Berkeley Police Department scapegoats Occupy Oakland

An elderly couple in Berkeley, CA, the Cukors, called the Berkeley Police Department to report a trespasser near to their home. When the Berkeley PD failed to send a patrol car to investigate the matter, Peter Cukor left his home and went to the local fire station for help. The station was out on a call, however. When he returned home, the trespasser beat him to death with a flower pot.

The alleged assailant, Daniel Dewitt, was arrested near to the crime scene and has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Despite his illness, Dewitt failed to obtain the in-patient care he needed. Despite the Cukor’s calls to the Berkeley PD, they failed to get the assistance they needed to manage a situation that was more dangerous than they initially believed. Mr. Cukor is dead because of these failures.

The Berkeley PD’s explanation for its initial failure to respond to the Cukor’s call:

“At that time, available officers were being reconfigured in order to monitor a (Occupy Oakland) protest which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour,” Greenwood said. “Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service.”

So, the Berkeley Police Department blames Occupy Oakland for an event in which the movement was not involved. It is ironic that the march was peaceful, according to an Occupy Oakland activist interviewed by the Huffington Post.

Occupy Oakland has yet to release a statement on the incident and the blame placed on it by the Berkeley PD.

Feel safer?

Erik Hoffner of Truthout reports that some police departments, like the New York Police Department, have begun to scan the irises of those protesters they arrest during protest actions. Since many of those arrested are neither charged with nor convicted of a crime — indeed, the arrested may not have even been protesters! — these scans serve to deter some of the arrested protesters by indicating that they have gained an enduring official record of their identity and their protest activities. These scans are likely part of a database the relevant local governments are compiling on the protesters. It is prudent to assume that the data collected locally is also shared with the Federal government.

Iris scanning has become a common practice in New York City.

Police state Chicago?

Fears emerge that the Chicago Police Department will jam electronic communication signals during some protest events:

Protesters will be flocking to Chicago for May’s G-8 and NATO summits armed with smartphones, video cameras and links to social media sites they’ll use for strategizing and sharing images of what’s happening — right in front of a police force known for responding with tough tactics.

Now a city councilman wants to forbid the police department from pulling the plug on the electronic communication during the events, taking away a tactic employed by authorities during a crackdown on democratic protests in Egypt and during protests in the San Francisco Bay Area last year.

We’re putting down a marker and saying this has happened in other places and we don’t even want it considered here,” said Alderman Ricardo Munoz, who proposed his anti-crackdown ordinance at a Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday, after which it was referred to a committee.

Munoz said he has no indication police are contemplating shutting down cellphone use or social media sites. A police department spokeswoman said Superintendent Garry McCarthy has no plans to take such a step.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office has said the same thing. But after he was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned that an ordinance could hamstring the police department’s ability to react to an emergency, Emanuel would only say that “Garry and Al (Wysinger, McCarthy’s first deputy superintendent) are working with the alderman on that.”

Of course, Chicago’s city government could always declare a state of emergency and use that declaration to evade any law restrict government interference with the local communication system. It is not unknown for the police to break laws when it considers law-breaking to be an acceptable consequence of a useful tactic.

Quote of the day

Chris Hedges states that:

There is a recipe for breaking popular movements. I watched it play out over five years in the war in El Salvador. I now see these familiar patterns in the assault against the Occupy movement. It goes like this. Physically eradicate the insurgents’ logistical base of operations to disrupt communication and organization. Dry up financial and material support. Create rival organizations — the group Stand for Oakland seems to be one of these attempts — to discredit and purge the rebel leadership. Infiltrate the movement to foster internal divisions and rivalries, a tactic carried out consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, by an anonymous West Coast group known as OLAASM — Occupy Los Angeles Anti Social Media. Provoke the movement — or front groups acting in the name of the movement — to carry out actions such as vandalism and physical confrontations with the police that alienate the wider populace from the insurgency. Invent atrocities and repugnant acts supposedly carried out by the movement and plant these stories in the media. Finally, offer up a political alternative. In the war in El Salvador it was Jose Napoleon Duarte. For the Occupy movement it is someone like Van Jones. And use this “reformist” to co-opt the language of the movement and promise to promote the movement’s core aims through the electoral process.

Counterinsurgency campaigns, although they involve arms and weapons, are primarily about, in the old cliché, hearts and minds. And the tactics employed by our intelligence operatives abroad are not dissimilar to those employed by our intelligence operatives at home. These operatives are, in fact, often the same people. The state has expended external resources to break the movement. It is reasonable to assume it has expended internal resources to break the movement.

A measure of how far we’ve fallen as a democracy

Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting tells his readers that:

Responding to a report in the online publication the Awl (11/17/11) about 26 journalists who had been arrested around the country at Occupy protests, New York City mayoral spokesperson Stu Loeser declared in a note to the press (New York Observer, 11/17/17), “You can imagine my surprise when we found that only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials.”

