Tuesday’s online reporting services and television news, and Wednesday’s papers, were filled with reports of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and May Day demonstrations across the country and around the world. I am sure many of us are heartened by the continuing upsurge of resistance to the small minority of humanity whose greed and thirst for power is impoverishing the majority and despoiling our planet. But, of course, the 1% will do everything they can to retain their power and lifestyle. So it is not surprising that the number of political arrests nationwide skyrocketed from 1290 in 2010, to many thousands in 2011 (over 800 anti-war and anti-nuclear arrests, over 1300 arrests in the Tar Sands demonstrations and thousands more once the police cracked down on the OWS movement).
While the mass arrests and public confrontations between protestors and police receive relatively widespread media coverage, other authoritarian tactics of intimidation and misinformation go largely unnoticed. For instance New York City Police raided a number of apartments rented by groups of activists in the 24 hours before the start of the planned May Day protests. Six police officers rammed through the door of one activist’s apartment at 6:15 am, armed only with a six-year-old open container warrant for his roommate, and then proceeded to question the activist. Around 7:15 am six cops used an arrest warrant for two people who no longer lived in an activist group house in an adjacent neighborhood to burst in and question the occupants.
Gideon Oliver, the president of the New York Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and advisor to OWS protestors stated: “They were asking what are your May Day plans, do you know who the leaders are – these are classic political surveillance questions.” Oliver was aware of at least three other instances of the police invading what they viewed as potential protestors’ homes and interrogating them about their May Day event intentions.
I expect I’ll learn of other similar actions across the country over the next several days. The message police departments are trying to send to those with the temerity to buck the established order is clear: “We’ve got our eyes on you and if you step out of line we’re going to come down on you like a ton of bricks.”
And their tactics go beyond such ham-fisted intimidation. I see nothing coincidental about the FBI’s well-publicized arrest - in the midst of the May Day protests - of five young men whom their agents enticed into participating in a phony plan to blow up a bridge in Cleveland. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first comment to the online article I described above supported the police raids: “Good for them. Using legal means to do their job. If one of these nuts blows up something people would cry, where are the cops.” Who can tell whether this comment was planted by police agents monitoring the internet, or came from someone taken in by their defamatory propaganda?
I can’t help but wonder if I’ve just glimpsed a sliver of a multifaceted campaign against the rising tide of discontent.
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