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Open Letter to ACLU Director Anthony Romero February 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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OpEdNews Op Eds 2/22/2013 at 16:59:12

Dear Mr Romero-

 

   I’m writing to ask you to direct ACLU activities where stakes are highest, and opposition will be fiercest.  Arguably, we’re in a civil liberties emergency in this country, and it may be hard to know where to allocate resources.  I wouldn’t want to downplay the importance of any of the Union’s work. But in my mind, the most effective, leveraged and important thing the Union can do is to defend journalists who have been fired, prosecuted, jailed without charge or murdered.  A few well-publicized jailings serve to chill an entire community of muckrakers, and the worst elements in our government remain un-exposed.
Media consolidation has tamed the tiger that was once American journalism.  Print and broadcast giants cover the stories they’re supposed to and report the version of the facts that the Administration wants them to report.  Most important, they refrain from asking pointed questions.  But meanwhile, the internet has grown up as an alternative source of information, an anarchically-democratic mosaic of truth and nonsense.
As the newspapers become at once sensationalist and insipid, readers are turning to the internet for their news.  The Bush Administration was a criminal syndicate from top to bottom, and they saw clearly what was at stake in internet freedom.  Surprisingly, horrifyingly, the Obama Administration has continued and intensified Bush’s war against truth.  They have murdered Al Jazeera reporters with drones.  They have simultaneously managed the news through leaking what they want the public to know, while prosecuting whistleblowers whose leaks embarrass their allies.  Gary Webb and Aaron Swartz are dead.  Julian Assange is a refugee in asylum, functionally a prisoner.  Bradley Manning is in his third year of torture.  I recently learned of the story of Barrett Brown, who is being held without bail after posting in an e-chat room a link to documents that others had leaked.  “Local” police have been recruited by Homeland Security to break the back of the Occupy movement with violence and intimidation, while the movement’s leadership has been thrown in disarray by infiltration and FBI agents-provocateurs.  All this from the administration of a former Constitutional Law professor, who campaigned in 2008 promising a new openness and transparency in the White House. This all appears to be part of an initiative to smash dissent that was proposed and now is being implemented by the President’s friend and program head, Cass Sunstein,
 If ACLU stands strong beside those who are courageously seeking to provide us with a window into government corruption and its corporate sponsors, then ACLU will have the allies in the press that it needs to win all its other battles.  But if we lose our free press, we lose our democracy, and all the channels through which ACLU has been fighting its good fight become blind alleys.
- Josh Mitteldorf

Occupy the Dam: Brazil’s Indigenous Uprising July 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: the author of the article posted below, John Perkins, has written “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” his account of his personal involvement in measures to create debt in third world countries in order to gain political leverage over their governments.  These “measures” range from bribes to falsified reports to the probable assassination of the presidents of Panama and Ecuador.  I highly recommend this book: it is available as an Ebook.

Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 by YES! Magazine

 

In the Amazonian backcountry, tribes are challenging construction of the world’s third-largest dam—by dismantling it. Here’s what they can teach us about standing up to power.

Indigenous tribesmen stand firm near the Belo Monte Dam. (Photos courtesy of International Rivers)

Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.

Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology.

The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.

History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.

The indigenous cultures threatened by the Belo Monte Dam, including those of the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakanã, Kuruaya and Kayapó tribes, are tied to the land: generations have hunted and gathered and cultivated the same areas for centuries. They—as well as local flora and fauna—have suffered disproportionately from the effects of other hydroelectric dams, while rarely gaining any of the potential benefits. Now they are fighting back.

The indigenous people’s occupation of the dam garnered international attention, connecting their situation to other events across the globe.

Indigenous leaders from these groups have asked the Brazilian government to immediately withdraw the installation license for Belo Monte. They demand a halt to work until the government puts into place “effective programs and measures to address the impacts of the dam on local people.” They point out that a promised monetary program to compensate for the negative impacts of the mega-dam has not yet been presented in local villages; also, that a system to ensure small boat navigation in the vicinity of the cofferdams, temporary enclosures built to facilitate the construction process, has not been implemented. Without such a system, many will be isolated from markets, health care facilities, and other services. The cofferdams have already rendered much of the region’s water undrinkable and unsuitable for bathing. Wells promised by the government and Norte Energia have not yet been drilled. The list of grievances goes on and on and is only the latest in a very old story of exploitation of nature and people in the name of “progress.” Far too often, this has meant benefiting only the wealthiest in society and business.

