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February 2012

Activism for the end times: Mass actions or focused campaigns?



Protest march against Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008. Photo by Hans Kuder.

It’s not only voices on the religious right who claim we’re in the end times. There’s no doubt that major changes are needed in order to confront a range of deepening ecological and political crises. One response to this is despair—always a seductive option when we feel powerless. Another is to join some stampede into hasty action that doesn’t actually make a difference, although it may feel better than cynical withdrawal.

The good news, for now, is that the Occupy movement’s general assemblies have a process of decision making that is highly democratic and minimizes the chance of hasty actions that accomplish nothing—or worse. And, so far, the collective spirit of the assemblies has been sufficient to stave off despair. But as the movement prepares for the coming spring, there’s a real danger that its mood, and its patience, might change for the worse.

I definitely understand the appeal of the thought of periodic national mass protests at places where the 1 percent or their henchmen gather, like the upcoming G8 summit in Chicago and the national party conventions. On an emotional level, I understand the attraction and have my own warm memories from mass protests I’ve been part of. At this historical moment, however, the Occupy movement might do better to prioritize actions that make more strategic sense and accelerate our learning curve. Here are some reasons why:

  • Same-old, same-old. Don’t let the freshness of the Occupy movement fall into familiar patterns. Why put the new wine of Occupy into the old wineskins of predictably boring contests with city police? The media will cover it with its well-worn template from the past, and the new politics of Occupy will risk being forgotten.
  • One reason Gandhi was able to force Britain to give up control of India was his number-one strategic principle: It’s always better to stay on the offensive. Rather than simply being reactive, a movement should choose its own space for struggle. Going to the sites where the powerholders meet is not only reactive, but it emphasizes their power, as compared with the movement’s. The workers who recently occupied a plant owned by Bank of America in Chicago, for instance, forced the bank to deal with them on their terms.
  • Mass bashes can endanger local causes. One of the strengths of the Occupy movement has been its balance between working on local issues and doing so in the context of a national framework. This has rarely been the case with mass bashes. After the Philadelphia Republican National Convention in 2000—in which I was intimately involved—it took years of community organizing to knit the local activist community back together from the fallout. (Read about a good sub-campaign that happened in Philadelphia and was drowned out by the general disaster.)

Based on the history of mass bashes in the U.S., activists tend not to find them conducive to learning how to win concrete, lasting victories. Fortunately, there is an alternative strategy that does support rapid learning: campaigns.

The Occupy movement is already well-poised to increase its effective use of campaigns. Interrupting housing foreclosures, for one, is a natural campaign that directly affects poor and working class people in crisis, at the intersection of the personal and political. There are already a number of other Occupy-related proto-campaigns with potential:

  • Opposing increases of public transportation fares and decreases in service
  • Securing affordable higher education
  • Demanding that politicians take meaningful steps to slow climate change
  • Opposing a prospective war with Iran
  • Blocking the growth of the prison-industrial complex

Choosing a campaign with clear objectives, a clear target and clarity about how to expand enables activists to evaluate their progress—in other words, to accelerate their learning curve. It also puts them in charge of who they want to reach out to; if a local Occupy is 95 percent white in a city that is half people of color, they can do something about that through a campaign relevant to local issues. Campaigns encourage us to ground our tactical choices in the context of real outcomes down the road, given increased knowledge of the opponent and of potential allies. You’ll see the difference between a movement that simply plans one action after another with diminishing turnout from “the usual suspects,” and a movement that plans actions that build capacity so that the later actions are broader and stronger than the earlier ones.

Winning part or all of one’s objectives in a campaign is empowering; it becomes a built-in deterrent to despair. Coming back from Chicago with stories about police repression might stoke our anger, but who lacks anger? What’s missing in Occupy is not anger; it’s empowerment. In this way, campaigns encourage sustainable activism. The loss from burnout is costly; too many movements look like a revolving door, with consequent loss of skills, knowledge, memory, trusted networks and resources. I would love to see today’s young people for whom Occupy is their first serious encounter with activism still active in 20 years. A campaign supports sustainability; it calls for focused energy over a period of time—a year, perhaps, or three—and after the campaign is done the tired activists can recover, fix their teeth, go back to school or whatever. When ready, they can bring all that experience, plus reflection, to their next one.

There are already many fine campaigns underway in the Occupy movement and others ready to go which would undermine the 1 percent on too many fronts for them to retain their present degree of dominance. We can do direct action, grow, combine with allies, learn from our mistakes and successes, become strategists, and accelerate our learning.

That’s what the planet, and its victims of economic injustice, need most.


PART I Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-direct are Widespread in Occupy

This is Part I of a two part series on infiltration of Occupy and what the movement can do about limiting the damage of those who seek to destroy us from within. This first article describes public reports of infiltration as well as results of a survey and discussions with occupiers about this important issue. The second article will examine the history of political infiltration and steps we can take to address it.

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

In the first five months, the Occupy Movement has had major victories and has altered the debate about the economy. People in the power structure and who hold different political views are pushing back with a traditional tool – infiltration. Across the country, Occupies are struggling with disruption and division, attacks on key persons, escalation of tactics to property damage and police conflict as well as misuse of websites and social media.

As Part II of this discussion will show, infiltration is the norm in political movements in the United States. Occupy has many opponents likely to infiltrate to divide and destroy it beyond the usual law enforcement apparatus. Others include the corporations whose rule Occupy seeks to end, conservative right wing groups allied with corporate interests and other members of the power structure including non-profit organizations allied with either corporate-funded political party, especially the Democratic Party which would like Occupy to be their Tea Party rather than an independent movement critical of both parties.

On the very first day of the Occupation of Wall Street, we saw infiltration by the police.  We were leaving Zucotti Park and were stopped in traffic by the rear of the park.  We saw an unmarked van open, in the front seat were two uniformed police and out of the back came two men dressed as occupiers wearing backpacks, sweatshirts, and jeans. They walked into Zucotti Park and became part of the crowd.


Two undercover police who just stepped out of a police van (left) and the officer in blue entering Zuccotti Park (right). Photos by Margaret Flowers.


In the first week of the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC we saw the impact of two right wing infiltrators.  A peaceful protest was planned at the drone exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.  The plan was for a banner drop and a die-in under the drones.  But, as protesters arrived at the museum two people ran out in front, threatening the security guards and causing them to pepper spray protesters and tourists.  Patrick Howley, an assistant editor for the American Spectator, wrote a column bragging about his role as an agent provocateur. A few days later we uncovered the second infiltrator when he was urging people on Freedom Plaza to resist police with force.  

There have been a handful of other reports around the country of infiltration.  In Oakland, CopWatch filmed an Oakland police officer infiltrating. And, in another video CopWatch includes audio tape of an Oakland police chief, Howard Jordan, talking about how police departments all over the country infiltrate, not just to monitor protesters but to manipulate and direct them.

There were also reports in Los Angeles of a dozen undercover police in the encampment before they were forcibly evicted by the police. The raid by the LA police was brutal and resulted in mass arrests, with most charges dropped, but with others mistreated in jails.  Similar pre-raid undercover activities were reported in Nashville,Tennessee.

Los Angeles also had infiltrators from the right wing group, Free Republic.  They posted on their webpage a call for infiltrators to block a vote concerning an offer from the City of Los Angeles for virtually free space for Occupy LA: “Need LA Freepers to show up to block this vote by the Occupy LA General Assembly. How brave are you?” In the end, the LA occupy decided not to accept the offer from the city, something also opposed by other elements in the encampment.

In New York, there were reports of infiltration.  For example, a protester described how undercover police infiltrated a protest at Citibank and were the loudest and most disruptive protesters. Later at the station listening to the police the protester said in an interview: It was a bit startling how inside their information was – how they were being paid to go to these protests and put us in situations where we’d be arrested and not be able to leave.”

Survey and Interviews of Occupiers Shows Common Tactics, Common Infiltrators

These scattered reports seem to be the tip of the iceberg.  As a result of experiencing extreme divisive tactics and character assassination on Freedom Plaza against us we began to hear from occupiers across the country about similar incidents in their occupations.  We decided to speak to and survey people about infiltration and have found similar stories around the country.

Recently we toured occupations on the west coast, where we spoke to many occupiers and have attended General Assemblies at Occupy Wall Street and Philadelphia. We heard stories in Arizona of someone with website administrative privileges deleting the live stream archive which included video that was to be used in defense of some who were arrested.  In Lancaster, Pennsylvania someone took control of the email list, making it an announce-only list and when the police threatened to close the camp, that person put out a statement that the Lancaster occupiers had decided to go without any conflict.  In fact, no such decision had been made and 30 occupiers had planned to risk arrest when the police tried to remove them. The false email resulted in no resistance.

