RFC Aid for Occupiers?

The spring and fall are usually my busiest work-travel seasons. I’ve just returned from such far flung places as Portland, OR and Paris. While on the road I’ve watched the explosion of “occupations” inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement (occupywallst.org, @occupywallst, facebook.com/occupywallst, #occupywallst, #OWS). I have yet to participate in one, but I intend to rectify that soon. However, although I’ve been absent, the Rosenberg Fund for Children has been present.

While my wife, Ellen, and I were in Portland (me for RFC events and her to read from her novel at the “Wordstock Literary Festival”), she had the opportunity to attend the first Occupy Portland demonstration. She reported that thousands were there (I’ve seen estimates of up to 10,000), and that the energy was “exhilarating and hopeful.” Beyond that my co-worker, Amber, in our office helped kick off Occupy Northampton (MA), and a member of our Board of Directors has been an ongoing presence at the original encampment near Wall Street, where she’s acted as a liaison between labor unions and the occupiers, as well as distributed literature to participants about the RFC’s programs.

Much as we might like to camp out with the 99%, we can’t close up shop at the RFC in the midst of our fall granting cycle without hurting hundreds of our beneficiary children, some of whose activist parents are already participating in the struggle. (And I admit, I’ve reached the age when I must leave it to younger folks to camp out in city parks.) However, I’m sure hundreds, even thousands, of RFC supporters will join at least one of these demonstrations, and those of you who do, could provide an additional service by making sure the people who might be targeted are aware that the RFC is there to help them.

So far we are aware of demonstrators being attacked in New York, Boston, Chicago, DC, Denver, San Diego, Seattle and Tucson. As the movement continues to spread it is likely that others will be targeted as well. The children (under age 25) of these activists, or “occupiers” who are themselves under 25 years old, may be eligible for RFC support. Given how computer savvy many of them are, all you need to do is direct them to the RFC website at www.rfc.org/guidelines where they can find out about our program and even download an application form. If you prefer, we can also send you literature that describes our guidelines and application process for you to distribute at your local Occupations.

The Occupy Movement has created a new generation of activists, most of whom likely have never heard of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. But those of you who join these demonstrations even for a short time have the power to change that, and at the same time let the occupiers know that there is at least one organization in this country that will do everything in its power to guard their backs.

Please help us to spread the word and make sure these demonstrators or their children get all the help we can provide.

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1600? How About 5000!

In our last newsletter I wrote about the rising tide of new applications we’ve been receiving at the RFC this year. I noted that this was not surprising given a number of factors, including the growing number of those arrested at protests in each year since Obama took office. I wrote:

“As Bill Quigley, the former legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights reported based on material presented in The Nuclear Resister, arrests at protests are increasing each year. Over 2600 people have been arrested in the United States at demonstrations since Obama took office: 665 in 2009, 1290 in 2010, and 670 in the first five months of this year. If arrests continue at this rate they’ll top 1600 by the end of 2011.”

Events of the last two months show that 1600 was a gross underestimation. 1253 people were arrested in front of the White House in late August and early September non-violently protesting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. And then the Occupy Wall Street movement began! I do not have an exact count of the number of people arrested at OWS actions, but it is certainly greater than 2000. That means the arrest total for the year is likely already over 4000. Given the continued police crackdown (dozens arrested in Oakland last night) and ongoing resistance of the OWS activists, the total could top 5000 by year’s end! And perhaps once again, I am being overly conservative with even that figure.

I’m elated that so many people have taken to the streets, but its potential impact on the RFC is more than a little daunting. We’ve learned in our 20-plus years of granting that there is often a six-month or even one year lag between when people are targeted and when they apply for us to support their children. But the fact that we’ve received a record number of new requests in 2011, and that all of them were generated by events that took place before either the upsurge of environmental resistance or the Occupy Wall Street movement, means that 2012 may become positively manic at the RFC office.

Of course, not everyone who commits civil disobedience, spends the night in jail, and is under 25 years old or has children younger than that age, meets our criteria of a targeted activist and is eligible for RFC support. However, anyone who suffers serious harm during these demonstrations or is singled out by repressive forces for harsher treatment and falls within the age categories described in the previous sentence, could qualify.

