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By Brad Friedman on 11/13/2011 10:17pm PT  

On Sunday afternoon I found myself in a spirited Twitter debate about Occupy Wall Street, its effectiveness as a movement and, of most interest to me, the First Amendment rights of the Occupations around the country as the attempts to evict the Occupiers, by local mayors and police departments in a number of cities have been slowly, but surely, ramping up over the last several days and weeks.

This particular debate was not of the sort you're likely to see in the MSM, in that it didn't include any Rightwingers and their fake arguments. (If you're interested in one of those debates, see my radio debate with a RWer last week here.) It included a few self-identified progressives, a few self-identified Democrats and Obama supporters (who do not necessarily consider themselves progressives, and often view them with scorn), and a few attorneys. None of the participants were Republicans or Tea Baggers...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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OPD Officer Shavies: 'I’m part of 99 percent, this movement could be the turning point, the tipping point'...
By Brad Friedman on 11/11/2011 2:08pm PT  

Some of the police brutality that has occurred at Occupy demonstrations around the country has been appalling. It's particularly upsetting to watch as those cops seen violating the law and the Constitutional rights of demonstrators are also part of the "99 Percent" themselves.

One of them --- Officer Fred Shavies of the Oakland PD, who was revealed as an undercover infiltrator at Occupy Oakland --- now concedes as much in an extraordinarily moving interview in which he condemns the violence by his fellow cops and says he sees the Occupy movement as a possible "turning point, the tipping point" for our generation.

"It looks like...police shot tear gas into it, right?" says Shavies, referencing the October 25 violence in Oakland at the intersection of 14th & Broadway that The BRAD BLOG has documented in great detail here (see here, here and here for example). "That could be the photograph or the video for our generation. That’s our Birmingham," he explains, alluding to the police brutality that occurred during the otherwise peaceful fight for voting rights in the South during the 60s.

"So, twenty years from now this movement could be the turning point, the tipping point," Shavies says during the interview, as he identifies with the protesters in the "99 percent" movement, adding that he is one of them. [Video and more excerpts below.]

We're not among the anti-cop folks around here. We have, however, reported in great detail on the lawlessness demonstrated by some of the "law enforcement" officials in Oakland, referenced by Shavies, as well as the serious injuries they've inflicted on peaceful demonstrators and even some who weren't demonstrating at all.

So while we don't oppose the lawful men and women of law enforcement, some of them seem to be working awfully hard to give their brothers and sisters a very bad name. Those who have done so must be held accountable for their actions.

You've seen some of the videos of NYPD officers violently pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators, and the videos from Oakland as seen in the articles linked above. Here are two more recent examples of appalling police behavior as witnessed on video tape.

The first is from Occupy Berkeley on Wednesday, where the actions seen below were reported by AP as little more than police "nudging" demonstrators:

Television news footage from outside the university's main administration building showed officers pulling people from the steps and nudging others with batons as the crowd chanted, "We are the 99 percent!" and "Stop Beating Students!"

Really, AP? "Nudging"?...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 11/11/2011 11:11am PT  

We're posting this on 11:11 on 11/11/11, just because we can and will never get another chance to do so. At least until maybe later tonight...


We'll also take this opportunity, on Veterans Day, to thank those who have put their lives on the line in service of our nation to help protect the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Today, we are particularly thankful to those who are continuing the fight for our freedoms back here at home, where they are most at threat, as part of the Occupy Movements across the country.

There are not enough 11s in this moment to thank you all for what you have done and continue to do. We only hope this nation can remember to return the favor.

* * *

P.S. In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan vets seriously injured during lawless "crackdowns" by law enforcement officials at Occupations around the Nation, including Scott Olsen and Kayven Sabehgi who are still recovering, and like Joshua Shephard who was willing to face tear gas in order to stand up for the First Amendment, our great thanks also goes to folks like decorated Iraq War veteran, Sgt. Shamar Thomas, the former U.S. Marine who loudly reminded the police of New York City, in the early days of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, of their Constitutional duty on behalf of all of us.

