Did the Feds Coordinate the Recent Occupy Crackdowns?Posted: November 15, 2011
This isn’t confirmed by any other sources so far, but Rick Ellis at The Examiner claims to have spoken to a Homeland Security official “on background,” and received confirmation that federal agencies coordinated the recent crackdowns on Occupy groups in multiple cities.
Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.
The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.
This morning RalphB linked to a post at FDL about the Mayor Quan of Oakland admitting to taking part in a conference call with officials in 18 other cities.
And here’s an AP story that confirms cooperation among local officials, but not with the feds.
Don’t set a midnight deadline to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters _ it will only give a crowd of demonstrators time to form. Don’t set ultimatums because it will encourage violent protesters to break it. Fence off the parks after an eviction so protesters can’t reoccupy it.
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.
Oh sure. It was all a coincidence. These people must think we’re really stupid.
David Dayen has a post on the “disturbing silencing of the press in last night’s OWS raid.” He links to this NYT article:
As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a “media blackout” and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation….
As a result, much of the early video of the police operation was from the vantage point of the protesters. Videos that were live-streamed on the Web and uploaded to YouTube were picked up by television networks and broadcast on Tuesday morning.
At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.
Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”
This is from Dayen’s post:
I’ll go one better than shoves and choke holds. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones was forcibly dragged out of the ecampment, after sneaking in to witness the proceedings. He was one of the lucky few journalists to witness the batons and pepper spray that characterized the eviction of Zuccotti Park.
Other journalists were arrested in the exercise of doing their job. And by the way, there was violence coming from the police…
Please go read the rest at the FDL link. There also a lengthy article at the WSJ speculating on what could happen if the NYPD keeps the protesters from gathering in one place and instead they spread out over the city.
Protesters have aired plans to occupy subway stations and to march on the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday, and several people in contact with the movement say organizers expect them to be their biggest events yet.
Christopher Dunn, executive legal associate of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said a truce has been in place between police and protesters over the last few weeks, easing tensions that arose after a pepper-spraying incident in September. Also sparking outrage was a threat by city officials last month to clear the park, but they reversed course.
“Since then,” Mr. Dunn said, “the police had not really been a big issue with the Zuccotti Park protesters. But now they are the issue.”
He said Tuesday’s eviction “is going to make police officers’ jobs much more difficult…Whatever benevolent attitude the protesters had about the police is gone.”
Wow, so much is happening! Please share links to anything you read or hear about this.