Yet here in the backcountry of Brazil, there is a difference: the makings of a new story. The indigenous people’s occupation of the dam garnered international attention, connecting their situation to other events across the globe—the Arab Spring, democratic revolutions in Latin America, the Occupy Movement, and austerity strikes in Spain and other European nations. Brazil’s indigenous protesters have essentially joined protesters on every continent who are demanding that rights be restored to the people.

Stories take time to evolve. This one—the story of people awakening on a global level to the need to oppose and replace exploitative dreams—is still in its beginning phase. And the first chapter has been powerful, elegant, and bold.

A few years ago I was invited, with a group, to Ladakh, a protectorate of India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among a great deal of sage advice he offered was the following: “It is important to pray and meditate for peace, for a more compassionate and better world. But if that is all you do, it is a waste of time. You also must take actions to make that happen. Every single day.”

It is time for each and every one us to follow that advice.

Opposing the Belo Monte Dam project provides an opportunity for you and me to honor those words, and those leading resistance to it can help us understand the importance of looking around—in our neighborhoods as well as globally—to determine what else we can do to change the story.

Click here to view photo essay of the indigenous resistance to the Belo Monte Dam construction.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Anaheim fights back against outrageous police killing July 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
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Roger’s note: watch the video from beginning to end (the link is in the second paragraph).  Among other things you will see the police unleash a vicious police dog, who attacks a babe in arms.  Unfortunately, what we are seeing here is not atypical.  Police forces around the nation have been brutalizing peaceful demonstrators with unprecedented degrees of violence since the beginning of the Occupy movement.  Repression against Americans and Canadians who are exercising their right to demonstrate against racism, war, social injustice, etc. has become the unofficial policy in our so-called democracies.

On Saturday, July 21, Anaheim police shot and killed Manuel Diaz. According to the OC Register, “A 17-year-old who lives in the neighborhood said she saw the shooting from about 20 feet away. She said Diaz had his back to the officer and was shot in the buttocks area. Diaz went down on his knees, and she said he was struck by another bullet in the head. The other officer handcuffed Diaz, who by then was on the ground and not moving, she added.’They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,’ she said.”

Witnesses say Manuel Diaz was simply hanging out when police began harassing him. In response to the killing, friends and neighbors began gathering in their front lawns. Then, without warning, Anaheim police began firing rubber bullets, beanbag shotguns, and pepper-spray bullets indiscriminately into the crowd which included children–even unleashing a police attack dog on a woman holding a child. In the harrowing video, you can clearly see baby strollers and toddlers in the line of fire.

In response to the killing, people immediately came from the area to protest. On Sunday, a large group picketed outside the Anaheim Police Station where the police were holding a press conference about the killing. As the protest grew, demonstrators, who were led by victims of police abuse (including young children), held a protest inside the police station.

As the community continued to mobilize, the Anaheim police then killed another resident on Sunday night. Witnesses say the victim was already handcuffed when he was shot. Another spontaneous demonstration continued until about 4am.

As the situation develops, the ANSWER Coalition will continue to be on the ground supporting the community in their struggle for justice. History shows us that there is no accountability or justice unless the people fight for it. The community will continue to mobilize in order to hold the killer cops and police department accountable.

How you can help:

ANSWER LA has been organizing against police brutality in southern California for years in response to the scourge of police violence directed at working-class communities.

 

 

 

Grandparents, Unite! Your Grandchildren’s Future is at Stake January 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 by CommonDreams.org

“What are these grandmas and grandpas demanding? “Equitable taxation of the 1%; regulation of the banks; arrests of the perpetrators of the economic collapse;  depersonalization of the corporations;  an end to US wars. The list of interconnected problems is overwhelming.”
  by Sally and Bill McCoy

“Your grandchildren’s future is at stake. Your courageous voices, actions, and sanity are needed to defend their dreams and their right to a full and happy life. Join us and help draw attention to the institutions and injustices which are eroding our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation, the international community, and the ecology of our world. The time to speak out and act is now! Our visibility is essential to helping raise the hopes and consciousness of our community. We urge all grandparents to stand up for the future generations and for those who are presently vulnerable to the collapse of our democracy and our rights.

 

This call to action was sent out last Summer in Rochester, NY by the ‘Band of Rebels’, a small group of grandparents who could no longer sit in their rocking chairs watching the deterioration of the underpinnings of civilization. Since late July the ‘rebels’ have picketed banks every week and joined the eruption of protests initiated by various local groups, including Occupy Rochester.

