Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is the Occupy Wall Street Movement Under National Surveillance by the State?


Answer: You bet there is...


Is There a Conspiracy to Suppress Occupy Wall Street?

Was there a somewhat coordinated effort among cities with Occupy encampments and the federal government to shut them down?

If true, the implications of such a status quo government consensus to crush a populist movement would be an affront to democracy. Prima facie evidence of militarized police action out of all proportion to the situations in the protest sites suggests something more than local "riot police" action around the country (with few peaceful exceptions, such as Los Angeles and Albany, New York).

Michael Moore stoked the conspiracy speculation in an appearance on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" when he referred to a Minneapolis News Examiner article that citied Department of Justice "advisory" involvement in the nearly simultaneous crackdowns. In that article, Rick Ellis writes:

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.

The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.

But in a recent interview with the BBC, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan mentioned she was on a conference call just before the recent wave of crackdowns began.

An Associated Press article confirmed the speculation of widespread "consultation" among cities on how to crack down on the Occupy movement, noting "as local governments expressed concern over safety and sanitation at the encampments over the last month, officials from nearly 40 cities turned to each other on conference calls."

Suffice it to say, no police agency, federal government agency, or mayor's office supports the notion of a "conspiracy" to crush the Occupy sites, but evidence suggests that there was, in general, a mutual consensus that the Occupy movement needed to be uprooted - and that information was shared among city officials across the nation, with the likely input of the FBI and other federal officials.

Interestingly, in a little noted comment by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Air Force One after the New York Police Department smashed through Zuccotti Park, Obama's position appears to be almost identical to the public relations "balance" statements of Michael Bloomberg:

We would hope and want, as these decisions are made, that it balances between a long tradition of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in this country, and obviously of demonstrating and protesting, and also the very important need to maintain law and order and health and safety standards, which was obviously a concern in this case.

Notice the Bloombergian emphasis on concern for "health and safety standards," even when the city was doing everything possible to ensure the deterioration of health and safety standards.

This was the national refrain among mayors who consulted with each other, even though there are large areas - in every city in question - that have sizable populations who are neglected as far as health and safety standards are concerned, particularly when it comes to basic medical care and violence.

Where there is no smoking gun, conspiracy theories abound - and they remain "theories" in the absence of evidence. There is no smoking gun at this point that indicates a national federal/municipal coordination to smother the Occupy movement. On the other hand, when everybody's message points are the same in the status quo - and the Occupy movement represents a force that institutionalized governments are threatened by - a common sound bite and similar excessive police tactics may reveal much more than Washington and the mayors are willing to publicly admit.