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Police Evict Protesters From Occupy Boston Site December 11, 2011


December 11, 2011

by legitgov

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Police Evict Protesters From Occupy Boston Site –Boston police: 46 arrested 11 Dec 2011 The police swept into Occupy Boston’s campsite early Saturday morning, bringing one of the country’s largest continuous demonstrations inspired by New York City’s Occupy Wall Street protest to an end. Police officers arrived shortly before 5 a.m., dragging tents out of the camp and warning the roughly 75 protesters who had stayed the night there that they would be arrested if the did not leave. Some protesters noted that they could not read police badges, and some members of the media said they were kept at a distance as arrests were being made.

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Oakland police fire teargas at Occupy Wall Street protesters October 26, 2011

Hundreds of police swept into Oakland’s Occupy Wall Street protest, launching teargas and beanbag rounds before clearing out an encampment of demonstrators. At least 85 people were arrested when police broke up the camp, sparking fury among activists who have accused authorities of a heavy-handed response to their demonstration

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Riot police arrest ‘Occupy Oakland’ protesters October 25, 2011


October 25, 2011

by legitgov

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Riot police arrest ‘Occupy Oakland’ protesters 25 Oct 2011 Oakland police say they arrested 75 people while clearing an anti-Wall Street protest in front of City Hall that had grown into an encampment with dozens of tents. Most of the people arrested were taken into custody on suspicion of misdemeanor illegal lodging, as police raided the encampment around 5 a.m. Tuesday. Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference later in the morning that hundreds of officers and sheriff’s deputies from more than 12 agencies moved in on about 170 protesters.

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Occupy Wall Street? These protests are not Tahrir Square but scenery | Simon Jenkins October 21, 2011

Street protest “against capitalism” appears to have nowhere to go. The rioters of Athens and Madrid, the marchers of Milan and Frankfurt, the squatters of London and New York can grab a headline and illustrate a story, but then what? With no leaders, no policies, no programme beyond opposition to status quo, they must just sink into the urban background.



Illustration by Joe Magee

Travelling this week from the protest camp at St Paul’s in London to Occupy Wall Street in New York, I found the message as thin as the attendance. These are not the mass movements that have briefly upheaved the Arab world, let alone those that toppled Euro-communism in the 1980s. They needed colossal numbers, the threat of violence and regimes already lapsing into self-doubt and insecurity. Only in Athens have protesters shown a fury, driven by potential loss of livelihood, that is seriously threatening a government.

The scenes in London and New York are engagingly similar. The slogans recall those that have been so ineffective in challenging the outrageously vacuous G-summits, or the no less outrageous American and British wars of aggression, that euphemised as “wars of choice”. There are the usual tents, plastic sheets, naive slogans and obsession with press coverage. Guy Fawkes masks are the fashion. Everywhere is “in crisis”, money is theft, bankers are loathsome and, our old friend, “the revolution will not be televised”.

The iron law of insurrection holds that it must grow in menace or lose momentum. Once it subsides into encampment, it becomes mere scenery. By last weekend, St Paul’s displayed what looked like pilgrims come to worship or the homeless looking for soup. With their tenancy conceded by the cathedral authorities, the protestors face the bind of every invading army: you can establish a bridgehead but moving out of it is the hard part.

New York’s Zuccotti Park squatters, equidistant from Wall Street and Ground Zero, have received the widespread support of New Yorkers and the quiet endorsement of a succession of Democrat politicians. The squatters seem meticulously concerned about being clean, quiet and of good community behaviour. The place is already a tourist attraction.

For celebrities, turning up at Zuccotti has become a publicity must. Susan Sarandon, Jesse Jackson, Kanye West, Roseanne Barr, Michael Moore and Tim Robbins have dropped by. A freesheet ironically demanded: “Where are you Bono, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn?” A new Batman movie is to include a scene shot in the square.

The camp has settled into New York’s ever vital ecology. Donors have stepped forward with “five-star” soup kitchens, “occu-pie” pizzas and a Sheraton chef with a “chez Zuccotti menu” of salmon cakes with dill sauce and “pasta bologna with grass-fed beef”. The New York Post felt obliged to send its restaurant critic to taste the fare.

