Tag Archives: Wall Street

No Time for Sound Bytes Now: #OccupyWallStreet is its Own Message

At Liberty Plaza, New York City (CC BY SA Carwil Bjork-James)

A formidable NYPD presence holds one side of the exit ramp while an equally-large throng of soaked, defiant youth face them on the other side. I’m heading back towards the ramp after witnessing a white-shirted police supervisor commandeer a public bus, ordering the passengers off and instructing the driver to turn around and head back to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has been shut down for over an hour now. When the bus arrives, hundreds upon hundreds will be arrested and boarded onto the bus, as well as police vans. Meanwhile, the protesters on the street begin chanting to the police: “We pay YOU! We pay YOU!” and “It’s OUR bridge. It’s OUR bridge!” as a cold, driving rain fails to dampen their spirits.

Police square off against protesters. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Arriving four days earlier, I had hoped for, and was greatly disappointed when, a short list of demands never materialized from the occupation’s General Assembly. Repeal corporate personhood. Remove special interest money from elections. Something. Yet by the fourth day, standing at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge with this standoff, it was clear to me that the Occupy Wall Street movement had evolved.

The occupation at Liberty Plaza may outwardly appear to be just a large encampment of hundreds of tired, exuberant, unwashed people. But it’s an incredibly subversive idea. What the occupation has managed to do thus far is set up a center for agitation on Wall Street’s doorstep, while simultaneously stand up to the most militarized police force in America. In that brave act of defiance, they’ve begun the process of recapturing public space to assemble and foment resistance against a corrupt system, a public space lost to us after 9/11 (with the introduction of “free speech zones”) and just as importantly, begin to remedy the fear and cynicism so many Americans have been feeling for well over a decade now under the hand of a police state and a domestic intelligence apparatus unparalleled in American history. The Founders clearly understood that the right to assemble was of key importance to those who wanted to correct wrongs done by their government. If they could not assemble, they could not achieve their goals. Liberty Plaza is a long-overdue civics lesson.

The protesters have collectively said, simply by holding the plaza: This is OUR square, the PEOPLE’S square, and we have a right to assemble and organize a campaign against the economic and civil injustices perpetrated by the plutocrats and their tax payer-funded security service, the NYPD.

They’ve managed to pull back the curtain and expose the police state which works to protect the ruling elite’s interests at the expense of the citizens they originally took an oath to serve: CIA-trained NYPD counterintelligence squads; videotaping the faces of peaceful protesters to feed into a facial recognition database; commandeering public buses for mass arrests; entrapment; kettling and pepper spray. And perhaps the most audacious: A $4.6 million bribe, ostensibly for new laptops, given by JP Morgan to the NYPD. All of this against peaceful citizens who are the living embodiment of a wildly-popular sentiment in America since 2008: the rich and powerful in this country have gotten away with too much. When Americans demand fundamental change and refuse to rely on or even trust a thoroughly-corrupt system to achieve that change, they must begin at the root of their oppression, and it’s as simple an idea as occupying public space in the face of police intimidation.

This movement is only getting started, with many, many cities developing their own occupations. Maybe I’m wrong, but perhaps it’s time to just let this people-powered movement grow on its own, because you can’t package an idea whose time has come into one or two pithy sound bytes. As one protester told me: “It’s bigger than one or two issues because it’s not about reforming the hopelessly corrupt system we have. This is about creating a new system entirely.”

If you would like to donate to #OccupyWallStreet, visit the New York City General Assembly website.

The Project is leaving Wall Street to report on the Boston occupation, and then to Washington D.C. for the major October 6th occupation in our nation’s capital, but we can’t do it without your help. If you enjoy my work and would like to help me cover expenses such as travel, food and gear, please consider donating to the David and Goliath Project’s #Occupy Media Fund.

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Al-Jazeera Presents: The Men Who Crashed the World (Part 1)

“The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.

But how did it all go so wrong?”

This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (3.0) by Al-Jazeera English.


To Liberty Plaza’s Patriots: “Change the Hearts of the Oppressed” (with video)

Photograph: John Stuttle/guardian.co.uk

“…but far more important was the effort to change the hearts of the oppressed. They needed to become unwilling to continue accepting their oppression, and to become determined to build a better society.”
— “Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

Something important is happening at Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The encampment that began there on Saturday, September 17th, is a vocal and stark reminder of growing American youth discontent. Banks and other corporations are sitting on record profits and CEO salaries continue to climb at an unprecedented rate, while students and the average American worker face an anemic job market and growing economic disparity. The occupation in Lower Manhattan may be the start of a sea-change in so-called American democracy. But if it is a true change (and other organizing efforts in cities like Chicago and Atlanta, including an ongoing one in San Francisco suggest that it may be), certain things must change in order for this nonviolent revolution to be sustained and really have an effect. More on that in a moment.