Our west coast trip ended at the Occupy Olympia Solidarity Social Forum. We were able to survey 41 people representing 15 different occupations primarily on the west coast but including Missoula, MT and New Orleans, LA.  Participants were questioned about 10 different behaviors. The most common behaviors, seen in roughly two-thirds of those surveyed and covering 12 of the 15 occupations, were:

1.    Disruptions of the General Assemblies and attempts to divide the group: Individuals would interrupt General Assemblies with emergency items or sidetrack the agenda with their personal needs or issues. When proposals were presented to the General Assembly on principles for the occupation or plans to prevent division, individuals would question the authority of the writers of the proposal, launch personal attacks or question their abilities. There were frequent attacks on people who did the most work and were perceived as leaders. The anti-leadership views of many occupiers were used to essentially attack the most effective people. Sue Basko wrote about this in Los Angeles in a comment on a Chris Hedges article, writing that there was an “ongoing campaign of harassment and coercion against the Occupy LA participants and volunteers. Each day is a fresh set of victims.” She describes the use of Twitter, list serves and blogs to “defame and harass anyone giving their efforts to help Occupy LA.”  This has included attacks on “social media workers, the website team, the lawyers (including me), the medics, the livestreamers, the writers, and on and on.” She also writes “there is the very strong belief that some among them are FBI or DHS agents placed there to start the group, egg it on, control it.” Conversations with others in Los Angles confirmed this report. Our experience in the area of personal attacks included outlandish lies calling us criminals and thieves and near daily email attacks since early December.  We found that when we respond and correct lies, it does not stop them and have concluded that if someone has the intention to be a character assassin there is nothing you can do to stop them except to expose them. While that does not necessarily stop them, it at least gets those in the occupation who are not gullible to doubt the undocumented personal attacks.

2.    Individuals who took over the website and/or social media and then removed them or hacked them and took control: As noted above, these networks have been used in personal attacks, as well as to send inaccurate messages to the media and other occupiers. One mistake made is to allow a large number of people to have administrative privileges on the website. Being an administrator allows people to erase critical information as occurred in Phoenix.  In Washington, DC we have been removed as administrators of a Facebook page we created because we allowed people who turned out to be untrustworthy to have administrative privileges. Note, people can blog or post to Facebook or websites without being administrators.

Division over how money was being spent was an issue reported by 50% of respondents and in 12 out of 15 occupations, individuals persistently questioned transparency and use of funds. In General Assemblies in New York and Philadelphia we saw disruption by people who complained about money issues.  In New York, an argument about access to free Metro Cards resulted in a 30 minute argument. In Philadelphia, it was a vague complaint about “where is the money?”  We saw something similar at a 99%’s meeting in San Francisco where one of the questioners complained about missing money. And, we have seen the same in Washington, DC with false accusations of missing money. Sometimes these disruptors seem like homeless or emotionally disturbed individuals. They could be acting out their concerns or they could be encouraged by police to attend meetings to cause disruption and could be paid a small amount to do so.  Whether paid or not, the impact is the same – it takes the Occupy off of its political agenda and turns people off to participating in the movement.

Finally, the issue of escalation of tactics to include property damage and conflict with police:  The euphemism for this is “diversity of tactics.”  In fact, there is great diversity within nonviolent tactics. This is really a debate between those who favor strategic nonviolence and those who favor property destruction and police conflict. In 11 of 15 occupations there were reports of verbal attacks on police and/or escalation of tactics from nonviolence to property destruction or violence. In one occupation, an individual took over the direct action working group and escalated the tactics used beyond what the group had agreed upon.  In one occupy, the GA approved putting up a structure but agreed that if the police wanted it taken down they would promptly do so in order to prove the structure was temporary.  When the structure was up, a handful of people refused to take it down causing a 10 hour police conflict and undermining public support for the occupy.  In another occupation, because a minority of the occupy refused to adopt nonviolent strategies, a protest with the teacher union was cancelled preventing a major opportunity to expand the movement. When it comes to the issue of violence vs. property damage, it is particularly hard to tell whether the differences are political or instigated by infiltrators.

Participants were asked about attempts at co-optation by law enforcement, individuals or organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party and about suspected infiltration by right wing groups: 8 of the 15 occupations (41% of respondents) reported Democratic groups attempted to co-opt the occupation, using it to push or prevent a legislative agenda or using the occupation’s social media to change the times of protests or meetings. Far fewer reported suspicion or evidence of right wing infiltration (12% of respondents in four occupations), most stating that the corporate media provided poor or misleading coverage.  The most common form of infiltration was by law enforcement agencies (49% of respondents; 11 of 15 occupations). Some respondents reported having video evidence, some reported law enforcement officers having more information than they had been given, police using names of occupiers when names had never been provided and some suspected police infiltration but had no proof.

Of course, there is a lot of suspicion, but people are rarely able to prove infiltration. These incidents could be people with real political disagreement within the Occupy, or they could be people who are emotionally disturbed, mentally ill or who bring other personal challenges with them.  Or, it could be an infiltrator manipulating these people, playing on their fears and prejudices.  This is not a simple issue, as we will discuss in Part II, it is best to judge people by their actions and not label them as infiltrators without direct proof.

Some may wonder why Democrats or groups closely affiliated with the Democrats like MoveOn, Campaign for America’s Future, Rebuild the Dream or unions like SEIU would want to infiltrate the Occupy (note: individuals who are Democrats, union, MoveOn or members of other groups are not the same as the leadership). Essentially, leaders of these groups see Occupy as the Democrats’ potential answer to the Tea Party.  Occupiers do not see themselves that way, but these groups want the Occupy to adopt their strategy of working within the Democratic Party. In one example, Eric Lottke, a senior policy analyst for SEIU who has been involved in Occupy DC, appeared on a radio show with two other occupiers from Occupy Washington, DC and Occupy Oakland. Lottke said he was speaking as an occupier from Occupy DC and talked about ‘taking back Congress in 2012′, the need for an electoral strategy and gave the usual Democrat rhetoric about Obama needing more time. The two other guests said Lottke was completely out of step with most Occupiers who say we should not focus on electoral politics but instead should build an independent movement to challenge the corrupt system.  We doubt the Occupy DC General Assembly agreed with Lottke’s pro-Democratic Party, pro-Obama views but Lottke had positioned himself to speak for them. Van Jones of Rebuild the Dream similarly was appearing in the media as if he were an occupy spokesperson claiming there will be 2000 “99% candidates” in 2012; again trying to push Occupy into Democratic electoral politics. These are just two examples of many Democratic Party operatives trying to send Occupy into Democratic Party politics despite the movement consistently describing itself as independent and non-electoral.

In Washington, DC we have seen some occupiers attacking the National Occupation of Washington, DC ( scheduled for this April, while other occupiers have shown enthusiasm for it.  Solidarity with NOW DC has been shown by 19 General Assemblies of occupations from around the country.  InterOccupy classifies it as a national Occupy event. The attackers have been criticizing NOW DC by attacking the authors of this article. This attack is occurring at the same time that Democratic Party aligned groups have announced their own project which occurs at the same time as NOW DC, the “99%’s Spring.” Thus far the dividers have succeeded in preventing solidarity from the two DC occupations with the rest of the Occupy Movement. Is the timing a coincidence?

No doubt the information in this article is incomplete.  We have only been able to survey and talk with people at about 20 occupies.  We would very much like to hear from others around the country about experiences at their occupation as understanding these tactics is the first step to confronting and addressing them. (Send your comments to

In Part II of this series we will focus on the history of government infiltration and destruction of political movements and political leaders and will examine steps that can be taken to minimize the damage from these tactics. One thing evident from the history: infiltration has been common in political movements for a century and the tactics of division, attacks on leaders, escalation of tactics, fights over money and misinformation to the public are common throughout that history.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese were among the original organizers of Occupy Washington, DC and are currently among the organizers of the National Occupation of Washington, DC.

This article was originally published in Truthdig.


Update on NOW DC and West Coast Tour

We are pleased to announce that 14 General Assemblies from around the United States, and now including Occupy Exeter in England, have signed on in solidarity with the upcoming National Occupation of Washington, DC (NOW DC) which begins March 30th. NOW DC is being organized by and for occupiers to show our occupy power and includes a social forum, celebration and direct action. We welcome organizers from Occupy Congress who have recently joined in the planning. The weekly organizing call is open to those who would like to assist in the creation of this event on Sunday nights at 9 pm eastern on There are 7 working groups at present.