If you've not seen following video of Thomas schooling members of the NYPD, in early October --- after witnessing some of them "pulling people from the crowd" and "beating" the --, by loudly reminding them that "this is not a war zone...It doesn't make you tough to hurt these people...there's no honor in this," please take a few minutes to both watch it below, and then read on for a personal note...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 11/10/2011 4:36pm PT  

- Brad Friedman (Originally published by Truthout on 11/8/11)

Yeah, I know, the GOP is at War against citizens' rights to do just about everything that isn't U.S. Chamber of Commerce approved these days. That's just one of the reasons citizens are finally taking to the streets to fight back. One of the ongoing Republican Wars getting very little attention is their War on the right of citizens to sue huge corporations for negligence, malfeasance and other wrong-doing.

A few weeks ago I spent some time at a conference for mass tort plaintiff attorneys in Las Vegas, as hosted by my friend Mike Papantonio, the co-host of radio's Ring of Fire (along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder). Pap is one of the nation's premier class action plaintiff attorneys, one of those folks willing to go to bat for the little guy when they're screwed over by huge conscience-free corporations.

I was invited to the conference to speak on a panel concerning the proposed $12 million hit scheme discovered earlier this year being plotted on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to turn tools developed by U.S. government contractors for the "War on Terror" against U.S. citizens like myself and my family. According to emails released on the Internet, the Chamber was working with mega-law firm Hunton & Williams and three federal cyber-security firms (HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies) to smear, defraud, plant false documents, and spy on their perceived political enemies such as myself and other progressive organizations.

The Chamber, which is all too happy to use mafia-like tactics to take down its perceived opponents, has also long been leading the charge on behalf of their enormous corporate members for so-called "tort reform," meant to do little more than make it next-to-impossible for citizens to fight back in a court of law against corporate abuse, neglect, and malfeasance...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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OPD officer appears unprovoked before firing on citizen journalist...
By Ernest A. Canning on 11/9/2011 12:47pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

New video has emerged (posted below), courtesy of ThinkProgress of an apparently unprovoked Oakland police officer shooting a cameraman during a recent stand-off with Occupy Oakland demonstrators.

In an email to The BRAD BLOG, Sgt. Christopher Bolton, Oakland PD's Chief of Staff, confirmed that the incident involved an "OPD use of force" which took place at 16th Street near San Pablo Ave. in Oakland on the morning of Nov. 3, 2011 and that the matter was "under investigation." (Recall that a general strike took place in Oakland on Nov. 2. This event, per the cameraman, took place shortly after midnight.)

However, Bolton did not directly answer specific follow-up questions designed to pin down details of the incident.

At YouTube, the unidentified cameraman denied that there had been any "violence or confrontation of any kind underway" at the time the OPD officer can be seen aiming and firing (as seen 31 seconds into the 40 second video below.)

Because this potentially involves an unprovoked police assault on a citizen-journalist, the issue at stake entails more than police misconduct. If it was unprovoked battery, the incident reflects nothing less than a direct assault on the First Amendment, democratic accountability and the public's right to monitor police misconduct.

Video captures moment officer fires...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Department declines to offer evidence substantiating Chief's assertions, downgrades them to 'preliminary belief'...
By Ernest A. Canning on 11/7/2011 7:01am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning, with Brad Friedman

The Oakland Police Department is walking back widely reported comments offered by its Interim Chief, Howard Jordan, at an Oct. 25 televised press conference (video posted below) that law enforcement "had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks."

The press conference had been conducted shortly after a melee which included the deployment of chemical agents on peaceful demonstrators. The police use of force resulted in injuries to, among others, a two-tour Iraq veteran who sustained a fractured skull and was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. The violent confrontation raised questions about the legality of the procedures carried out by the OPD and the 15 other law enforcement agencies that cooperated in the multi-agency task force.

