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Occupy Wall Street was born out of little-guy frustration | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com

When I first watched the Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York and around the country, I wondered if folks carrying signs, camping out, holding up traffic and boycotting financial institutions could really make a difference.

The jaded part of me didn’t think the protesters could accomplish much other than some media coverage. There wasn’t a clear leader for the movement. Their demands weren’t specific enough.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street campaign isn’t abating, and for good reason.

“The protests represent people’s frustration in dealing with big government, politics and big corporations that aren’t providing jobs, aren’t listening to us and who are nickel-and-diming us,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has expressed sympathy with those on the streets.

“They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington – and at some level I can’t blame them,” Bernanke told Congress’ Joint Economic Committee last week when he was asked what he thought of the movement.

President Barack Obama also weighed in on the protests during his news conference Thursday.

There’s been “huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street,” he said.

Although some have criticized the movement for its lack of leadership and clear agenda, the protests do have a purpose, says Kalle Lasn, editor-and-chief of Adbusters magazine.

It was the Vancouver-based anti-consumerist magazine that spurred the Occupy Wall Street campaign. It urged people to show up on Wall Street starting Sept. 17 and set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades and stay for a few months.

“This movement at the moment is all about being angry and having rage,” Lasn said in an interview.

“But in the next few weeks, as it grows, it will become clear it’s a positive program about political and social change.”

Lasn said he hopes the next big protest will happen on Oct. 29. The magazine is encouraging people to stage protests in state capitals in the U.S. and abroad the weekend before the next G-20 summit. The summit, a gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors from the 20 largest economies, is meeting in France Nov. 3-4. Lasn said that one demand protesters can unite behind is a global financial transaction levy dubbed the Robin Hood tax, which is intended to make the financial sector contribute to fixing the economic crisis it helped create.

“We want to get millions marching on Oct. 29,” Lasn said. “This could be the beginning of a whole new global future where we the people call the shots. I just hope it doesn’t align itself with the Democratic Party. I hope it stays aloof from the U.S. two-party system. It should become a real people’s movement.”

Throughout history, great change has evolved from small civil protests.

It took a Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, to inspire the Montgomery bus boycott that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional.

Go even further back to the origins of the word boycott and you’ll find the story of Irish tenant farmers who got tired of being taken advantage of by rich landowners. Charles C. Boycott, an English estate manager in Ireland, found himself in the middle of a game-changing protest.

Despite a poor harvest, Boycott had refused to lower rents for the farmers. So local laborers in turn refused to work the land that Boycott was managing. Leading that protest was Charles Parnell, an Irish politician, who fought for the rights of the tenant farmers. Parnell advocated peaceful protest, one in which workers ostracized the people behind unfair business practices.

Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services for the Consumer Federation of America, says, “Policymakers are at risk of underestimating how fed up and angry consumers are with practices they think are unfair.”

Are you fed up? If so, you can find local Occupy Wall Street events at http://www.occupytogether.org, which says it’s the unofficial hub for those who want to take action against corporate greed.

Even if the protests wane, it’s still the beginning of something great, Lasn said.

I’m no longer jaded.

I’m excited that those most hurt by the dismal economy – the young, old, employed and unemployed – are marching, picketing and raising ruckus against the financial sector that has morphed into too-big-to-fail institutions that gave little thought to how their actions could wreak havoc in people’s lives.

via Occupy Wall Street was born out of little-guy frustration | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com.

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Boston Police Release Statement on Occupy Boston – Charlestown, MA Patch

Editor’s note: Following the arrest of 141 protesters on the Rose Kennedy Greenway just after midnight on Tuesday, the Boston Police released the following statement.

Since October 1, 2011 the Boston Police Department has been working closely with the leadership of Occupy Boston to accommodate their request for peaceful demonstration. The City of Boston, at the request of the organizers, designated the area of Dewey Square on the Greenway where protestors have been provided the opportunity to create an encampment and protest peacefully.

On October 10, 2011, protestors expanded the camp site to a second location that had not been previously approved. Several reasons required police to request that protestors return to the original agreed upon site.