Every week, more and more grandparents have joined the ‘Rebels’. Local union members have joined the picket lines. The Occupy Rochester youth have also participated as well as members of other organizations. We are now urging grandchildren as well as grandparents to join us (since everyone is a grandchild). Other communities in the Rochester area have contacted us for help forming their own bands of rebels. A ‘band’ in Wayne County to the east of us is picketing weekly in Newark.

The national media has attempted to paint a negative and false image of the Occupy Wall Street movement which has swept across the country by suggesting that it is made up of scruffy, unemployed youth who lack direction and leadership. How about a companion movement of scruffy, unemployed senior citizens who can be just as determined and whose objectives are identical to those brave and creative younger people?

Our grandchildren are facing a future which will be lived in the rubble of our broken democracy and our misguided empire. We advocate: equitable taxation of the 1%; regulation of the banks; arrests of the perpetrators of the economic collapse; depersonalization of the corporations; an end to U.S. wars. The list of interconnected problems is overwhelming. Everyone needs universal health care, employment, affordable education, affordable housing, freedom from discrimination and democracy. The list of roadblocks to the obvious solutions is short. Greed, misinformation, and fear manufactured by the corporate powers.

In addition, our grandchildren are facing the disastrous effects of human interference with the earth’s natural balance of the biosphere. Despite the fact that since the early 1700s scientists have been warning that humans are causing permanent damage to the environment which effects climate and all forms of life, there is still widespread denial that life on our planet is in serious trouble.

The concerns that have triggered the current world protests affect people of all generations and it is clear that those between the young and the old are also beginning to head for the streets. The outcry is being heard all over the world. The protests in Madison, Wisconsin this past year motivated our local response and the Occupy Wall Street movement cemented our resolve to make ourselves heard. We encourage grandparents and grandchildren across the country to join in the fight to rescue the future.

There are 39 million Americans over the age of 65, 13% of the population. We urge grandparents everywhere to participate in the protection of all grandchildren. Hang on to your torches. Light a few more torches. Take back our democracy, our communities and our country, and our planet.

Sally (74) and Bill (72) McCoy are members of ‘Band of Rebels‘ in Rochester, New York.  A retired teacher and engineer, they have  8 children, 20 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.  They have been activists since the civil rights movement.

New York Police Brutality in Living Color: Obama’s “Democracy” in Action November 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, New York, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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A picture is worth a thousand words.  I urge you to take a good look at this slide show.  You won’t see these scenes at a Tea Party gathering.

Roger

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/occupy-wall-street-protesters-_n_1099871.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk4%7C113799#s482263&title=Demonstrators_with_Occupy

‘Occupy Antarctica’ Protester Carries On Despite -50 Degree Temperatures November 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Mark Donahue, http://www.thedailyrash.com/occupy-antarctica-protester-carries-on-despite-50-degree-temperatures

AMUNDSEN-SCOTT, ANTARCTICA – In the tradition of some of the most ardent revolutionaries throughout history, 32 year-old Steinar Skramstad isn’t allowing inconvenient circumstances to hinder his steadfast determination to lead the charge for change in Antarctica. Protesting by himself in mind numbing -50 degree temperatures outside his parents’ home, Steinar Skramstad’s lonely revolt against corporate predators is a stoic demonstration of a modern day David standing tall and defiant in the face of a Goliath called Wall Street. A lionhearted rebel’s valiant crusade to make his world a better and brighter place. With wind gusts up to seventy miles per hour, Steinar is routinely knocked off his feet and sent sliding across the icy tundra until he is able to stand again. Forced to venture indoors every three to four minutes to avoid hypothermia, Mr. Skramstad returns to the brutal and merciless outdoors after his hallucinations dissipate to resume his demonstration against greed.

Over a static filled short wave radio interview, Steinar Skramstad’s mom told the Daily Rash that she is proud of her son’s ‘Occupy Antarctica’ protest to make the world a better place.

“Is what my son is doing any different than the actions of revolutionaries like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi or Kanye West? Steinar’s father and I are so proud of his willingness to stand outside in a frigid, barren wasteland of ice and rock and protest until Wall Street pariahs hear his cries for change. And to be honest, I don’t know of any other revolutionaries who’ve had their eyes freeze shut so tight that you need a fork to pry them open. Do you?”

Steinar’s father, Skjoldulv Skramstad, is a glaciologist who studies snow for the Department of Energy’s “Office of Science.” The elder Skramstad received his PhD in Snow at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Skjoldulv’s wife Betty, an artist who makes ice sculptures, stole his heart in college when she took a pile of snow he was studying in class and shaped it into a remarkable likeness of downtown Chapel Hill. Betty Skramstad said the passion she and her husband have for snow and ice rubbed off on Steinar.

