Sunday, January 6, 2013

We are the 99 per cent

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation used counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning, according to newly disclosed agency records.

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The F.B.I. records show that as early as September 2011, an agent from a counterterrorism task force in New York notified officials of two landmarks in Lower Manhattan — Federal Hall and the Museum of American Finance — “that their building was identified as a point of interest for the Occupy Wall Street.”
That was around the time that Occupy Wall Street activists set up a camp in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, spawning a protest movement across the United States that focused the nation’s attention on issues of income inequality.
In the following months, F.B.I. personnel around the country were routinely involved in exchanging information about the movement with businesses, local law-enforcement agencies and universities.
An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist.
The memo said agents discussed “past and upcoming meetings” of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had “violent tendencies.”
The memo said that because of high rates of unemployment, “the movement was spreading throughout Florida and there were several Facebook pages dedicated to specific chapters based on geographical areas.”
The F.B.I. was concerned that the movement would provide “an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the F.B.I. has come under criticism for deploying counterterrorism agents to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on organizations active in environmental, animal-cruelty and poverty issues.
The disclosure of the F.B.I. records comes a little more than a year after the police ousted protesters from Zuccotti Park in November 2011. Law-enforcement agencies undertook similar actions around the country against Occupy Wall Street groups.
Occupy Wall Street has lost much of its visibility since then, but questions remain about how local and federal law-enforcement officials monitored and treated the protesters.
The records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil-rights organization in Washington, through a Freedom of Information request to the F.B.I. Many parts of the documents were redacted by the bureau.
The records provide one of the first glimpses into how deeply involved federal law-enforcement authorities were in monitoring the activities of the movement, which is sometimes described in extreme terms.
For example, according to a memo written by the F.B.I.’s New York field office in August 2011, bureau personnel met with officials from the New York Stock Exchange to discuss “the planned Anarchist protest titled ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ scheduled for September 17, 2011.”
“The protest appears on Anarchist Web sites and social network pages on the Internet,” the memo said.
It added: “Numerous incidents have occurred in the past which show attempts by Anarchist groups to disrupt, influence, and or shut down normal business operations of financial districts.”
A spokesman for the F.B.I. in Washington cautioned against “drawing conclusions from redacted” documents.
“The F.B.I. recognizes the rights of individuals and groups to engage in constitutionally protected activity,” said the spokesman, Paul Bresson. “While the F.B.I. is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity. In fact, the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”
But Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said the documents demonstrated that the F.B.I. had acted improperly by gathering information on Americans involved in lawful activities.
“The collection of information on people’s free-speech actions is being entered into unregulated databases, a vast storehouse of information widely disseminated to a range of law-enforcement and, apparently, private entities,” she said. “This is precisely the threat — people do not know when or how it may be used and in what manner.”
The records show little evidence that the members of the movement planned to commit violence. But they do describe a discussion on the Internet “regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement about when it is okay to shoot a police officer” and a law-enforcement meeting held in Des Moines because “there may potentially be an attempt to stop the Iowa Caucuses by people involved in Occupy Iowa.”
There are no references within the documents to agency personnel covertly infiltrating Occupy branches.
The documents indicate, however, that the F.B.I. obtained information from police departments and other law-enforcement agencies that appear to have been gathered by someone observing the protesters as they planned activities.
The documents do not detail recent activities by the F.B.I. involving Occupy Wall Street.
But one activist, Billy Livsey, 48, said two F.B.I. agents visited him in Brooklyn over the summer to question him about planned protests at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and about plans to celebrate the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in September.
The agents, Mr. Livsey said, told him they knew he was among a group of people involved in the Occupy Wall Street “direct action” group that distributed information about the movement’s activities.
He said he felt unnerved by the visit.
“It was surprising and troubling to me,” Mr. Livsey said.

Occupy Wall Street activists returned to Zuccotti Park on Thursday to protest trespassing charges against activists who were arrested at New York’s Trinity Church on December 17. The protesters had scaled a fence onto church-owned property after Trinity refused to give them sanctuary following their eviction from Zuccotti at the time. Thursday’s rally was held as part of a campaign to pressure Trinity to drop cooperation with prosecutors ahead of the protesters’ trial next week. A group of New York pastors led a prayer vigil in support.

