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...
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.
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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...
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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Once again, late last night, as is becoming a too-regular nightly ritual, after the 11p news was over, police moved in again to violate the Constitutional First Amendment right "of the people peaceably to assemble." And, for the second night in a row, late last night in Oakland, CA, it resembled a war zone as police in riot gear unleashed a punishing onslaught of "non-lethal" flash-bang grenades, rubber (and or bean-bag) bullets and tear gas --- hour after hour, round after round --- injuring demonstrators, including women, the disabled, and even Iraq War veterans...
The results were horrific, according to video, photos, and eye-witness reports as it all happened and was reported on Twitter, including this scene appearing to show a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War knocked out by either a concussive grenade or a tear gas canister or another projectile, and being carried away...
[Update]: The veteran seen above was shot in the head and the UK Guardian is now confirming his name is Scott Olsen and that he is in "critical condition" with a "skull fracture and swelling of the brain" at Highland hospital.
"It's terrible to go over to Iraq twice and come back injured, and then get injured by the police that are supposed to be protecting us," his roommate, Keith Shannon, also 24, who served alongside Olsen as a Marine in Iraq, told the Guardian in a late follow-up today.
Other scenes were similarly gruesome and, yes, shameful...
Occupy Albany protesters in New York’s capital city received an unexpected ally over the week: The state and local authorities.
According to the Albany Times Union, New York state troopers and Albany police did not adhere to a curfew crackdown on protesters urged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Albany mayor Gerald Jennings.
Mass arrests seemed to be in the cards once Jennings directed officers to enforce the curfew on roughly 700 protesters occupying the city owned park.
With protesters acting peacefully, local and state police agreed that low level arrests could cause a riot, so they decided instead to defy Cuomo and Jennings.
What part of the Constitutional First Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," do so many of the other cops across the nation not yet understand?
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By the way, with Cuomo's attempted crackdown and Obama's former Chief of Staff, now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel's approval of the arrests of 175 peaceful Occupiers in Chicago over the weekend, can we stop with the "Occupiers are just fronts for Democrats!" bullshit yet?
As registered nurses --- a number of whom were held in jail for some 23 hours after being arrested Saturday night, early Sunday morning while offering medical services to demonstrators in Grant Park --- protested the arrests outside Emanuel's office this morning, he was quoted by the Chicago Trib as saying: "I have to enforce the law as well as respect peoples’ 1st Amendment rights."
And when those two things come in to conflict, which one do you suppose Emanuel decided took precedence over the other?
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Also...not from Albany, though somewhat related to the above. From from New York City, via ThinkProgress, a couple of weeks ago...
That'll teach 'em to mess with the Military-Industrial Complex.
As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, Maryland's "Montgomery County Council resolution asking Congress to spend less on wars and redirect the funds to social programs has drawn the scrutiny of one of the county’s largest employers and other lawmakers."
Despite the non-binding resolution's [PDF] 5 to 4 majority support on the Council, it was withdrawn from consideration after "Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin," a giant manufacturer of sophisticated military weapons, "which employs more than 5,000 workers in Montgomery, urged county officials against the resolution."
The Lockheed lobbyists were joined in their efforts to derail the County Council's resolution --- supported by Democratic members of the council --- by Democratic state and county officials concerned about implications of insulting the weapons contractor giant, while officials in neighboring Virginia "gleefully watch[ed] from afar" as the two states are in frequent competition for billions of Pentagon dollars and the jobs that portend to go with them.
But Pentagon dollars are among the least efficient ways to increase jobs and wealth in any given community, as explained by John Feffer, a co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and Jean Athey, a coordinator of Montgomery County Peace Action, a supporter of the now-withdrawn Montgomery resolution:
Spend a billion dollars on the military, economists Robert Pollin and Hedi Garrett-Peltier estimate, and you get about 11,000 jobs (just a little more than what Lockheed Martin employs in all of Maryland). Spend that same billion dollars on clean energy projects and you generate about 17,000 jobs. The same money invested in education produces nearly 30,000 jobs.
Nonetheless, Lockheed and other longtime members of the Military-Industrial Complex continue to work with public officials in exploiting the "jobs scam" in order to pit state against state, county against county and town against town to bilk tax-payers out of billions under the cynical rubrik of "job creation."