“At a very young age Steinar was mesmerized by ice. We had to put a lock on the freezer to keep him away from the ice trays. When he was five we bought him his first snow cone and he got so excited that he began jumping up and down and peeing in his pants. To this day he has an insatiable urge to urinate when it snows.”

Like his father before him, Steinar Skramstad earned a PhD in Snow at UNC. His dreams of working along side his dad were shattered when Congress slashed funding for the Office of Science. Burdened with an $85,000 student loan and few employment prospects, Steinar was forced to move back home with his parents after school ended. Last week, after his mom read him a newspaper clipping about Occupy Wall Street protesters demanding their student loans be forgiven, Steinar recognized a fury growing within him to begin demonstrating against corporate greed.

“There are very few part-time job opportunities here in Antarctica,” Steinar’s mother told the Daily Rash. “Even though Steinar helps around the house by taking out the trash and feeding the goldfish, his father and I wish he could contribute more to his $600 school loan payment that we’ve been saddled with. If his courageous and selfless protests against greed and corruption inadvertently led to the elimination of his student loans, it would be a tiny pat on the back for a magnanimous young man’s heroic efforts to battle the soulless and corrupt cretins of Wall Street.”

Roger’s note: something tells me the Daily Rash is known for putting out satiric news.

 

Police Refuse to Arrest Protesters: These People Are Not Causing Trouble October 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I recently watched a video that juxtaposed Obama and Clinton decrying the attacks on peaceful protesters in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, etc. with footage of police brutality agains the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  What is reported below from Albany, New York, appears to be an exception, but let us hope other city police forces will follow example.
 
10.24.11 – 9:03 PM
by Abby Zimet

State troopers and police pushed back against orders from the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to enforce a city curfew and arrest Occupy Albany protesters that included families and older people, saying it would damage community relations and their policy is not to prosecute peaceful protesters. Both entirely logical arguments. They even offered white lies on protesters’ behalf, saying the were confined to sidewalks when in fact they had set up tents on park land. Bravo Albany.

“There was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them … and then what do we do with the children?”

Why the Elites Are in Trouble October 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
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Published on Monday, October 10, 2011 by TruthDig.com

  by  Chris Hedges

Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars’ worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence.

The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave a few days ago to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.

Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?

The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.

 (photo: hunter.gatherer)

“The world can’t continue on its current path and survive,” Ketchup told me. “That idea is selfish and blind. It’s not sustainable. People all over the globe are suffering needlessly at our hands.”

The occupation of Wall Street has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. If the police shut down the encampment in New York tonight, the power elite will still lose, for this vision and structure have been imprinted into the thousands of people who have passed through park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. The greatest gift the occupation has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint is being transferred to cities and parks across the country.

“We get to the park,” Ketchup says of the first day. “There’s madness for a little while. There were a lot of people. They were using megaphones at first. Nobody could hear. Then someone says we should get into circles and talk about what needed to happen, what we thought we could accomplish. And so that’s what we did. There was a note-taker in each circle. I don’t know what happened with those notes, probably nothing, but it was a good start. One person at a time, airing your ideas. There was one person saying that he wasn’t very hopeful about what we could accomplish here, that he wasn’t very optimistic. And then my response was that, well, we have to be optimistic, because if anybody’s going to get anything done, it’s going be us here. People said different things about what our priorities should be. People were talking about the one-demand idea. Someone called for AIG executives to be prosecuted. There was someone who had come from Spain to be there, saying that she was here to help us avoid the mistakes that were made in Spain. It was a wide spectrum. Some had come because of their own personal suffering or what they saw in the world.”

“After the circles broke I felt disheartened because it was sort of chaotic,” she said. “I didn’t have anybody there, so it was a little depressing. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“Over the past few months, people had been meeting in New York City general assembly,” she said. “One of them is named Brooke. She’s a professor of social ecology. She did my facilitation training. There’s her and a lot of other people, students, school teachers, different people who were involved with that … so they organized a general assembly.”

“It’s funny that the cops won’t let us use megaphones, because it’s to make our lives harder, but we actually end up making a much louder sound [with the “people’s mic”] and I imagine it’s much more annoying to the people around us,” she said. “I had been in the back, unable to hear. I walked to different parts of the circle. I saw this man talking in short phrases and people were repeating them. I don’t know whose idea it was, but that started on the first night. The first general assembly was a little chaotic because people had no idea … a general assembly, what is this for? At first it was kind of grandstanding about what were our demands. Ending corporate personhood is one that has come up again and again as a favorite and. … What ended up happening was, they said, OK, we’re going to break into work groups.

