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PoliticusUSA

The Crime of Peaceful Protest

The Crime of Peaceful Protest


The trial of McMillan, 25, is one of the last criminal cases originating from the Occupy protest movement. It is also one of the most emblematic. Had McMillan not been an Occupy activist, the trial that came out of this beating would have been about her receiving restitution from New York City for police abuse. Instead, she is charged with felony assault in the second degree and facing up to seven years in prison. She is expected to take the witness stand this week.


Chris Hedges
Truthdig
April 27, 2014

NEW YORK—Cecily McMillan, wearing a red dress and high heels, her dark, shoulder-length hair stylishly curled, sat behind a table with her two lawyers Friday morning facing Judge Ronald A. Zweibel in Room 1116 at the Manhattan Criminal Court. The judge seems to have alternated between boredom and rage throughout the trial, now three weeks old. He has repeatedly thrown caustic barbs at her lawyers and arbitrarily shut down many of the avenues of defense. Friday was no exception.

The silver-haired Zweibel curtly dismissed a request by defense lawyers Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg for a motion to dismiss the case. The lawyers had attempted to argue that testimony from the officer who arrested McMillan violated Fifth Amendment restrictions against the use of comments made by a defendant at the time of arrest. But the judge, who has issued an unusual gag order that bars McMillan’s lawyers from speaking to the press, was visibly impatient, snapping, “This debate is going to end.” He then went on to uphold his earlier decision to heavily censor videos taken during the arrest, a decision Stolar said “is cutting the heart out of my ability to refute” the prosecution’s charge that McMillan faked a medical seizure in an attempt to avoid being arrested. “I’m totally handicapped,” Stolar lamented to Zweibel.

The trial of McMillan, 25, is one of the last criminal cases originating from the Occupy protest movement. It is also one of the most emblematic. The state, after the coordinated nationwide eradication of Occupy encampments, has relentlessly used the courts to harass and neutralize Occupy activists, often handing out long probation terms that come with activists’ forced acceptance of felony charges. A felony charge makes it harder to find employment and bars those with such convictions from serving on juries or working for law enforcement. Most important, the long probation terms effectively prohibit further activism.The Occupy Wall Street movement was not only about battling back against the rise of a corporate oligarchy that has sabotaged our democracy and made war on the poor and the working class. It was also about our right to peaceful protest. The police in cities across the country have been used to short-circuit this right. I watched New York City police during the Occupy protests yank people from sidewalks into the street, where they would be arrested. I saw police routinely shove protesters and beat them with batons. I saw activists slammed against police cars. I saw groups of protesters suddenly herded like sheep to be confined within police barricades. I saw, and was caught up in, mass arrests in which those around me were handcuffed and then thrown violently onto the sidewalk. The police often blasted pepper spray into faces from inches away, temporarily blinding the victims. This violence, carried out against nonviolent protesters, came amid draconian city ordinances that effectively outlawed protest and banned demonstrators from public spaces. It was buttressed by heavy police infiltration and surveillance of the movement. When the press or activists attempted to document the abuse by police they often were assaulted or otherwise blocked from taking photographs or videos. The message the state delivered is clear: Do not dissent. And the McMillan trial is part of the process.

McMillan, who spent part of her childhood living in a trailer park in rural Texas and who now is a graduate student at The New School for Social Research in New York, found herself with several hundred other activists at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan in March 2012 to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. The city, fearing the re-establishment of an encampment, deployed large numbers of police officers to clear the park just before midnight of that March 17. The police, heavily shielded, stormed into the gathering in fast-moving lines. Activists were shoved, hit, knocked to the ground. Some ran for safety. More than 100 people were arrested on the anniversary. After the violence, numerous activists would call the police aggression perhaps the worst experienced by the Occupy movement. In the mayhem McMillan—whose bruises were photographed and subsequently were displayed to Amy Goodman on the “Democracy Now!” radio, television and Internet program—was manhandled by a police officer later identified as Grantley Bovell.

