Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.
According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.
In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.
The Reader reports that Olson’s hearing had gone as poorly as his attorney might have expected, with Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, granting Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard’s motion to prohibit attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the United States’ fundamental First Amendment rights.
“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge Shore on Tuesday.
Upon exiting the courtroom Olson seemed to be in disbelief.
“Oh my gosh,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Tosdal, who exited the courtroom shortly after his client, seemed equally bewildered.
“I’ve never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights,” said Tosdal.
Olson, who worked as a former staffer for a US Senator from Washington state, was said to involve himself in political activism in tandem with the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On October 3, 2011, Olson first appeared outside of a Bank of America branch in San Diego, along with a homemade sign. Eight days later Olson and his partner, Stephen Daniels, during preparations for National Bank Transfer Day, the two were confronted by Darell Freeman, the Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security.
A former police officer, Freeman accused Olson and Daniels of “running a business outside of the bank,” evidently in reference to the National Bank Transfer Day activities, which was a consumer activism initiative that sought to promote Americans to switch from commercial banks, like Bank of America, to not-for-profit credit unions.
At the time, Bank of America’s debit card fees were among one of the triggers that led Occupy Wall Street members to promote the transfer day.
“It was just an empty threat,” says Olson of Freeman’s accusations. “He was trying to scare me away. To be honest, it did at first. I even called my bank and they said he couldn’t do anything like that.”
Olson continued to protest outside of Bank of America. In February 2012, he came across a box of chalk at a local pharmacy and decided to begin leaving his mark with written statements.
“I thought it was a perfect way to get my message out there. Much better than handing out leaflets or holding a sign,” says Olson.
Over the course of the next six months Olson visited the Bank of America branch a few days per week, leaving behind scribbled slogans such as “Stop big banks” and “Stop Bank Blight.com.”
According to Olson, who spoke with local broadcaster KGTV, one Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.
Public records obtained by the Reader show that Freeman continued to pressure members of San Diego’s Gang Unit on behalf of Bank of America until the matter was forwarded to the City Attorney’s office.
On April 15, Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard contacted Freeman with a response on his persistent queries.
“I wanted to let you know that we will be filing 13 counts of vandalism as a result of the incidents you reported,” said Hazard.
Arguments for Olson’s case are set to be heard Wednesday morning, following jury selection.
An Occupy Wall Street activist was acquitted of assaulting a police officer and other charges on Thursday after jurors were presented with video evidence that directly contradicted the NYPD’s story.
Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges this week in regards to a case that stems from a December 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Lower Manhattan. For over a year, prosecutors working on behalf of the New York Police Department have insisted that Premo, a known artist and activist, tackled an NYPD officer during a protest and in doing so inflicted enough damage to break a bone.
During court proceedings this week, Premo’s attorney presented a video that showed officers charging into the defendant unprovoked. The Village Voice reports that jurors deliberated for several hours on Thursday and then elected to find Premo not guilty on all counts, which included a felony charge of assaulting an officer of the law.
Since his arrest, supporters of Premo have insisted on his innocence. “They’re trying to make something out of nothing and they’re trying to charge him with something that didn’t actually occur,” colleague Rachel Falcone told Free Speech Radio News this week.
After being arrested, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office presented Premo with a deal that would have let him off the hook by pleading guilty to lesser charges. Maintaining his innocence, however, he was determined to fight the case in court.
Premo was “facing serious charges and potential substantial jail sentence, even though he never should have been arrested at all,” his supporters claimed in a post published on The Laundromat Project website.
Nick Pinto of the Village Voice says he was nearby during the December 2011 rally and recalls watching Premo’s arrest from a distance. In his report from court this week, Pinto explains how the details provided by the NYPD in this trial have been fabricated to such a degree that the allegations presented by the cops turned out to be literally the opposite of what occurred.
“Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer’s bone. That’s the story prosecutors told in Premo’s trial, and it’s the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well,” Pinto writes. He adds that attorneys for the defendant underwent a lengthy search to try and find video that verified their own account yjpihj, and found one in the hands of Democracy Now. “Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer,” writes Pinto, that video “shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet.”
The footage obtained from Democracy Now also showed that an NYPD officer was filming the arrest as well, but prosecutors told Premo’s attorney that no such footage existed.
“There is no justice in the American justice system, but you can sometimes find it in a jury,” Premo tweeted after he was acquitted this week.
In an interview given to NBC in 2012, Premo identified himself as a spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street movement. He has also led an initiative in the New York area that has provided relief to those that endured last year’s Superstorm Sandy and has also advocated for fair housing.
“The biggest thing for me coming out of this,” he told the Voice, “is not being discouraged by the attempts of New York City to quell dissent and prevent us from expressing our constitutional rights.”
