Posted 10 years ago on March 20, 2012, 9:05 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
We´ve seen it everywhere people are rising up: governments are militarizing police, attacking their own people, criminalizing protest, and engaging in coordinated surveillance and disruption of social movements. The 1% and their puppets in government are waging a war on dissent.
Local governments across the world are arming their civilian police forces with body armor, automatic weapons, and military-grade ¨less lethal¨ technologies, ranging from sound cannons to ¨bean bag rounds¨ like the ones that nearly killed Iraq War-veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull after being shot in the head with lead-filled bags by the Oakland police during an Oct. 25 Occupy protest. More recently, a protester in Montreal lost an eye after police fired explosives into a crowd of students on strike against tuition hikes. In the United Kingdom, police are pushing for expanded use of tactics like water canons and chemical gas. Many of the same defense contractors getting rich selling tear gas and rubber bullets to autocratic regimes in the Arab world are happy to cut a profit by providing police with expanded weaponry.
Armed to the teeth, police are now launching military-style operations to disrupt peaceful protests even before they happen. In a scene reminiscent of U.S. counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan, truckloads of heavily-armed police stormed an apartment complex last week as protesters with Occupy Miami gathered to prepare for a nonviolent march and rally. The police wore SWAT gear, carried shotguns and assault rifles, and were accompanied by FBI agents. They drew weapons on protesters and bystanders, including tenants of the apartments, and forced them to the ground as they searched the building. The presence of federal agents points to high-level coordination in the escalating crackdown on Occupy.
Similar tactics of violence and intimidation are now being deployed against Occupiers everywhere. On March 17th, Police Commisioner Ray Kelly once again unleashed Mayor Bloomberg´s ¨private army¨ and attacked a peaceful assembly of Occupiers gathered to celebrate the six month anniversary of our movement. Violating court orders, the NYPD brutally removed hundreds of those gathered in Liberty Square, the people´s park and symbol of our revolt against the rule of Wall Street bankers. Innocent protesters were beaten, punched, choked, knocked to the ground, carted off in ambulances and on stretchers with broken bones. Numerous journalists were attacked and obstructed by NYPD, as they have been since #OWS began. Notably, the first glass broken during an anti-Wall Street demonstration did not come from angry protesters - it happened when armed cops smashed a street medic´s head against a window.
The same day, Occupy Los Angeles celebrated Occupy´s 6 month anniversary. They too, were met with police brutality. Four people were arrested and charged with felonies.
On March 15th, the St. Louis Police violently assaulted peaceful Occupiers from around the Midwest gathered at the Occupy the Midwest Summit´s encampment. Some protesters were tasered, and others taken to a hospital after the attack.
Also last week, Occupy Denver suffered relentless harassment from police, including a raid on their camp by dozens of armed SWAT team members, which they attempted to justify by citing the nearby presence of a small amount of marijuana. Watch as members of Occupy Denver explain the systematic harassment and sexist violence against protesters (apologies for lack of transcript):
According to the New York Times, there are at least nine investigations into police misconduct toward Occupy protests in Oakland, Berkley, and UC-Davis alone. All remain unresolved. In Oakland, hundreds of complaints have been filed against police, many related to the attack on Scott Olsen. In Portland, the district attorney's office has handled 198 cases related to Occupy Portland. As in many other cities, hundreds are still waiting in the system, many demanding jury trials. As of March 19th, 6,871 people have been arrested related to Occupy just in the United States.
But police violence is only the most visible front in the war on dissent. While details of domestic intelligence operations targeting dissidents are actively hidden from the public, it is now clear that police and federal authorities are engaged in a sustained attempt to surveil and disrupt the Occupy movement. As recently reported in the New York Times, the NYPD is using aggressive and intrusive measures to spy on #OWS organizers and anyone suspected of being a protester, as well as random Muslim and Arab college students across the east coast. Along with the scandal, New York City has subpoenaed Twitter for access to protester´s public tweets. Increasingly, NYPD officers have shown up at organizer´s homes and Occupy-related public meetings. Protesters everywhere are being approached on the street, interrogated, and harassed by police, similar to the NYPD´s notoriously racist practice of ¨Stop-And-Frisk.¨ Other Occupations from Philadelphia to Los Angeles report similar police tactics of repression and intimidation.
