11.27.2011

naomi wolf: violent crackdowns on occupy are orchestrated at federal level

Naomi Wolf in The Guardian:
US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? . . . .

. . . . .

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
Read it here.

10 comments:

James said...

Here's a rebuttal from Crooks And Liars, pointing out that the sources cited trace back to the right-wing Examiner.com that presents very little in the way of supporting evidence (at best, an unnamed source in a private conversation).

laura k said...

Not much of a rebuttal, really. The writer basically says, "This is didn't happen because Wolf can't prove it did."

He calls Wolf's assertions "incendiary", which is quite a laugh, considering what the cops are doing.

laura k said...

Pieces like this rebuttal were written after the 2004 Republic Convention infiltration/police violence, after Minneapolis, after the G20, etc. etc. It's always idle speculation and paranoia, until it's finally proven true.

James said...

The writer basically says, "This is didn't happen because Wolf can't prove it did."

Not quite. He's says, "We don't know whether it's happening, and nothing Wolf's cited changes that." Crooks and Liars isn't exactly known for siding with the government by default, after all.

There's enough malfeasance at all levels of government that it wouldn't be at all surprising. But I'd prefer to see something more solid than X citing Y citing Z citing anonymous source with no documentation before I make any arguments that rely on it as a premise.

Now, if Wikileaks has some documentation they could post -- that'd be great.

laura k said...

Crooks and Liars isn't exactly known for siding with the government by default, after all.

Crooks and Liars is a reputable site, and I like their work, but by the same token one could say, "Naomi Wolf isn't known for making things up."

I can't say for sure if what Wolf writes is true, but anonymous sources are the backbone of investigative journalism. That an initial source is anonymous should not be considered suspect. It does not disprove anything.

laura k said...

As far as actual evidence that WikiLeaks (for example) could put out, there are many incidents that we will never see hard proof of, but the absence of such proof doesn't mean the event didn't take place. Sometimes proof comes out, sometimes it doesn't. When proof is shown, it's often years after the event, when it no longer matters. Sometimes a hint is all that's available. Sometimes patterns are all you have to go on.

I take issue with the C&L writer calling Wolf's essay "incendiary". To me that's like saying the UC Davis students were pepper-spraying the cops. It's ass-backwards.

James said...

That an initial source is anonymous should not be considered suspect. It does not disprove anything.

True enough; but it doesn't prove anything either. An anonymous source is a good start, but you need something concrete on top of that.

Given the US gov't record, I'd be completely unsurprised if something solid were to show up. My own bias is to believe it, but confirmation bias is an insidious thing...

laura k said...

Given the US gov't record, I'd be completely unsurprised if something solid were to show up. My own bias is to believe it, but confirmation bias is an insidious thing...

You're right - certainly we don't have actual proof. I'm willing to say I don't need a smoking gun to believe the worst about the US govt. I have the whole of history to back up my confirmation bias. :)

James said...

There's always a good reason to be suspicious of the US gov't's motives...

laura k said...

Fascist shift marches on...