“Democracies die behind closed doors” – Judge Damon J. Keith
For 15 years (1956-1971) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran a broad and highly coordinated domestic intelligence / counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgrams). What was originally deemed as a justifiable effort to protect the US during the Cold War from Soviet and Communist threats and infiltration, soon devolved into a program for suppressing domestic dissent and spying on American citizens. Approximately 20,000 people were investigated by the FBI based only on their political views and beliefs. Most were never suspected of having committed any crime.
The reasoning behind the program, as detailed in a 1976 Senate report, was that the FBI had “the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.” The fact that the “perceived threats” were usually American citizens engaging in constitutionally protected behaviour was apparently overlooked. The stated goal of COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” any individual or group deemed to be subversive or a threat to the established power structure.
The FBI’s techniques were often extreme, with the agency being complicit in the murder and assassination of political dissidents, or having people sent away to prison for life. Some of the more “moderate” actions that were used were blackmail, spreading false rumors, intimidation and harassment. It has been argued that the US is unique in that it is the only Western industrialized democracy to have engaged in such a wide spread and well organized domestic surveillance program. It finally came to an end in 1971 when it was threatened with public exposure.
Or did it?
In a stunning revelation from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), it appears that COINTELPRO is alive and well. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, PCJF was able to obtain documents showing how the FBI was treating the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, from its inception, as a potential criminal and domestic terrorist threat. This despite the FBI’s own acknowledgement that the OWS organizers themselves planned on engaging in peaceful and popular protest and did not “condone the use of violence.”
The documents, while heavily redacted, give a clear picture of how the FBI was using its offices and agents across the country as early as August 2011 to engage in a massive surveillance scheme against OWS. This was almost a month before any actual protests took place or encampments were set up (the most famous being the one in New York City’s Zuccotti Park).
The FBI’s documents show a government agency at its most paranoid. It considered all planned protests, and the individuals involved, as potential threats. Most disturbing of all, there is talk (p. 61) of the government being ready to “engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary” and perhaps needing to formulate a plan “to kill the leadership [of the protest groups] via suppressed sniper rifles.”
Furthermore, the documents reveal a close and intricate partnership between the federal government on one side and banks and private businesses on the other.
On August 19, 2011, the FBI met with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange in order to discuss OWS protests that wouldn’t happen for another four weeks. In September of that year, even before OWS got into full swing, the FBI was notifying local businesses that they might be affected by protests. It is not clear if, while on Wall Street, the FBI investigated the criminal and irresponsible behavior engaged in by some of the largest banks on the planet, behavior which led directly to the financial crisis of 2008.
We are also introduced to a creature named the “Domestic Security Alliance Council” which, according to the federal government, is “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector.” A DSAC report tells us that any information shared between US intelligence agencies and their corporate partners should not be released to “the media, the general public or other personnel.”
In a curious coincidence, nine days after the PCJF’s embarrassing release of FBI documents, the New York Post ran a story about how a 27 year old woman and her “Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street” boyfriend, Aaron Greene, were arrested by officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) after an alleged cache of weapons and bomb making explosives were found in their Greenwich Village apartment.
And what exactly led the police to this apartment? Was it credible actionable intelligence gathered from the FBI’s massive domestic surveillance program? Did some agent acquire this information by bravely infiltrating the potential domestic terrorist group known as OWS? Hardly. The NYPD was simply executing a routine search warrant related to a credit card-theft case.
But in a story about the exact same event that appeared in the New York Times, it was reported that “police said they did not believe that Mr. Greene was active in any political movements” and that no “evidence of a planned terrorist attack” had been found . Furthermore, police hadn’t “made a connection to any known plot or any connection to any known terrorists.” No mention was made of the suspect’s alleged ties to the OWS movement, an item that had been prominently reported in the New York Post’s version of events.
Oddly, a more recent New York Post story stated that Mr. Greene was now a “Nazi-loving Harvard grad” and a reported “Adolf Hitler-wannabe.” No mention was made of his suspected ties to OWS. This author made several attempts to contact the New York Post, and the writers of the 2 articles, in an effort to find out how they knew that Mr. Greene was an OWS member and activist. Attempts were also made to try to find out if the New York Post still believed that Mr. Greene was an active OWS member, or if they now simply thought that he was just an “Adolf Hitler-wannabe.”
As of the writing of this article, no response has been received from the New York Post.
The FBI’s stated mission regarding America’s security is to “develop a comprehensive understanding of the threats and penetrate national and transnational networks that have a desire and capability to harm us.”
The American people would be far better served by their government if, instead of wasting millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours harassing peaceful protesters, it spent a fraction of that time and money investigating, and bringing to justice, the people responsible for the engineered destruction of the American economy, and by extension, American society.
