National Lawyers Guild requests files FOIA requests seeking evidence of Federal role in Occupy crackdown

by Dave Lindorff   Published: Sunday 20 November 2011    Nation of Change

“The National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee and the Partnership for Civil Justice today filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”

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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.”

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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 co­or­di­nated as­sault by riot-gear-clad po­lice look­ing more like Im­pe­r­ial Storm Troop­ers than cops in cities across the na­tion shows how the po­lice are be­com­ing more of a na­tional para­mil­i­tary force, cu­ri­ously akin to the widely de­spised and feared Armed Po­lice or Wu Jing who han­dle the heavy riot-con­trol and re­pres­sion duty in China. Equipped with fed­er­ally-sup­plied body armor and weapons like stun grenades, sound canons and of course as­sault ri­fles, do­mes­tic US po­lice forces re­spond­ing to even gar­den va­ri­ety 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 and are using weapons that they them­selves were not even per­mit­ted to use in deal­ing with civil 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.

One comment

  1. […] Federal Government.  It’s all of a piece. That is why the National Lawyers Guild has filed a Freedom of Information request to agencies in the Federal Government, including Homeland Security, the CIA, and the FBI, in regard […]

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