Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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Protesters of Police Stop-and-Frisk Practice Are Arrested

Cornel West, in tie, with other protesters against the police's stop-and-frisk policy outside the 28th Precinct station house in Harlem on Friday.
Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Cornel West, in tie, with other protesters against the police’s stop-and-frisk policy outside the 28th Precinct station house in Harlem on Friday.

About 30 people, including the civil rights campaigner and Princeton professor Cornel West, were arrested Friday outside a police station in Harlem during a protest of the police practice known as stop-and-frisk.

Dozens of activists and people who described themselves as victims of stop-and-frisk began their demonstration in front of the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 125th Street, on a corner that Dr. West, an organizer of the rally, said had been “consecrated by giants like Malcolm X.” The group, chanting and holding signs, marched along 125th Street, past the Apollo Theater, to the 28th Police Precinct station house, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.


The practice of stop-and-frisk, in which the police stop people on the street and sometimes frisk them, has been criticized by minority and civil rights groups that complain that blacks and Hispanics are unfairly singled out. Last year the department made more than 600,000 of the warrantless stops, and it is on pace to exceed that number this year. While the police say there is a valid reason for the stops, including suspicious behavior, opponents of the practice note that very few stops result in arrests.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the tactic on his Friday morning radio show on WOR.

“It’s used in communities where we have lots of guns and lots of murder victims,” he said. “And we’ve brought crime down 35 percent in the last 10 years. We have — I don’t know — I don’t think we’re going to set a record for low murders, but we’ll have the second best year in the history of the city this year, and there’s a reason for those things, and this is one of the tactics.

“People say, ‘Oh, you can do it without that’; well, you know you have — nobody is ever going to — some people don’t want you to do anything,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The result of doing nothing, he said, would be “a society you can’t live in.”

The demonstrators, surrounded by officers and fenced in by steel barricades at the police station, voiced anger about the policy, which they said was racist, intimidating and unjust because of its focus on young blacks and Hispanics.

“We have to come to terms with arbitrary police power,” Dr. West said as he kicked off the march, his words repeated, in Occupy Wall Street fashion, by a crowd that consisted of several drumming and chanting activists who came up from Zuccotti Park.

Dr. West underscored the solidarity of the protests, in what he called a unified front against financial and racial inequality, and he said the goal of the uptown rally was to “ensure that the rights of young folks, disproportionately poor and black and brown, are acknowledged and affirmed.”

Dr. West and other organizers had said that they intended to get arrested. Around 2:30, the police began to arrest the protesters who were close to the entrance to the station house.

Also among those arrested were Carl Dix, a national spokesman for the Revolutionary Communist Party; several local religious leaders; and James Vrettos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Those who were arrested were loaded onto police trucks and vans.

While virtually all of the arrests were uneventful, one activist, a member of a group called the People’s Patrol of New York City, was carried away by officers by his arms and legs — a scene that for a time angered dozens of demonstrators.

The police said that they did not have an exact number of those arrested and that charges were pending.


Everything The Media Told You About Occupy Wall Street Is Wrong

After 10 days out of town, I finally made it to Occupy Wall Street on Tuesday and had a chance to see for myself what’s going on. My conclusion: almost everything the media told me about the protest is wrong.


Based on my observations, here’s what I consider the Top Ten Myths About Occupy Wall Street.

Myth #1. The Movement Is Violent.


One of the most striking images I witnessed at the demonstration was a young black man holding a sign that read “End NYPD Violence!” in front of a group of police officers.

The officers quickly challenged his accusation. But the young man didn’t leave. Next, the police turned away and ignored him. But he still didn’t leave. Then the officers chuckled and let out an unexpected laugh when they realized the man wasn’t going away. The scene was confrontational, but definitely not violent.

In fact, one of the first things I noticed was a sign posted on a wall that embraced “Kingian Nonviolence,” the peaceful principles that guided Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Principles of Kingian Nonviolence

Myth #2. It’s Just A Bunch Of Pampered Kids.

Although I supported the concept of the Occupy Wall Street movement when I first heard of it, I admit I didn’t think the group had much to offer me. From what I could see in the media, they were well-educated, well-intentioned young white people, but they didn’t really represent me.

I was wrong.

What I found was a wide-ranging group of people from various backgrounds, young and old, male and female, black, white, Latin, Asian and mixed. It was the essence of New York, the reason why I moved to this city 10 years ago.


Myth #3. There Are No Black People Involved.

I was taken aback by how many black and Latino participants I noticed at the demonstration. I hadn’t seen them on the television coverage of the movement, but they were clearly there.



Myth #4. They’re Anti-American.

In my experience, I saw a lot of American flags being waved proudly at the demonstration. The protesters may not all think the same things, but many of them were clearly hoping America would live up to its promise as a land of opportunity where the rules are fair and all are welcome.


Myth #5. They’re Just Modern-Day Hippies.

To watch some of the media coverage of the movement, you would think the protest was filled with long-haired hippies left over from the 1960s. In fact, from my experience, I saw a few people who might fit this description, but I also saw just about every type of person you could imagine at the demonstration.