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt: "I must take issue with Trinity Church today. I must take issue with their desire to prosecute people for acting in a way that churches and houses of worship [have] acted for centuries. I must take issue with those people, for whatever reason, who have decided that prosecution of free speech and prosecution in the service of human life and human flourishing is a good idea."

Also speaking at the event on Thursday was the priest, poet and activist, Father Daniel Berrigan.

Father Daniel Berrigan: "Real estate is real when it is in service to the common good. And when people are being served by the real estate, it becomes real once more. We are witnessing, in the case of Trinity, the unreality of real estate out of all control, which is to say, the real estate is growing unreal by playing God, by the way in which it’s trying to be in charge — and failing utterly. One way of putting our project today is to say, we are here to restore the reality to real estate."

The Occupation of Wall Street, which has successfully and peacefully resisted an eviction attempt by New York police by sheer weight of numbers, has inspired similar occupations across the United States and across the world.

A demonstration which began with a handful of protesters getting pepper-sprayed on the pavements of Manhattan's financial district has mushroomed into a national phenomenon, with labour unions rushing to offer solidarity and high-profile supporters lending advice and assistance.

After a year of police violence and savage crackdowns on protest across Europe, the injection of energy from across the Atlantic is more than welcome.

There are good reasons to be watching what's happening in Lower Manhattan right now. The idea of Wall Street as the heart of a global financial system whose collapse threatens the future of human civilisation is as important as the space itself, and while this is no Tahrir Square - the occupiers are hardly storming the skyscrapers above them - the brash symbolism of the protest is hard to ignore.

At the demonstration on London's Westminster bridge last weekend, I was handed flyers reading "We are the 99 per cent". As Britain gears up for a fresh wave of student demonstrations beginning on November 9, the mantra of the Occupy America movement, somewhere between an cry of rage and a threat, has begun to resonate around the world.

What does it mean?

As a slogan, "We are the 99 per cent" is inclusive to the point of inarticulacy. It is neither a demand nor an ideology, simply a statement of numbers. While intended to set the majority of ordinary citizens against the elite "one per cent" who, it is alleged, own and control most of the world's wealth, the slogan has been criticised for its formlessness: Does it mean: "We are the 99 per cent, and we're here to take back the money you stole?" Does it mean: ''We are the 99 per cent, and we will be pleased to serve you dinner whilst you confiscate our homes?" Does it simply mean "we are the 99 percent, and we're screwed?"

It means none of these things: The slogan is a statistic, a simple statement of majority. "We are the 99 per cent," it says. "Why aren't we represented?"

At their heart, these protests are about democracy. They are about the crisis of representative democracy taking place across the world, as party politics consistently places the interests of business above the interests of society.