What the protests have also done is feed America’s gargantuan appetite for paranoia. New York’s rich are, for the first time in my experience, imitating their Russian, Spanish and Mexican counterparts. Personal security firms are reporting a doubling and tripling of business. Goldman Sachs executives are building security gates round their homes after one protester waved the effigy of Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s boss, dripping with blood on a stake.

Executives are sliding into a third-world miasma of shifting their routes to work, not eating in the same restaurants and censoring their children’s Facebook sites. The New York Times reports a move from “having a cop sitting in your garage to having a whole command system at your disposal”. One firm reports that hedge-fund managers are seeking surveillance checks more from fear of reinvigorated tax collectors than from protestors. The revolution has strange allies.

Measuring the impact of street politics under secure democracies is impossible. In the early 19th century every English riot carried an echo of a French one, and terrified the political class into parliamentary reform. The endemic violence of Belfast from the 1960s to the 1980s drove the province to the political extreme, and evoked neocolonial responses from London. The greatest testament to street power came in 1981 when Britain was hit by one of its periodic bouts of violent looting. The Tory politician Michael Heseltine wrote a white paper entitled It Took a Riot in ironic reference to how hard it was to get colleagues to take inner cities seriously. Whether that made a difference is more doubtful.

The trouble at present is that, while mostly there is general sympathy for the cry that the rich have had it too easy of late, there is also sympathy for the view that belts must be tightened and sacrifices made. This makes it hard to see where the protests can lead, except to further curbs on protest, which takes us backwards. Every British government has found reasons for restricting public demonstrations. Central London nowadays is like an armed camp, the squalor of occasional tents more than equalled by the tat of barricades, fences, plastic cones and ubiquitous armed police. Surveillance is everywhere. Why was a policeman wielding a telephoto lenses outside St Paul’s Deanery last Sunday? Why did New York police use pepper spray on demonstrators in downtown Manhattan.

Governments have seemed immune to calls for higher taxes on the rich. The managers of the euro have drawn no sense of urgency from the marches that have thronged their capitals. Argument in government these days is between interests, factions, lobbies and ministers. As its participants retreat behind ever higher security, the noise of the street is just noise. The banker told “You Will Go to Hell” as he strolls past St Paul’s may feel unsettled, but he smiles at the quaintness of it all.

There are serious gaps in the transparency of modern democracy. Between elections, the traditional mediators between electors and those in power have withered. The “customary associations and little platoons” have dwindled. Power over policy has been removed from parties in parliament and at the grassroots, from trade unions, from the professions, from local government, from intellectuals, even from the formal civil service. These conduits have been replaced by thinktanks and lobbyists working in private collusion with ministerial staffs. When David Cameron in opposition said that lobbyists were “the next big scandal waiting to happen,” he was right. But that was before he came to power.

The cliche holds that America’s constitution is so cumbersome as to make federal government virtually inoperable. All it can do with relative efficiency is fight wars. Britain is moving in the same direction. The elimination of intermediate government and its replacement with interest-group lobbying has brought chaos to health, education and planning reform. It has polluted defence cuts, housing finance and energy policy.

Against these developments, street protest is an understandable cry of public anger. But it is no insurrection and can put no army in the field. St Paul’s and Zuccotti Park are not Tahrir Square, whatever the claims of their occupants. Their protest is more a dull ache of frustration at power being dispensed in corridors rather than streets, at power that is ever further from their grasp.

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Occupy Wall Street? These protests are not Tahrir Square but scenery

Street protest “against capitalism” appears to have nowhere to go. The rioters of Athens and Madrid, the marchers of Milan and Frankfurt, the squatters of London and New York can grab a headline and illustrate a story, but then what? With no leaders, no policies, no programme beyond opposition to status quo, they must just sink into the urban background.



Illustration by Joe Magee

Travelling this week from the protest camp at St Paul’s in London to Occupy Wall Street in New York, I found the message as thin as the attendance. These are not the mass movements that have briefly upheaved the Arab world, let alone those that toppled Euro-communism in the 1980s. They needed colossal numbers, the threat of violence and regimes already lapsing into self-doubt and insecurity. Only in Athens have protesters shown a fury, driven by potential loss of livelihood, that is seriously threatening a government.