You know. The real terrorists.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr, Coëtquidan, France.
“COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Covert Action Programs Against American Citizens” Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, Final report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, April 23, 1976. Accessed at:
“COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story”, by Paul Wolf with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown, Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas Wilson, and Howard Zinn. Presented to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa by the members of the Congressional Black Caucus attending the conference: Donna Christianson, John Conyers, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Cynthia McKinney, and Diane Watson, September 1, 2001. Accessed at:
“FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring” The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), December 22, 2012. Accessed at:
“Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bombmaking explosives: sources” by Jamie Schram, Antonio Antenucci and Matt McNulty, December 31, 2012, The New York Post. Accessed at:
“Manhattan Couple Stored Bomb-Making Items, Police Say” by Wendy Ruderman, December 31, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“More About FBI Spying” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), June 25, 2010. Accessed at:
“NYC couple arrested after explosive substance find” December 31, 2012, CBS/AP. Accessed at:
“Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy” by Naomi Wolf, December 29, 2012, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation – Mission” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed at:
“Village ‘bomber’ planned to blow up Washington Sq. Arch with high-grade explosives: cops” by Jamie Schram and Jessica Simeone, January 10, 2013, The New York Post. Accessed at:
- Terrorists and criminals: Documents prove FBI monitored OWS (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Bad enough, assuming the details are as they seem. (The explosive was reportedly seven grams, about a quarter of an ounce, of a substance called HTMD, which is slightly less explosive than TNT; this amount seems more suitable for blowing off your fingers than for blowing up a building.)
But the Murdoch-owned New York Post gave the story a political angle (12/31/12):
The pregnant daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend–a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist–were busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a powerful bomb-making explosive in their apartment in a Greenwich Village brownstone.
That’s right–Occupy Wall Street. This isn’t the first time the paper has reported a link between a criminal case and the activist movement. Back in July, the paper reported that DNA from an Occupy protest was linked to an unsolved 2004 murder. The DNA “match” turned out to be contamination by an employee of the police department lab.
And this time around, the OWS link would seem to be nonexistent. No one associated with Occupy seems to know who this Aaron Greene person might be. The paper notes in the final paragraph that Greene “has five prior run-ins with the police,” which might be more relevant than a seemingly phantom connection to an activist group.
The Post’s report was cited in other news accounts; the Associated Press (12/31/12), for instance, put it this way:
The New York Post reported in its Monday editions that Gliedman is the daughter of a prominent Manhattan doctor. It described her boyfriend as a Harvard graduate and an Occupy Wall Street activist.
And on CBS This Morning (1/2/13), Seth Doane reported:
CBS News has learned that police seized two shotguns, a flare launcher, nine high-capacity rifle magazines, various handwritten notebooks containing formulas, literature on how to make booby traps and homemade weapons, and pages from a do-it-yourself manual called The Terrorist Encyclopedia. The New York Post reported Greene was a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement but the group has denied this.
But CBS doesn’t leave it there. They followed that with a soundbite from Mitchell Silbe of K2 Intelligence, who spun out this scenario:
The assumption is that the vast majority of the people there were peaceful protestors, but there was a more radical fringe element to the group, and there was a concern that at some point they might turn to violence if they weren’t accomplishing their political aims.
It’s bad enough to treat a unsubstantiated claim by a partisan news outlet, with a record of sensational misinformation on the same subject, as a relevant fact in a story. But how do you justify using this junk journalism as a chance to let a source give free rein to his fantasies of how Occupy might take a turn towards violence?
- New York Post Helps NYPD Slander Occupy Wall Street (Again) (blogs.villagevoice.com)
FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.
The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.
As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.
The FBI’s Indianapolis division released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” on September 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” as well as the “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center,” the FBI “Directorate of Intelligence” and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.
Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.” Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS. A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.
Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients – the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel… ” (The DSAC document was also obtained by the Northern California ACLU which has sought local FBI surveillance files.)
Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to the DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor for the port actions. The NCIS describes itself as “an elite worldwide federal law enforcement organization” whose “mission is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps ashore, afloat and in cyberspace.” The NCIS also assists with the transport of Guantanamo prisoners.
DSAC issued several tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest” which it defines as ranging from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” It advised to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and “avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds.”
The FBI in Anchorage reported from a Joint Terrorism Task Force meeting of November 3, 2011, about Occupy activities in Anchorage.
A port Facility Security Officer in Anchorage coordinated with the FBI to attend the meeting of protestors and gain intelligence on the planning of the port actions. He was advised to request the presence of an Anchorage Police Department official to also attend the event. The FBI Special Agent told the undercover private operative that he would notify the Joint Terrorism Task Force and that he would provide a point of contact at the Anchorage Police Department.