I was fortunate enough to spend four days at the camp. In many ways, the camp is a world unto itself: very self-sustaining, with its own media center, food area, trash committees, etc. It’s a shining example of a cooperative community. The protesters are very open to pedestrians, quite willing to engage them in conversation, and often invite the homeless to eat the seemingly-endless supply of pizza that continues to flow in from supporters across the country. The sense that the camp’s inhabitants are making history, and that they’re fighting for a fairer, more equitable system is palpable and infectious. The NYPD is increasingly using tactical intimidation in the form of brutal harassment to quell the spirit of the protesters, as this video below shows:

There have also been unconfirmed reports of alleged agent provocateurs (not uncommon considering increased counter-terrorism activity with the help of the CIA) and ordering tents and tarps be taken down during rain storms. The resolve and courage of the protesters only seems to strengthen, however: Immediately after a police raid, for instance, a march is organized as a show of strength. The marches to “the belly of the beast,” as many protesters call Wall Street, are dismissed by outlets like CNBC, who just this morning said that the occupation will fizzle out by week’s end. Presumptions like this come off as naive because they underestimate the passion, energy and commitment these young people have for their mission.

But this begs the question: what exactly IS the mission? What exactly are the demands that Liberty Plaza wants met?

Since getting back to Philadelphia last night, I’ve been able to catch up on media stories about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some outlets capture the youth energy and thirst for change accurately, while some it seems go out of their way to downplay the significance of what’s happening in Lower Manhattan. Almost none can really zero-in on one specific demand, however. As friends and family (many of whom share this anger towards Wall Street) have told me: “I still don’t know what they want.” And that may be the most accurate part of this story thus far. Watching news reports and reading eyewitness accounts, we see brave young people marching and facing ramped-up police intimidation, but the average American watching these reports can’t latch on to one specific message.

Photograph: John Stuttle/guardian.co.uk

Growing a movement means bringing others from different segments of society together. It quite often starts with the radical left (intellectuals and the youth), as the Egyptian revolution this year and the student-started revolution in Poland that eventually brought down the Soviet Union show us. But in order to sustain these movements, one demand or even a short list of demands must be crafted to appeal to larger segments of society. While the people in Tahrir square had a long list of grievances, from high food prices to political oppression, eventually one solid demand emerged: oust Mubarak.

As the picture above illustrates, there are a whole host of grievances at Liberty Plaza, and nearly all of them are legitimate. There is great anger at Wall Street, hence the reason for camping out mere blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange. But the connection between grievances such as “Forgive student loan debt,” or “End the wars,” or even “End corporate personhood,” is lost because there is no coherent narrative to connect those demands. A sustained campaign of civil disobedience and highly-visible public marches on Wall Street is crucial and is coalescing well at the moment. If these demonstrations get bigger, however (and there is currently great momentum) one loud and clear demand to feed to the media–and to broadcast as an invitation to Americans of all stripes to join the demonstrations–can only strengthen the movement, because when whole sections of society refuse to participate or be complicit in a corrupt system, they take away the ability of rulers to exercise their power. Hence the power of a general strike, for instance.

“The internal stability of rulers can be measured by the ratio of the strength of the social forces that they control and the strength of the social forces that oppose them.”
–“Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

So, permit me to make a suggestion: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Getting special interest money out of politics changes the whole game, and addresses a myriad of concerns expressed by not just the Liberty Plaza occupiers, but an overwhelming majority of Americans. For example:

1) Student loan debt is astronomically high in large part because of special interest money (i.e. Wall Street banks) influencing political decisions in Washington, D.C. It’s so powerful, in fact, that chronic gamblers can discharge their debt, but graduates are unable to discharge their debt. Period.

2) Our country is in a perpetual state of war due largely to the military-industrial complex (Wall Street) occupying the halls of power.

3) Corporations are allowed to pour unaccountable and unlimited amounts of money into elections because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Clarence Thomas and the Koch Brothers, anybody?

4) The state-by-state campaign to break the backs of public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain, or to disenfranchise Democratic voters? Big-moneyed (Wall Street) interests under ALEC have literally been crafting legislation in every state to perpetuate such injustices.

Monsanto at the FDA. Oil companies and climate change legislation. The list goes on and on.

“One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” It’s a demand that speaks to all Americans. My libertarian father, myself (a democratic socialist) and my Republican friends firmly agree on the need to get money out of politics. Special interest corruption of our democratic processes IS our Mubarak. And Wall Street is a clear-cut example of the power of special interests. It’s a perfect focal point for popular rage and misery at our broken economy.