The scenes in London and New York are engagingly similar. The slogans recall those that have been so ineffective in challenging the outrageously vacuous G-summits, or the no less outrageous American and British wars of aggression, that euphemised as “wars of choice”. There are the usual tents, plastic sheets, naive slogans and obsession with press coverage. Guy Fawkes masks are the fashion. Everywhere is “in crisis”, money is theft, bankers are loathsome and, our old friend, “the revolution will not be televised”.

The iron law of insurrection holds that it must grow in menace or lose momentum. Once it subsides into encampment, it becomes mere scenery. By last weekend, St Paul’s displayed what looked like pilgrims come to worship or the homeless looking for soup. With their tenancy conceded by the cathedral authorities, the protestors face the bind of every invading army: you can establish a bridgehead but moving out of it is the hard part.

New York’s Zuccotti Park squatters, equidistant from Wall Street and Ground Zero, have received the widespread support of New Yorkers and the quiet endorsement of a succession of Democrat politicians. The squatters seem meticulously concerned about being clean, quiet and of good community behaviour. The place is already a tourist attraction.

For celebrities, turning up at Zuccotti has become a publicity must. Susan Sarandon, Jesse Jackson, Kanye West, Roseanne Barr, Michael Moore and Tim Robbins have dropped by. A freesheet ironically demanded: “Where are you Bono, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn?” A new Batman movie is to include a scene shot in the square.

The camp has settled into New York’s ever vital ecology. Donors have stepped forward with “five-star” soup kitchens, “occu-pie” pizzas and a Sheraton chef with a “chez Zuccotti menu” of salmon cakes with dill sauce and “pasta bologna with grass-fed beef”. The New York Post felt obliged to send its restaurant critic to taste the fare.

What the protests have also done is feed America’s gargantuan appetite for paranoia. New York’s rich are, for the first time in my experience, imitating their Russian, Spanish and Mexican counterparts. Personal security firms are reporting a doubling and tripling of business. Goldman Sachs executives are building security gates round their homes after one protester waved the effigy of Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s boss, dripping with blood on a stake.

Executives are sliding into a third-world miasma of shifting their routes to work, not eating in the same restaurants and censoring their children’s Facebook sites. The New York Times reports a move from “having a cop sitting in your garage to having a whole command system at your disposal”. One firm reports that hedge-fund managers are seeking surveillance checks more from fear of reinvigorated tax collectors than from protestors. The revolution has strange allies.

Measuring the impact of street politics under secure democracies is impossible. In the early 19th century every English riot carried an echo of a French one, and terrified the political class into parliamentary reform. The endemic violence of Belfast from the 1960s to the 1980s drove the province to the political extreme, and evoked neocolonial responses from London. The greatest testament to street power came in 1981 when Britain was hit by one of its periodic bouts of violent looting. The Tory politician Michael Heseltine wrote a white paper entitled It Took a Riot in ironic reference to how hard it was to get colleagues to take inner cities seriously. Whether that made a difference is more doubtful.

The trouble at present is that, while mostly there is general sympathy for the cry that the rich have had it too easy of late, there is also sympathy for the view that belts must be tightened and sacrifices made. This makes it hard to see where the protests can lead, except to further curbs on protest, which takes us backwards. Every British government has found reasons for restricting public demonstrations. Central London nowadays is like an armed camp, the squalor of occasional tents more than equalled by the tat of barricades, fences, plastic cones and ubiquitous armed police. Surveillance is everywhere. Why was a policeman wielding a telephoto lenses outside St Paul’s Deanery last Sunday? Why did New York police use pepper spray on demonstrators in downtown Manhattan.

Governments have seemed immune to calls for higher taxes on the rich. The managers of the euro have drawn no sense of urgency from the marches that have thronged their capitals. Argument in government these days is between interests, factions, lobbies and ministers. As its participants retreat behind ever higher security, the noise of the street is just noise. The banker told “You Will Go to Hell” as he strolls past St Paul’s may feel unsettled, but he smiles at the quaintness of it all.

