogates any semblance of democracy. It was important that Chris Hedges brought his legal challenge to hold our leaders accountable and to propel critical issues into the public forum. I hope that he has a chance at prevailing and urge more citizens to bring such challenges to unlawful government actions. They may not like to let on, but judges read the newspapers. The silver lining in this is that the NDAA formalizes the many illegal practices already occurring, allowing formal challenges to be brought against them.”
From the multiple Occupy encampments to the climate camps on mountaintops in Appalachia to the one outside the courthouse in Utah where Tim DeChristopher took his defiant stand, all of the developments in how dissent is policed forces one to wonder whether the U.S. Justice System is actually about justice. Louis Wolcher, Professor of Law at University of Washington School of Law, told me that the term ‘justice system’ actually “…conflates law with justice, whereas the word justice means far more than law, as does the word ethics.” NLG’s Boghosian added that justice is also about politics, in that politics trumps justice and laws in most cases. “It takes a brave judge, and morally courageous lawyers, to stand up and make the just and legal decision in the face of the dominant political paradigm.”
What the justice system is actually for is a huge question, one that must be answered by the legions of activists, lawyers, and citizens who want to ensure a more transparent, just, equitable, and sustainable society. In the absence of such a response, the exercise of free speech in the U.S. will be increasingly constrained.
Heidi Boghosian, Patrick Shea, and others will continue the discussion of what the justice system is for next week: Punishing Protest: Live Discussion of the U.S. Justice System, February 21. The event is free and all are welcome to join by phone and computer to learn more, share their thoughts, and ask their questions.
Erik Hoffner
Erik Hoffner is a freelance photojournalist whose writing appears in National Geographic NewsWatch, Earth Island Journal, Grist, World Ark, and Yale Environment 360. His photographic work can be seen at, and he is also Outreach Coordinator for the award-winning nonprofit magazine about planetary stewardship, Orion.