Occupying a second area of the Greenway near Pearl Street created an increased public safety concern.

The site of the 2nd encampment on the Greenway (near Pearl Street) had recently undergone a costly renovation by the Greenway Conservancy to improve the green space. The protestors’ presence on that space created a concern for potential property damage.

The attempt of the protestors to occupy the Washington Street Bridge was executed without discussion and prior agreement with police. That action and breakdown of communication created a scenario which became a serious public safety hazard and compromised the BPD’s ability to ensure public order and a safe environment.

Boston Police communicated to protestors the request to vacate the second encampment and return to the original site numerous times throughout the evening via Twitter, flyers and in person. The required police action resulted in the arrest of 141 individuals who were charged with Unlawful Assembly or Trespassing. Some time after 1:00am on 10/11/11, Boston Police declared ‘Unlawful Assembly’ in the area of the second site.

As a result of an existing city ordinance that forbids sleeping in a city park between 11:00pm and 7:00am, officers had the authority to arrest for Trespassing and Unlawful Assembly.

Although our officers faced active resistance from protestors including being spit on, our officers maintained a respectful, professional and proportional posture. If any individual experienced a concern about their interaction with an officer that individual is encourage to come forward and report that information to the department. At this time, we have not received any such complaints.

The Boston Police Department is committed to protecting one’s right of peaceful protest. The Boston Police Department is also committed to ensure everyone’s safety. We continue to encourage the leadership of Occupy Boston to maintain an open dialogue with authorities in the spirit of coordination and cooperation.

via Boston Police Release Statement on Occupy Boston – Charlestown, MA Patch.

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City Grants Occupy Dallas a Special Permit

​We began the day by discussing Occupy Dallas’s missive to the mayor concerning their encampment at Pioneer Plaza, between Dallas City Hall and the Dallas Convention Center. We end it — not counting our Rangers liveblog, which is now into extra innings — with this: Following a sitdown with the group, the city has OK’d a special permit for the group through October 14. The permit, which was just dispatched, follows, but first this from Frank Librio, City Hall spokesman:

The Occupy Dallas group has obtained a special permit for the Pioneer Plaza area near the Convention Center. The City is balancing this group’s first amendment rights with a focus on protecting the protestors and the public — like many other cities across the country experiencing similar protests.

The Dallas Police Department has only utilized on-duty resources to address the Occupy Dallas demonstrators. This is consistent with other demonstrations that have occurred in the city in the past and a function of the police department that is part of the current operating budget. The Police Department has provided a uniformed presence during the demonstrator’s marches to ensure there is minimal disruption in traffic flow, no disturbances or violation of law and that counter protests do not develop that could lead to disorder.

via City Grants Occupy Dallas a Special Permit – Dallas News – Unfair Park.

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Is politics from below ‘class warfare’?

The exciting presence and perseverance of protestors on Wall Street (and the spread of the #OccupyWallStreet protests to cities throughout America) is a welcome respite from years of passivity, and not only in relation to the scandalous legal and illegal abuses of comprador capitalists.

In addition, it is a reaction to the prolongations of predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a rising anti-democratic Islamophobic tide, to a shameless reliance on incarceration for harmless activities, to a presidency that seems less willing to confront hedge fund managers than jobless masses, and to a Congress that incredibly represents billionaires while scorning the people that put them in office.

But will this exhilarating presence be sustained in a manner that brings credible hope of restored and renewed democracy that is dedicated to social well-being at home and responsible law-oriented leadership abroad that is no longer drone-driven?

“Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America.”

There is little doubt that this move to the streets of America expresses a deep disillusionment with ordinary politics based on elections and governing institutions. Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America who poured unprecedented enthusiasm into his campaign that promised so much and delivered so little. Perhaps worse than Obama’s failure to deliver, was his refusal to fight for what he claimed to believe, or even to bring into his entourage of advisors a few voices of empathy and mildly progressive outlook.