There are serious gaps in the transparency of modern democracy. Between elections, the traditional mediators between electors and those in power have withered. The “customary associations and little platoons” have dwindled. Power over policy has been removed from parties in parliament and at the grassroots, from trade unions, from the professions, from local government, from intellectuals, even from the formal civil service. These conduits have been replaced by thinktanks and lobbyists working in private collusion with ministerial staffs. When David Cameron in opposition said that lobbyists were “the next big scandal waiting to happen,” he was right. But that was before he came to power.

The cliche holds that America’s constitution is so cumbersome as to make federal government virtually inoperable. All it can do with relative efficiency is fight wars. Britain is moving in the same direction. The elimination of intermediate government and its replacement with interest-group lobbying has brought chaos to health, education and planning reform. It has polluted defence cuts, housing finance and energy policy.

Against these developments, street protest is an understandable cry of public anger. But it is no insurrection and can put no army in the field. St Paul’s and Zuccotti Park are not Tahrir Square, whatever the claims of their occupants. Their protest is more a dull ache of frustration at power being dispensed in corridors rather than streets, at power that is ever further from their grasp.

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Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD October 20, 2011


October 19, 2011

by legitgov

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Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD 15 Oct 2011 …The FBI and NYPD have had help tracking the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ moves thanks to a conservative computer security expert who gained access to one of the group’s internal mailing lists, and then handed over information on the group’s plans to authorities and corporations targeted by protesters. Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, New York security consultant Thomas Ryan has been waging a campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan says he’s done contract work for the U.S. Army and he brags on his blog that he leads “a team called Black Cell, a team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world.”

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Denver Police in Riot Gear Move Into Wall Street Protest Area October 15, 2011


October 14, 2011

by legitgov

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Denver Police in Riot Gear Move Into Wall Street Protest Area 14 Oct 2011 Dozens of police in riot gear pushed Wall Street protesters into retreat outside the state Capitol in Denver on Friday, and the protesters are retreating without resisting. Many of the protesters chanted “Peaceful!” as they backed away from their encampment. Officers placed plastic handcuffs on some protesters. Authorities began taking down dozens of tents before dawn.

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Thousands march in Occupy Wall Street protest October 6, 2011


October 5, 2011

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Thousands march in Occupy Wall Street protest 05 Oct 2011 Thousands of people waving signs and chanting slogans marched Wednesday afternoon from Occupy Wall Street’s encampment in Lower Manhattan’s financial district to Foley Square in front of the courthouse to press their anti-greed message. It was by far the biggest march yet in New York since the movement began Sept. 17 and was helped by the presence of people representing various labor groups, among them transportation union workers, nurses and teachers.

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The political issues in the fight against Wall Street October 5, 2011


October 5, 2011

by legitgov

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The political issues in the fight against Wall Street By Bill Van Auken 05 Oct 2011 The Occupy Wall Street protest, now in its third week, has struck a powerful chord throughout the US, with similar occupations developing in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities and towns across the country. The demonstrators and their demand for social equality have given expression to the growing hostility of millions towards capitalism, the banks and the corporations, and the burning need for jobs, decent living standards and a guarantee of health care, education and other basic social necessities.

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Anonymous Threatens to ‘Erase NYSE from the Internet’ October 4, 2011


October 4, 2011

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Anonymous Threatens to ‘Erase NYSE from the Internet’ 03 Oct 2011 Anonymous declared “war” on the New York Stock Exchange this weekend and vowed to “erase” the NYSE from the Internet on Oct. 10 as the Occupy Wall Street protest entered its third week in New York City after a weekend that saw hundreds of protesters arrested during a planned march across the Brooklyn Bridge. “On Oct. 10, NYSE shall be erased from the Internet. On Oct. 10, expect a day that will never, ever be forgotten,” intoned a computer-generated male voice common to many Anonymous videos, in a warning posted on TheAnonMessage YouTube channel.