Since the Awl story was tallying arrests nationwide, it’s not surprising that few of the journalists had credentials issued by New York’s police — who are notoriously reluctant to issue such credentials anyway. What’s telling, though, is the triumphant way the spokesperson reveals this fact — as if reporters who lack “valid” permits from the authorities should expect to be arrested if they try to report the news anyway.

The idea behind the First Amendment, of course, is that no one is required to seek permission from the government before attempting to report the news. And few situations call out more urgently for independent journalistic scrutiny than the state’s use of force against nonviolent political protest.

This is an old story. But it remains timely in any case. For one thing, the security-surveillance apparatus hardly wants an independent media scrutinizing what are often the criminal acts committed by some of its members. After all, depictions of system generated criminality hardly affirm America’s self-conceit as a society ruled by law. Nor do they serve to legitimate governmental power. For another thing, it is sad but true nonetheless that the mainstream media companies could not be bothered to defend the First Amendment rights of their ‘lesser’ counterparts. But what use would these rights be to most of the ‘journalists’ working for these companies. They typically self-censor their coverage of the world, tacitly deriding, as we have recently seen, critical analysis of the claims made by public figures as the work of “truth vigilantes”! These official journalists practice what has been called “stenographic journalism,” which amounts to the mere recitation of the claims of the powerful. These official journalists find contentment in their servitude. Thirdly, the story is timely because “Whatever we know about our society, or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through the mass media” (Luhmann, 2000, p. 1). The mainstream media in the United States are, of course, the preeminent sources of what we know about the world. Their observations carry social and political weight. Their unwillingness to critically engage the world they observe and report on along with their unwillingness to defend the legal rules intended to secure a free press secures for the powerful the capacity to define what is true and what is false, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Their actions and reports can thus serve to normalize police misconduct and even state terror, which is to say, the mainstream media can transform official violence into legitimate behavior. This possibility reveals the presence of a “Big Brother” telling us what to believe and what to do.

The upshot: A free press, that is, one unauthorized by a government but also one that can rely upon well-respected constitutional guarantees, stands as a necessary countervailing institution to any sitting government, but especially to an increasingly intrusive and militarized one like we have the United States today.

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Quote of the day

Peter Linebaugh quotes Heinrich Heine while discussing the destruction of the Liberty Place library:

… wo man Bücher verbrennt,

Verbrennt man

Auch am Ende Menschen.

(Where man burns books he will burn people.)

A Philly Cop joined an Occupy Wall Street March!

His sign:

Coincidence?

If it seemed to you that the recent evictions of some local occupations were directly related, reports indicate you may have been right to suspect the actions were instances of a coordinated effort. As Gregg Levine of FireDogLake states:

Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, speaking in an interview with the BBC (excerpted on The Takeaway radio program–audio of Quan starts at the 5:30 mark), casually mentioned that she was on a conference call with leaders of 18 US cities shortly before a wave of raids broke up Occupy Wall Street encampments across the country. “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation. . . .”

Look at the Empire striking back

Some American cities have recently cleansed or have attempted to cleanse the following occupations from their public and private parks:

  • Austin
  • Chapel Hill
  • Denver
  • New York
  • Oakland
  • Portland
  • Richmond
  • St. Louis

The authorities might find suppressing a decentered and informally organized movement difficult, akin, perhaps, to herding cats.

The Oakland Police Department nearly murdered another Iraqi Veteran

Making America Secure

According to a Guardian report:

A second Iraq war veteran has suffered serious injuries after clashes between police and Occupy movement protesters in Oakland.

Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in intensive care with a lacerated spleen. He says he was beaten by police close to the Occupy Oakland camp, but despite suffering agonising pain, did not reach hospital until 18 hours later.

Sabehgi, 32, is the second Iraq war veteran to be hospitalised following involvement in Oakland protests. Another protester, Scott Olsen, suffered a fractured skull on 25 October.

Odd as it may seem, “Oakland police were not immediately available for comment.” Where were they? Did the Department shut its doors for the day? Was it a local holiday? A birthday of someone important? Were they then aware that they had violated the human rights of a veteran and a former Ranger? Were they hiding in shame?

The story does not end here, however. As PhoenixWoman reports:

Not a single major American media source with a nationwide focus and a large viewership or listenership could be bothered to stop their preoccupation with broken windows [in post-general strike Oakland] to care about a man’s broken body — much less to notice that he was the second Iraq war vet to be injured nearly to death by the Oakland cops, and but one of dozens of innocents who got shot with rubber bullets, beaten, gassed, and flash-banged, often apparently as they were trying to stop the black-bloc types.

Hey, US mainstream media! If you wonder why we don’t trust you, now you know. [emphasis in the original]

In fact, the Guardian broke the story!