Something that had been worrying about in the back of my mind for the past coupla weeks was whether the crackdowns we’ve recently been seeing on Occupy protests in cities around the country might have all been part of a single coordinated effort. My interest was definitely piqued when Oakland Mayor Jean Quan let it slip in a BBC interview that she
was recently on a conference call of 18 cities who had the same situation, where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.
And now we get this story that suggests not only that the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement was coordinated by the various cities involved, but that the federal government was assisting in that crackdown as well:
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.
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 least likely to be present.
Well. That sure sounds like what happened in New York two nights ago.
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Sadly, if it turns out the federal government did assist a coordinated effort across the nation to disenfranchise American citizens of their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and protest their very disenfranchisement . . . well, I won’t be surprised.
One of the very first things I wrote on this blog was “A Brief History of American Class Warfare.” There I provided three examples – largely glossed over by our history books and forgotten by most people today – in which The Powers That Be wielded federal power, including the U.S. military, against disenfranchised Americans who were protesting the system that had disenfranchised them. One such forgotten example was the use of the U.S. military – including tanks – to drive out the Bonus Army that had created a permanent encampment (much like OWS did) on the banks of the Anacostia River in 1932 to agitate for payment of their promised WWI bonuses.
The sad fact is that the United States has a long history of using all its institutional might to preserve whatever existing system has control of it -- the Constitution be damned -- and the idea that the Department of Homeland Security might be involved in crushing peaceful American protesters instead of dangerous foreign terrorists just doesn’t surprise me. I suspect that most DHS officials don’t even think of this as “mission creep,” but as simply doing the job they were hired to do.
I will be curious, however, to learn precisely what the federal interest was in crushing the Occupy movement. I’ll be curious as well to see whether my fellow citizens don’t get just a teensy bit alarmed now that their government is actively working to suppress voices that peacefully dissent from continuing “business as usual” here in America.
And I will be very curious to learn whether any right-wing militia whack jobs, the overweight ones running around in the woods of Idaho in camo gear training to fight the inevitable totalitarian police state that they envision the federal government imposing sometime in the near future, will rally in support of the Occupy protesters when they learn the federal government has indeed taken action to shut down dissent, and that part of that action involved a “massive show of police force” -- including even the black helicopters that haunt the militamen's fever dreams, and the imposition of no-fly zones for civilian aircraft.
My guess is that they won’t. My guess is that the hard-core, survivalist nutjobs of the extreme right-wing in this country are going to look at what their much loathed feds did and say: “Good on the feds. Dirty hippies.”
Truly, we are doomed.