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Here’s a demand: forgive student loan debt | Robert Applebaum

As the Occupy Wall Street protest enters its third straight week in New York and continues spreading all across the country, what is abundantly clear is that “the other 99%” – as opposed to the super-wealthy 1% who’ve been coddled for decades under the failed economic premise that cutting their taxes and providing them with countless tax shelters, loopholes and other breaks will “trickle down” to the masses – are simply fed up with the status quo. So they are doing the one thing within their power to make their voices heard.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act fell far short of addressing the practices and behavior that lead to the near-collapse of the world economy. Corporations are sitting on record levels of cash, but are refusing to hire. Personal debt, including mortgages, credit cards and especially student loan debt have reached astronomical levels. All this is true, yet Washington, DC and the bankers on Wall Street seem tone deaf to the needs of the people.

For two and a half years, I have been advocating for a new way of stimulating economic growth from the bottom-up – a “trickle-up” approach to rebuilding the economy that reflects the realities of the 21st century via the campaign Forgiving Student Loan Debt. The argument is simple: relieving middle-class people of their educational debts would enable them to begin spending money in ailing sectors of the economy, start businesses and families and buy homes – that is, to have the “American Dream” that seems more and more out of reach with each passing day.

For the first time in history, total student loan debt recently surpassed total credit card debt in the US: current and former students collectively owe approximately $946bn in student loan debt, with no sign of this accumulation slowing down. In fact, it’s projected to exceed $1tn within the year. Student loans have been stripped of nearly all basic consumer protections that every other type of debt enjoys, including bankruptcy protections and statutes of limitations. So, while you can have your business, credit card, mortgage and even your gambling debts discharged or restructured in bankruptcy court, student loan debt is with you for life – and sometimes beyond.

By turning education into a commodity where the students must personally bear the full costs of an educational system that, in fact, benefits all of society, not just the students themselves, we’ve shifted the ever-increasing burden of skyrocketing tuition costs down the socio-economic ladder onto those who can least afford to shoulder them. Couple that with a job market that’s been utterly decimated by the irresponsibility and greed of those at the very top, the underlying reasons for the Occupy Wall Street protests start to come into focus.

If the Federal Reserve can hand out over $16tn in loans, at little to no interest, to the very institutions that caused the financial collapse in the first place, why must average Americans borrow money at upwards of 8% or more just to obtain an education?

How can we expect the housing market ever to improve when those we generally rely upon to purchase homes – college grads and professionals – are buried under tens of thousands of dollars or more in student loan debt, from which there is almost no escape?

If education is “the great equaliser” it’s always touted to be, then why have over 432,000 people signed a petition in favor of student loan forgiveness as a means of economic stimulus? In the two and a half years that I’ve been working on this issue, I have yet to come across a single person who doesn’t want to pay back what they actually borrowed (as opposed to three, four or five times the sum they borrowed); but they simply don’t have the means to do so.

For more than 30 years, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer and the middle class has been nearly squeezed out of existence. Forgiving student loan debt would not only provide for a sustained economic stimulus over the course of the next 20-30 years by allowing educated Americans to use the money productively – rather than have to spend it on repaying several times the amount they borrowed to obtain a degree that no longer has the same value it once did. That would not only grow the economy, but it would also serve as a reaffirmation that an education is actually worth pursuing.

The American taxpayers bailed out Wall Street for their recklessness. It’s time for Wall Street to do right by the American people who did absolutely nothing wrong, but who feel punished every day.

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Radiohead hoax rocks Wall Street protest October 3, 2011

Somebody pretending to be Radiohead‘s manager was behind a massive hoax on Friday, convincing hundreds of Wall Street protesters that the band intended to perform in New York. An email to organisers of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration claimed the Oxford quintet “wanted to stop by and play a couple songs” on Friday afternoon, leading organisers to announce what was ultimately an imaginary show.

“Dear Occupiers,” began the email to NYC General Assembly, the leaders of the demonstrations in New York’s financial distrct. “My name is Bryce Edge, and I’m one of the managers for the band Radiohead. The guys are really impressed with what you have managed to pull off, and they wanted to stop by and play a couple songs in support before leaving New York. I don’t want to create a big media circus that might worry the police or endanger what you’ve built … [but] they have some unscheduled time Friday afternoon between 4 and 6, would that work? I read that the police aren’t allowing sound equipment, but they could do acoustic.”