For those who are wondering about the two encampments in Washington, DC, while McPherson Square has been mostly evicted, they are doing excellent, ongoing working groups, and the Freedom Plaza encampment remains in place with less tents and faces continued harassment by the Park Police.

Two of the organizers of the occupation at Freedom Plaza, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, will begin a west coast speaking tour on Sunday, Feb. 12 to visit occupations on their way to the Occupy Olympia Solidarity Social Forum. They hope to see you along the way if you are in the area. Here is an outline of their speaking schedule:

Sunday, Feb. 12: Occupy Phoenix in Cesar Chavez Plaza from 6 to 7:30 pm.
Monday, Feb. 13: Occupy Tucson 7 to 9 pm: Single Payer and the 99% Deficit Proposal.
Tuesday, Feb. 14: Single Payer Now Meeting in San Francisco, CA.
Wednesday, Feb. 15: Panel on Diversity of Tactics with Chris Hedges, listen live at at 3 pm pacific/6 pm eastern, followed by Which Way Forward from 7 to 9 pm by the San Francisco 99% Coalition.
Thursday, Feb 16: Occupy Ashland Forum on Occupy from 6:30 to 8 pm at SOU.
Friday, Feb. 17: City Library in Corvallis, OR from noon to 2 pm to speak about single payer and the economy, followed by a teach-in on Occupy Strategy and Tactics at 6 pm at Occupy Portland.
Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 & 19: Occupy Olympia Solidarity Social Forum

This is the last week to bid on the amazing painting of the first weekend in Freedom Plaza. If you would like to support this tour and the work of October2011/Occupy Washington, DC, you can donate here.

We all continue onward in the march against corporate rule and to create a world that is peaceful, just and sustainable.

In peace and solidarity,
October2011/Occupy Washington, DC

If Money is Speech, Poverty is Silence

The great slogan Occupy protestors wore on their tee-shirts, with tape over their mouth: If Money is Speech, Poverty is Silence. Outside they wore baseball uniforms saying "Tax Dodgers."


Occupy protestors kicked out of CPAC

By Leigh Ann Caldwell
CBS News, February 10, 2012
CPAC, Occupy (Credit: Jumoke Balogun)

WASHINGTON -- During Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's much-anticipated speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), "Occupy" protestors conducted a silent protest that erupted into a chanting match between protestors and conservative conference attendees.

In an overflow room next door to the main ballroom broadcasting Romney's speech, about two dozen protestors stood in front of the monitors attempting to block the view, according to two conference attendees in the room.

Two college students from New Jersey, Matt Bowe and Kevin Spiley, gave Hotsheet the play-by-play.

"They weren't tall enough to block the screen, but it was still annoying," Spiley said.

The crowd started to yell at the protestors, who covered their mouths with tape and wore shirts that read, "If money is speech, poverty is silence." Bowe said people started to shout the protestors down by saying, "'You smell, get a job' -- you know, the usual stuff."

Hotsheet witnessed the protestors being escorted through the maze of conference rooms, down an escalator, through a hotel bar and out the side doors of the sprawling hotel.

By that time, the "Occupy" protestors had torn the tape off their mouths and loudly chanted, "We are the 99 percent." The group of protesters were college students from different parts of the nation who said Romney's policies would only benefit the nation's elites.

"Romney says 'I'm not concerned about the very poor,' and I'm here to say he should care, I'm one of them," said Joe Gallant, a recent graduate of George Mason University. "I'm working two jobs and still can't make it."

As the protesters were escorted out, conference participants shouted back, "We pay your rent," and moved into the hotel lobby and perimeter hotel bars chanting, "Get a job."

The Occupy movement has not received much attention at CPAC, but both radio host Laura Ingraham and commentator Ann Coulter made jokes about it.

Ingraham opened her speech with with a jab at the group. Referring to about 100 protestors outside the hotel hosting the conservative conference, she said, "You might not have seen them, but you smell them."

Occupy DC Protests The '1 Percent' Outside CPAC 2012

By Ariel Edwards-Levy
Huffington Post, February, 10, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The Conservative Political Action Conference drew crowds of protesters on Friday, as members of the Occupy Wall Street movement and labor groups demonstrated against the annual confab as a powwow for the "1 percent."

Inside the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., students affiliated with Occupy silently interrupted a speech by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The protesters, wearing "We are the 99%" stickers over their mouths and shirts that read "If money is speech, poverty is silence," were escorted from the building by security.

While leading figures in the conservative movement continued to meet inside, outside the hotel the atmosphere was more raucous, with several hundred people rallying at noon beneath a giant inflatable "fat cat." They held signs, chanted, and set up a few tents at the bottom of the hotel's winding driveway.

But when protesters began marching up the driveway shortly after noon, several D.C. police officers impeded their path and instructed protesters -- and members of the media -- that they needed to move back. Police said the driveway was private property and that those still on it risked arrest. The protest began moving back down the driveway as CPAC attendees watched from the sidelines. Police continued to keep protesters and members of the media off the driveway but allowed the protest to spill off the sidewalk, blocking the street.

The protest saw a number of outlandish attendees, from the Brooklyn "Tax Dodgers," a faux baseball team who satirically support former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, to "Candidate Walmart," aka Ben Waxman, who said he was standing up for a corporation's right to run for president. It also drew a mix of Occupy protesters, union supporters and members of local groups.

"We're protesting CPAC's propping up of policies that don't force U.S. corporations to pay their fair tax share, and really promote obscene income inequality in this country," said James Adams, a coordinator with Occupy DC. "The dreams of Americans who make up the 99 percent are being squashed by CPAC and their poster boy, Mitt Romney."

Although protesters expressed concern on issues from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to foreign policy, most said they were focused on economic policy.

"We're trying to create more jobs here in the District, and we feel by holding Congress and big corporations accountable for not paying their fair share of taxes, they can create more jobs by doing so," said Dwayne Devoe, another member of Occupy DC. "A lot of them are talking about creating jobs, but at the end of the day, what they're saying doesn't really relate to their message."

Jeanae Paul, a member of Good Jobs Baltimore, said she was trying to call attention to the plight of the jobless. "I've been unemployed for over a year now, and it's been really hard," Paul said. "I've been going on interviews, but there's no jobs out there. They're non-existent. And it's hard to feed my family, it's hard to buy clothes, to celebrate the holidays."

Paul said she made the trip to Washington because she wanted the Republican candidates for president to hear stories like hers. "It's important to let them know that we're people, too," she said. "We want to be heard. You know, they need to know the real stories, instead of listening to what their 1 percent is saying. Because we're the 99 percent."

Brendan Duke, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, an organization of 2.1 million members, told The Huffington Post that there were 600 protesters on hand, including 300 unemployed workers from the D.C. area. He said the protest was scheduled to last until 2 p.m.

Most CPAC attendees simply walked around the rally, but several stopped to speak with protesters.

Byron Sanford, a Catholic University student who supports Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), seemed sympathetic. "I agree with Occupy Wall Street on one of the things they stand for -- I think corporations are ripping off the American people," he said, admitting that he was actually more comfortable with the atmosphere outside the conference. "I feel much better out here."

Others were less impressed.

"I've been to a couple of these things, and it's pretty typical -- it's the same slogans," said John Sexton, who writes for Verum Serum, CPAC's 2012 Blog of the Year. "Individually, they can be very reasonable, but in groups, you're not thinking."

Another protest outside CPAC is planned for Friday evening.

Michael Calderone contributed to this report.



Occupy demonstrators target Romney with protest of CPAC speech

A small group of demonstrators staged a silent protest during Mitt Romney’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday. Security guards for the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where the annual gathering of conservatives is being held, quickly threw the protesters out.

Joe Gallant, 22, was among the group. Gallant said the protesters moved to the front of an overflow room where attendees were watching Romney’s speech, taped their mouths, and revealed T-shirts that read, “If money is speech, then poverty is silence.”

“We were just trying to get our point across that there is too much money in politics,” Gallant said.

Trade unions and community groups staged a larger protest outside the hotel. The demonstrators tried to approach the hotel building but were turned back by police. The crowd chanted the Occupy movement slogan, “We are the 99%,” but only a few members of Occupy D.C. were present.

Monique Covington, 24, a member of Our DC, a community group working to bring jobs to the city, said she was protesting plans to cut entitlement programs. She said she has been unemployed for five years and supports herself and her son on food stamps and other benefits.

“They cut that, people are going to be dying without food and water,” she said.

Small groups of CPAC attendees came out to watch the protesters, and some tried to debate with them. Patrick Richardson, 21, a business student from Ohio, asked protesters for their thoughts on a flat tax.

