Posted by Elaine Brower - September 27, 2008 | News


Greed Kills: On the steps of Federal Hall, opposite the NYSE
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — The downtown area was on fire Thursday. At lunchtime over 2,000 workers from various unions protested the Bush plan to bail out Wall Street, after making bad investments for the last 5 years.

Hard hats, transit workers, machinists, teachers and other labor unionists railed against the U.S. government’s proposed bailout of Wall Street on Thursday in a protest steps from the New York Stock Exchange.
Several hundred protesters yelled their enthusiastic support as union leaders decried a proposed $700 billion plan aimed at reinvigorating the credit markets by relieving financial institutions of distressed debt.

“The Bush administration wants us to pay the freight for a Wall Street bailout that does not even begin to address the roots of our crisis,” said AFL-CIO National President John Sweeney.

“We want our tax dollars used to provide a hand up for the millions of working people who live on Main Street and not a handout to a privileged band of overpaid executives.”


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Signs read “No Blank Checks For Wall Street” and “Our Hard-Earned Pensions Are Not Up For Grabs.” Protesters cheered repeated calls for the government to spend money on education, health care and housing as freely and readily as it was proposing to do for Wall Street.

“We know that the economic situation has to be solved. But we want a responsible rescue, not an opportunistic bailout,” said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“And that means, just like every single boss says to me, that there should be accountability for the teachers, then there should be accountability for Wall Street,” he said.

“The bailout is a sellout unless it includes the victims of the tyranny,” civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson told reporters after the rally. “The homeowners need long-term, low interest rate loans and the restructuring of loans, not the repossession of homes.” “This is a Roosevelt moment,” Jackson said, referring to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s program to lift the United States out of the Great Depression. “It’s time for reconstruction of manufacturing law, trade law and banking transparency.”


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After Wall Street faced the wrath of unions, the streets filled again at 4 PM with other concerned citizens who piled up their “junk” at the famous “Bull” at the foot of Broadway. Over 1,000 people, ranging from children to students and working people, showed up and showed their anger. From the rally at the “Bull” people took to the streets to march up to Wall Street where workers were exiting the buildings. The chants ranged from “You Broke it you bought it!” to “No Bailout for Wall Street,” and some others that signified how angry the crowd really was. One sign read “Jump, f**ckers!”

Students were outraged that they soon they would have to pay more for college tuition since CUNY is now threatening to raise fees, are steeped in college loans, and trying to work to just get buy. New Yorkers who are just working class stiffs showed up to let the I-bankers know that since they had to work hard just to buy food, they wouldn’t agree to bailing out anyone.


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Protesters took over the steps across the street from the New York Stock Exchange enraged over what this government is planning to do with a $700 billion buyout package, no strings attached. One young man was yelling the entire time as we marched screaming that he “had had enough of Bush and the rich” in this Country, and that “they need to go down!”

Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson are trying to ram the “no strings attached $700 billion” proposal down the throats of hard working people in this Country, who have had just about enough of being told what’s good for them.

It was inspiring to see the crowds and hope that Washington is paying attention because this could just be the beginning of the awakening of the masses.

View Photos/Videos From The Action…


(Photo: Alice Embree / The Rag)

AUSTIN, Texas — Demonstrators protested the continuing occupation of Iraq gathered on Friday, September 19 at Dobie Mall adjacent to the campus of The University of Texas at Austin.

Dobie Mall houses a military recruitment center and has been the site of anti-war protests in the past.

The demonstrators represented MDS/Austin, CodePink and the Campus Antiwar Movement to End the Occupations (CAMEO). The action was part of the Iraq Moratorium, a monthly event during which activities in opposition the Iraq war take place throughout the country.




17-year-old Keith Smith – Before His Arrest
(Photo: Paul Demko / Minnesota Independent)

The 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota produced over 800 arrests and numerous complaints of police misconduct: pre-emptive raids, mass arrests, targeting of journalists and police brutality – including violence directed against arrestees held in the Ramsey County jail. It was a smaller, but much more violent version of the 2004 RNC held in New York City. By the end of the convention, eight protest organizers had been charged with “conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism” – the first to be charged under Minnesota’s version of the Patriot Act. {1} Elected officials in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are pleased the convention is over but for those who protested, and those who reported on the protests, lingering questions remain about police conduct during the RNC. This “Twin Study” is an attempt to put the police behavior in a meaningful context – and to underscore the need to examine that behavior publicly.




Keith Smith – After His Arrest
(Photo: Minnesota Independent)

THINK FEDERALLY, ACT LOCALLY

Recent political conventions have been declared “National Special Security Events” by the Department of Homeland Security. {2} An NSSE designation generally means that security becomes the responsibility of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) – a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security components (Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Secret Service) and state and local law enforcement. JTTFs typically conduct surveillance and interrogations of individuals the FBI suspects of being linked to “domestic terrorism” – which includes protest activity.

