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November 2011, Week 3

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Mon, 21 Nov 2011 21:51:35 -0500
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National Lawyers Guild Files FOIA Requests Seeking
Evidence of Federal Role in Occupy Crackdown

By Dave Lindorff

This Can't Be Happening / News Report
Published: Monday 21 November 2011 

This article was published at NationofChange at:
http://www.nationofchange.org/national-lawyers-guild-files-foia-requests-seeking-evidence-federal-role-occupy-crackdown-1321891106

With Congress no longer performing its sworn role of
defending the US Constitution, the National Lawyers
Guild Mass Defense Committee and the Partnership for
Civil Justice today filed requests under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) asking the Department of
Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI,
the CIA and the National Parks Service to release "all
their information on the planning of the coordinated
law enforcement crackdown on Occupy protest encampments
in multiple cities over the course of recent days and
weeks."

According to a statement by the NLG, each of the FOIA
requests states, "This request specifically encompasses
disclosure of any documents or information pertaining
to federal coordination of, or advice or consultation
regarding, the police response to the Occupy movement,
protests or encampments."

National Lawyers Guild leaders, including Executive
Director Heidi Beghosian and NLG Mass Defense Committee
co-chair and PCJ Executive Director Mara
Veheyden-Hilliard both told TCBH! earlier this week
that the rapid-fire assaults on occupation encampments
in cities from Oakland to New York and Portland,
Seattle and Atlanta, all within days of each other, the
similar approach taken by police, which included
overwhelming force in night-time attacks, mass arrests,
use of such weaponry as pepper spray, sound cannons,
tear gas, clubs and in some cases "non-lethal"
projectiles like bean bags and rubber bullets, the
removal and even arrest of reporters and
camera-persons, and the justifications offered by
municipal officials, who all cited "health" and
"safety" concerns, all pointed to central direction and
guidance.

As we reported, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitted
publicly in an interview on a San Francisco radio
program earlier this week that prior to her first order
to police to clear Oscar Grant Plaza of occupiers on
Oct. 25, she had participated in a "conference call"
with 17 other urban mayors to discuss strategy for
dealing with the movement. At the time of that call,
her mayor's office legal advisor, who subsequently
resigned over the harsh police tactics used against
demonstrators, says Quan was, significantly, in
Washington, DC.

The NLG says the Occupy Movement, which is now in over
170 cities around the U.S., "has been confronted by a
nearly simultaneous effort by local governments and
local police agencies to evict and break up encampments
in cities and towns throughout the country."

Veheyden-Hilliard says, "The severe crackdown on the
occupation movement appears to be part of a national
strategy," which she said is designed to "crush the
movement," an action she describes as "supremely
political."

She adds, "The Occupy demonstrations are not criminal
activities and police should not be treating them as
such."

The police conducting these coordinated raids look more
like Imperial Storm Troopers than cops in their riot
gear get-ups. The attacks show how the nation's local
police are becoming more of a national paramilitary
force, curiously akin to the widely despised and feared
Armed Police or Wu Jing who do the heavy riot-control
and repression duty in China. Equipped with
federally-supplied body armor and military-style
weapons like stun grenades, sound canons and of course
assault rifles, domestic US police forces responding to
even garden variety, peaceful protest actions often
look more like an occupying army than police. Meanwhile
their actions have even been condemned by the Iraq and
Afghanistan War veterans who are increasingly coming to
and supporting the occupation movement. These vets say
the police are employing tactics that they themselves
were not even permitted to use in dealing with unrest
in occupied or war-torn lands.

The Guild and other observers strongly suspect that the
72 so-called Fusion Centers created buy the Homeland
Security Department around the country, and the many
Joint Terror Task Forces operated by the FBI in
conjunction with local police in many cities, are
serving as coordination points for the increasingly
systematic attacks on the Occupy Movement.

It will be instructive to see how the Obama
administration and the targeted agencies respond to the
Guild's FOIA requests, and even more interesting to see
what kinds of documents--if any--are forthcoming.

"We're calling for expedited processing, because this
is an urgent effort, and if we don't get that, we can
go to court over that issue," says Verheyden-Hilliard.
"Government delays in responding defeat the purpose of
an open government law, with people in the streets and
under attack by police now." Normally, she says,
government agencies have 20 days to respond to a FOIA
request, but with an expedited request the agencies
should have to respond even faster.

National Security and privacy are the only grounds for
federal agencies to withhold information sought in a
FOIA request, and clearly there is no national security
issue involved in this protest movement, at least not
in a strictly legal sense of the term. The Occupy
Movement is protesting economic inequality, and the
political corruption that allows the wealthiest people
who run the nation's biggest banks and companies to run
the country in their own interest and to run rough-shod
over the broader public interest. Of course, from the
perspective of the ruling elite, and from the
perspective of their political lackeys in the White
House and Congress, any protest movement calling for a
reordering of the political system to make it more
responsive to the public interest would be seen as a
national security threat.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Movement is continuing to grow.

Ousted from their base in Zuccotti Park, where a New
York state court judge has ruled that they can stay,
but cannot sleep or bring in sleeping gear or
protection from the weather, movement activists are
switching to a decentralized strategy. Some 30,000
people rallied around New York City on Thursday (the
two-month anniversary of the start of the Zuccotti
occupation), to protest the police action two days
earlier. Some hardy souls still keep Zuccotti occupied
round the clock, and a General Assembly has been held
there several times despite police efforts to limit
access. Rallies in support of and solidarity with the
New York Occupy Movement were held simultaneously in 30
other cities yesterday.

Kenny Clark, 32, dressed in military fatigues he said
dated from his Army service (he was stationed in Korea)
stood in Zuccotti Park in the pouring rain on
Wednesday, more than a day after police had cleared
away the tarps, the 5500-book library, and the free
kitchen, and said, with a determined smile, "We're not
going away!" A meat counter worker at A&P, where he has
worked for 20 years, Clark said he and his co-workers
were being asked to take a 20-percent pay cut by the
firm, which is using a bankruptcy filing to try and
break out of its union contracts. "We'll vote down
their offer, and then we'll strike, and then they'll
probably fire our asses," he laughed, "but with help
from all these occupiers, we'll be marching in front of
their stores and organizing a boycott like they've
never seen! Nobody's going to shop there!"

Clark noted that the Occupy Movement is developing
plans for a national occupation of the National Mall,
the big park that runs between the Capitol and the
Lincoln Monument that has been the scene of many
historic rallies and occupations in decades past. A
national General Assembly is being planned for April 1,
which will focus on " the failure of the Democrats and
Republicans in Congress to represent the views of the
majority of people, the Supreme Court for allowing the
Constitution to be perverted and for ignoring the rule
of law and the Chamber of Commerce and lobbyists on K
St for dominating the political process in favor of the
1% at the expense of the 99%."

This thing ain't over. It's just getting going.

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