The proposal seemed plausible: Bryce Edge is indeed one of Radiohead’s three managers; the band were in New York for a series of gigs and TV appearances; and the group are well-known for the kind of anti-corporate rhetoric that festoons placards at Zuccotti Park. After corresponding a little more with the fraudulent Radiohead rep, organisers announced: “Radiohead will play a surprise show for #occupywallstreet today at four in the afternoon.” Supporters in the hacker group Anonymous endorsed the gig, promising a video stream of the concert.

But the house of cards soon fell in. As NYC General Assembly trumpeted the cause, hundreds of Radiohead fans descended on Wall Street. The media-shy band was forced to comment – first to the New York press, and then via Twitter: “We wish the best of luck to the protesters there, but contrary to earlier rumours, we will not be appearing today at #occupywallstreet.” Occupy Wall Street’s spokesman, Patrick Bruner, apologised in an email. “I got hoaxed,” he wrote. “Radiohead was never confirmed. Completely our fault. Apologies. The band were victims in this hoax as well.”

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Wall Street protests enter 14th day September 30, 2011

(CNN) — Protests to draw attention to the power of Wall Street firms in the United States and world economies will continue for a 14th straight day Friday in New York City.

Demonstrations are addressing various issues including police brutality, union busting and the economy, said Occupy Wall Street protest group.

The group, taking its inspiration from the Arab Spring protests that swept through Africa and the Middle East, has taken up residence in a park in New York’s Financial District, calling for 20,000 people to flood the area for a “few months.”

Social media fueled those uprisings in places like Egypt and Libya and organizers are hoping it will work in the United States too.

Organizers say they had as many as 600 demonstrators in the area over the weekend, but the crowds have dwindled to about 200 people in recent days.

About 100 people have been arrested during the protests, police said. People were apprehended for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and assaulting a police officer, said New York City Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne.

Most of the arrests came Saturday. There were no arrests Sunday and Monday, organizers said.

Demonstrators have accused police of using excessive force after the release of a video from Saturday that shows an officer pepper-spraying several women.

Police have said they are investigating the incidents.

The protest campaign — which uses the hashtag #occupywallstreet on the microblogging site Twitter — began in July with the launch of a simple campaign website calling for a march and a sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange.

Though the agenda of the protest has been posted on the website of the group Occupy Wall Street, protesters say there is no group leader and have spent several days trying to organize and create a unified plan.

“We are gathered here in this place to craft a mission statement, to shape a statement of what it is we want and how we’re going to get it,” said Robert Segal, one of the protesters.

CNN’s Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

Watch Piers Morgan Tonight weeknights 9 p.m. ET. For the latest from Piers Morgan click here.

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Occupy Wall Street and the limits of spontaneous street protest | Eric Augenbraun

Those who, like me, expected the Occupy Wall Street protest to fizzle out, or be actively stomped out, after just a few days, have been surprised to see that after nearly two weeks, it is still going strong. Recent confrontations with the police – especially the ‘pepper spray’ incidents – have emboldened protesters and stimulated the kind of media attention many supporters complained was lacking in the demonstration’s early days.

It is hard to disagree with Doug Henwood and others that insofar as any political ideology can be discerned from the protest, it would be the flavor du jour of American anti-corporate populism. But, in the absence of anything else, that’s been enough to draw leftwing luminaries from Michael Moore, to Roseanne Barr, to Cornel West.

Sure, the fact that people are angered enough by the largely unpenalised greed and venality of major financial institutions to camp out in Zuccotti Park indefinitely is certainly a welcome development. But the protest leaves unanswered a number of questions about just what kind of effort it would take to create a more just society. The statement of purpose for the demonstration reads:

“The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity. [W]e talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people’s assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future …”

On a screen, this message has a sort of melodic appeal; in practice, its shortcomings are thrown into relief. Josh Sternberg of Mediaite.com, who visited the protest on Wednesday, noted:

“As of now, it’s a haphazard process, as there’s no leadership, no message. Nothing but a group of a few hundred people – and of that group, I saw about 10 to 15 actually take charge of something – trying to figure out what they’re doing.”