Replicating what they had done in 2004, the FBI and its JTTFs increased activity a year prior to the 2008 RNC, surveiling and interviewing peace activists – and recruiting paid informants who were asked to infiltrate anti-war organizations. {3}

IN EVERY DREAM HOME, A HEARTACHE

In 2002, the Justice Department removed regulations put in place after the Church Commission hearings in the 1970s, which exposed evidence of politically motivated spying and obstruction of first amendments rights by the FBI’s COINTELPRO division. {4} Civil rights advocates worry that unregulated JTTF actions may constitute violations of the First Amendment, pointing to a number of questionable police practices that have emerged in the years since the 9-11 attacks.

FROM THE TWIN TOWERS TO THE TWIN CITIES

In Philadelphia in 2000, undercover state troopers posed as activists during the Republican National Convention protests, infiltrating street demonstrations and engaging in illegal activity – acting as provocateurs. {5}

In 2003 a Miami Herald reporter, covering the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) protests, reported that “a judge presiding over the cases of free trade protesters said in court that he saw ‘no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers’ during the November demonstrations.”{6}

The “Miami Model” described by the judge – the police response to the FTAA protests – established a standard procedure for police covering the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004: surveillance, provocateurs, pre-emptive mass arrests, and extended detentions. And despite the fact that NYPD misconduct prompted several lawsuits – and several legal victories for protesters – the NYPD consulted with authorities planning security for the 2008 RNC in St. Paul. {7}

THE BRIBE STRIPPED BARE

St. Paul received a $50 million “security grant” from the Department of Justice for the 2008 RNC. While there were restrictions on how the cash could be spent, it did allow for equipment procurement and what former Minneapolis police chief Tony Bouza called an “orgy of overtime”. {8} 3000 police officers from other jurisdictions were brought in to the Twin Cities.

In addition, St. Paul signed a deal whereby the city’s first $10 million in payouts to litigants for civil rights violations would be paid by the Republican Party Host Committee. {*} This allowed the 600 local police and 3000 per diem police to engage in aggressive tactics while working the RNC, creating a crowd control force that functioned more like Blackwater mercenaries than a legitimate law enforcement entity.

THE MOCKINGBIRD MEDIA AND ‘KINKOS JOURNALISTS’

Importing a tactic from the Iraq War, the St. Paul police offered local corporate media a deal: journalists who signed a liability waiver were allowed to “ride along”, i.e. be embedded, with the police – after agreeing to not run any stories about police tactics until after the convention. The controversial “ride along” and “embargo” agreement allowed Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reporter Tim Nelson access to the front lines of the conflict between police and protesters. Unlike many of his colleagues, Nelson was not tear gassed, arrested or beaten. Shortly after this came to light, MPR columnist Bob Collins wrote several pieces about police and their treatment of journalists. Collins argued that it was difficult for police to discern “real” journalists from the “posers” or “kinkos journalists” {9} – and this may have led to journalists being swept up in mass arrests. Collins’ animosity towards citizen journalists, and sympathy for law enforcement, served the police department very well – one reader left a comment on a Collins’ piece stating that, “If I were a bonafide journalist, it would piss me off beyond a bushel of kidney stones that protesters would pose as one of us.”.{10}

Trauma nurse Michael Cavlan worked as a street medic during the 2008 RNC and witnessed a number of confrontations between police and journalists. When asked about (St. Paul) Police Chief John Harrington’s comment that it was very difficult to determine who was a journalist and who was a protester, Cavlan told NLN that, “Chief Harrington is a liar”. Cavlan went on to say that he witnessed a police undercover, with press credentials, “masquerading as a journalist” in order to videotape protesters. {11}

When her staff members were arrested on “suspicion of rioting” on September 1, Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman approached police officers to verify her crew’s credentials. She was arrested and a Secret Service agent confiscated her convention credentials. {12} This act outraged other journalists – and their readers. On September 2 – day two of the convention – a number of media representatives delivered a petition with 50,000 signatures to St. Paul’s Mayor Coleman demanding that he drop all charges against any journalists arrested during the RNC, many of whom were initially charged with felonies including the vague “suspicion of rioting”. {13}

Neither the 2003 FTAA protests or the 2004 RNC involved the targeting of independent journalists or the bargaining with corporate media to the extent seen in St. Paul – this represents a significant expansion of the Miami Model. Protesters did not fare much better. Police actions against activists began three days before the convention started.

Sign the petition calling for an investigation…

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(Video Still: bignoisetactical / YouTube)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota yesterday at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest is available on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is asking all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. Calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350, extension 0.

Democracy Now! has condemned this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a, “clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.”

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested.

Amy Goodman is a well-known and respected journalist in the U.S. Democracy Now! has characterized the arrest as, “a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation’s leading independent news outlet.”

In 2004, the New York Police Department, acting under orders from NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, arrested 1800 individuals during the RNC. Many were held for extended periods at the infamous “Guantanamo on the Hudson”, Pier 57. Several lawsuits resulted – alleging police misconduct and illegal conditions of confinement. New York City has already paid out several million dollars in settlements. Litigation is ongoing.

The targeted harassment of journalists, legal observers and first amendment activists by police covering the Republican National Convention has apparently become standard operating procedure.

[NLN editor Thomas Good is an alumnus of Pier 57]