“I’m by no means the 1% yet, but I aspire to be,” he said.

Union members plan to return to CPAC again early Friday evening, and Occupy D.C. is planning another protest for the conference’s final day Saturday.

Labor, Occupy D.C. protesters target CPAC

Hundreds of protesters converged on the Marriott Wardman Park hotel this afternoon to protest the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying the group represents the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Occupy protestors and others, including this group from New York dressed as "Tax Dodgers,” staged a protest in front of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel Friday, which was hosting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)
Carrying tents, giant inflatables and banners, the group swarmed the hotel entrance around noon.

The protesters represented various unions, progressive groups and Occupy D.C. — timing their event to Mitt Romney’s planned speech to thousands of conservatives attending the conference.

“I’m here to tell Mitt Romney and CPAC to stop giving tax breaks to the rich, and create good jobs for the 99 percent,” said John Butler, an unemployed District resident who is part of a group called Our DC. “We want them to see us, hear us, feel us.”

John Butler, foreground left, of Our DC, marches with Occupy protestors and others up the driveway of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel as they protest the CPAC convention going on inside on Friday in Washington. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)
The protesters, including representatives from the Teamsters and United Auto Workers, erected giant tents on the sidewalk as well as a one-story inflatable designed to resemble a “fat cat.”

But District police and hotel security maintained a heavy presence, largely keeping protesters confined to the sidewalk. About 12:30 pm, dozens of protesters suddenly marched up to driveway toward the door of the hotel, but police cars and officers quickly formed a barrier preventing them from entering.

A few CPAC attendees hurled insults at the protesters, such as “get a job,” but most appeared amused or quietly watched the demonstration from hotel grounds.

“I think its good to see people express themselves,” said Bryn Mahan, 23, of Virginia Beach. “Its not a demonstration I agree with, but its great to see people passionate.”

Additional demonstrations are planned later Friday, and some conservatives have expressed concern about the potential for violence.

Late last year, hundreds of Occupy DC protesters trapped conservatives attending an Americans for Prosperity conference in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

But District police have since adjusted their tactics to become more observant of the protests.


Mortgage Settlement Another Victory for Occupy; But Insufficient and We Must Push for More

By Kevin Zeese

The massive mortgage settlement announced by President Obama yesterday is a victory for the Occupy Movement and others who have protested bank foreclosure and mortgage practices.  Protests at federal housing agencies, at Attorneys General conferences and the Occupy the Homes movement are among the actions that showed the public was organized, mobilized and angry.  President Obama had been on the brink of a settlement with the banks that would have given them broad immunity from prosecution.  Instead the immunity was a narrow one and criminal investigations will continue and homeowners will be empowered to sue the banks.

While this is a large settlement, when compared to other settlements of corporate misbehavior, it is a tiny settlement in comparison to the damage done to individuals and the economy.  The Occupy Movement and others who want real justice need to continue to push for more.  The mortgage crisis created $700 billion in losses in the housing market; $25 billion lets the housing bubble profiteers off cheap. For the 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure from September 2008 to the end of 2011 they will receive a check for about $2,000 – not much for losing the biggest investment of their life. And, only a small percentage of current homeowners will get relief, the estimate is about $20,000 to each homeowner when the average underwater home is $50,000 underwater. So, even those that get relief will get insufficient relief. President Obama called this settlement “a start.” He’s right, that is all it is, and it comes in the final year of his first term – a bit late for many who suffered bankster corruption, but in time for the election year.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, once a lone voice against the initial deal, gradually convinced others to join him and along with Kamala Harris of California, was the last to sign the deal. They could not have succeeded without the threat of angry and mobilized people demanding justice for the bankers and a fair deal for the American people. Schneiderman said in reaction to the deal, that criminal investigations would continue.

President Obama noted some of the unethical and very likely illegal practices of the financial industry including: lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them; speculators looking to make a quick buck; banks that took risky mortgages, packaged them up, and traded them off for large profits and fake documents, robo signing and questionable foreclosures. The people need to demand accountability.

On the day the president announced the settlement, Occupy LA held a protest against it. They made the point that the settlement was too little too late and questioned why the settlement came before the investigation.

Occupiers have been protesting the foreclosure issue in a variety of ways. Occupy Washington, DC protested at the Federal Housing Finance Agency with National People’s Action demanding that housing bubble mortgages be reduced to reflect the real value of houses, not the false bubble prices created by unethical lending practices. Why should banks continue to profit from false housing bubble prices they created? These are a few among many examples of protests that have been held nationwide against the banks for their mortgage and foreclosure practices. Activists in the street are a key reason why the settlement announced with the banks did not protect them from criminal prosecution and litigation by ripped-off homeowners. Now, that we have had a small victory, it is time for housing and economic justice activists to escalate their protests against the big banks and push for more accountability for their actions.

Kevin Zeese is co-director of It’s Our Economy, works with Occupy Washington, DC and is an organizer for the National Occupation of Washington, DC.

Rush to Get Drones in U.S. Air Space Over Next Nine Months — 30,000 predicted by 2020

There is a big rush to get the FAA to permit as many drones as possible in U.S. air space to spy on people in the United States.  They predict 30,000 by 2020.  Do you think the government is afraid of its citizens?


FAA: Look for 30,000 Drones in U.S. Airspace by 2020 Under New Law Passed by Congress

By Robert Johnson
Business Insider

Congress passed a bill this week paving the way for unmanned drones to ply American skies.

The bill requires the FAA to rush a plan to get as many drones in the air as possible within nine months.

How many drones are we talking?

Shaun Waterman at The Washington Times reports the agency predicts that 30,000 drones could fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade.

Naturally, many are concerned that surveillance by police and federal government agencies will skyrocket in response. 

From The Washington Times:

“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists...

The bill calls for numerous test ranges to be operated in conjunction with NASA and the Department of Defense, use of drones in the Arctic, guidance system improvements, and an assessment of the “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”

This new bill follows up the Army's January directive to use drone fleets in the U.S. for training missions and "domestic operations."

And both of these initiatives are mandated in the NDAA (section 1097) that calls for six drone test ranges to be operational within six months of that bills signing December 31.

The commercial drone market would be worth hundreds of millions more if the bill passes.


NYC Police Spy Center Located Directly Across the Street from OWS Meeting Area

A very interesting article below on the NYPD intelligence center in NY.  The partnership between big Wall Street firms with the NYPD is worth noting; as well as the illegality of the spying operation.

One thing not mentioned, OWS meets directly across the street from the spy center at 50/60 Wall Street! 

By the way, on the first day we were at Zucotti Park, Margaret Flowers and I saw undercover cops get out of an unmarked van.  When the van opened we could see uniformed police in the front seats. The cops got out of the back of the van and went into Zucotti dressed in jeans, wearing back packs and looking like occupiers.  There is no doubt they have been infiltrating, probably from before the occupation began.  The issue is are they merely collecting intelligence or are they disrupting meetings, causing divisions and escalating tactics beyond non-violence?  All three -- disruptions, division and non-violent actions are occurring in encampments across the country.


How 60 Minutes Blew the Story

Wall Street’s Secret Spy Center, Run for the 1% by NYPD


On September 25, 2011, just eight days after the Occupy Wall Street protests began in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, the much acclaimed CBS News program, 60 Minutes, aired a fawning look at the thousands of surveillance cameras affixed to buildings and lampposts throughout New York City.  The cameras feed live images of people going about their everyday lives to a $150 million computer center equipped with artificial intelligence to integrate and analyze the daily habits of what are, for the most part, law-abiding Americans.

The thrust of the 60 Minutes  program was the fine job of counter terrorism being done by the NYPD and its Commissioner, Raymond Kelly. It was a triumph in public relations for a police department about to go on an assault spree –  pepper spraying and punching  peaceful protestors;  kicking, ramming and arresting journalists attempting to cover the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

On air, the reporter, Scott Pelley, said the surveillance center was “housed in a secret location,”  as one would expect of a real counter terrorism program — as opposed to a program to simply quash dissent.  Mr. Pelley also said the program was run by the NYPD.  As it turns out, neither of those assertions were accurate.

The New York Times, the worldwide news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), Wired Magazine, the New York City Council had all previously reported the location of the supposedly super secret counter terrorism  center on their public web sites: 55 Broadway in the bowels of the financial district.  What was a secret about the operation, and not reported by 60 Minutes to its viewers, despite being well aware of the facts, is that the center is jointly staffed and operated by the NYPD along with the largest Wall Street firms – the same firms under investigation in 50 states for mortgage and foreclosure fraud and widely credited with causing the Nation’s economic collapse.  The Wall Street firms that were involuntarily  bailed out by the 99% are now policing the 99%.