In addition to underscoring the folly of the current fascination with the “leaderless” protest, this illustrates the more general problem with the impulse on the American left to be “doing something” – without necessarily much idea of what that should be. We may be looking at what Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood and Christian Parenti aptly termed “activistism” in their 2002 essay, “Action Will Be Taken”:

“This brave new ideology combines the political illiteracy of hyper-mediated American culture with all the moral zeal of a 19th-century temperance crusade. In this worldview, all roads lead to more activism and more activists. And the one who acts is righteous.

“The activistists seem to borrow their philosophy from the factory boss in a Heinrich Böll short story who greets his employees each morning with the exhortation ‘Let’s have some action.’ To which the workers obediently reply: ‘Action will be taken!’”

Where, to their credit, the Wall Street occupiers differ from the “activistists” described by Featherstone et al is in their attempt to think of change in much broader, systemic terms – as muddled as their demands may be. But what they have in common with “activistism” is a misunderstanding of the relationship of the movement to the demonstration.

The parallels being drawn by protesters and some of the media between Occupy Wall Street and the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt that began early this year are revealing. As Patrick Glennon writes for In These Times:

“The activists behind Occupy Wall Street hope to emulate the success of Tahrir Square, which was an integral force in the dethroning of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February. In Cairo’s case, the occupied square became the most compelling symbol of the country’s spontaneous rebellion against its autocratic leader.”

But just what is the parallel here? It seems more stylistic and rhetorical than anything else. After all, we now know the uprising in Egypt to have been anything but spontaneous. “Spontaneous” is a label frequently applied by the media to describe insurgencies that to them appear to have come out of nowhere. In fact, the circulation among Egyptian protestors of a 26-page leaflet providing a blueprint for action suggests a great deal of foresight and preparation by organisers. As Robert Dreyfuss of the Nation wrote:

“Contrary to some media reports, which have portrayed the upsurge in Egypt as a leaderless rebellion, a fairly well-organised movement is emerging to take charge, comprising students, labor activists, lawyers, a network of intellectuals, Egypt’s Islamists, a handful of political parties and miscellaneous advocates for ‘change’.”

Which brings us to my central point: what is the purpose of protest? As history shows, protests can certainly be effective in winning concessions from those in power, but only to the extent that they are representative of broader movements. When it is effective, protest itself is little more than the public expression of a major social mobilisation already organised.

In all probability, Occupy Wall Street will achieve no measurable political change; the best-case scenario for participants is that they will leave Wall Street with wind in their sails. The scope has already widened as plans emerge for similar protests in cities like Boston and Los Angeles. These protests, though, will continue to draw from a relatively narrow pool of self-selecting participants. And without any clear definition of goals or constituency, without organisation of a leadership structure or an attempt to form coalitions with established movements, they are likely to skew towards a voluntaristic politics of “witness-bearing”. The endorsement that protesters received Thursday from the New York Transit Workers Union is a major step in the right direction, but without more support and links like this, they risk remaining isolated from the broad class-based movement that is needed to alter the shape of the American political and economic terrain – a movement that can unite the 99% against the 1%, to use their supporters’ formulation.

The advent of “hashtag activism” has been greeted with breathless claims about the birth of a new form of technology-based social movement. While such technologies can be extremely useful tools, they do not represent alternatives to the exhausting, age-old work of meeting people where they are, hearing their concerns, reaching common ground, building trust and convincing them that it is in their interests to act politically to change their circumstances. There are no shortcuts here; or to put it another way, it’s not the protests that matter, but what happens in the time in between.

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New York City police arrest scores at anti-Wall Street protest September 28, 2011


September 26, 2011

by legitgov

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New York City police arrest scores at anti-Wall Street protest By Sandy English 26 Sep 2011 On Saturday afternoon, the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested over 80 peaceful protesters at an anti-Wall Street protest near Union Square in lower Manhattan. This marks a major escalation of police violence against the protesters who have occupied Zuccotti Plaza across the street from Wall Street since September 17. The protesters have renamed it Liberty Plaza after Tahrir Square in Cairo.