Bovell, who was in plainclothes and who, according to McMillan, did not identify himself as a policeman, allegedly came up from behind and grabbed McMillan’s breast—a perverse form of assault by New York City police that other female activists, too, suffered during Occupy protests. McMillan’s elbow made contact with his face, just below the eye, in what she says appeared to be a reaction to the grope; she says she has no memory of the incident. By the end of the confrontation she was lying on the ground bruised, beaten and convulsing. She was taken to a hospital emergency room, where police handcuffed her to a bed.

Had McMillan not been an Occupy activist, the trial that came out of this beating would have been about her receiving restitution from New York City for police abuse. Instead, she is charged with felony assault in the second degree and facing up to seven years in prison. She is expected to take the witness stand this week.

McMillan’s journey from a rural Texas backwater to a courtroom in New York is a journey of political awakening. Her parents, divorced when she was small, had little money. At times she lived with her mother, who had jobs at a Dillard’s department store, as an accountant for a pool hall and later, after earning a degree, as a registered nurse doing shifts of 60 to 70 hours in hospitals and nursing homes. There were also painful stretches of unemployment. Her mother, from Mexico, was circumspect about revealing her ethnicity in the deeply white conservative community, one in which blacks and other minorities were not welcome. She never taught her son and daughter Spanish. As a girl McMillan saw her mother struggle with severe depression and, in one terrifying instance, taken to a hospital after she passed out from an overdose of prescription pills. For periods, McMillan, her brother and her mother survived on welfare, and they moved often; she attended 13 schools, including five high schools. Her father worked at a Domino’s Pizza shop, striving in vain to become a manager. Racism was endemic in the area. There was a sign in the nearby town of Vidor, not far from the Louisiana state line, that read: “If you are dark get out before dark.” It had replaced an earlier sign that said: “Don’t let the sun set on your ass nigger.”

The families around the McMillans struggled with all the problems that come with poverty—alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic and sexual violence and despair. Cecily’s brother is serving a seven-year sentence for drug possession in Texas.

“I grew up around the violence of poverty,” she told me as she lit another cigarette while I interviewed her Thursday night in an apartment in Harlem. She smoked nearly nonstop during our conversation. “It was normative.”

Her parents worked hard to fit into the culture of rural Texas. She said she competed as a child in a beauty pageant called Tiny Miss Valentines of Texas. She was on a cheerleading team. She ran track.

“My parents tried,” McMillan said. “They wanted to give us everything. They wanted us to have a lifestyle we could be proud of. My parents, because we were ... at times poor, were ashamed of who we were. I asked my mother to buy Tommy Hilfiger clothes at the Salvation Army and cut off the insignias and sew them onto my old clothes. I was afraid of being made fun of at school. My mother got up at 5 in the morning before work and made us pigs in a blanket, putting the little sausages into croissants. She wanted my brother and myself to be proud of her. She really did a lot with so very little.”

McMillan spent most of her summers with her paternal grandparents in Atlanta. They opened her to another world. She attended a Spanish-language camp. She went to blues and jazz festivals. She attended a theater summer camp called Seven Stages that focused on cultural and political perspectives. When she was a teenager she wrote collective theater pieces, including one in which she wore the American flag as a burka and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a character dressed as Darth Vader walked onto the stage. “My father was horrified,” she said. “He walked out of the theater.”

As a 13-year-old she was in a play called “I Hate Anne Frank.” “It was about American sensationalism,” she said. “It asked how the entire experience of the Holocaust could be turned for many people into a girl’s positive narrative, a disgusting false optimism. It was not well received.”

Art, and especially theater, awakened her to the realities endured by others, from Muslims in the Middle East to the black underclass in the United States. And, unlike in the Texas towns where she grew up, she made black friends in Atlanta. She began to wonder about the lives of the African-Americans who lived near her in rural Texas. What was it like for them? How did they endure racism? Did black women suffer the way her mother suffered? She began to openly question and challenge the conventions and assumptions of the white community around her. She read extensively, falling in love with the work of Albert Camus.

“I would miss bus stops because I would be reading ‘The Stranger’ or ‘The Plague,’ ” she said. “Existentialism to me was beautiful. It said the world is shit. It said this is the lot humanity is given. But human beings have to try their best. They swim and they swim and they swim against the waves until they can’t swim any longer. You can choose to view these waves as personal attacks against you and give up, or you can swim. And Camus said you should not sell out for a lifeboat. These forces are impersonal. They are structural. I learned from Camus how to live and how to die with dignity.”

She attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., under a scholarship. After graduating, she worked as a student teacher in inner-city schools in Chicago. She joined the Young Democratic Socialists. She enrolled at The New School for Social Research in New York City in the fall of 2011 to write a master’s thesis on Jane Addams, Hull House and the settlement movement. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began in the city six days after she arrived at the school. She said that at first she was disappointed with the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park. She felt it lacked political maturity. She had participated in the political protests in Madison, Wis., in early 2011, and the solidarity of government workers, including police, that she saw there deeply influenced her feelings about activism. She came away strongly committed to nonviolence.

“Police officers sat down to occupy with us,” she said of the protests in Madison. “It was unprecedented. We were with teachers, the fire department, police and students. You walked around saying thank you to the police. You embraced police. [But then] I went to Occupy in New York and saw drum circles and people walking around naked. There was yoga. I thought, what is this? I thought for many protesters this was just some social experiment they would go back to their academic institutions and write about. Where I come from people are hungry. Women are getting raped. Fathers and stepfathers beat the shit out of children. People die. ... Some people would rather not live.”

“At first I looked at the occupiers and thought they were so bourgeois,” she went on. “I thought they were trying to dress down their class by wearing all black. I was disgusted. But in the end I was wrong. I wasn’t meeting them where they were. These were kids, some of whom had been to Harvard, Yale or Princeton, [who] were the jewels of their family’s legacy. They were doing something radical. They had never been given the opportunity to have their voices heard, to have their own agency. They weren’t clowns like I first thought. They were really brave. We learned to have conversations. And that was beautiful. And these people are my friends today.” She joined Occupy Wall Street’s Demands Working Group, which attempted to draw up a list of core demands that the movement could endorse. She continued with her academic work at The New School for Social Research. She worked part time. She was visiting her grandmother, who was terminally ill in Atlanta, in November 2011 when the police cleared out the Zuccotti Park encampment. When she returned to the New School she took part in the occupation of school buildings, but some occupiers trashed the property, leading to a bitter disagreement between her and other activists. Radical elements in the movement who supported the property destruction held a “shadow trial” and condemned her as a “bureaucratic provocateur.”

“I started putting together an Affinity Group after the New School occupation,” she said. “I realized there was a serious problem between anarchists and socialists and democratic socialists. I wanted, like Bayard Rustin, to bring everyone together. I wanted to repair the fractured left. I wanted to build coalitions.”

McMillan knows that the judge in her trial—who in one comment on the lawyers’ judge-rating website The Robing Room is called “a prosecutor with a robe”—has stacked the deck against her.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported that Bovell, the policeman who McMillan says beat her, has been investigated at least twice by the internal affairs department of the New York City Police Department. In one of these cases, Bovell and his partner were sued for allegedly using an unmarked police car to strike a 17-year-old fleeing on a dirt bike. The teenager said his nose was broken, two teeth were knocked out and his forehead was lacerated. The case was settled out of court for a substantial amount of money. The officer was also captured on a video that appeared to show him kicking a suspect on the floor of a Bronx grocery.

In addition, Bovell was involved in a ticket-fixing scandal in his Bronx precinct.

Austin Guest, 33, a graduate of Harvard University who was arrested at Zuccotti Park on the night McMillan was assaulted, is suing Bovell for allegedly intentionally banging his head on the internal stairs of an MTA bus that took him and other activists in for processing.

The judge has ruled that Bovell’s involvement in the cases stemming from the chasing of the youth on the dirt bike and the Guest arrest cannot be presented as evidence in the McMillan case.

The corporate state, which has proved utterly incapable of addressing the grievances and injustices endured by the underclass, is extremely nervous about the mass movements that have swept the country in recent years. And if protests erupt again—as I think they will—the state hopes it will have neutralized much of the potential leadership. Being an activist in peaceful mass protest is the only real “crime” McMillan has committed.

