Federal involvement with the crackdown on OWS redux or what was old is new again.
Some may say this is water under the bridge or that we should be concentrating on the extreme right IE Tea Party attempts on disrupting and discrediting the movement. But to me this is the most disturbing part of the continued repression that has once again surfaced. Naomi Wolf gave a credible account – to this writer – of the involvement of the federal government in the continued crackdown on public descent.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).
In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.
Anyone who had been involved with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the 1950s through the 1970s would find this not nearly as surprising as some others. Very like the tactics of COINTELPRO used by the FBI – who gets it’s marching orders from the Justice Department.
According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:
- Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
- Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used a myriad of other “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
- Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
- Illegal Force and Violence: The FBI conspired with local police departments to threaten dissidents; to conduct illegal break-ins in order to search dissident homes; and to commit vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations. The object was to frighten, or eliminate, dissidents and disrupt their movements.
The FBI specifically developed tactics intended to heighten tension and hostility between various factions in the black militancy movement, for example between the Black Panthers, the US Organization and the Blackstone Rangers. This resulted in numerous deaths, among which were the US Organization assassinations of San Diego Black Panther Party members John Huggins, Bunchy Carter and Sylvester Bell.
The FBI also conspired with the police departments of many U.S. cities (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Philadelphia, Chicago) to encourage repeated raids on Black Panther homes—often with little or no evidence of violations of federal, state, or local laws—which resulted directly in the police killing of many members of the Black Panther Party, most notably the assassination of Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969.
Would it really be all that surprising to find out that DHS – along with the FBI – would uses some of the exact same tactics on OWS ? I think not. But Josh Holland seems to.
The difference between local officials talking to each other — or federal law enforcement agencies advising them on what they see as “best practices” for evicting local occupations — and some unseen hand directing, incentivizing or coercing municipalities to do so when they would not otherwise be so inclined is not a minor one. It’s not a matter of semantics or a distinction without difference. As I wrote recently, “if federal authorities were ordering cities to crack down on their local occupations in a concerted effort to wipe out a movement that has spread like wildfire across the country, that would indeed be a huge, and hugely troubling story. In the United States, policing protests is a local matter, and law enforcement agencies must remain accountable for their actions to local officials. Local government’s autonomy in this regard is an important principle.”
The problem here is that Holland is a known lackey and brown shirt for the democratic establishment and very, very deluded in his view of this countries political motives and ties to the money in Wall Street and other places. Naomi has now given further evidence – as if more were needed – to her claims of heavy federal involvement in the repression that is being seen.
My evidence for federal coordination with local police exceeds the Wonkette citation, which was not, in fact, the basis of my confidence in writing about this coordination in the crackdown. I relied, rather, on many other sources of evidence. Among them, I was relying on what NYPD told me itself. I am certain that NYPD coordinates with federal authorities in OWS-related arrests because an NYPD official informed me that they did so through the bars of my cell, as part of his formal warning to me before my release, apparently to deter me from activities that might result in my rearrest. As I reported in the Guardian on 19 October 2011, part of the seventh precinct sergeant’s caution to me about what could happen to me if I was arrested again, if I “rejoined [my] friends the protesters”, was a threat based on his assertion of federal coordination with the arrests. He told me that in a second arrest, I would be photographed and fingerprinted, and the data fed into a federal database, to follow me forever. My partner, Avram Ludwig, confirmed that he was given the same warning about his data being fed into a federal database in the event of a future arrest.
Holland is more dangerously wrong in insisting on his conclusion of merely local police response – without reporting on what DHS is doing right now in response to the FOIA requests by many organisations about its possible involvement in the OWS crackdown. Holland should be aware that DHS, as of this writing, is not denying all involvement in response to the FOIA requests. Rather, the agency is on record as taking a legal position that appears to reflect some possible participation, at least at staff levels below the senior one: as Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the DC Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, wrote to me yesterday:
“We have filed FOIA demands with multiple federal agencies seeking public release of information related to coordination of the Occupy Crackdown. It is not credible for the federal agencies to suggest that they have no involvement in (and are somehow not paying attention to) law enforcement response to the Occupy movement both on a tactical and political level.
“Our constitutional rights litigation on behalf of demonstrators over the years has uncovered time and again federal agency involvement in what were initially claimed to be local police actions.”
And as any child of the 1960s knows, local police work very heavily with and to shield from view, the federal governments roll in any police actions. But this should be old news to any who have studied the strike breaking tactics used in the 1920s, 30s and 40s as well as the civil rights and anti-war activists. Now the union and white middle class are learning what African Americans have known for a very long time. That they have few friends in Washington whose orders come directly from Wall Street and Corporate America.
Is it any wonder that there as been relatively little been said from the White House or Congress on OWS ?
That the Democrats in particular have been resolutely silent about the largest demonstrations in years ?