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How Anonymous emerged to Occupy Wall Street | Ayesha Kazmi September 27, 2011

Defying harsh critiques from Stephen Colbert and slews of bloggers who scoffed last week at the “leaderless”, “directionless”, Frisbee-throwing hipsters camping out on cardboard at a random New York City park in the financial district, Occupy Wall Street appears to be gaining ground. From the modest 200 occupiers last week, numbers of protesters rose to an estimated peak of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 at the weekend’s march. Media attention has grown exponentially.

After taking their inspiration from the Egyptian “one demand” model, Occupy Wall Street have now released their list of “one” demands, bringing much-needed clarity to their objectives. The movement has moved to reach out to a broader base, including labor unions. Last week’s execution of Troy Davis also contributed to the growth of Occupy Wall Street as crowds of protesters in Zucotti Park, renamed Liberty Plaza, swelled to approximately 1,500 last Thursday night demanding an end to capital punishment.

Violence caught on camera over the weekend of police arresting approximately 80 protesters and, in one now-notorious case, apparently spraying mace into the faces of female protesters has generated an outcry over the NYPD’s “cowardly” use of force on peaceful protesters. Thanks to these two incidents, says one protester, Danny Garza, “Occupy Wall Street has gotten bigger than we ever thought it could be.”

But the protest‘s profile cannot be measured purely in numbers of street protesters: on the periphery of Liberty Plaza is a parallel internet-based activism buttressing the movement. Under the banner of the virtual collective Anonymous, these “hacktivists” are now engaged in the physical action of street protest. “Groundfags” in Liberty Park communicate back and forth with online activists. The new dynamics of combined street and online activism have significantly underpinned Occupy Wall Street as a distinctive new movement.

“We can physically be at a protest one day and the next day show up online,” according to an Anonymous activist who goes by the name of “MotorMouth”. The most concrete example of this symbiotic relationship is the rapid online identification by Anonymous activists of an NYPD officer they claim to have been the perpetrator in the pepper-spray incident.

Naming an individual police officer may be a controversial tactic, but Occupy Wall Street has used social networking media as a positive organisational tool. When it emerged that a handful of activists were prepared to incite rioting and provoke the police days before Occupy Wall Street was to begin, Anonymous developed a Twitter application called URGE, launching an online campaign designed to quell potential violence. Anonymous “culture-jammed” Twitter with messages to keep protests peaceful, using top Twitter trends from around the world.

The involvement of Anonymous activists has also helped the movement make new connections. When activists expressed outrage at Troy Davis’s execution on Wednesday night, Anonymous linked the death penalty with the protests. One Anonymous figure, by the name of “Jackal”, says:

“This is a new way to protest. Many of us have done our fair share of street protesting. But they drag us into the streets, and they mace us. Now we have brought our protests into the online social media space. We do it all at once – the street protesting along with our distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks. We are a bit of an online flash mob.”

What will become of Occupy Wall Street is uncertain: protesters now face eviction from Zucotti Park; yet the movement has sparked similar activism in Chicago, Boston, Denver and other cities throughout the United States. Much has been written about the “Twitter revolution” dimension of the Arab Spring; now it looks as though, in this emerging alliance between street protest and online activism, the Arab Spring is turning to American Fall.

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Occupy Wall Street: Phalanx of NYPD at Union Square September 26, 2011


September 25, 2011

by legitgov

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Occupy Wall Street: Phalanx of NYPD at Union Square Posted by Lori Price, http://www.legitgov.org/ 25 Sep 2011. In union square where police just arrested 50 plus people from “Occupy Wall Street.” They were carrying cameras and travelling in a group. That was their crime. Photos of “Occupy Wall Street” protest as it reached Union Square today. Arrests were made of the entire “Occupy Wall Street media team.” –Michael Rectenwald –Photos and video by Michael Rectenwald.

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