“People were worried we were going to get kicked out of the park at 10 p.m. This was a major concern. There were tons of cops. I’ve heard that it’s costing the city a ton of money to have constant surveillance on a bunch of peaceful protesters who aren’t hurting anyone. With the people’s mic, everything we do is completely transparent. We know there are undercover cops in the crowd. I think I was talking to one last night, but it’s like, what are you trying to accomplish? We don’t have any secrets.”

“The undercover cops are the only ones who ask, ‘Who’s the leader?’ ” she said. “Presumably, if they know who our leaders are they can take them out. The fact is we have no leader. There’s no leader, so there’s nothing they can do.

“There was a woman [in the medics unit]. This guy was pretending to be a reporter. The first question he asks is, ‘Who’s the leader?’  She goes, ‘I’m the leader.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah, what are you in charge of?’ She says, ‘I’m in a charge of everything.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah?  What’s your title?’ She says ‘God.’ ”

“So it’s 9:30 p.m. and people are worried that they’re going to try and rush us out of the camp,” she said, referring back to the first day. “At 9:30 they break into work groups. I joined the group on contingency plans. The job of the bedding group was to find cardboard for people to sleep on. The contingency group had to decide what to do if they kick us out. The big decision we made was to announce to the group that if we were dispersed we were going to meet back at 10 a.m. the next day in the park. Another group was arts and culture. What was really cool was that we assumed we were going to be there more than one night. There was a food group. They were going dumpster diving. The direct action committee plans for direct, visible action like marches. There was a security team. It’s security against the cops. The cops are the only people we think that might hurt us. The security team keeps people awake in shifts. They always have people awake.”

The work groups make logistical decisions, and the general assembly makes large policy decisions.

“Work groups make their own decisions,” Ketchup said. “For example, someone donated a laptop. And because I’ve been taking minutes I keep running around and asking, ‘Does someone have a laptop I could borrow?’ The media team, upon receiving that laptop, designated it to me for my use on behalf of the Internet committee. The computer isn’t mine. When I go back to Chicago, I’m not going to take it. Right now I don’t even know where it is. Someone else is using it. But so, after hearing this, people thought it had been gifted to me personally. People were upset by that. So a member of the Internet work group went in front of the group and said, ‘This is a need of the committee. It’s been put into Ketchup’s care.’ They explained that to the group, but didn’t ask for consensus on it, because the committees are empowered. Some people might still think that choice was inappropriate. In the future, it might be handled differently.”

Working groups blossomed in the following days. The media working group was joined by a welcome working group for new arrivals, a sanitation working group (some members of which go around the park on skateboards as they carry brooms), a legal working group with lawyers, an events working group, an education working group, medics, a facilitation working group (which trains new facilitators for the general assembly meetings), a public relations working group, and an outreach working group for like-minded communities as well as the general public. There is an Internet working group and an open source technology working group. The nearby McDonald’s is the principal bathroom for the park after Burger King banned protesters from its facilities.

Caucuses also grew up in the encampment, including a “Speak Easy caucus.” “That’s a caucus I started,” Ketchup said. “It is for a broad spectrum of individuals from female-bodied people who identify as women to male-bodied people who are not traditionally masculine. That’s called the ‘Speak Easy’ caucus. I was just talking to a woman named Sharon who’s interested in starting a caucus for people of color.

“A caucus gives people a safe space to talk to each other without people from the culture of their oppressors present. It gives them greater power together, so that if the larger group is taking an action that the caucus felt was specifically against their interests, then the caucus can block that action. Consensus can potentially still be reached after a caucus blocks something, but a block, or a ‘paramount objection,’ is really serious. You’re saying that you are willing to walk out.”

“We’ve done a couple of things so far,” she said. “So, you know the live stream? The comments are moderated on the live stream. There are moderators who remove racist comments, comments that say ‘I hate cops’ or ‘Kill cops.’ They remove irrelevant comments that have nothing to do with the movement. There is this woman who is incredibly hardworking and intelligent. She has been the driving force of the finance committee. Her hair is half-blond and half-black. People were referring to her as “blond-black hottie.”  These comments weren’t moderated, and at one point whoever was running the camera took the camera off her face and did a body scan. So, that was one of the first things the caucus talked about. We decided as a caucus that I would go to the moderators and tell them this is a serious problem. If you’re moderating other offensive comments then you need to moderate these kinds of offensive comments.”