In response to questions emailed by The BRAD BLOG to the Oakland PD's Chief of Staff, Sgt. Chris Bolton conceded that the department was unable, at this time, to substantiate claims made by Jordan that gas was deployed in order to protect law enforcement personnel from violent demonstrators, despite the Chief's unqualified claim that evening that "the deployment of gas was necessary to protect our officers and protect property around the area and to protect injuries to others as well."

Instead, Bolton softened Jordan's initial claim. The sergeant described it as "the Chief's preliminary belief."

Jordan failed to qualify his statements as a "preliminary belief" at the time he addressed reporters about the use of CS gas during his televised Oct. 25 press conference. Indeed, the Interim Chief spoke of the necessity to deploy chemical agents "to stop the crowd...from pelting us with bottles and rocks" as if it were an established fact.

We sent our questions to the OPD on the heels of a detailed analysis of video taken during the late night confrontation at 14th and Broadway, as well as interviews with eye witnesses conducted last week by The BRAD BLOG. In our own investigation, to date, we have been unable to unearth evidence to support Jordan's assertion that the police initiated the assault in order to defend against either projectiles or any other threat of imminent violence from demonstrators. In fact, the video evidence included in our report reveals that law enforcement officials had determined to use tear gas on the crowd long before any threat was posed by demonstrators.

Our investigation also concluded that the OPD's actions were likely in violation of both California state law, as well as in direct contravention with an OPD Training Bulletin created as part of a mandate following a federal consent decree signed by the department after a similarly violent confrontation with peaceful demonstrators back in 2003...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Kayvan Sabehgi recovering from surgery on ruptured spleen after medical care said withheld for some 24 hours after police beating...
By Brad Friedman on 11/6/2011 3:22pm PT  

This follows on the story of former Marine and two-tour Iraq vet Scott Olsen, whose skull was fractured, allegedly, by a police projectile during demonstrations at Occupy Oakland on October 25th, as we've reported on previously (here, here and, most recently, here).

Now we learn of a second serious injury to an Iraq (and Afghanistan) vet, Kayvan Sabehgi, at the hands of the Oakland PD in response to peaceful demonstrations late last month. He was reportedly in intensive care Friday following surgery for a ruptured spleen, more than 10 days after the Oakland PD's confrontation with demonstrators. Sabeghi was reportedly beaten, arrested, and kept in jail without medical care for some 24 hours after the incident, even though he wasn't even a part of the demonstration and was simply trying to get home that night.

As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively last week, the Oakland PD appears to have initiated the use of chemical agents against peaceful protesters in violation of both state law and a federal consent decree agreed to after a similarly illegal and violent confrontation with demonstrators in 2003. Both video tape evidence and eye-witnesses testimony suggest the violence was instigated by law enforcement officials, rather than demonstrators, in direct contradiction to the claim by Oakland's Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan that police "had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks."

The revelations of the Sabehgi story make an already appalling story even more so...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2011 12:01pm PT  

Breakfast in America on Thursday, in Chicago, with WI's Republican Gov. Scott Walker, after Occupiers had recently been rounded up and mass arrested, with the approval of Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for exercising their First Amendment rights.

They made up for that on Thursday...

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By Brad Friedman on 11/4/2011 7:05am PT  

The great patriots comprising Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the nation hardly need my input on the "demands" they continue to try and narrow down and achieve consensus on. I'm quite sure they've got more than enough folks out there making their case for all manner of "demands" given the past 30 years (or more) of utter neglect, corruption and abuse the good citizens of this nation have otherwise been forced --- up until now --- to accept as "politics as usual."

Nonetheless, I've been meaning to ring in on this (and did so recently in a brief comment), so perhaps I should do so quickly here, where it's likely to catch a few more Occupied eyeballs.

I offer the following simple "demand" for consideration by OWS, as this one likely underscores almost every other. Or, at least, without it, all other demands may ultimately be rendered moot.

Here it is. One demand that seems simple enough --- and is as non-partisan as can --- for your consideration:

Every U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older who wishes to vote, gets to vote. Period. Those votes, on hand-marked paper ballots, will be counted publicly, by hand, on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of all observers and video cameras.