From his initial appointment of Rahm Emmanuel onwards, it should have been clear that the Obama presidency was intent on playing the same old Washington games waged by special interests. More recently, these interests were further deformed by a Republican Party lurching to the right, by a surging Tea Party intent on pushing the government policy and role to the outer extremes of cruel and irresponsible public policy, by a pathetic Democratic Party that is trying to survive mainly by mimicking Republicans, and by a domineering media that has become largely captive to corporate America.

If such a portrayal of ordinary politics is more or less correct it is a wonder that a more radical sense from the left of America’s future took so long to materialise, if indeed it has. At least #OccupyWall Street is displaying the distress of young urban Americans and sending some warning signals to the bastions of the established power that acute displeasure is rising, and may become threatening to what is, as well as engaging with what might be.

Far right radicals

Of course, radicalism is not absent from the American political scene. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the forces of the right have been riding higher in the United States.

Such an impression is strengthened by the loss of composure by the Democratic party that struggles to show that it is almost as capitalist, pro-military, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and patriotic as its reactionary critics. Its traditional principles of a compassionate state serving the interests of the citizenry have been put in cold storage. Democrats are scared to seem weak, and even more scared to seem to be socialists.

“One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by government to care for the health, education and wellbeing of less advantaged people in the country.”

One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by the government to care for the health, education, and well-being of less advantaged people in the country. Thus the Wall Street protests, if indeed they do have a radical agenda, which is not yet clear, will be to fill this vacuum on the left that has been so disabling during the last twenty years when capitalism had no ideological rival.
One amusing legacy of Cold War anti-Marxism is for the reactionary legions in the country to complain that the protesters are intent on launching ‘class warfare.’ It is one of those post-liberal epithets that gets promiscuously tossed around by ascendant right wing ideologues so as to demonise even those who are reckless enough to propose a modest tax increase on the super-rich in America.

Even Barack Obama who has done his best to please Wall Street 99 per cent of the time, is being charged with waging ‘class warfare’. Liberals are so timid ever since the Berlin Wall fell, and with it fell the possibility of compassionate society, whether capitalist or socialist, the label intimidates. Since then every effort has been made to protect the interests of the exploiting social forces that exult and prosper while marginalised minorities weep and bleed.

As has been pointed out by trenchant critics of what is going on, yes, there is class warfare being practiced, not by its victims, but by the very folks that decry class warfare.

The rich have been extraordinarily successful during the last decade or so in redistributing income upward, from the poor to the rich and ultra rich, including from the increasingly worried middle classes to those plump elites sitting comfortably on top of the economic pyramid.

Combined with pro-corporate and pro-bank deregulation, tax holidays, labour-busting tactics, anti-immigrant-fervor, this assault on the citizenry of the country is an inversion of class warfare as delimited in the Marxist tradition.

The ‘new’ class warfare

The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government with the purpose of disenfranchising the citizenry, breaking the social contract of the New Deal, and relying on law enforcement to keep those who object under suspicion. This is a task facilitated by the repressive legislation made plausible by the 9/11 attacks and the curtailment of individual freedoms associated with the rigours of ‘homeland security’.

“The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government.”

Disavowing American party and institutional politics and situating hope with the arousal of progressive forces in civil society is different from concluding that the Wall Street protests are more than a tantalising flash in the pan at this stage.

Even with this cautionary commentary, it is obvious that these events own a large acknowledged debt to Tahrir Square (as well as to a surprising initial push from the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine, Adbusters) – especially the ethos of a nonviolent leaderless, programme-less spontaneous rising that learns day-by-day what it is about, who it is, and what is possible.

Of course, the immediate stakes for the protesters seem much lower than in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, as there is little present risk of death or physical injury at the hands of the police on American streets. Additionally, however disappointing and abusive the political and economic realities have become, they are not cruelly and corruptly autocratic.

For this reason, the ghouls of Wall Street do not provide quite as potent a unifying target as was the grim personage of Hosni Mubarak, a cruel autocrat in power for more than three decades, and so it may be harder to transform these protests into a sustainable movement.

But in other ways the stakes and risks on Wall Street are higher than they might seem. As long as America is beholden to militarists and right-wing billionaires its shadow negatively affects many ongoing struggles throughout the world.