In a telephone conversation with the co-producer of the program, Robert Anderson, he conceded that he was aware of the presence of the Wall Street firms in the center.  It would have been hard to miss them.  The facility is designed with three long rows of computer workstations.  The outside of each cubicle bears a brass plaque with the names of the occupants: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorganChase, etc.

You won’t find photographs showing these firms in the surveillance center in any U.S. corporate news outlet, but a foreign news service has them openly displayed – a news organization servicing countries of the former Soviet Union.  These photos were taken during a large gathering of reporters and photographers at the invitation of the NYPD.  As shown in the photos, the event was hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Very secret counter terrorism operation, indeed, with global reporters and photographers coming and going in both 2010 and 2011.

As we reported in October, the surveillance plan became known as the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the facility was dubbed the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. It operates round-the-clock with 2,000 private spy cameras owned by Wall Street firms and other corporations, together with approximately 1,000 more owned by the NYPD.  At least 700 additional cameras scour the midtown area and also relay their live feeds into the downtown center where all film is integrated for analysis.  The $150 million of taxpayer money that’s funding this corporate/police spying operation comes from both city and Federal sources, with the cost rising daily as more technology is added.

Not only is it unprecedented for corporations under serial and ongoing corruption probes to be allowed to spy on law abiding citizens under the imprimatur of the largest police force in the country, but the legality of the operation by the NYPD itself is highly questionable.

During the 60 Minutes program (at elapsed time 8:50), the following exchange takes place between the reporter Scott Pelley and Jessica Tisch, the NYPD Director of Counterterrorism Policy and Planning who played a significant role in developing the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. (Tisch is in her early thirties and did not come up through the ranks of counter terrorism or law enforcement. She is the granddaughter and one of the heirs to the fortune of now-deceased billionaire Laurence Tisch, who built the Loews Corporation.  Her father, James Tisch, is the CEO of the Loews Corporation and was elected by Wall Street banks to sit on the Federal Reserve Bank of  New York until 2013,  representing the public’s interest.  Ms. Tisch is apparently standing in for the public’s interest in this surveillance operation:  rather than public hearings, Ms. Tisch drafted the guidelines for the program herself.)

Pelley: “Tisch showed us how the system can search for a suspicious person based on a description – a red shirt for example.”

Tisch: “And I can call up in real time all instances where a camera caught someone wearing a red shirt.”

Pelley: “So the computer looks essentially through all the video, finds all of the red shirts and puts it together for you.”

Tisch: “Video canvasses that used to take days and weeks to do, you’ll now be able to do with the snap of a finger.”

Tisch snaps her fingers for added emphasis.

Unfortunately, electronic surveillance of individuals at the snap of a finger is exactly what New York State law prohibits.  New York Code, Section 700.15,  requires a warrant for video surveillance and the warrant is only issuable “Upon probable cause to believe that a particularly  described  person  is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a particular designated offense.”  Blanket surveillance of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens with cameras that pan, tilt and rotate to track individuals to the doorsteps of their psychiatrist, debt counselor, Alcoholics Anonymous, or prosecutor’s office – shared with corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of these same individuals, is breathtaking in its blatant disregard for privacy rights.

In a letter dated March 26, 2009 to Police Commissioner Kelly, following years of being stonewalled with its Freedom of Information Law requests for more details on the surveillance program, the New York Civil Liberties Union warned:  “…virtually all of the enormous information gathered and maintained by the system will be about people engaged in wholly lawful activity…we believe this entire enterprise is illegitimate and inappropriate…”

In a 2006 formal report on the camera surveillance network, the NYCLU noted that “Today’s surveillance camera is not merely the equivalent of a pair of eyes. It has super human vision.  It has the capability to zoom in and ‘read’ the pages of the book you have opened while waiting for a train in the subway.”  The report further explained that “New York City has a long and troubled history of police surveillance of individuals and groups engaged in lawful political protest and dissent.  Between 1904 and 1985 the NYPD compiled some one million intelligence files on more than 200,000 individuals and groups — suspected communists, Vietnam War protesters, health and housing advocates, education reform groups, and civil rights activists.”

An even bigger problem for New York City came on January 23 of this year when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare unanimous decision in United States v. Jones.  All nine justices agreed that the use of an electronic GPS tracking device placed on an automobile by law enforcement constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment and required a warrant.

Writing the decision for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia stated: “As Justice Brennan explained in his concurrence in Knotts, Katz did not erode the principle ‘that when the Government does engage in physical intrusion of a consti­tutionally protected area in order to obtain information, that intrusion may constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Writing a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor expanded on the potential for unconstitutional law enforcement actions using electronic surveillance devices: “GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations. See, e.g., People v. Weaver, 12 N. Y. 3d 433, 441–442, 909 N. E. 2d 1195, 1199 (2009) (‘Disclosed in [GPS] data . . . will be trips the indisputably private na­ture of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meet­ing, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on.’) The Government can store such records and efficiently mine them for information years into the future.”

Electronic surveillance cameras deployed in New York City, however, do for more than GPS devices: they film the individual, their features, their companions, and show just what doorsteps they are entering in their comings and goings throughout the day; week after week; 24/7.

What zealous prosecutor or Wall Street whistleblower or investigative reporter is safe from being targeted by this surveillance juggernaut.

The electronic tracking capability described by Ms. Tisch on 60 Minutes, where an individual in the snap of a finger is tracked all over Manhattan, with no warrant and no more probable cause than wearing a red shirt, seems just what Justices Scalia and Sotomayor had in mind as illegal activities.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo are civil rights attorneys who co-founded the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.  They have filed a class action lawsuit against Police Commissioner Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York over the arrest on October 1, 2011 of more than 700 peaceful protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard had this to say about the sprawling surveillance program in New York City:

“The clearly stipulated and clearly defined requirement of probable cause, a central guarantee that protects individuals from over-reaching police authority, has been eviscerated in practice and in policy by the all-pervasive surveillance tools that make certain people and groups the ‘usual suspects’ in an environment that authorizes racial, religious and political profiling as the de facto law of the land. The NYPD is engaged in mass surveillance and mass aggregation of data on persons who not only have engaged in no criminal activity, but for whom there is no probable cause or individualized suspicion to believe they have engaged, or are engaged, in criminal activity. This is a perversion of civil rights and civil liberties by the government that is spreading across the country.”

Chris Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the NYCLU, said in response to my question concerning  the significance to New Yorkers of the Jones Supreme Court decision: “This decision opens the door to the argument that police camera systems that systematically track the movements and whereabouts of people in public places trigger constitutional scrutiny.  We have long believed that LMSI [Lower Manhattan Security Initiative]  violates the privacy rights of law-abiding New Yorkers, and this ruling from the Supreme Court supports that view.”  (Mr. Dunn is also an adjunct professor at the NYU School of Law where he teaches in the Civil Rights Clinic and he authors the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties column in the New York Law JournalHe has written a detailed analysis of the United States v. Jones decision in his current column.)

Mr. Dunn’s opinion is buttressed by a powerful corporate law firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale, which ironically lists among its clients the Wall Street firms Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorganChase.  The firm co-authored the 2007 report for the Constitution Project titled: “Public Video Surveillance: A Guide to Protecting Communities and Preserving Civil Liberties.”

The report singles out New York, interpreting its law as follows: “Several state statutes regulate aspects of public use of video surveillance.  In New York, for example, video surveillance can only be conducted as part of a police investigation into the allegedly criminal behavior of an individual pursuant to a warrant.  Because of what the statute terms ‘the reasonable expectation of privacy under the constitution of this state or of the United States,’ the bar for authorizing or approving such a warrant is set quite high, and the alleged crimes must be quite serious.  Arizona, in contrast, merely makes it a misdemeanor for a person to use video ‘surveillance’ in a public place without posting notice.”

This vast surveillance program in New York City has had no public hearings to develop proper guidelines, no public overseers, no legislative mandate and is operating with no checks and balances.

The City Council’s  Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Peter Vallone, did tour the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center on June 16, 2011.  The minutes of the meeting on the City Council’s  public web site list only the date, time and location.  A phone call and email request to Mr. Vallone’s office to make the full minutes available to the public was met with silence.

I asked Michael Cardozo’s office, Corporation Counsel for New York City, to give me a statement as to the legality of this NYPD-Wall Street surveillance program.  Mr. Cardozo declined to be quoted but his associate, Deputy Communications Director, Connie Pankratz, said: “It is perfectly legal to use security cameras in public spaces.  This is no different than having a police officer watch or follow someone on a public street.”