Please help spread this to the Occupiers if you agree its important. For example, Tweet it (or a link to this article) like mad (with #ows in the text), and/or spread it via Facebook and/or print it out and take it to a General Assembly at an Occupation near you!

Thanks!

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Law enforcement intended to use tear gas from outset, not in response to 'pelting of bottles and rocks,' as alleged by Interim Police Chief...
By Ernest A. Canning on 11/2/2011 12:34pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning, with Brad Friedman

In the wake of a violent, night-time confrontation with Occupy Oakland demonstrators last week by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and some 15 other law enforcement agencies, questions have arisen about the legality of the tactics used by the agency during mass arrests which led to serious injuries, including the fractured skull of a two-tour Iraq vet.

Oakland's Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan has maintained that the use of chemical agents and other so-called "less than lethal" weapons were required in order to defend law enforcement officials from demonstrators.

However, a forensic analysis by The BRAD BLOG of video taken immediately prior to and during last week's raid and confrontation with Occupy Oakland demonstrators, creates doubt about the legality of the OPD decision to declare the demonstration to be an "unlawful assembly," and, in particular, raises serious questions about the veracity of the Interim Oakland Police Chief's claim that police "had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks."

Moreover, evidence in several of the videos suggests that the multi-agency task force may have violated both CA Penal Code Section 407 and an OPD Training Bulletin [PDF] that had been adopted pursuant to a federal consent decree signed by the Oakland PD after another confrontation with protesters some years ago.

That federal consent decree was the product of litigation initiated after a brutal assault on a 2003 anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland, during which, according to civil rights attorney James B. Chanin, OPD not only deployed so-called "less than lethal firearms," but ran over demonstrators with motorcycles, and shot and arrested longshoreman who were not even a part of the demonstration.

Chanin reports that, during a deposition in the 2003 case, he "discovered" that the OPD had "infiltrated a subsequent demonstration, and even a planned route the demonstrators would take." Video posted at the end of this article shows plain-clothed, under-cover cops mingling with demonstrators at Occupy Oakland, revealing that OPD used similar infiltration techniques during recent demonstrations as well. Audio included in the video captures Interim Chief Jordan bragging about the ease of infiltration.

Yet another video, also posted below, suggests that two-tour Iraq vet Scott Olsen's brain injury was likely caused by a member of the San Francisco Sheriff's Emergency Service Unit (ESU), but, despite reports from activists on the Internet, the identity of that officer is still an open question...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 10/31/2011 6:48pm PT  

Over the weekend, we highlighted a video of a night court judge in Tennessee refusing to jail Occupy Nashville demonstrators after they'd been arrested, bussed downtown by state troopers, and detained for several hours in the wake of a seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a curfew in a public space where protesters had been camping out. As seen in that video, Judge Tom Nelson ordered the protesters released, telling the arresting officer, "You have no lawful basis to arrest or charge these people."

A similar scene played out after arrests on two nights in a row, where the judge refused to jail the protesters.

And now, late today, comes yet another, even larger victory for Occupy Nashville demonstrators, along with a stinging rebuke for the state's Republican Governor Bill Haslam. The turn of events is certainly great news for admirers of the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law and stuff, as the state has "declined to defend the governor's crackdown on protesters" in the wake of a lawsuit filed by demonstrators and the ACLU.

Additionally, the state will not challenge a federal judge's order banning further arrests of the demonstrators for the time being as the parties attempt to negotiate together. The state has even agreed to return confiscated tents, sleeping bags and other property taken from the protesters on the first night of arrests at Nashville's Legislative Plaza...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 10/31/2011 10:10am PT  

No wonder MSNBC buried Chris Hayes' new show in in the absurdly early hours of the weekend TV ghetto. He should be hosting, at a minimum, NBC's Meet the Press.

Had he been doing so for the last several years --- rather than the clueless elitists who have been, along with their weekly parade of meaningless softballs served up to similarly clueless elitist guests and panelists --- we likely wouldn't be in this mess.