“Everyone should come and sit through this trial to see the facade that we call democracy,” she said. “The resources one needs to even remotely have a chance in this system are beyond most people. Thank God I went to college and graduate school. Thank God Marty and Rebecca are my lawyers. Thank God I am an organizer and have some agency. I wait in line every day to go to court. I read above my head the words that read something like ‘Justice Is the Foundation of Democracy.’ And I wonder if this is ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ People of color, people who are poor, the people where I come from, do not have a chance for justice. Those people have no choice but to plea out. They can never win in court. I can fight it. This makes me a very privileged person. It is disgusting to think that this is what our democracy has come to. I am heartbreakingly sad for our country.”

Posted by Portside on April 29, 2014

Occupy: What it's about.

We're one election away from the total destruction of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' in America.
The 2014 election - If we endure one more election where good people can't be bothered to vote, we'll all be living under the laws of religious extremists and reicht wing authoritarian police state rules. 
The reicht wing is more than happy with their candidates, and will fall all over themselves to continue to vote for the <1% millionaires who are corrupt, contemptible shills for the party of the <1%. They don't care about facts or the corrupt members of their own party. They only care about the corrupt democrats, and they believe that the poor people (50% of Americans) are the problem, not the <1% corporations, banks, and wall street psychopaths who have been destroying our country from the inside for over 100 years. 
Occupy began because both parties are FUBAR, but the lesser of the evils is ... well, less evil. We need to turn the heat up under the feet of our elected representatives. Apathy is no longer an option.












Is our industrial civilization headed for irreversible collapse?

Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system.

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Lorde’s Grammy Award acceptance speech : 26 January 2014

Queen Bee Sting: Grammy audience told to read more
Queen Bee Sting: Grammy audience told to read more
Lorde:
Thankyou soo much everyone for making this song explode because this world is mental. (Laughter). Planet Earth is run by psychopaths that hide behind slick marketing, ‘freedom’ propaganda and ‘economic growth’ rhetoric,[1] while they construct a global system of corporatized totalitarianism.

As American journalist Chris Hedges has identified, a corporate totalitarian core thrives inside a fictitious democratic shell.[2] This core yields an ‘inverted’ totalitarian state that few recognize because it does not look like the Orwellian world of Nineteen Eighty-four.[3]

This corporate totalitarian core is spreading outward from America. Planet Earth is being rapidly militarized by the world’s major and significant states, including their police forces.[4] Meanwhile, state surveillance is becoming universal[5] and torture is outsourced to gulags.[6]

Can we not imagine that in past times, simple folk found it hard to work out exactly how they were being manipulated by the Royal monarchies, and the Papal monarchy, who claimed a ‘divine right to rule’? Ordinary people from classical times through to the demise of Ancien Regime could not see how the rivalrous network of elites and oligarchs were linked, not least because the illiterate masses were indoctrinated to believe in their humble lot, to obey divinely-endorsed authority and to live in fear of damnation.

So, in today’s mental world, it should become clearer now that Planet Earth is ruled by super-wealthy people, who use their outrageous fortunes to steer the trajectories of whole societies for their own material and political gain.[7] These oligarchs are, in fact, colluding for economic gain and conspiring to augment more political power.[8] Armies of professional, political, religious and military elites serve them.[9 Together, they comprise a highly-networked transnational capitalist class that has been traced in studies by: Peter Phillips and Brady Osborne;[10] William K. Carroll;[11] David Rothkopf;[12] Daniel Estulin;[13] and Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter.[14]

As Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has argued in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, ‘free markets’ were slickly marketed in the 1980s and 1990s with the idea that they would deliver individual freedom and prosperity for all.[15] Klein also wrote that the use of military violence to facilitate the spread of ‘free markets’ in the field-testing stage from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s has continued into the 2000s. Her view is supported in Eugene Jarecki’s documentary Why We Fight (2006), which compellingly showed that America fights wars to make the world secure for its corporations.[16] So, get reading and viewing! 

Thank you soo much everyone for giving a shit about our song, ‘Royals’. May you all find the balls to help construct a world based on resilient community, bona-fide freedom, and peace. To do that, we will need to redeploy the psychopaths that currently run the world to the planet’s prisons.[17] Peace cannot happen with reconciliation. That was Nelson Mandela’s mistake.[18] The first step to peace is justice firmly served.