That analogy is like comparing a pea shooter to a heat-seeking missile.  These cameras can pan, tilt, rotate and zoom.  The live feeds are integrated with cameras from all over Manhattan which can simultaneously analyze the images using artificial intelligence to look for specific human features or clothing colors.  To quote Ms. Tisch on 60 Minutes: “Nobody has a system like this.”

I filed two Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests with the NYPD in the Fall of 2011.  New York State has an inspiring sunshine law, which acknowledges that “The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The legislature therefore declares that government is the public’s business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article…”

Notwithstanding the noble intent of the law and notwithstanding the legislative mandate to respond in 5 business days or a period reasonable to the request, both of my requests received a written response stating it would take five months to answer — five months or 30 times longer than the legislative intent.  The NYPD has 15,000 non uniformed employees available to fulfill the legislative mandate to permit participatory government.  If it wanted to honor the legislative mandate, it could assign more staff to the Records Access Department.  Until it does, it is functioning in contravention of the state legislative mandate.

In the 2010 book “Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists” by Mike Wallace and Beth Knobel, the producer of the 60 Minutes episode on the surveillance center, Robert Anderson, is quoted as follows:

“Mike [Wallace] has always said that we are seekers of truth, and that’s what we are.  We are seekers of truths that people would be better off knowing, and that they probably don’t know.  And we are looking for something that is hopefully of some significance, because the more significant it is, the better the story it is for us.”

There are two significant stories at the surveillance center at 55 Broadway.  The first is that the largest police force in the country has secretly deputized as its partners the same giant Wall Street firms that are serially charged with looting the public but never prosecuted, no matter how big the crime. The second significant story is that the largest police force in the country has tapped the public coffers to the tune of $150 million to operate what legal experts say is an illegal program.

Kevin Tedesco, Executive Director of 60 Minutes, had this to say about my concerns with the program:  “We find your inquiry somewhat puzzling.  This was a story about defending against terrorism, probably the most important issue of our times.  You have only to look at 60 Minutes’ record to see that we frequently report on Wall Street institutions, the most recent of which, “Prosecuting Wall Street” was broadcast on December 4.  Robert Anderson, the producer of the story on the command center, produced  “The Next Housing Shock,”  an investigation about misleading and fake mortgage documentation that cast a harsh light on financial institutions when it was broadcast on August 7 and April 3.  No one told us what to report or not report in those stories and neither did anyone in this one.  We appreciate the chance to respond.”

I willingly concede that 60 Minutes regularly provides outstanding investigative reports.  I have previously referenced their groundbreaking  work in my writing.  Robert Anderson’s work on “The Next Housing Shock” brings the audacity and collusiveness of the foreclosure crimes into sharp focus and admirably serves the public interest.

But rather than deflecting my criticisms, Mr. Tedesco ends up making my case by pointing to the December 4 broadcast of “Prosecuting Wall Street.”  This is a story alleging systemic corruption at Citigroup made by a Vice President of the firm, Richard Bowen; a man so confident of his facts that he testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.   Mr. Bowen had his duties reassigned and was retaliated against and told to remain off the premises once he brought the corruption to the attention of the most senior executives at Citigroup.

Charges like these have been made for over a decade against Citigroup by other key employees.  No senior executives have ever been prosecuted.  Now a Citigroup representative sits alongside police in a high tech center where it can monitor the comings and goings of pedestrians, including potential whistleblowers.  If that’s not significant, I don’t know what is.

Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years. She spent the last decade of her career advocating against Wall Street’s private justice system, which keeps its crimes shielded from public courtrooms.  She maintains, along with Russ Martens, an ongoing archive dedicated to this financial era at She has no security position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article.  She is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. She can be reached at


An American Spring is in the Air, February 5, 2012

I had the privilege of moderating (a glorified term for an on-air switchboard operator) an InterOccupy call a couple of nights ago. Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, two of the movement's best known organizers, both very active in Occupy Washington DC, answered questions about "Occupy Phase 2," the directions that the movement should take in the Spring. The main point was that "Phase 2" should involve setting up alternate economic structures designed to weaken the "pillars of power." An illustration of this is setting up local alternatives to the banking system. During "Phase 2," non-violent protest, the hallmark of "Phase 1," was said to be important to continue. It was noted that non-violence is even more important now, amid signs that those in power may be worried that some of the pillars that keep them in power, such as local police forces, may be sympathetic to the Occupy movement. NowDC, the National Occupation of Washington D.C., slated for April, will an important step in coordinating separate occupations nationally, and for its actions to be taken to pressure Congress, when it returns from Spring recess. In addition to "Phase 2," miscellaneous questions were addressed, including whether the movement should focus on the 2012 elections, and what to do in the period afterwards.

InterOccupy hosts several national conference calls each week to promote communication between individuals, Working Groups and local General Assemblies, across the Occupy movement. The conference calls focus on organization and special topics. The contacts allow for cross-fertilization between local groups. Tips such as "what works for us," can be discussed, or advice on how to cope with setbacks can be shared. This particular call was in a category called "Hot Topics," which brings in a weekly speaker (or speakers, in this case) to address issues of interest.

Alternative Economic Structures

As an introduction to the talk, Margaret Flowers referenced the "Pillars of Support" defined by Robert Helvey in his book "On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict." The idea is that "when important pillars of support are sufficiently undermined, the government, or the opposition, collapses just as a building will collapse upon itself when its support structure is weakened and gives way." In our society, those pillars are the police, the military, civil servants, media, the business community, youth, workers, religious organizations, and NGOs. Not every pillar has to stand at the same time, of course.

The message behind alternatives to the current corporate economy is that if successful, the movement can show the world that a better type of economy is possible.

Creating alternative societal and economic structures (vs. the corporate economy) can weaken the pillars that support the government. Helvey refers to the withdrawal of bank deposits as means of weakening investors and the business community. Zeese and Flowers referred to a range of ideas related to banking in particular:

  • Worker Co-ops, seen as a beginning of a sub-economy. Ideas are to be discussed at the NowDC, but some examples given so far are a political messaging business involving bumper stickers, signs, buttons and tee shirts, a food service providing occu-pie food and a housing redevelopment business.
  • Local currencies, similar to the Baltimore B-Note, a script accepted as currency at participating Baltimore businesses. Using a local currency helps support local economies by keeping more of the transaction within the community for use for re-investment.
  • Community banks and credit unions, which like local currencies, also are more likely to re-invest in the community.
  • Time banks, a sort of labor barter market.
  • Other types of democratized institutions, such as free universities, food networks, or shared alternative energy sources.

Further ideas can be found at the It's Our Economy website.

Continuing the Pressure

Non-violent protest, the hallmark of "Phase 1" should continue, as per Zeese and Flowers. Particular attention was paid to the importance of non-violence. The police are one of the "pillars." By being non-violent, the public perceives the movement as exercising its right to free speech. When the police or other forces use violence upon a non-violent protest, the movement gathers the public's sympathy and respect. Any violence on the part of the movement, even if provoked, hurts the movement.

A caller brought up the subject of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. Zeese mentioned some of the viewpoints of Ray McGovern, the retired CIA analyst and anti-war activist, who coincidentally, will be the speaker on the next Hot Topics call. The contention is that the NDAA is a sign of fear by the power elite that they could lose the loyalty of the police. Several sympathetic actions by police to the Occupy movement were noted. The NDAA, it is said, allows for the transfer of perceived enemies of the state ("belligerents") to the military justice system. In much the same way that Washington Metro police sympathetic to the occupation of Freedom Plaza were replaced by Homeland Security personnel, local police nationwide might be replaced by the military under certain circumstances should the 1% require it. But we'll have more on this on the next call.

The National Occupation of Washington D.C.

NowDC is in some ways an effort to kindle an American Spring. More than just an occupation in the style of OWS, it will feature planning events centered on the alternate economic structures described above, a social component to lay the groundwork for ongoing national communications and coordination, and possibly an event or action upon the return of Congress from Spring recess.

As Margaret Flowers posted on the NowDC website:

(On) "March 30, 2012, people from across the country will gather for an American Spring in Washington, DC. The National Occupation of Washington, DC (NOW DC) opposes the corruption of both parties in conducting U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Our most precious safeguard, the Bill of Rights, has been effectively destroyed, and the Supreme Court has allowed the Constitution to be perverted. This cannot be allowed to stand unopposed. We are uniting against a corporate-controlled government which has failed abysmally to promote the public well-being, and in doing so we will demonstrate our commitment to creating a new world where the people, not the 1%, rule."