Occupy Draws Strength From the Powerless by Chris Hedges / Common Dreams

There is a recipe for breaking popular movements. I watched it play out over five years in the war in El Salvador. I now see these familiar patterns in the assault against the Occupy movement. It goes like this. Physically eradicate the insurgents’ logistical base of operations to disrupt communication and organization. Dry up financial and material support. Create rival organizations—the group Stand for Oakland seems to be one of these attempts—to discredit and purge the rebel leadership. Infiltrate the movement to foster internal divisions and rivalries, a tactic carried out consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, by an anonymous West Coast group known as OLAASM—Occupy Los Angeles Anti Social Media. Provoke the movement—or front groups acting in the name of the movement—to carry out actions such as vandalism and physical confrontations with the police that alienate the wider populace from the insurgency. Invent atrocities and repugnant acts supposedly carried out by the movement and plant these stories in the media. Finally, offer up a political alternative. In the war in El Salvador it was Jose Napoleon Duarte. For the Occupy movement it is someone like Van Jones. And use this “reformist” to co-opt the language of the movement and promise to promote the movement’s core aims through the electoral process. An Occupy demonstrator sprawls beside a police car in Urbandale, Iowa, during a protest last December outside Republican presidential campaign offices in the Des Moines suburb. (AP / Evan Vucci)
Counterinsurgency campaigns, although they involve arms and weapons, are primarily about, in the old cliché, hearts and minds. And the tactics employed by our intelligence operatives abroad are not dissimilar to those employed by our intelligence operatives at home. These operatives are, in fact, often the same people. The state has expended external resources to break the movement. It is reasonable to assume it has expended internal resources to break the movement.
The security and surveillance state has a vast arsenal and array of tools at its disposal. It operates in secret. It dissembles and lies. It hides behind phony organizations and individuals who use false histories and false names. It has millions of dollars to spend, the capacity to deny not only its activities but also its existence. Its physical assets honeycomb the country. It can wiretap, eavesdrop and monitor every form of communication. It can hire informants, send in clandestine agents, recruit members within the movement by offering legal immunity, churn out a steady stream of divisive propaganda and amass huge databases and clandestine operations centers. And it is authorized to use deadly force.
How do we fight back? We do not have the tools or the wealth of the state. We cannot beat it at its own game. We cannot ferret out infiltrators. The legal system is almost always on the state’s side. If we attempt to replicate the elaborate security apparatus of our oppressors, even on a small scale, we will unleash widespread paranoia and fracture the movement. If we retreat into anonymity, hiding behind masks, then we provide an opening for agents provocateurs who deny their identities while disrupting the movement. If we fight pitched battles in the streets we give authorities an excuse to fire their weapons.
All we have, as Vaclav Havel writes, is our own powerlessness. And that powerlessness is our strength. The survival of the movement depends on embracing this powerlessness. It depends on two of our most important assets—utter and complete transparency and a rigid adherence to nonviolence, including respect for private property. This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.
Havel, who would later become the first president of the Czech Republic, in the essay writes a reflection on the mind of a greengrocer who, as instructed, puts up a poster “among the onions and carrots” that reads: “Workers of the World Unite!” The poster is displayed partly out of habit, partly because everyone else does it, and partly out of fear of the consequences for not following the rules. The greengrocer would not, Havel writes, display a poster saying: “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.” And here is the difference between the terror of a Josef Stalin or an Adolf Hitler and the collective charade between the rulers and the ruled that by the 1970s had gripped Czechoslovakia.
“Imagine,” Havel writes, “that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”
This attempt to “live within the truth” brings with it ostracism and retribution. Punishment is imposed in bankrupt systems because of the necessity for compliance, not out of any real conviction. And the real crime committed is not the crime of speaking out or defying the rules, but the crime of exposing the charade.
“By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such, he has exposed it as a mere game,” Havel says of his greengrocer. “He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted façade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can coexist with living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.”
Those who do not carve out spaces separate from the state and its systems of power, those who cannot find room to become autonomous, or who do not “live in truth,” inevitably become compromised. In Havel’s words, they “are the system.” The Occupy movement, by naming corporate power and refusing to compromise with it, by forming alternative systems of community and society, embodies Havel’s call to “live in truth.” It does not appeal to the systems of control, and for this reason it is a genuine threat to the corporate state.
Movements that call on followers to “live in truth” do not always succeed. They failed in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, triggering armed insurgencies and blood-drenched civil wars. They have failed so far in Iran, the Israeli-occupied territories and Syria. China has a movement modeled after Havel’s Charter 77 called Charter 08. But the Chinese opposition to the state has been effectively suppressed, even though its principal author, Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year prison term for “incitement of subversion of state power,” was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Power elites who stubbornly refuse to heed popular will and resort to harsher and harsher forms of state control can easily provoke counterviolence. The first Palestinian uprising, which lasted from 1987 to 1992, saw crowds of demonstrators throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, but it was largely a nonviolent movement. The second uprising, or intifada, which erupted in 2000 and endured for five years, with armed attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, was not. History is dotted with brutal fratricides spawned by calcified and repressive elites who ignored peaceful protest. And even when nonviolent movements do succeed, it is impossible to predict when they will spawn an uprising or how long the process will take. As Timothy Garton Ash noted about Eastern Europe’s revolutions of the late 20th century, in Poland the revolt took 10 years, in East Germany 10 weeks, in Czechoslovakia 10 days.
Occupy’s most powerful asset is that it articulates this truth. And this truth is understood by the mainstream, the 99 percent. If the movement is severed from the mainstream, which I expect is the primary goal of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, it will be crippled and easily contained. Other, more militant groups may rise and even flourish, but if the Occupy movement is to retain the majority it will have to fight within self-imposed limitations of nonviolence.
I do not know if it will succeed. If it does not ,then I fear we will see the classical forms of violent protest that are used by an enraged and frustrated populace; for me such a turn to violence, while understandable, is always tragic. Violence is a poison, even when it is ingested in a supposedly just cause. It contaminates all who use it. I watched this poison work on repressors and the repressed from Latin America to the Middle East to the Balkans. I am not a pacifist. I know there are limits. But I desperately want to avoid going there.
“We would not have a movement if violence or property damage were used from the outset,” Kevin Zeese, one of the first activists to call for an Occupy movement, told me. “People are not drawn to violent movement. Such tactics will shrink rather than expand our base of support. Property damage justifies police violence to many Americans. There is a wide range of diversity of tactics within a nonviolent strategy. Disciplined nonviolence is often more difficult because anger and emotion lead people to want to strike back at the police when they are violent, but disciplined nonviolence is the tactic that is most effective against the violence of the state.”
The organizer Lisa Fithian is an author of one of the most concise arguments for nonviolence, “Open Letter to the Occupy Movement: Why We Need Agreements.” The essay points out that without agreements that enshrine nonviolence, “the young [are privileged] over the old, the loud voices over the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to face the consequences.”
“ ‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and accountability,” Fithian and two other authors write of the slogan used by the Black Bloc anarchists. “It lets us off the hook from doing the hard work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.”
“The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies,” the article goes on. “Some of us want to reform the system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.
“Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be accountable and transparent,” the authors write. “Some tactics are incompatible with those goals, even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate. We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.”
We must assume we are targets. And we must fight back by relying on our strength, which in the great paradox of resistance movements is embodied in our weakness. This does not mean we will avoid being repressed or persecuted. It will not keep us safe from slander, lies or jail. But it does offer the capacity to create internal divisions in the apparatus of the oppressors rather than permit the oppressors to create internal divisions within the movement. Divided loyalties create paralysis. And it is our job to paralyze them, not allow them to paralyze us.
Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Occupy Protesters Sue NYC over Pepper Spray Incident - Common Dreams staff