The Jacksonville, Florida FBI prepared a Domestic Terrorism briefing on the “spread of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” in October 2011. The intelligence meeting discussed Occupy venues identifying “Daytona, Gainesville and Ocala Resident Agency territories as portions … where some of the highest unemployment rates in Florida continue to exist.”
The Tampa, Florida FBI “Domestic Terrorism” liaison participated with the Tampa Police Department’s monthly intelligence meeting in which Occupy Lakeland, Occupy Polk County and Occupy St. Petersburg were discussed. They reported on an individual “leading the Occupy Tampa” and plans for travel to Gainesville for a protest planning meeting, as well as on Veterans for Peace plans to protest at MacDill Air Force Base.
The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning. They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to “pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street.” There were repeated communications “to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).”
The Virginia FBI was collecting intelligence on the OWS movement for dissemination to the Virginia Fusion Center and other Intelligence divisions.
The Milwaukee division of the FBI was coordinating with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety division in Green Bay Wisconsin regarding Occupy.
The Memphis FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force met to discuss “domestic terrorism” threats, including, “Aryan Nations, Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.”
The Birmingham, AL division of the FBI sent communications to HAZMAT teams regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Jackson, Mississippi division of the FBI attended a meeting of the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for “National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day” on December 7, 2011.
The Denver, CO FBI and its Bank Fraud Working Group met and were briefed on Occupy Wall Street in November 2011. Members of the Working Group include private financial institutions and local area law enforcement.
Jackson, MS Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a “Counterterrorism Preparedness” alert. This heavily redacted document includes the description, “To document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”
You can read the FBI – OWS documents below where we have uploaded them in searchable format for public viewing.
The PCJF filed Freedom of Information Act demands with multiple federal law enforcement agencies in the fall of 2011 as the Occupy crackdown began. The FBI initially attempted to limit its search to only one limited record keeping index. Recognizing this as a common tactic used by the FBI to conduct an inadequate search, the PCJF pressed forward demanding searches be performed of the FBI headquarters as well as FBI field offices nationwide.
The PCJF will continue to push for public disclosure of the government’s spy files and will release documents as they are obtained.
Related article and video
- Terrorists and criminals: Documents prove FBI monitored OWS (alethonews)
- Policing Dissent (video report)
No large scale, long term, socio-political movements have emerged to challenge the bi-partisan dominant classes. For a brief moment the “Occupy Wall Street” movement provided a platform to denounce the 1% super-rich but then faded into memory.
Questions arose whether in the midst of prolonged hardship people would turn to religion for solace and escape into spiritual pietism. The question this essay addresses is whether religion has become the ‘opium of the people’ as Karl Marx suggested or whether religious beliefs and institutions are themselves in crisis, losing their spiritual attraction in the face of their inability to resolve the everyday material needs of a growing army of impoverished, low paid, unemployed and contingent workers and a downwardly mobile middle class. In other words are major religions growing and prospering in our time of permanent economic crises and perpetual wars or are they on the down-slope part and parcel of the decline of the US Empire?
According to the latest data as of 2008 the biggest religious group is Christianity with 173.402 million members representing 76% of the adult population followed by Judaism with 2.680 million representing 1.2% of the adult population; followed by Eastern religions 1.961 million and representing .9% and Muslims 1.349 million representing .6% of adults. The second most populous group after the Christians are those adults who state they have ‘no religion’ 34.169 million or 15%.
The dynamic trends over time show a declining percentage of adults who are Christians: between 1990-2008 they dropped from 86.2% to 76%; Jews have declined from 1.8% of adult population in 1990 to 1.2% in 2008 and Eastern religion is growing from .4% of adult population to .97% of population. Likewise, the percentage of Muslims in the adult population has grown from .3% in 1990 to .6% in 2008. The percentage of non-religious adult population has increased from 8.2% in 1990 to 15% in 2008.
While both practitioners of Christianity and Judaism, as a percentage of the adult population, have declined, there is a sharp divergence in terms of numerical change; between 1990 and 2008 the number of Christians has increased by 2,218 million while the number of Jews has declined by 457 thousand. Judaism is the only one of the major and minor religions to decline in absolute numbers.