2012 and Beyond

Though not strictly part of the discussion, in response to caller questions, Zeese provided a perspective on the 2012 Presidential auction. Simply put, the conversation between President Obama and the Republican nominee is a false conversation, for what will be said is only what those nominees' contributors allow them to say. The movement has no time to look to elected leaders to solve problems because time is short, and the system does not work. The true conversation is the one we must continue in the movement. But after 2012, it may be time to organize another party.

Speaking of the future... a child participates in Occupy Lexington - Photo by Stephen Shephard, used by permission

Speaking of the future... a child participates in Occupy Lexington - Photo by Stephen Shephard, used by permission

One other question is worth ending this account with. In response to a question on how better to reach out to "the unaffiliated," i.e, the general public that does not belong to unions, church groups or similarly approachable organizations. Zeese is one of the prime proponents of "Be the Media." In preparation for the October 2011 event, he called for the democratizing of the media, and for the attendees of October 2011 (which became the Occupation of Washington D.C. in Freedom Plaza) to "tell vast networks of people the truth." He called upon people to use "the networks of people you know – friends, families, professional associates – and all of the outlets where you can get out a message – social networks like Facebook, twitter, blogs, email lists."

In practical terms, for example, for local groups trying to fill their rallies and General Assemblies, that means doing more than posting a note on Facebook with a notice of a rally or meeting. Outreach actions cited were visits to shopping malls and subway stations, with a message of "love" — stop buying all that stuff you don't need, and read to your child, instead. Door-to-door literature drops promoting General Assembly meetings were mentioned. The example of Spain, which after finishing its "phase 1" of enormous rallies and short occupations, marched through the countryside communities, teaching the small towns how to do their own GA's. Participatory budgeting at the local government level was cited as a possibility. That process has begun to appear in the U.S., and presents an opportunity both to solve problems and to create publicity for local General Assemblies.

All of us can spread the good news. An American Spring is in the air.

You can download the MP3 of this conversation at


Freedom Plaza Raided 25% of Tents Removed; Police Aggressively Enforce No Camping Rules

McPherson Sq. Raid Results in Most Tents Being Removed in Aggressive Police Action

Update Night of 2/5/12:  The Park Police raided Freedom Plaza the day after raiding McPherson Sq.  Approximately 20% of the tents were removed for violating the rules against camping or for having bio-waste materials inside (urine or other bodily fluids).  The police also took the propane so they are now unable to cook in their kitchen.  And, the police are aggressively enforcing the no camping rules in actions that seem like harassment and to make staying at the Plaza very uncomfortable.  Reports are that people staying at Freedom Plaza have no intention of leaving.  They need food and financial support.  You can make a donation at





Update Morning 2/5/12: The Park Police may be readying Freedom Plaza for eviction today.  They have closed down the road next to the Plaza and more police vehicles are parking alongside the Plaza. They have handed out notices explaining the park rules, more enforcement of rules against camping and describing how they will be putting up a security perimeter and anyone who violates the perimeter will be subject to arrest. They warn, this is the last chance to come into compliance.

Freedom Plaza seems to be doing a good job of walking the fine line between legal 24-hour vigils with tents and illegal camping.  They are making it harder for the police to enforce their rules which violate the very clear statement of the Constitution - Congress shall make no law abridging Freedom of Speech or the Right to Assemble to redress grievances.


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Yesterday, Occupy Washington, DC was raided by police in riot gear and personel in HAZMAT suits.  Occupiers at Freedom Plaza showed their support for McPherson Square throughout the day.  DC occupiers are regrouping and planning continued resistance. Occupy DC reports that 9 people were arrested. The Occupy Movement has awakened many people to their power and they will not be going back to sleep.  We have seen that many Americans of all ages, races and classes share common concerns about the unfair economy, economic insecurity and dysfunctional government.  The idea will grow and get stronger from here. Below are press reports on the raid.

Occupy D.C. camp raided by police

Eight protesters were arrested Saturday after a pre-dawn raid on the Occupy D.C. camp in McPherson Square, with dozens of police clearing away tents, bedding and dead rodents.

U.S. Park Police — on horseback and on foot with riot gear — swept into the park just after 5:30 a.m. A helicopter circled overhead, horses’ hooves clattered on the pavement and protesters ran through the camp trying to wake up those still sleeping.


Occupy D.C. protesters and police clashed in McPherson Square on Saturday as U.S. Park Police swept the encampment, removing bedding, tents and other belongings that did not adhere to the no-camping rules that began being enforced this past week. (Feb. 4)

Occupy D.C. protesters and police clashed in McPherson Square on Saturday as U.S. Park Police swept the encampment, removing bedding, tents and other belongings that did not adhere to the no-camping rules that began being enforced this past week. (Feb. 4)


How the U.S. Park Police cleared Occupy D.C. protesters from McPherson Square.
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How the U.S. Park Police cleared Occupy D.C. protesters from McPherson Square.

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Streets within two blocks of the downtown park were shut down because of the raid, which was characterized as “further enforcement” of a no-camping crackdown that began Monday.

There were tense moments. Late in the afternoon, a police officer was struck in the face by a thrown brick. A man was taken into custody in connection with the incident.

In McPherson Square, where protesters once slept, ate hot meals and snuggled in friendly “cuddle puddles,” they can now stay overnight only if they stay awake, keeping only unfurnished tents for the purpose of a round-the-clock vigil, police said.

“They can have the tents for symbolic purposes only. So long as there is compliance, we will have no issues,” said Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman. “Their First Amendment rights are paramount.”

Protesters and police at first interacted in good humor Saturday as they negotiated taking down the big, blue “Tent of Dreams,” which protesters had unfurled over a Civil War statue Monday. But relations grew tense as the day wore on and police began clearing the park of several truckloads of bedding and trash. At one point, dozens of officers pushed back the crowd with riot shields so they could erect more barricades.

“We’re being evicted without tear gas,” said Melissa Byrne, a protester from the District.

Schlosser said that police had moved in to do temporary “nuisance abatement” and that cleaning crews had found health hazards that included filthy bedding, bottles full of urine and several dead rats.

Four people were arrested when they refused to leave an area where the cleanup was underway, and they were charged with failing to obey a lawful order. Three others were arrested later and charged with crossing a police line.

Occupy protesters, demonstrating against economic inequality, have been living in McPherson Square and a similar camp at Freedom Plaza since October. But they have been criticized in recent weeks by congressional Republicans and District officials concerned about health, safety and cost issues.

After the National Park Service announced a week ago that it would begin enforcing the longtime camping regulations, protesters were told that they could not have overnight gear or sleep at the park, prompting some to go on “sleep strikes.” But while some complied with the rules over the past week, others remained encamped at McPherson.

Ann Wilcox, a member of the National Lawyers Guild who serves as a volunteer legal adviser to the group, said that although the pace may be slower, what is happening at McPherson is little different from high-profile Occupy closures at New York’s Zuccotti Park and elsewhere.

“They want the park to be clear in the coming days, and they’re going to keep checking back so [protesters] can’t reestablish themselves,” she said.

Frictions between protesters and police appeared to heighten Saturday when officers began a tent-by-tent search, tearing down some structures and throwing out bedding and belongings inside. Officers in yellow hazardous-materials suits and masks used poles to gingerly pick up used blankets, clothes and assorted debris and drop them into trash bags.

Cleanup crews uncovered dead rats and mice after removing wooden pallets that Occupiers used for sleeping.

Protesters became angry when it appeared that Park Police were tearing down tents without bedding, which they believed met the definition of “vigil tents” permitted by the National Park Service.

“Why are you taking down a tent with nothing inside of it?” protester Sara Shaw hollered from atop a park bench.

Capt. Philip J. Beck tried to calm the situation, noting that the Occupiers were allowed to videotape the cleanup efforts. “We’re not hiding anything. We’re not keeping anything about this a secret,” Beck said.

Beck said protesters whose tents were seized could pick them up Monday at the Park Police station on Ohio Drive SW.

Protesters said they had expected the raid, but some were surprised at the magnitude. It included dozens of officers, a patrol wagon, an arrest-processing tent and a cherry-picker truck used to remove the Guy Fawkes mask that had been placed over the face of Civil War general James B. McPherson’s statue.

“It’s pretty excessive,” said Ricky Lehner, a protester.

Mark Francis Nickens, a local musician who built a teepee in the square, said he watched helplessly from behind the barricades as police tore it down and threw out his dream catchers and poster of Sitting Bull. He hoped he would be able to recover three bags of clothes, but he wasn’t sure.