It’s time to start organizing nonviolent civil disobedience, petitions, and other efforts in order to galvanize our country into a concerted effort to make “One citizen, one dollar, one vote” not just a slogan, but a mainstay of our democracy. Some suggest legislation. Some suggest a Constitutional amendment. Whatever the solution, we need to start that conversation. Liberty Plaza, with the world watching them and support growing, is in a perfect position to push the national conversation on corruption in our government into the spotlight. I hope they do so. To learn more about how to organize this campaign in your community, visit US Day of Rage.

If you want to help those at Liberty Plaza, you can donate here.

For the latest news and analysis on what’s happening with the protests and life at the camp, visit the excellent Waging Nonviolence.


The Security State is Watching, but the Peaceful Revolution Must Continue.

Department of Homeland Security Police at a peaceful San Francisco BART protest on August 29th, 2011..

When nonviolent demonstrations (like occupying a public sidewalk) and online civil disobedience (like crashing a website) against Wall Street’s crimes and the hijacking of American democracy by big-moneyed interests strike fear into the U.S. security state, it only makes those demonstrations more relevant and necessary. The mere act of challenging institutional corruption and the security apparatus which protects that corruption, shines a light on that which needs changing, and creates possibilities for reform.

The Department of Homeland Security (@DHSJournal) issued a bulletin this month:

The bulletin, issued by the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), warns financial services companies especially to be on the lookout for attempts by Anonymous to “solicit ideologically dissatisfied, sympathetic employees” to their cause…The DHS alert also warns of three cyber attacks and civil protests it says are planned by Anonymous and affiliated groups.

The bulletin shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the same security bureaucracy that was ostensibly created to protect us from terrorists has, over the years, crept into other areas of American life. This is a natural phenomenon of any police state, a sort of “mission creep,” if you will. Here are some examples, and by no means is this list exhaustive:

1) The CIA has been actively working with the NYPD (via US Day of Rage, et al.):

Citizens have been prevented from exercising their right to peaceable assembly in New York City because the force established to serve and protect civil society, the NYPD, has become a counter-intel paramilitary force. CIA training has turned their operations into one of the “most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies”. Just last week the New York’s police commissioner confirmed that a CIA officer is even working out of police headquarters.”

2) The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring protests against Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), an organization that video has captured committing egregious acts of police brutality and, with the help of telecom companies, had shut down cell communication of activists there.

3) The Justice Department has been arresting and prosecuting members of Anonymous for what some call a form of online civil disobedience, but has failed to start even one investigation into Wall Street’s criminal activity. Any alleged crimes Anonymous may have committed pale in comparison to the havoc wreaked on America in 2008 by casino capitalism.

4) The security state goes far beyond just the FBI, DHS and CIA, however:

Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security [emphasis mine] and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

According to the DHS and other agencies, Anonymous and US Day of Rage now fall under the auspices of “homeland security.” Where does this “mission creep” end? Habeus corpus has effectively been eradicated for anyone deemed a “security threat.” Think about that.

The demonstrations planned for September 17th represent nothing less than the first direct, unflinching challenge to the hijacking of American democracy in recent memory. Remember that Wall Street’s power over this country’s politics has largely gone unchecked. No prosecutions of the Street’s criminal class have occurred. Indeed, they’ve corrupted institutions like the SEC, which was created to monitor and regulate the financial sector. And to make matters worse, the Obama administration is going out of its way to avoid investigations into Wall Street malfeasance. Large corporations are now able to pour unaccounted amounts of money into elections, effectively drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. The writing is on the wall: We are rapidly losing our democracy to corporations and other special interests, and they are being aided and abetted by a sprawling security state that protects the elite while limiting dissent.

“One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” That is US Day of Rage’s simple demand. And it is this crucially important idea that has the U.S. security state sending out bulletins to the very criminal class that has, until now, gotten away with barely a slap on the wrist. It is because of this that the peaceful revolution to restore power to We the People must continue. September 17th, 2011 isn’t just about Wall Street. It’s about challenging an utterly dysfunctional, corrupt system, a system with a security apparatus which seeks to protect the real threat to national security: the Too Big to Fail banks and financial institutions in Lower Manhattan that brought down the American economy.

For more information on the alarming expansion of the U.S. security state, visit: Ten Years Later: Surveillance in the “Homeland”, a comprehensive collection of investigative journalism by Truthout in cooperation with the ACLU of Massachusetts.

For the latest updates on US Day of Rage’s peaceful occupation strategy for September 17th, 2011, visit here.