The combined number of Eastern and Muslim religious affiliates now exceeds Judaism by 630,000 believers about 30%. Jews today represent only 1.2% of the adult US population compared to 1.5% for Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. The gap between Christians and non-religious US adults has narrowed over the past 20 years: from 86.2% to 8.2% in 1990 to 76% to 15% in 2008. Among Christians the biggest decline is among ‘mainline protestant churches’ (Methodists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian/ Anglican and United Church of Christ) from 32.8 million in 1998 to 29.4 million in 2008; and among “unspecified Protestants” from 17 million to 5.2 million. The biggest increases are among “non-denominational Christians” rising from 194,000 to 8.03 million believers in 1990-2008, unspecified Christians from 8.1 million to16.4 million and Pentecostals up from 5.7 million in 1990 to 7.9 million in 2008. Catholic and Baptists grew in numbers but barely held their own as a percentage of the adult population.
Analysis of Religious Trends in Political-Economic Context
Contrary to most observers and pundits, the economic crisis has not led to an upsurge in religious memberships or identification – the search for ‘spiritual consolation’ in a time of economic despair. The mainline churches and synagogues do not attract or even keep membership because they have little to offer in material solutions to their members in time of need (mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcies, unemployment, losses of savings, pensions or stocks). Contrary to some pundits even the more otherworldly, apocalyptic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Born Again Churches while increasing their number have failed to attract a larger percentage of the adult population over the past 20 years; in 1990 they had 3.5% of adults and in 2008 4.4% an increase of .9%.
The crises decade has had several major impacts – it severely weakened religious identity with any specific denomination, it increased religious uncertainty and vastly increased the number and percentage of adult Americans who are no longer religious. Between 1998 and 2008, the percentage of adults in both categories doubled from 10.5% to 20.2%; the numbers increased from 18.34 million to 46 million. It would appear that most of the ‘non-religious’ are drawn from former mainline Christians and Jews.
The rise of non-religious adults between 1990-2008 cannot be related to greater education, urbanization and exposure to rationalist thought which has more or less remained the same over the two decades. What has changed is the rising discontent over declining income among wage and salaried workers, the vast increases in inequality, the perpetual wars and the public discredit of the principle political and economic institutions – Congress is viewed negatively by 78% of Americans, as are banks, especially Wall Street. The religious institutions and religious faith is increasingly seen as irrelevant at best and complicit in the decay of American living standards and workplace standards. Despite the dramatic increase in ‘non-religious’ Americans close to 75% still claim to be believers of one or another version of Christianity.
The crisis in Judaism is far more severe than even the ‘mainline Christian’ churches. Over the past 20 years the number of adult Jews has declined by about 15%, over 450,000 former Jews ceased to identify as such. Some of the political economic causes for the flight from Judaism may be similar to the Christians. Others may be more specific to Jews: over 50% of Jews marry outside of the synagogue with non-Jews, cause and consequence of ‘defection’. Others may convert to other religions – Oriental or Christian. Some Jewish neo-conservative rabbis and ideologues rant about the threat of ‘assimilation’ being the equivalent of ‘genocide’. Most likely most former Jews have become ‘non-religious’ or secular and some of the reasons may vary. For some, Old Testament bloody tales and Talmudic rulings do not resonate with modern rational thought. Political considerations may also contribute to the sharp decline in self-identifying Jews: the ever tighter links and identity of Israel with Jewish religious institutions, the Israeli flag waiving and unconditional support of Israeli war crimes has repelled many former parishioners, who quietly retire rather than engage in a personally costly spiritual struggle against the formidable pro-Israel apparatus embedded in the inter-locking religious-Zionist networks.
The religious crises, the decline in belief and institutional affiliation, is intimately related to the moral decay in US public institutions and the precipitous decline of living standards. Among Christians the decline is incremental but steady; among Jews it is deeper and more rapid. No ‘alternative religious’ revival is in the horizon. The more fundamentalist Christian groups have responded by becoming more politically involved in extremist movements like the Tea Party demonizing public spending to ameliorate social inequities or have joined Islamophobic pro Israeli movements – precisely as increasing numbers of ex-Jews depart!
The secular or non-religious adult population has yet to organize and articulate a program in contrast to the fundamentalists, perhaps because they are too disparate a social category – in terms of socio-economic and class interests. ‘Not religious’ tells us little about what is the alternative. The shrinking percentage of religious believers can have several outcomes: in some cases it can lead to a hardening of doctrine and organizational structures ‘to keep the faithful in line’. In others it has led to increasing politicization, mostly on the extreme right. Among Christians it means insisting on literal readings of the Bible and anti- evolutionism; among Jews, the shrinking numbers are intensifying tribal loyalties and more aggressive fundraising, lobbying, and unconditional support for a “Jewish State”, purged of Palestinians, and more punitive witch-hunts against critics of Israel and Zionism.
What needs to be done is a movement that links the growing mass of rational non-religious people with the vast majority of American wage and salaried workers, experiencing declining living standards and the rising costs (material and spiritual) of imperial wars. Some religious individuals and even denominations will be attracted to such a movement others will attack it for sectarian and political reasons. But as a non-religious morality links individual and political crises to social action, so can the political community create the bases for a new society built on secular needs and public ethics.