As one Occupier described on r/OccupyWallStreet, in response to the New York Times article:
I'm really happy to see this showing up in any news paper, but its a whitewashed version. They only mention a few instances of being tailed. that was incredibly common, and doesn't sound too shocking to read in a newspaper. How about any mention of:
- absurdly large amounts of Computer surveillance (hacking laptops, your computer turns on and records, appears off)
- massive amounts of phone tapping
- DHS bugging of common meeting grounds
- widespread use of private security firms
- paying individuals to attend our meetings and cause disruption
- police use of knives
- police forcing themselves onto protestor's private property, then arresting people within that individual's private property
- police breaking into property, creating fire hazards, then getting protestors living there evicted for said fire hazard
- police breaking into private property and installing surveillance equipment in people's homes. In at least one instance they left it obvious to leave a message.
- general police intimidation, for example, can you imagine if you came to the city to protest, how horrifying it would be if as you walked around the city, a squad car followed you, and when you slept, sat near you constantly taking photos and notes? If you approached them, they acted to arrest you and told you you were a threat?
- Police arresting individuals solely to have them identify photographs of other occupiers
- the DHS nationwide crackdown and all the shit that went down leading into that.
- The Police use of rapists. Let me repeat that again, the police used rapists as a tool.
- The police tactic of specifically arresting women, medics and journalists.
- Manipulating our personal bank accounts, such as cancelling our access to our own accounts.
- and I'm just getting started.
As dissidents of all nations, races, classes, and genders increasingly take the streets, protesters are learning firsthand what communities of color, immigrants, indigenious people, trans and queer people, and other criminalized classes have long experienced: the police serve only the powerful. The countless incidents of brutality, indiscriminate use of military weaponry, and coordinated surveillance are not just the result of the decisions of reprehensible individual officers. When ¨bad apples¨ continue to fall, one must question the tree they´re falling from - those who are giving the orders and coordinating the crackdown on protest. Today, Occupy Wall Street is calling for the resignation of NYPD Commisioner Kelly.
But responsibility for the escalating war on dissent cannot not lie solely with police commissioners. Even as police departments openly flout laws protecting the people's right to dissent, legislatures are actively rewriting those laws to further legalize the draconian policing of protest. In the United States, a number of states including Idaho and Tennessee, as well as the District of Columbia, have written and passed laws directly attacking the right to occupy public space for political protest. Police continue to attack and evict remaining Occupy encampments from Louisville, Kentucky to Dame Street, Ireland. Occupy Atlanta has teamed with local civil rights and labor groups to protest a series of antidemocratic laws in Georgia, including SB 469, a bill that would criminalize non-violent protests and picketing of labor disputes. Federally, President Obama recently signed H.R. 347, a law passed in Congress that provides additional criminal penalties, including felony charges with up to 10 years in prison, for anyone protesting an event deemed ¨nationally significant¨ by the U.S. Secret Service.
They´re On The Defensive Because Spring Is Coming And We Are Winning
As evidenced by the recent moving of the G8 summit, originally scheduled for Chicago, to a remote militarized compound, these desperate actions on the part of the police and governments show they are afraid. The 1%ers who fund government are getting ready because they know the #GlobalSpring is almost at hand. This May, we begin with a General Strike on May 1st, leading to international days of actions on May 12th and a global day of reoccupation on May 15th, followed by protests against NATO in Chicago on May 21st.
These attacks on democracy and the right to dissent are vain attempts to discourage protest. They want to prevent us from making this spring huge. We won´t let them. When they evicted our encampments, we merely went elsewhere, delved deeper into community organizing, perfected our tactics, and built-up our infrastructure. The police use violence to preserve economic inequality, but this will backfire. Every time they attack us, we grow. With every bloodied Occupier and evicted peaceful protest, the number of people who are disgusted with the status quo rises. The war on dissent is inherently unwinnable. Through sustained nonviolent resistance in the face of escalating repression, their legitimacy wanes and our power grows.
The whole world is watching. Spring is coming. We are getting ready.