The heart of the protest is the two daily meetings, held in the morning and the evening. The assemblies, which usually last about two hours, start with a review of process, which is open to change and improvement, so people are clear about how the assembly works. Those who would like to speak raise their hand and get on “stack.”

“There’s a stack keeper,” Ketchup said. “The stack keeper writes down your name or some signifier for you. A lot of white men are the people raising their hands. So, anyone who is not apparently a white man gets to jump stack. The stack keeper will make note of the fact that the person who put their hand up was not a white man and will arrange the list so that it’s not dominated by white men. People don’t get called up in the same order as they raise their hand.”

While someone is speaking, their words amplified by the people’s mic, the crowd responds through hand signals.

“Putting your fingers up like this,” she said, holding her hands up and wiggling her fingers, “means you like what you’re hearing, or you’re in agreement. Like this,” she said, holding her hands level and wiggling her fingers, “means you don’t like it so much. Fingers down, you don’t like it at all; you’re not in agreement. Then there’s this triangle you make with your hand that says ‘point of process.’  So, if you think that something is not being respected within the process that we’ve agreed to follow then you can bring that up.”

“You wait till you’re called,” she said. “These rules get abused all the time, but they are important. We start with agenda items, which are proposals or group discussions. Then working group report-backs, so you know what every working group is doing. Then we have general announcements. The agenda items have been brought to the facilitators by the working groups because you need the whole group to pay attention. Like last night, Legal brought up a discussion on bail: ‘Can we agree that the money from the general funds can be allotted if someone needs bail?’ And the group had to come to consensus on that. [It decided yes.] There’s two co-facilitators, a stack keeper, a timekeeper, a vibes-person making sure that people are feeling OK, that people’s voices aren’t getting stomped on, and then if someone’s being really disruptive, the vibes-person deals with them. There’s a note-taker—I end up doing that a lot because I type very, very quickly. We try to keep the facilitation team one man, one woman, or one female-bodied person, one male-bodied person. When you facilitate multiple times it’s rough on your brain. You end up having a lot of criticism thrown your way. You need to keep the facilitators rotating as much as possible. It needs to be a huge, huge priority to have a strong facilitation group.”

“People have been yelled out of the park,” she said. “Someone had a sign the other day that said ‘Kill the Jew Bankers.’ They got screamed out of the park. Someone else had a sign with the N-word on it. That person’s sign was ripped up, but that person is apparently still in the park.

“We’re trying to make this a space that everyone can join. This is something the caucuses are trying to really work on. We are having workshops to get people to understand their privilege.”

But perhaps the most important rule adopted by the protesters is nonviolence and nonaggression against the police, no matter how brutal the police become.

“The cops, I think, maced those women in the face and expected the men and women around them to start a riot,” Ketchup said. “They want a riot. They can deal with a riot. They cannot deal with nonviolent protesters with cameras.”

I tell Ketchup I will bring her my winter sleeping bag. It is getting cold. She will need it. I leave her in a light drizzle and walk down Broadway. I pass the barricades, uniformed officers on motorcycles, the rows of paddy wagons and lines of patrol cars that block the streets into the financial district and surround the park. These bankers, I think, have no idea what they are up against.

Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C.

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. 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.

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Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now October 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
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3 comments
Published on Friday, October 7, 2011 by The Occupied Wall Street Journal

 

  by  Naomi Klein

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”

But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shutdowns.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.

A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.

§ What we wear.

§ Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.

§ Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.

And here are a few things that do matter.

§ Our courage.

§ Our moral compass.

§ How we treat each other.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Copyright © 2011 Naomi Klein

 

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City October 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Environment, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Poverty, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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www.nationofchange.org

What follows is the first official, collective
statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a
feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together.
We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the
world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality:
that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that
our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up
to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors;
that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but
corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the
Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined
by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place
profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality,
run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let
these facts be known.

 

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite
    not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give
    Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based
    on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the
    farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of
    countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate
    for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on
    education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as
    leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with
    none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get
    them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the
    press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives
    in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their
    policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible
    for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on
    oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s
    lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned
    a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping,
    and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control
    of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented
    with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians
    overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive
    government ontracts.*

 

To the people of the world, We, the New York City
General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert
your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy
public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate
solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form
groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and
all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

NationofChange has been an unfiltered media
resource for the Occupy Wall Street movement even while the mainstream media has
ignored, censored, and undermined the progress of the people.

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