Police Provocateurs being used in Spanish Austerity protests incite violence and dress like anarchists in order to facilitate the protests being shut down.
Police provocateurs were seen in the London riots, during the SPP protets in Montbello, Quebec, even during the Occupy LA protests.
Funny how the news media never seems to report on this.
A US newspaper has revealed that the FBI has been raiding the houses of anti-Wall Street protesters in Oregon and Washington in what the agency describes an “ongoing violent crime investigation.”
The Oregonian newspaper reported that heavily-armed domestic terrorism units of the FBI have been raiding the homes of activists in Seattle and Olympia, Washington and Portland, Oregon over the last month.
The report said that at least six homes have been raided in the two states since July 10.
The FBI has described the raids as part of an ongoing violent crime investigation, linked to last year’s Occupy May Day protests, during which a number of minor acts of vandalism allegedly took place.
In one of the raids, eyewitnesses reported as many as 80 agents in body armor, wearing military fatigues, and armed with assault rifles participated in the raid.
“I just heard lots of pounding at 6 o’clock, and I got up and I saw the whole thing,” said one of the eyewitnesses, adding, “I saw them screaming to get in. They were using the battering ram, and then finally the door just opened.”
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele told the newspaper, “The warrants are sealed… and I anticipate they will remain sealed.”
The paper said the agents were searching for “anti-government or anarchist literature or material” and “documentation and communications related to the offenses, including but not limited to notes, diagrams, letters, diary and journal entries, address books, and other documentation in written or electronic form.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement began when a group of demonstrators gathered in New York’s financial district on September 17, 2011 to protest against corruption, the unjust distribution of wealth in the country, and the excessive influence of big corporations on US policies.
- Heavily-armed FBI Raids Target Activists ‘To Learn More About Them’ (alexanderhiggins.com)
This case could have been a slam dunk for the NYPD, had it not been for one thing: the video showing police claims of disorderly conduct during an OWS protest to be completely untrue.
Hundreds have been arrested during the Occupy Wall Street protests, but photographer Alexander Arbuckle’s case was the first to go to trial – and after just two days, the Manhattan Criminal Court found him not guilty.
Supporters of the OWS protest movement have already hailed the ruling as a major legal victory.
Arbuckle was arrested on New Year’s Day for allegedly blocking traffic during a protest march. He was charged with disorderly conduct, and his arresting officer testified under oath that he, along with the protesters, was standing in the street, despite frequent requests from the police to move to the sidewalk.
But things got a little embarrassing for the NYPD officer when the defense presented a video recording of the entire event, made by well-known journalist Tim Pool.
Pool’s footage clearly shows Arbuckle, along with all the other protesters, standing on the sidewalk. In fact, the only people blocking traffic were the police officers themselves
His lawyers said the video proving that testimony false is what swayed the judge, and the verdict a clear indication that the NYPD was over-policing the protests.
The irony of the case, however, is that Arbuckle was not a protester, or even a supporter of the Occupy movement. He was there to document the cops’ side of the story.
A political science and photography major at NYU, Arbuckle felt the police were not being fairly represented in the media.
“All the focus was on the conflict and the worst instances of brutality and aggression, where most of the police I met down there were really professional and restrained,” the student said.
However, his good intentions only landed him in trouble. As with all the other detained protesters, the police offered Arbuckle an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD), which basically means he would be let off the hook if he agreed not to fight the charges. But to Arbuckle, that meant an admission of guilt, and he decided to take the case to trial.
- NYPD Raids Activists’ Homes Before May Day Protests (blacklistednews.com)
With hindsight gained by googling “MoveOn” and “co-opt” after the fact, I can’t claim that nobody tried to warn me. Many websites with left and even liberal politics had said in so many words, “Be wary of this organization called the 99% Spring. It is a Trojan horse for the Democrats.” I just didn’t read that anywhere in a timely fashion. I’ve had a lot of stuff on my plate lately. That’s my excuse. And in my ignorance, I responded to some spam about “nonviolent direct action training” organized by MoveOn and got invited to this 99% Spring thing on April 10 at the Goddard Riverside Community Center in Manhattan. Somebody even called me all the way from San Francisco to make sure I was a sincere seeker on the left and would be attending, along with 120,000 others in training sessions around the country.
Which I did. The meeting was a few blocks from where I live. The spam said it was “inspired by Occupy Wall Street.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was vaguely hoping that whatever the 99% Spring was, it would start a chapter of Occupy Wall Street on the Upper West Side, conveniently near my abode, and agitate for the Democrats and MoveOn to move left.