Two protesters who were pepper sprayed by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna of the NYPD last fall during a peaceful march against Wall Street crimes and corporate greed, have sued the city for damages.
The lawsuit states, "Anthony Bologna maced the plaintiffs as they were exercising their constitutionally protected rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly."Chelsea Elliott (right) and Kaylee Dedrick (2nd from left on knees) scream in pain after they and two others were sprayed with pepper spray by NYPD Dep. Inspector Anthony Bologna on 12th St. near Union Square. (Jefferson Siegel for New York Daily News)
And Reuters reports:
In a viral online video, Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna was shown pepper-spraying several protesters involved in a march in September, about a week after the Occupy Wall Street movement set up camp in a park in the city's financial district.
The video helped draw attention to the Occupy protests, which spread throughout the country last fall with calls for greater economic equality before the movement lost some ground as many U.S. cities evicted them from tent camp footholds.
Chelsea Elliott of Brooklyn and Jeanne Mansfield of Massachusetts filed the lawsuit last week in Manhattan federal court against Bologna, the city, the police department and other unidentified officers.
Bologna was docked 10 vacation days for "using pepper spray outside of department guidelines," police said in October.
In an interview with The New York Daily News, Mansfield, 24, a Boston writer, said she was suing because she wanted to put the NYPD on notice that what Bologna did was wrong.
"I was attending a peaceful demonstration when I was met with what I feel was an undue amount of force," she said.
Mansfield said she is sympathetic to police in general but said she didn't deserve to be pepper-sprayed.
"I think he allowed his emotions to get the best of him," she said of Bologna.
The lawsuit, filed quietly last Wednesday, accuses Bologna of violating both women's civil rights.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

.The battle for McPherson Square Rough police tactics rout 300 protesters from their tent city in the heart of Washington By Jefferson Morley / Salon

“Move back!” shouted the cop wielding a clear Plexiglas shield emblazoned with the words “U.S. Park Police” as he moved into the crowd of demonstrators thronging McPherson Square on Saturday afternoon. The photographer next to me was shouting, “I’m press!” but that didn’t seem to impress the phalanx of officers advancing on us, applying their shields to our shoulders.
“Move back!” the cop explained, and I went sprawling into what used to be the main information tent of OccupyDC. It was the place where you could always find someone who could tell you about the camp’s activities. It was a place where I had debated fiat money with a Ron Paul supporter, chatted with a delusional homeless man, and talked union politics with a woman from National Nurses United. Now the tent was a flat lumpy mess, and people were scrambling over it to get away from the suddenly aggressive cops. Nearby, mounted officers on horses were slowly wading their steeds into a river of people, and some screamed in panic at the approach of the massive animals.

Jefferson Morley is the Washington editor of Salon and author of the forthcoming book, Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday). More Jefferson Morley