There were high school-aged kids with their parents, college students in their school sweatshirts, men in business suits, mothers with baby carriages, people with jobs, people who were unemployed, white-haired retirees, African drummers, rhythmic dancers, and one person who appeared to be wearing pajamas.

Myth #6. They Don’t Know What They Want.


I found many different people gathered in Zuccotti Park with many different interests and agendas, but they seem to be unified by one common purpose. They’re tired of a system that seems only to cater to the rich and powerful while ignoring the concerns of the vast majority of Americans.


Myth #7. The Labor Unions Are Behind This.


I saw only one labor union table at the demonstration, but most of the people seemed to have no connection to organized labor. Even if they had, there’s nothing wrong with that. Labor unions are an important part of our country, and while not perfect, they’ve helped throughout history to improve working conditions for millions of Americans.

Myth #8. They’re Pro-Obama. They’re Anti-Obama.

“I don’t have facts to back this up,” Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said in an interview recently, “but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.” That seems unlikely.


Not long after I arrived I found a Hispanic man in a camouflage jacket complaining about Obama to a small crowd of onlookers. “Obama is not the savior,” he cried out. Moments after he finished, a young black man in a sweat jacket stood up to defend Obama to the crowd, acknowledging that the president wasn’t perfect but he was doing the best job he could to clean up the mess he had inherited.

Both sides had their points to make and both were respectfully acknowledged.

Myth #9. They’re In The Wrong Place.


I love to hear conservatives complaining that the protesters should be in Washington instead of Wall Street, as if the conservatives were really concerned about the most effective way for the demonstrators to make their case.

This location-based argument suggests a limiting “either/or” mentality that you can’t be in both places, and also assumes that there’s no reason to be on Wall Street at all.

As Herman Cain said recently, “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.

But there’s a good reason why Wall Street serves as an ideal venue for the demonstration. Unlike politicians in Washington, who have to answer to voters every few years, corporate executives on Wall Street don’t have to answer to the public, even though their actions have a huge impact on all of us. It seems to me, the protesters picked a reasonable venue to launch their movement. In fact, judging by the row of satellite trucks parked outside the protest, I’d say Wall Street was exactly the right place to draw attention to their cause.


Myth #10. They’re Taking Over Wall Street.

I’ve lived in New York City for 10 years, but I’d never been to Zuccotti Park until the Occupy Wall Street protests took place. I assumed the protesters were camped out at a park somewhere at the end of Wall Street, throwing around garbage and creating a mess.

Once again, I was wrong.

First, the group was clean, neat and orderly when I saw them. The park was actually cleaner than any park I’ve ever seen in New York City. Some demonstrators even walked around with brooms to clean up any mess that might have been left, and signs were posted advising the occupiers to observe a “good neighbor policy.”


Finally, as it turns out, Zuccotti Park isn’t even on Wall Street. It’s a couple blocks away. As you can see from the image below, the only mess on Wall Street came from the police horses standing guard in front of the New York Stock Exchange.


Follow Keith Boykin on Twitter:


The Day The Empire Fell: Vietnam, the circus, globalization, and Grandma Molly, from Baghdad to New Orleans

The Day The Empire Fell | Expanded Edition, Just Released »

Vincent Scotti Eirené is a consummate storyteller. In this book he offers poetic vignettes about his family and his lifelong journey into nonviolent peacemaking. Along the way he takes us across the country, from Pittsburgh to Chicago, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, the White House, New Orleans, Atlanta, and even beyond, to Fallujah and Baghdad. We meet an assortment of colorful characters, people like Grandma Molly, Phillip Berrigan, Hungry Bear, Uncle Joe, Black Panther Malik Rahim, Martin Sheen, judges, lawyers, activists and others. Stitched together, the stories serve as a striking miniature of our age. They form a snapshot of a time in American history, flashes of what Jack Kerouac did for an earlier era with his book On the Road. –Mark Vander Vennen, co-author of Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises


Bank of America Biggest Funder of Mountaintop Removal! Change Banks!!!


Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Though the majority of Occupy Wall Street‘s demonstrators marched up from Liberty Plaza to Times Square yesterday, a smaller group of perhaps 40 environmentalists began at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Why? Because they’d be making a quick stop on first, just one block away, at the New York City headquarters of Bank of America — one of the biggest funders in the nation of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

As you get a glimpse of it in the photos, each protestor carried a small sign or death certificate, representing the myriad negative health and environmental effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Once at the Bank of America building, blocked off by police barricades and maybe a dozen police officers (who previously blocked traffic so marchers could make it across busy Sixth Avenue, it should be said), the protestors began coughing, wheezing, and, well, doing their best to imitate dying from the various ailments that both using and mining coal causes.

Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The group had previously decided that no one wanted to get arrested at this particular demonstration. So after a few minutes playing dead on the sidewalk — during which Bank of America’s support for MTR was read out to the small crowd which had assembled and the passersby — when a police supervisor asked everyone to stop blocking the sidewalk, the protestors complied and proceeded onward towards Times Square.

