When government no longer prizes liberty, no one is safe

After 84-year-old Occupy Seattle participant Dorli Rainey was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police yesterday, she wrote: 'This is what democracy looks like. It certainly left an impression on the people who rode the No. 1 bus home with me. In the women's movement there were signs which said: Screw us and we multiply.'

When officials from 40 cities across America participated in conference calls on tackling the Occupy protests, they said their goal was to make the camps safe.

It sounds like the infamous attack on Ben Tre in the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village to save it.”

On a National Police Radio news bulletin yesterday afternoon, New York correspondent Robert Smith, reporting on the ongoing legal fight to reconstruct the camp at Ziccotti Park, said of the dispute: one person’s trash is another person’s free speech — overlooking the fact that what he referred to as “trash” were the personal belongings of others.

Likewise, when NPR reports on the destruction of camps, they happily parrot the police by using the term “dismantle” — as though officers take pains to find matching bags into which they can slip neatly folded sleeping bags, all the while making sure every item gets carefully tagged so later it can safely be returned to its owner.

In truth the camps have been dismantled in much the same way that Israeli soldiers “dismantle” Bedouin villages that the authorities deem illegal.

In many ways, the real clash is between those who cling to the anti-democratic powers that the state grabbed after 9/11, and those who dare to declare that we should no longer be governed by fear.

Tellingly, the authorities in New York planned the assault on Occupy Wall Street like a counterterrorism operation.

“From the beginning, I have said that the city had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protesters’ first amendment rights. But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority,” Mayor Bloomberg said, asserting that “safety” is more important than liberty.

The New York Times reported:

[T]he police operation to clear Zuccotti Park of protesters unfolded after two weeks of planning and training. Officials had prepared by watching how occupations in other cities played out. A major disaster drill was held on Randalls Island, with an eye toward Zuccotti. Officials increased so-called disorder training — counterterrorism measures that involve moving large numbers of police officers quickly — to focus on Lower Manhattan.

The last training session was on Monday night, on the Manhattan side of the East River. The orders to move into the park came down at the “last minute,” said someone familiar with the orders, which referred to the assignment only as “an exercise.”

“The few cops that I know that were called into this thing, they were not told it was for going into Zuccotti Park,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The only people who were aware of them going into Zuccotti Park were at the very highest levels of the department.”

Once the operation began, the area around the park was declared a “frozen zone”.

What gets frozen in a frozen zone? The U.S. Constitution — no more freedom of assembly, free speech, or free press.

The Associated Press reports on the spontaneously coordinated assault on Occupy camps across America:

As concerns over safety and sanitation grew at the encampments over the last month, officials from nearly 40 cities turned to each other on conference calls, sharing what worked and what hasn’t as they grappled with the leaderless movement.

In one case, the calls became group therapy sessions.

While riot police sweeping through tent cities in Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif. and New York City over the last several days may suggest a coordinated effort, authorities and a group that organized the calls say they were a coincidence.

“It was completely spontaneous,” said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group that organized calls on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4. Among the issues discussed: safety, traffic and the fierceness of demonstrations in each city.

“This was an attempt to get insight on what other departments were doing,” he said.

From Atlanta to Washington, D.C., officials talked about how authorities could make camps safe for protesters and the community.

Has the United States really become a country where we are supposed to be afraid of freedom and nervous about democracy?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 thoughts on “When government no longer prizes liberty, no one is safe

  1. AMeshiea

    “It was completely spontaneous,” said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group that organized calls on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4. Among the issues discussed: safety, traffic and the fierceness of demonstrations in each city.

    “This was an attempt to get insight on what other departments were doing,” he said.


    Juan Cole explains here: http://www.juancole.com/2011/11/police-crackdowns-on-ows-coordinated-among-mayors-fbi-dhs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+juancole%2Fymbn+%28Informed+Comment%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo

  2. Paul Woodward

    — hence I facetiously used the self-contradictory phrase, “spontaneously coordinated assault”.

    I would add that even if the respective mayors did not conspire and coordinate their assault plans, they each had clear self-interest in wanting to acting at the same time: use of excessive force in multiple cities at the same time, diminishes the risk that any one of those cities would then get most of the media attention. Once the random brutality of the police becomes sufficiently commonplace, the mainstream media quickly concludes it’s no longer newsworthy. Just more cases of policemen beating up women in what is rapidly becoming America’s new normal.

  3. AMeshiea

    There is also the timing. Two days before Thursdays 2 month anniversary. There is no doubt that it was better to try and snuff the movement out prior to the potentially larger fest.

    G Greenwald with Justin Elliot put it in regards to Bloomberg:

    JE: “A military style raid on peaceful protesters camped out in the shadow of Wall Street, ordered by a cold ruthless billionaire who bought his way into the mayor’s office.

    GG: If you think about it, that short sentence is a perfect description of both the essence of America’s political culture and the fuel that gave rise to the #OWS movement in the first place.”

    “Could #OWS have scripted a more apt antagonist than this living, breathing personification of oligarchy: a Wall Street billionaire who so brazenly purchased his political office, engineered the overturning of a term-limits referendum and then spent more than $100 million of his personal fortune to stay in power, and now resides well above the law?”


  4. Norman

    One has to wonder just how far this will go? If the people give up now, then who knows where it will end. One thing remains a possibility, that being who will back up the police and will there be enough of them? Just like back in the Nixon era, when the Senate proposed their police state bill, the then free press touted the so called Army of the South raising up, consisting of Vietnam vets, who played war on the weekends, to be a force to reckon with. Will this happen again, perhaps in real time? One has to remember who the real patriots in this country are, not the make believe ones wearing police uniforms, who answer to the 1%. Attaching the weakest of the people, is not a sign of bravery, but of cowardliness, so to believe that present & former military personnel will back the police against the citizens, is a far stretch, especially after seeing that the wars they fought are turning out to be just like Vietnam, failures.

  5. JHN

    I really wanted to comment here ….but I am afraid to …..I may not agree with the “campers” and they will flame me and taunt me …..so I dare not say anything…

    thank; you

  6. DE Teodoru

    Dear Mayor Bloomberg, in the end, knows which side of the bread is buttered for him and will call in the kick-ass-loving NYPD (legal thugs in “specialOps) as did the Chancelor at UCBerkely in 1964….Maybe we’re going back to the social morality of the EARLY “60s, this time with the Middle Class joining in, for the kids will NOT quit, they came back and will stay….Maybe we old farts that are eating our kids’ lunch as pensions should also man the barricades (even CalConservatives for Political Action was a co-sponsor of the Berkley Free Speech Movement).

Comments are closed.