The first clue that my evening might go otherwise was the sign-up table, where there were a bunch of Obama buttons for sale and one sign-up sheet for the oddly named Community Free Democrats (are they free of community?), which is the local Democratic clubhouse. That killed the “inspired by Occupy Wall Street” vibe right there. No piles of literature from a zillion different groups, as there had been in Zuccotti Park. No animated arguments among Marxists, anarchists, progressives, punks, engaged Buddhists, anti-war libertarians and what have you. Just Obama buttons, which didn’t appear to be selling.
Inside the hall, it looked like an alumni reunion for the 1966 Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade. Almost all the 150 or so people were 55-80 years old. The ones I talked to expressed curiosity about Occupy Wall Street and enthusiasm about “nonviolent direct action” but didn’t have the knees or the ears for full participation in OWS activities in the financial district.
A large man with long wavy hair combed back started the presentation with a stirring call for…the meeting to be off the record. He didn’t want any stories that would violate anyone’s privacy, and if there were any lurking journalists, they weren’t allowed to use any names and they must see him afterwards for further instruction on the ground rules. This struck an even more dysphoric note than the Obama buttons.
WTF thought #1: This was a public event ostensibly to convince members of the public to engage in behavior that challenged the legitimacy of government authority in public and might cause angry police to beat the public crap out of them. Why would anyone risk that without trying to get publicity for their cause? Nonviolent direct action that no one knows about is like jerking off. It might make you feel better, but you’re not changing the world.
WTF thought #2: Transparency is the only protection that nonviolent people have against police spies and provocateurs and other infiltrators. Occupy Wall Street does a pretty good job with transparency. An organization claiming to be inspired by OWS but shunning transparency is deeply suspect.
WTF thought #3: Washington press corp rules for a meeting on nonviolent direct action?
WTF thought #4: I actually wasn’t there with the idea of writing about it, but neither did I agree to anything, so there was no agreement.
WTF thought #5: The name of the large man with the wavy hair was Marc Landis. He is a District Leader for the Democrats, who were paying for use of the meeting room. He is running for City Council. According to his law firm’s website his areas of experience are: “Real Estate, Banking & Finance, Corporate & Business Law, Securities & Private Placement, Fund Formation & Investment Management Group…” His Facebook page, which is geared for his City Council campaign, makes it sound like his specialty is pro bono community work. I don’t know. He might be a nice guy, but it doesn’t take a lot of intuition to wonder if he’s really been “inspired by Occupy Wall Street.” He’s a corporate lawyer. I can think of no reason for him to demand that the meeting be off the record other than he and his party don’t want to be publicly associated with anything radical, even it’s a pseudo-radical front group meant to steer people away from the truly radical Occupy Wall Street and into pointless activities that don’t embarrass Obama.
Next they showed a video that invited us “to tell our story” so that the 99% Spring could post us online along with hundreds of other people who had been foreclosed, bankrupted, lost their medical insurance or whatever. It appeared they all wanted to raise taxes, so that the rich would “pay their fair share.”
It was sanctimonious. It was supplicating before power. The audience looked like it wanted to puke.
Next some guy whose name I didn’t catch gave an astonishingly simple-minded lecture on the history of American radicalism since the populists. “This might be okay for Iowa, but not the Upper West Side,” said a woman near me.
That’s an insult to Iowa, but let me explain about the Upper West Side. It used to be a liberal-to-radical neighborhood that was ferocious in its support for civil rights and the anti-war movement. Its nickname was the Upper Left Side, and people here could read three biographies of Leon Trotsky before breakfast. Disastrously, it has become the most desirable living space in Manhattan, and Wall Street/corporate/real estate weenies have been taking over. But a significant radical remnant remains, thanks to rent control laws that Democrats seem to understand are necessary to preserve their voters.
“And then in the 50s, we had the civil right movement…” the guy droned.
“ Uh, I think we should conclude the lecture and break up into groups to discuss our nonviolent direct action training,” said Landis. “We seem to be losing people.” A lot of them, too.
So the hundred-odd remaining Upper Left Siders split into four groups for discussion. My group happened to be led by Landis, who directed the 35 of us to sit in a circle and identify ourselves with an explanation of why we were there. I was about #15 in the circle and the people who preceded me all appeared to have no experience with Occupy Wall Street and wanted to get involved. When it was my turn I said that Zuccotti Park was the most entertaining place to be in Manhattan for a couple months last fall and I hoped it would revive. And I said that the other thing I liked was that it was to the left of the Democratic Party and was pushing it from outside. There had been some mention of “the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act during the 90s” and I pointed out that it was Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who deregulated Wall Street.