For those not up to speed on what the big deal is with mountaintop removal coal mining, and why it’s so bad for human health and the environment, TreeHugger has covered it extensively.

Check out some of these links:
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Significantly Increases Birth Defects
See 25 Years of Mountaintop Removal Mining Destruction in 10 Seconds
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Stream Damage Could Take 1,000 Years To Fix
EPA Data Shows Streams Near Mountaintop Removal Coal Mines Toxic
Climatologist James Hansen Urges Obama to Ban Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining


United SteelWorkers: Occupy Pittsburgh!


#OCCUPYWALLSTREET WINS! Bloomberg backs down, protestors stay in park


Mayor Bloomberg: “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t evict Occupy Wall Street.”

At 7 a.m. tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg is evicting the Occupy Wall Street protesters from their occupation of Zuccotti Park, unless you can help.1

Zuccotti Park is the birthplace of the Occupy protests sweeping the nation and capturing the public’s attention. It’s where a community of committed Americans are standing up against Wall Street and the corporate capture of our democracy for the 99% of us trying to take back the American Dream.

But tomorrow at 7 a.m., under Mayor Bloomberg’s orders, the NYPD is coming to Zuccotti Park to kick the 99% protesters out. It’s being done under the guise of “cleaning” the park, but new rules will mean the end of the occupation.2

We have very little time to act. We need to gather a huge national petition as soon as possible, so we can deliver it to City Hall tonight and have it for the protesters in Zuccotti Park.

So act now. Sign the petition and tell Mayor Bloomberg: “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.”

Sign the petition.

Employing a tactic that’s been used to break up similar protest actions, Mayor Bloomberg is sending in the police under the guise of a “cleaning operation.” But that’s a PR farce, because protesters will only be allowed back in if they obey rules that include: no “lying down” and no use of “tarps or sleeping bags or other covering.”3

Obviously, the 99% protesters can’t continue to occupy Zuccotti Park if they have to stand for 24 hours a day, and as the nights grow colder and the rain pours down, they can’t endure without sleeping bags, tarps, and the like. Make no mistake—this is an eviction, and we have less than 24 hours to stop it.

So sign the petition and tell Mayor Bloomberg: “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.” Then get the word out to everyone you know on your social networks.

Sign the petition.

Thanks for all you do.
–Justin, Eli, Elena, Adam Q., and the rest of the team



Financial Power & Corruption Must be Stopped. Occupy Now.

Thousands of Americans have non-violently occupied Wall St — an epicentre of global financial power and corruption. They are the latest ray of light in a new movement for social justice that is spreading like wildfire from Madrid to Jerusalem to 146 other cities and countingAs working families pay the bill for a financial crisis caused by corrupt elites, the protesters are calling for real democracy, social justice and anti-corruption.


But they are under severe pressure from authorities, and some media are dismissing them as fringe groups. If millions of us from across the world stand with them, we’ll boost their resolve and show the media and leaders that the protests are part of a massive mainstream movement for change.

This year could be our century’s 1968, but to succeed it must be a movement of all citizens, from every walk of life. Click to join the call for real democracy — a giant live counter of every one of us who signs the petition will be erected in the centre of the occupation in New York, and live webcasted on the petition page:

The worldwide wave of protest is the latest chapter in this year’s story of global people power. In Egypt, people took over Tahrir Square and toppled their dictator. In India, one man’s fast brought millions onto the streets and the government to its knees — winning real action to end corruption. For months, Greek citizens relentlessly protested unfair cuts to public spending. In Spain, thousands of “indignados” defied a ban on pre-election demonstrations and mounted a protest camp in Sol square to speak out against political corruption and the government’s handling of the economic crisis. And this summer across Israel, people have built “tent cities” to protest against the rising costs of housing and for social justice.

These national threads are connected by a global narrative of determination to end the collusion of corrupt elites and politicians — who have in many countries helped cause a damaging financial crisis and now want working families to pay the bill. The mass movement that is responding can not only ensure that the burden of recession doesn’t fall on the most vulnerable, it can also help right the balance of power between democracy and corruption. Click to stand with the movement:

In every uprising, from Cairo to New York, the call for an accountable government that serves the people is clear, and our global community has backed that people power across the world wherever it has broken out. The time of politicians in the pocket of the corrupt few is ending, and in its place we are building real democracies, of, by, and for people.

With hope,
Emma, Maria Paz, Alice, Ricken, Morgan, Brianna, Shibayan and the rest of the Avaaz team


Unions, students join Wall Street protesters (Businessweek)

Spanish youth rally in Madrid echoes Egypt protests (BBC)

Anti-austerity protesters block Greek ministries (Reuters)

Occupy Wall St – online resources for the occupation

Occupy Wall St primer (Washington Post)


We’re all the 99%

We're all the 99%

But we, the 99%, will occupy worldwide until justice, freedom and equality are restored. 1%, we are coming for you.

To fellow citizens occupying Wall Street and peoples protesting across the world:

We stand with you in this struggle for real democracy. Together we can end the capture and corruption of our governments by corporate and wealthy elites, and hold our politicians accountable to serve the public interest. We are united – the time for change has come!