This America turns away from the needed global cooperation to address climate change, world poverty, severe human rights abuses, nuclear disarmament, and such concrete issues as self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace for Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other outposts of misery.

This America opposes carbon taxes, and refuses to support the establishment of a Global Peoples Parliament or a UN Emergency Peace Force that might encourage global democracy and make the protection of vulnerable people a task for the United Nations rather than a geopolitical maneuver.

The world needs an America that rediscovers its own dream of liberty and justice, and awakens from a long and debilitating nightmare that has silenced its ‘better angels’.

In the end, we all must hope and engage. The beginnings of hope are rooted in the correctness of analysis, and so we can be thankful that this initiative places its focus on the shortcomings of a merely procedural democracy, the deforming impact of financial and corporate practices, and does not look to the reform or even the control of the state as the cure for what ails.

The implicit not so subtle point is that the centre of power over the destinies of the American people has shifted its locus from Washington to New York, and beyond! Underneath the rhetoric is the search for substantive democracy that upholds rights, demands justice and freedom, and allows people to participate in the control of their destinies

via Is politics from below ‘class warfare’? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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Cops Beat Veterans in Boston and City Hall Blackmails OccupyDallas

Occupy Wall Street first struck me as a joke. Here were all these twenty somethings in their Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters complaining about corporate greed in the middle of the work week while taking photos with their $1000 cameras and their $300 iPhones.Their gatherings pulled cops away from other areas and terrible things happened like a series of random attacks on women in the subway. It’s so very easy to admonish these people as privileged hipster kids and dislike them for how they inconvenience the cities they protest in.

But then the cops in New York started macing people. And as much as we might WANT to mace a hipster it’s still assault and unwarranted and not cool.

Since that assault via spicy face spray the movement has sort of exploded. Mainstream media is covering it (though it’s with a sense of bewilderment) and new Occupy protests have sprouted up all over the country.

Part of the movement is occupying public parks long-term. In some locations there are no rules governing the occupation of a public space. In other places permits are required to occupy these parks.

via Cops Beat Veterans in Boston and City Hall Blackmails OccupyDallas.

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Boston Police Throw American Flag To Ground, Arrest Veterans, Trash Property To Protect ‘Green Space’ From 99 Percent | ThinkProgress

Before the arrests and clearing of the park, the police surrounded it, lining up over a dozen paddy wagons along one side. They told members of the media to leave and not to film proceedings. After a five-minute warning to disperse, police moved in, first arresting the peacefully protesting veterans — who included a female veteran of the Iraq War, according to the Boston Phoenix — and then other Occupy Boston activists. According to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, about 100 arrests were made.

The police then tore down the protesters’ encampment. Live feeds from onlookers showed Boston Police dumping dismantled tents, signs, and chairs into waiting garbage trucks, destroying the protesters’ property.

Tuesday morning’s mass arrest marks the first significant confrontation between police and Occupy Boston. Activists in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street began an occupation of Dewey Square Park, a small park in the heart of Boston’s financial district on Friday, September 30, without conflict. The number of participants in Occupy Boston outgrew the space over the week. On Monday morning, dozens of protesters set up a new occupation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway between Pearl and Congress Streets, one block northeast of Dewey Square. Over the course of the day, the Boston Police Department issued warnings to the occupiers of the new encampment that they were at risk of arrest because of potential damage to the greenway.

Over Twitter, a department spokesperson warned activists the police wanted to “curtail additional damage to newly developed green space” because “the Greenway Conservancy recently invested over $150,000 in new plantings for all to enjoy.” The Greenway Conservancy is a private non-profit organization that raises funds for the public park. Its board is comprised of several of Boston’s wealthiest financiers.

Before the mass arrest and destruction of the second Occupy Boston encampment, police media relations issued a statement that “the Boston Police Department respects your right to protest peacefully.

via Boston Police Throw American Flag To Ground, Arrest Veterans, Trash Property To Protect ‘Green Space’ From 99 Percent | ThinkProgress.