Please subscribe to The Project to stay up to date on the latest developments concerning the September 17th occupation, including on the ground coverage of the event that weekend. Videographers who would like to commit to recording and producing a short film of any of the actions taking place across the country, please contact the Project.


#OccupyWallStreet Activists Conduct a Trial Run, Creating More Questions than Answers (w/ video)

via Adbusters.org

On September 1st, 2011, activists organizing the upcoming September 17th Occupy Wall Street action decided they would test law enforcement response by spending the night on Wall Street “in a peaceful demonstration to confirm their Constitutional rights.”

Below is a video produced by Occupy Wall Street’s Arts Committee:

The nine activists were arrested for legally and peaceably assembling on a public sidewalk. According to a 2000 federal ruling, the use of

“public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” is allowed on public sidewalks in New York City as long as you do not block pedestrians. See METROPOLITAN COUNCIL, INC., Plaintiff, -against- HOWARD SAFIR, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, et al., June 12, 2000 [99 F. Supp. 2d 438; 2000 U.S. Dist.]

It must be stressed that the NYPD violated these activists’ rights by arresting and detaining them. Furthermore, no permit is necessary for a prolonged assembly on a public sidewalk. The only prohibition is that there be no camping (i.e. use of tents) because that would obviously impede pedestrian travel. I’ve noticed, especially on the event sponsor’s website, encouragement to bring a tent to the event. Setting up tents is not a good idea.

The sense from one of the activists present was that the police didn’t want to arrest them, and that the order to detain them came from a higher source. This cannot be fully confirmed, and should be considered speculation, although it certainly isn’t far-fetched considering the very high probability that organizers are under surveillance (via US Day of Rage):

Citizens have been prevented from exercising their right to peaceable assemble in New York City because the force established to serve and protect civil society, the NYPD, has become a counter-intel paramilitary force. CIA training has turned their operations into one of the “most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies“. Just last week the New York’s police commissioner confirmed that a CIA officer is even working out of police headquarters.

The arrests and detentions, however, raise more questions: will the NYPD have the audacity to violate protestors rights en masse when they begin their occupation? And as Alexa O’ Brien (@carwinb), an organizer for US Day of Rage astutely pointed out to me, on a wider public relations level, can Mayor Bloomberg afford to be seen as defending Wall Street criminals from peaceful, justified public outrage at the American financial elite? The occupation will no doubt draw attention to the fact that no one on Wall Street has been prosecuted yet for crimes committed against Main Street. In addition, using taxpayer-funded police to defend major financial institutions, many of which pay absolutely nothing in taxes, is hard to justify.

Below are resources for activists in New York City, via the Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStreet) website:

Demonstrating in New York City
What to Do If You’re Stopped by the Police

Please subscribe to The Project to stay up to date on the latest developments concerning the September 17th occupation, including on the ground coverage of the event that weekend.


Obama Administration Protects Criminal Banks


So the Obama administration is once again allowing banks to dictate to them how it’s going to be. The administration fears that by pursuing an investigation into mortgage fraud, the economy could collapse, so the White House and Department of Justice’s solution is to impose a $20 billion fine and let criminal syndicates like Bank of America can walk away. Never mind that over $60 BILLION in state worker pensions were destroyed in Florida ALONE due to bad mortgage-backed securities. The working class gets punished through no fault of their own, while Wall Street criminals get a slap on the wrist.

New York Attorney General Schneiderman has refused to go along with Wall Street criminals’ strong-arming. I think we should contact his office and commend him for standing up to the banksters and the elite’s puppets in Washington, D.C., don’t you?

From The Young Turks:


Covering Up Wall Street Crimes: Matt Taibbi Exposes How SEC Shredded Thousands of Investigations

Amy Goodman: “Senator Grassley said the files include “important cases such as the investigation of [Bernard] Madoff, Goldman Sachs trading in AIG credit default swaps in 2009, financial fraud at Wells Fargo and Bank of America in 2007 and 2008, and insider trading investigations at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, [and] SAC Capital.”

It is glaringly clear that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the government agency charged with policing Wall Street malfeasance, has a deeply corrupt agency culture. According to Matt Taibbi, the SEC is made up of two basic factions: the career investigators–“they’re more like cops,” says Taibbi. “And the guys on the upper level are more like political appointees who come from all these high-priced Wall Street banks, and they’re rejecting a lot of these important cases.”

After a brave SEC whistleblower named Darcy Flynn came forward with the evidence destruction charge, the SEC has apparently ended the practice, but the Wall Street sympathizers who now head the SEC are still in charge. How can the SEC be trusted to police the same forces that caused the ’08 collapse when their sympathizers are running the show?