Police in New York have arrested about 70 people, as Occupy Wall Street protesters moved to Times Square.
Forty-five were detained in the square, with another 24 held for alleged trespassing at a branch of Citibank in Washington Square Park.
The protests came on a day of worldwide protests against austerity and what protesters call corporate greed.
At least 70 people were injured after a peaceful rally in the Italian capital Rome descended into street battles.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the violence a "worrying signal" and said the perpetrators "must be found and punished".
Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno blamed the violence on "a few thousand thugs from all over Italy, and possibly from all over Europe, who infiltrated the demonstration".
Series of rallies
Organisers of the New York march from Zannotti Park in Lower Manhattan to Times Square said about 5,000 people took part.
Police arrest woman in Times Square 15 October 2011Polilce made 45 arrests in Times Square alone
Protesters chanted: "We got sold out, banks got bailed out" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street."
There were also protests in a number of other US cities, including 5,000 people who rallied outside City Hall in Los Angeles and 2,000 who marched in Pittsburgh.
The New York protests began on 17 September with a small group of activists and have swelled to include several thousand people at times, from many walks of life.
The Rome protests began when tens of thousands of people gathered under anti-austerity banners, close to the ruins of the Colosseum.
However militants dressed in black, some of them wearing balaclavas and crash helmets, soon appeared in the crowd and began attacking property.
Cars were burnt, and cash dispensers, banks and shops were attacked, with windows smashed.
A huge rally in Madrid had a more festive atmosphere.
Tens of thousands of people filled the Puerta del Sol Square on Saturday evening, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from the Spanish capital.
Rally in Madrid's Puerta del Sol 15 October 2011Madrid was one of several European cities to see large-scale protests on Saturday
People of all ages, from pensioners to children, and many of the young unemployed, filled the square, where the "Indignant" movement was launched in May.
In Portugal, 20,000 marched in Lisbon and a similar number in Oporto.
In Greece, about 2,000 people rallied outside parliament in Athens and a similar number reportedly turned out in the second city, Thessaloniki.
At least 1,000 people demonstrated in London's financial district but were prevented by police from reaching the Stock Exchange, and five arrests were made.
About 500 protesters spent the night camped outside St Paul's cathedral
Protests were also held in a number of cities across Asia.
This morning may turn out to be the "Millbank moment" for the "Occupy America" movement. When union activists arrived to swell the numbers defending Liberty Plaza, prompting the city authorities to back down from their planned eviction, reports from the occupation were wild with triumphant energy, and the chanting of: "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!" is probably still going on right now. What I saw and heard in Liberty Plaza when I visited was the same shocked excitement I saw in London almost a year ago, when student demonstrators smashed into the headquarters of the party in government at Millbank: It was young people who have spent their entire lives feeling powerless and alienated suddenly realising that, with enough numbers and enough courage, they can be unstoppable, that they can take on the edifices of power and win, at least for a little while. The difference is that New Yorkers have achieved this without breaking a single window. The scrupulous non-violence of the Occupy America movement leaves the right-wing press unable to tell a simple story about "feral kids kicking off against the cops": Instead, the images that have been broadcast around the world are of New York police pepper-spraying young women in the face and peaceful protesters being beaten away from Wall Street while chanting the First Amendment in chorus. On the morning of Friday, October 14, hundreds of thousands watched online as the authorities failed to remove the ordinary, indignant people of the United States from Liberty Plaza. When Americans do symbolic protest, they do it utterly without irony. In one way or another, we are all standing in the shadow of Wall Street. The dignified defiance of the New York occupation has inspired the world, and may yet provide some relief for the weary fighters on the European front of what looks set to be a long and punishing fight against austerity and state repression. The question now, for the occupiers and for everyone else is: What will the 99 per cent do next?

Protesters Marched To Wall Street

Protesters of about hundreds of people marched to Wall Street in New York on Saturday to protest greed, corruption and budget cuts. The protesters despite negotiations would still descend to the heart of the global finance to air its grievances. Protesters had planned to stake out Wall Street until their anger over a financial system they say favors the rich and powerful was heard.

Police Blocked Streets But Protesters Went Through

The police blocked all the streets near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall in LowerManhattan long before the protesters arrived. But the planned protest of Wall Street today was partially thwarted by a police shutdown of nearby streets in New York City. As it turned out, the demonstrators found much of their target off limits on Saturday as the city shut down sections of Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall well before their arrival.

The Aim Of The Protest

According to Bloomberg News, about 1,000 protesters were on site at the start of the protest and a lot more joined in. By noon, many protesters were carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, had gathered near Wall Street to search for a place to camp amid a heavy police presence. The aim of the protest was to get President Obama to establish a commission to end “the influence money has over our represenatives in Washington,” according to the website of Adbusters, a group promoting the event. The protest came as the United States struggles to overcome an economic crisis marked by a huge budget deficit that has triggered cuts in the public service sector while unemployment hovers stubbornly above nine percent.

Protest Was Organized Online & On Twitter

The Next Great Generation blog said the “Occupy Wall Street” protest was “organized online and on Twitter.” “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sept. 15 at a press conference. “As long as they do it where other people’s rights are respected, this is the place where people can speak their minds, and that’s what makes New York, New York.”

In this article you learned that protesters of about hundreds of people marched to Wall Street in New York on Saturday to protest greed, corruption and budget cuts. The protest came as the United States struggles to overcome an economic crisis marked by a huge budget deficit that has triggered cuts in the public service sector while unemployment hovers stubbornly above nine percent.

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