“I watched them take it down and felt they were taking something quite beautiful,” he said of his tent. As for the camp as a whole, he said: “I think it’s over.”

Staff writers Michael Bolden, Carol Morello, Martin Weil and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Occupy D.C.: Police cut size of camp, stop short of clearing it

Occupy DC
Federal authorities Saturday moved into the Occupy D.C. site at McPherson Square, clearing out a number of tents but stopping short of putting an end to the 4-month-old protest. At least six people were reportedly arrested, four for refusing a police order to move and two others for crossing a police line.

Police showed up before dawn on horseback and in riot gear to enforce a ban on camping in the park. "This is not an eviction,'' Sgt. David Schlosser of the U.S. Park Police told reporters at McPherson Square.

The raid appeared to launch a containment strategy by the police. By midafternoon, the tents had been squeezed into the north half of the park, and workers were removing debris from the cleared area, which was sealed off by dozens of police, some on horseback.

The new, smaller area for the tents was encircled by steel barricades, though gaps were left for access.

Protesters complied with a police request to remove a blue tarp -- dubbed the "tent of dreams'' by demonstrators. But for the most part they appeared unimpressed by the police move, or even quietly pleased, as if the authoritarian petting-zoo feel it gave to the place reflected poorly on their oppressors.

To be sure, the streets of downtown Washington around McPherson did take on the look of a police state. District police shut down several blocks surrounding the area, snarling traffic and leaving an empty business district awash in flashing blue lights, save people headed in on foot to see what was happening.

Dozens of officers were stationed along the new "border" within the square, and although they were technically in riot gear, it was more the business casual version -- a smart, dark blue uniform under a shiny light blue helmet, with face shield up, but ready if needed. So far, it hadn’t been needed. Some were chatting with onlookers.

A bit farther back was the cavalry, a dozen officers on horses whose duty, at the moment, was to keep open a path for a garbage truck backing in to pick up debris.

A few occupiers were handling the daily duty of yelling loudly to passersby, with the theme of the moment being a demand that each park police officer identify himself and who he was working for. But the vast majority were just hanging out, many of them occupied in interviews with the media. No one seemed itching for a showdown.

One occupier, on his cellphone, could be overheard saying, “It’s not the apocalypse, man.”

The protesters can maintain a 24-hour vigil in McPherson Square and another Occupy DC site at nearby Freedom Plaza, but cannot sleep there, according to the National Park Service, which has come under pressure from congressional Republicans to enforce the sleeping ban. Tents can remain as symbols of the protest.

Washington officials have complained about a rat infestation at the McPherson Square encampment as well as a more than $1.6-million cost to the city from the Occupy D.C. protest.

In response to Saturday's enforcement action, one Occupy D.C. protester tweeted: "If the govt enforced banking regs like NPS does camping rules, we wouldn't be in this mess. Bankers arrested for fraud: still 0."

Occupy DC: Police Raid Camp, Kicking Protesters Out “Violently”

ap Occupy DC police jt 120204 wblog Occupy DC: Police Raid Camp, Kicking Protesters Out Violently

                                                                                                          Cliff Owen/AP Photo

Occupy D.C. protesters say things turned violent today when U.S. Park Police clad in riot gear and on horseback raided their camp to enforce a ban on camping in McPherson Square, a national park.

At least seven protesters were arrested. Officials said the situation became tense when an officer was struck in the face with a brick, The Associated Press reported.  The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The raid, which started around 5:30 a.m., stretched into the late afternoon as police sectioned the camp off using barricades and cleared each quadrant individually.

“It’s been a hell of a day so far. We were pushed out of the park violently by the police. The police formed two parallel lines and began squashing protesters into each other. Once police realized their mistake, that they had essentially given us no way out, they began hitting people to get them out of the park. The ground is wet and muddy, and so it’s very dangerous. Many people were hurt. A number of people have to see medics for their injuries,” Justin Jacoby Smith, a member of the media team of Occupy DC, told

Many tents have been carried away in a garbage truck, leaving large swaths of the park vacant.

“They effectively removed any kind of bedding from the tents and they’re going to start searching them soon,” Legba Carrefour, a spokesman for Occupy D.C. told  “We’re still watching this unfold. The cops are still here in force.”

Protesters have been fearful of a final confrontation with authorities since last week, when the National Park Service announced the camping ban.

“This is not an eviction,” Sgt. David Schlosser, a spokesman for the National Park Service Police said in a statement.

Regulations in the federal park permit protesters to stay around the clock and have tents on the premises, however they are barred from sleeping.

The NPS regulations also called for the removal of a large tarp that had been placed over a statue of Civil War Gen. James McPherson. Dubbed the “Tent of Dreams,” the makeshift shelter was also removed today.

Four people were arrested for stepping over police barricades and refusing to leave the base of the statue.

“The tarp is a symbol,” a camp inhabitant said. “It’s emblematic of our quest for freedom for people all around the world. This isn’t just about economic freedom here in the US.”

A handful of Occupy D.C. members have gone on a no-sleep strike to protest the rule.

“People are focusing on saving their personal possessions. The plan is to regroup and then we are going to escalate,” Carrefour said. “Occupying isn’t limited to parks and squares.”

City officials, including Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, have expressed concern over the sanitary conditions of long-term encampment.

During the raid inspectors in yellow hazmat suits worked their way through the park removing some tents and camping aids such as sleeping bags.

Some demonstrators told ABC News that a contingent of more hard-line park inhabitants had left bags of human waste as boobytraps hidden throughout the area.

The D.C. encampment is one of the few camps still standing after the Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17.

Police clear tents from Occupy site in DC; 7 held

An Occupy DC demonstrator, who did not provide his name, yells at U.S. Park Police after they tore-down his tent as police enforced a no camping law at McPherson Square, a federal park near the White House in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. An Occupy DC demonstrator, who did not provide his name, yells at U.S. Park Police after they tore-down his tent as police enforced a no camping law at McPherson Square, a federal park near the White House in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
By Eric Tucker
Associated Press, February 5, 2012

WASHINGTON—Dozens of U.S. Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged before dawn Saturday on one of the nation's last remaining Occupy sites, with police clearing away tents they said were banned under park rules.

At least seven people were arrested. Officials said it was relatively peaceful but got tense late in the day when an officer was struck in the face with a brick as police pushed protesters out of the last section of the park. The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Protesters held a general assembly Saturday evening and vowed to continue the movement. One of the speakers acknowledged the injured officer and urged everyone to practice nonviolence.

Police insisted they were not evicting the protesters. Those whose tents conformed to regulations were allowed to stay, and protesters can stay 24 hours a day as long as they don't camp there with blankets or other bedding. Police threatened to seize tents that broke the rules and arrest the owners.

The police used barricades to cordon off sections of McPherson Square, a park under federal jurisdiction near the White House, and checked tents for mattresses and sleeping bags and sifted through piles of garbage and other belongings. Some wore yellow biohazard suits to guard against diseases identified at the site in recent weeks. Officials also have raised concerns about a rat infestation.

Eventually most of the protesters had been pushed into the surrounding streets, which were closed to traffic.

By Saturday afternoon, seven were arrested, including four who refused to move from beneath a statue and three who crossed a police line.

Despite what police said, some protesters said the crackdown amounted to eviction.

"This is a slow, media-friendly eviction," protester Melissa Byrne said. "We're on federal property, so they have to make it look good."

The officers poured into McPherson Square just before 6 a.m., some on horseback and others wearing routine riot gear. As a helicopter hovered overhead, they shut down surrounding streets and formed neat, uniform lines inside the park.

The police initially turned their focus to dragging out wood, metal and other items stored beneath a massive blue tarp -- which protesters call the "Tent of Dreams" -- that had been draped around a statue of Maj. Gen. James McPherson, a Union general in the Civil War. Protesters agreed to remove the tent.

Later, in a lighter moment, Park Police used a cherry-picker to remove a mask of 17th-century English revolutionary Guy Fawkes that had been placed on the statue.

Jeff Light, a lawyer who represents a couple of Occupy protesters and who was at McPherson Square, said he expected to challenge the police actions in court. He said he was frustrated because a lawyer for the government had said there were no plans to seize tents that complied with the regulations.

"Here they are," Light said, "doing something different than what they said in court."

The Washington demonstration is among the last remaining Occupy sites, enjoying First Amendment protections by virtue of its location on federal park service property.

Similar to the New York protesters, who strategically occupied a park near Wall Street to highlight their campaign against economic inequalities, the District of Columbia group selected a space along Washington's K Street. The street is home to some of the nation's most powerful lobbying firms.

Associated Press Writer Brett Zongker contributed to this report.


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