Yesterday's compelling round-table discussion on UP with Chris Hayes, about so much that is actually at the heart of this nation's problems, follows below. I hope you will watch it...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Ernest A. Canning on 10/30/2011 4:05pm PT  

Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning

An October 9 Time Magazine poll revealed that 89% of Americans agree that Wall Street exerts too much influence on our political system; 79% feel the gap between rich and poor is too large; 71% feel the executives from the major financial institutions responsible for the 2008 economic meltdown should be prosecuted; and that only 6% of Americans identify themselves as "Tea Party" followers.

Previous MSM efforts to either ignore what amounts to a genuine democratic uprising or to disparage Occupy Wall Street by falsely claiming the movement has no goal have obviously fallen flat. Against that backdrop, the corporate-owned Los Angeles Times launched a desperate effort to deceptively depict the movement as a transient phenomenon which has had its say and should now fade away.

That effort was apparent in both an October 27 front-page news article in the LA Times, "Putting the move in Occupy movement", as well as a lead editorial in the October 28 paper.

Despite such efforts, neither the dire underlying conditions which have been brought on by history's greatest wealth disparity and the tyranny of the corporate security state, nor the people's desire to realize America's still-unfilled egalitarian democracy is likely to dissipate any time soon. As the Mavis Staples song says, "We shall not be moved!"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 10/29/2011 12:07pm PT  

"There has been some twists in the overnight arrests of the Occupy Nashville protesters downtown."

Hat-tip David Swanson on the Twitters...

* * *

Just some of The BRAD BLOG's most-recently related 'Occupy Wall Street' coverage...

10/28/11: He was Standing Stone Still Amid Tear Gas in Oakland - Clutching a Copy of the U.S. Constitution
10/27/11: It's The Accountability, Stupid (or Lack Thereof)
10/26/11: VIDEO: 'Hypocrisy Has its Own Elegant Symmetry'
10/26/11: Police Attack Peaceful 'Occupy Oakland' Demonstrators, Veterans, with Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, Flash-Bang Grenades, and Dishonor
10/24/11: Albany & NY State Police Defy Governor, Mayor; Refuse to Arrest OWS Demonstrators
10/24/11: U.S. Chamber's Disgraced Smear Plot Conspirator, 'Anonymous' Foe, Aaron Barr Found Collaborating with Self-Appointed #OccupyWallStreet 'Snitch'
10/19/11: So Much For the First Amendment: Author, Reporter Naomi Wolf Just Latest of 1,500 Arrested For Peaceable Assembly at #OccupyWallStreet Protests

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PLUS: Updates on the injured Scott Olsen and the still-unresigned Mayor of Oakland...
By Brad Friedman on 10/28/2011 2:55pm PT  

In our coverage of the police assault on peaceful Occupy Oakland demonstrators Wednesday, we ran the inspiring photo of a man standing in front of a line of riot police, wearing a sailor's uniform, holding a Veterans For Peace flag and clutching a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

But what we didn't realize at the time --- not apparent from the photo, but seen in the following, remarkable video --- he was also standing stone still as tear gas canisters were exploding all around him...

I can't help but look at the faces of the police in gas masks, presumably from the Oakland PD (though there were some 17 other agencies there that night) in that haunting video, as they look at the sailor, and wonder what they must be thinking to themselves as that hero stands facing them. We have previously written about the extraordinary violations of the First Amendment that have occurred across the country during these otherwise peaceful demonstrations. What thoughts are going through the minds of those men --- all of whom are undoubtedly also a part of the same "99%" for whom Occupy protesters are fighting --- during that moment?

[UPDATE: The sailor has now been identified as Joshua Shepherd. See his interview on DemocracyNow! here.]

And, as another photograph now reveals, look who happens to be standing right next to the sailor seen above, in the moments just prior to the Oakland PD's tear gas assault...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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About Brad Friedman...
Brad is an independent investigative
journalist, blogger, broadcaster,
VelvetRevolution.us co-founder,
expert on issues of election integrity,
and a Commonweal Institute Fellow.

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