“Excuse me,” said Landis. “We have a limited amount of time and a lot to discuss. We need to let everyone speak.”
I’ve thought about that a lot. I don’t believe I spoke for more than a minute, but I habitually obey the rules in a group, so I shut up. In retrospect, I was censored. I should have demanded a discussion of the true purpose of the 99% Spring and why Obama’s Department of Homeland Security orchestrated the violent destruction of hundreds of nonviolent Occupy camps around the country last fall.
As it was, we finished going around the circle. Everyone was a teacher or writer or connected with the labor movement. Wisconsin came up a few times. Landis asked what kind of a world we wanted to see. Someone said, “Socialism” and Landis said the topic for discussion was now how to plan for a “hypothetical direct action.” Every time somebody brought up something that was actually happening, Landis insisted that our agenda was set and we were only discussing hypothetical situations. So we talked about hypothetically withdrawing money from a hypothetical evil bank, or hypothetically stopping the hypothetical fracking in the Catskills that is going to poison New York City’s hypothetical drinking water.
“What about May 1?” said a retired professor.
“What about it?” said Landis.
“I heard that Occupy Wall Street was calling for a general strike. They’re planning actions all around midtown and they’re saying that nobody should go to work that day.”
“I don’t know anything about that,” said Landis. “We’re talking about hypothetical situations here.”
And so it went from 6:30 to 9:30 last Tuesday night. Over half the crowd left early. Most of those who stayed appeared to be angry and mystified that they had received no training whatever in nonviolent direct action. I doubt that the Democrats or MoveOn succeeded in co-opting anyone, and I predict that they will be inventing more dreary front groups as the election year grinds onward. “Front groups, not issues!” should be Obama’s rallying cry.
“I’m taking the subway to Wall Street,” said a guy in his 20s (probably the only guy in his 20s) as he walked out the door. “That’s where the action is. People are sleeping on the sidewalk there. Apparently the police can’t arrest you if you take up less than half the sidewalk. Go to Maydaynyc.org if you want to find out about the general strike.”
- Reportback: the 99%spring Training for Trainers and the Plot to Coopt #occupy (occupywalkusa.org)
- Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Misdirect Is Widespread in Occupy (Part I) (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Counter-Insurgency as Insurgency (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The 99% Spring Is Here – Let’s Take the Fight to Big Oil, Gas and Coal (ecowatch.org)
Amid concerns over thousands of protestors descending on Chicago, Illinois for the G-8 Summit this spring, the event have been moved to the presidential compound at Camp David, Maryland, around an hour outside of Washington.
Leaders from the United States, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and European Union were expected to arrive in Chicago this May for the annual meeting of the world’s largest economies. Protesters also had plans for the Windy City, however, and demonstration groups including Occupy Wall Street offshoots had begun orchestrating events to coincide with the meeting. Now barely two months before the event is slated to occur, the G-8 Summit is being moved outside of Chicago to Camp David, a suburban city outside of the US capital that serves as a historic retreat locale for America’s commander-in-chief.
“In May, the United States looks forward to hosting the G-8 and NATO Summits. To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners, the president is inviting his fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues,” reads a statement released Monday by the White House.
After the G-8 Summit, the NATO meeting is expected to continue as planned in Chicago on May 20 through 21.
In the past, these high-profile meetings of the minds have attracted massive demonstrations, with the 2010 G-20 Summit in Toronto resulting in the largest mass arrest in the history of the entire country of Canada. In recent weeks, the Apartment Building Owners and Managers’ Association of Chicago began a series of presentations in which it explained how building managers could effectively handle riots, protests, tear gas and bomb threats.
Camp David has served as a retreat for every president since Franklin Roosevelt went into office in the 1940s and has hosted foreign dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Anwar al-Sadat. Come this spring, however, it will serve as a meeting place for more than just a few heads of state. Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy are just a few of the names that are expected on this year’s guest list — and don’t expect there to be many more. Camp David is normally subjected to heightened security standards, and this spring’s G8 Summit won’t come as any exception. For protesters hoping to picket outside the grounds — a mass demonstration would be unlikely.
Coincidently, a new bill drafted by Congress, HR 347,will make it a federal offense to trespass on the grounds of any place granted Secret Service. If approved, the NATO Summit in Chicago will fall into this jurisdiction, as will the presidential retreat at Camp David. What does that mean for protesters? Even if you’re in the proximity of the premises, you could be considered a criminal for engaging in any activity that disrupts a governmental event.
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.
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 Zuccotti 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 Zuccotti Park and became part of the crowd.
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:
- 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.
- 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 (www.NOWDC.org) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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.
- Spies and Provocateurs: Police Spying on Occupy Movement not Likely Limited to Los Angeles (alethonews.wordpress.com)