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Occupy Wall Street protests continue, with fresh push planned targeting banks – CNN.com

New York (CNN) — Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, music star Kanye West and the Rev. Al Sharpton were the latest to lend their celebrity to the Occupy Wall Street cause, mixing with the masses in New York on Monday, days ahead of a larger, promised protest targeting mammoth banks.

Their visits came as the burgeoning movement continued to echo from coast to coast, voicing impassioned sentiments on a range of topics while commonly railing against what protesters describe as corporate greed, political ineptitude and the inordinate power wielded by the United States’ wealthiest people.

“We are here today because we agree 1% should not be controlling the (nation’s) wealth,” Sharpton said on his nationally syndicated radio program from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. “These (demonstrators) are regular people trying to feed their families, trying to pay their rent and mortgages, trying to survive.”

The outspoken civil rights activist and his “Keepin’ It Real” show were joined Monday in the park — where protesters have been camping out for 24 days — by Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings and the Phat Farm clothing empire, one of many high-profile people to visit in recent days. And a YouTube video, posted on Rapdose.com, showed Simmons at the park flanked by Grammy Award-winning artist Kanye West.

Earlier, organizers of the “leaderless resistance movement” billed Monday as “Kids Speak Out” day, given that many schoolchildren are off for Columbus Day.

“Even as banks got bailed out, American children have witnessed their parents get tossed out of their homes and lose their jobs. Public school kids have lost arts, music and physical education,” the movement’s website said. “Now our kids can see activists take these issues to the streets in a democratic forum at Occupy Wall Street.”

Playing down the protests Occupy Wall Street: Speech vs. security Occupy Wall Street spreads to Philly 24 days of Occupy Wall Street

University students played a big part Monday in demonstrations associated with the movement in Boston.

Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts and other schools were among those represented — along with members of several labor unions and other groups who have been active in Occupy Boston events in recent weeks. Overhead video from Boston showed long lines of people filling up streets as they marched.

A posting on the website of that city’s movement suggested that the march from the Boston Common to Dewey Square was timed to come on the eve of key votes on the American Jobs Act, a bill pushed by President Barack Obama to boost the economy.

“We can’t just sit idly by while the politicians in Washington play political games with our jobs and our livelihoods,” protester Jay Chambers said on the site, which claimed the bill would create “at least 11,000 local jobs.” “It’s time to take the fight to the streets.”

But that didn’t appear to be the only message. Video showed one Boston protester holding up a sign that read “No privatization of public education,” and CNN affiliate WCVB characterized the event as a protest against university presidents’ high salaries.

Open Story: See iReports from the protests.

The nationwide movement has been largely peaceful, though it has led to some skirmishes with police and arrests, particularly in New York and Washington. It has also stoked fervent public debate, including among politicians. Democrats have generally offered sympathy for protesters’ concerns while several Republicans, among them 2012 presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, have described the demonstrations as “class warfare.”

New York Mayor Bloomberg, an independent, appeared Monday to soften his stance about the protests.

Last Friday, he said on WOR radio that some demonstrators were “trying to destroy the jobs of working people in the city” and suggested it could only be a matter of time before officials potentially put an end to the Zuccotti Park encampment. Yet, speaking to CNN affiliate WCBS at a Columbus Day parade, the mayor said the city now plans to allow the protesters to stay indefinitely.

“The bottom line is, people want to express themselves, as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to,” he said.

The Occupy movement shows few signs of slowing down. Rallies and marches have been held in numerous towns and cities in recent days, with many more planned.

That includes a “Call to Action Against Banks,” which New York’s Occupy Wall Street announced on its Facebook site will happen Saturday.

“No longer will banks take our homes. No longer will banks rob students of our future. No longer will banks destroy the environment. No longer will banks fund the misery of war. No longer will banks cause massive unemployment. And no longer will banks create and profit from economic crisis without a struggle,” according to the online message Monday.

It then urges people to “visit your local Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase (branches) and let them know, we will not allow business as usual.”

“We. Will. Occupy. Everywhere,” the posting ends.

via Occupy Wall Street protests continue, with fresh push planned targeting banks – CNN.com.

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