And when that doesn't work, there are other, darker methods that can be used to send the "right" message to those members of the public who might have the temerity to oppose their corporate interests...
...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Isn't that quaint?
Josh Holland takes a look at what happened to that apparently antiquated notion from the document which used to carry some weight in the way this country was governed, as he notes that some 1,500 American citizens have now been arrested while peaceably assembling to petition the Government for a redress of grievances over the past month since Occupy Wall Street began.
Last night, while the GOP debated Casino Capitalism (in an actual casino!), Give Me Liberty author and reporter Naomi Wolfe became one of the latest to have had her Constitutional right to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances taken away from her, as seen in the following video (in which that "Democrat Party-sponsored""mob" was attempting to petition Democratic NY state Governor Andrew Cuomo for a redress of grievances)...
Wolf wrote about her arrest seen above, "for standing lawfully on the sidewalk in an evening gown" at the UK's Guardian today, noting that she explained to the NYPD before she was cuffed that she was both a "NYC citizen and a reporter".
As her article's sub-header notes, "Arresting a middle-aged writer in an evening gown for peaceable conduct is a far cry from when America was a free republic."
"I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007," Wolfe writes. "First they come for the 'other' – the 'terrorist', the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law."
So, where are all the outraged "Tea Partiers" who used to decry supposed abuses of the U.S. Constitution under our authoritarian regime? Oh, right, they were just pretending to give a damn about any of it...like good little scammed Fox "News" soldiers.
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P.S. Here's hoping Wolf makes out as well following her inappropriate arrest as Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman did after hers.
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UPDATE 10/19/11: In her Guardian piece, Wolf explained that the NYPD had told her the permit for the event she was attending (an annual Huffington Post event which Gov. Cuomo was also scheduled to attend, thus the protesters) when she came across the #OWS folks, forbade protesters from using the public sidewalks outside the building. Suspecting the claim from the police was bullshit, she says she requested to see a copy of that permit prior to her arrest, but was not allowed to.
Since posting the article above, Wolf contacted me to note that she has finally tracked down a copy of the type of permit HuffPo had last night and --- surprise, surprise --- the claim by cops appears to, in fact, be bullshit...
Once again we'll be BradCasting LIVE 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the uprising globe from the studios of L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open at the bottom of this item a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
JOSHUA HOLLAND, senior writer/editor at Alternet.org from the #OccupySF demonstrations on what happened last night after we went off the air and police moved in to clear out tents and other property of protesters in San Francisco. And on his latest article on decades of increasing inequality as the top 1% has robbed the bottom 99% blind.
PLUS! More calls from "Occupation Nation" and "Occupiers" around the world (leaving Hour 3 open for calls from you all again!) and anything else that you'd like to talk about at 877-520-1150 and with your tweets to @TheBradBlog!...
[Now UPDATED with tonight's audio archives below!]
The revolution may not be televised...but it will be radio-active as we #OccupyYOURPublicAirwaves!
I'll be guest-hosting the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show tonight, tomorrow and Friday as Mike heads to D.C. to emcee the kick off of the October2011.org demonstration and we'll be
As ever, we'll be BradCasting LIVE 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the uprising globe from the studios of L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open at the bottom of this item a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
PLUS! Calls from "Occupations" and "Occupiers" around the nation (leaving Hour 3 open for calls from you guys! #OccupyYOURPublicAirwaves!) and anything else that you'd like to talk about at 877-520-1150 and with your tweets to @TheBradBlog!...
The St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, along with the U.S. Secret Service, have agreed to pay $100,000 in compensation as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed after the inappropriate arrests and detentions of journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and two of her producers at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The settlement also includes an agreement that the St. Paul police department will "implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public."
As we originally reported in September of 2008, the three journalists were arrested (along with other members of the media) while covering protests and mass arrests outside the GOP convention, despite clearly identifying themselves to the police as members of the media.
In addition to the mass arrests of active protesters, footage later emerged showing an absolutely bizarre, and seemingly indiscriminate, police crackdown on peaceful citizens otherwise having gathered in a nearby city park (See video below.)
Democracy Now! producer Nicole Salazar was even roughed up by police in the course of her apprehension. Goodman, who had rushed out from the convention floor after hearing of the arrests of her producers, was cuffed and taken in despite no hint of inappropriate behavior, as seen in the two short video clips below...