Our fall granting cycle is now closed. We made our first set of fall awards last week and, barring another weather catastrophe, will make our final set on November 9th. Hopefully our year-end fundraising will produce enough so that next spring we won’t have to turn down requests for help from people who fall within our guidelines. We’ll do our best to be prepared for whatever happens and renew our pledge to do everything in our power to help the children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth who ask for RFC support.

Occupy Wall Street: A Modest Proposal

I woke up at 4:00am one morning this week thinking about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. It was less than 24 hours after I learned that the New York City police had evicted all those camped in Zuccotti Park. OWS has been full of surprises, but why was I not shocked by the wave of evictions sweeping the country, and why had the initial spark of the September protest in that park set off a nationwide firestorm? My pre-dawn musing did not produce clear-cut answers, but I did come up with one very modest proposal that I’ve decided to act upon.

The most obvious answer is the brilliant simplicity of the occupiers’ principal slogan: “We are the 99%.” That all-inclusive phrase rang true to tens of millions. This, coupled with their primary tactic of non-violently occupying public space to carry on a 24/7 conversation about how to fix our broken system, enticed others to join them. They did not start with an answer or a program, but rather proposed that we discuss the problems brought about by the increasing concentration of wealth and power in our nation. Moreover, the tactic of indefinitely occupying public space demonstrated both the occupiers’ commitment and their rejection of the authority of those in power. Finally, by refusing to articulate a set of legislative demands and embarking upon a standard political campaign to achieve them, they served notice that this movement would be unlike any we’d seen before.

It is not surprising that OWS became intolerable to the authorities the movement refused to recognize. Such public naming of capitalism as Public Enemy Number One could not be countenanced. Beatings, tear-gassing, property destruction and thousands of arrests were inevitable, despite the protesters heroic non-violence. If the movement persists and grows, as I hope it will, the attacks upon it are sure to intensify.

And the recent attacks demonstrate another fact that we should not overlook. OWS is being attacked because of its success! Our nation is for the first time in my lifetime collectively engaged in a national dialogue about growing financial, social and political inequality. And it is engaged in a discussion of the major progressive questions of our time.

When I founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children, I listed four guiding principles the pursuit of which we’d use to define progressive activism: 1. People are more important than profits. 2. All people have equal worth. 3. World peace is a necessity. 4. Society must function within ecologically sustainable limits.

The recognition that our nation had elevated profit over people is what set OWS in motion. Those occupying Zuccotti Park seem to agree that all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or documentation status, should enjoy the same rights. They recognize that we must stop the wars before we can solve our problems at home, and they have a growing understanding that any civilization that benefits any one species, even if it is our own, at the expense of all others, is not sustainable.

I believe the current wave of evictions, coupled with the coming winter, will force OWS to evolve. I expect to be as surprised by what comes next as I have been by events of the last two months. In the meantime I make one very modest suggestion that I hope will help it to endure.

I’m about to contact a progressive button-maker to ask them to produce hundreds of union-made 1.75” diameter buttons that read “99%”. I’d like some to have black backgrounds with the 99% in red, some to reverse that color scheme and the rest to substitute the color green for either the black or the red. I chose those colors because I approve of their political symbolism, but some readers might prefer others. I’m going to wear one such button and carry a bunch of others with me.

I’ll give one to anyone I meet who indicates they’d like to wear one. I encourage others to do the same. I might be too old to camp out in the cold and even to demonstrate for long periods of time, but I can engage with others who respond to a 99% button. This is just one small action thousands of us can take to keep the discussion going. It is also a way to show support for what might become the most important movement of our lifetime.

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Occupy Wall Street: Follow-up to a Modest Proposal, #OWS

Last week I concluded a blog I wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement with a modest proposal. I wrote:

“I’m about to contact a progressive button-maker to ask them to produce hundreds of union-made 1.75” diameter buttons that read “99%”. I’d like some to have black backgrounds with the 99% in red, some to reverse that color scheme and the rest to substitute the color green for either the black or the red. I chose those colors because I approve of their political symbolism, but some readers might prefer others. I’m going to wear one such button and carry a bunch of others with me. I’ll give one to anyone I meet who indicates they’d like to wear one. I encourage others to do the same. …. This is just one small action thousands of us can take to keep the discussion going.”

Since then, I have placed an order, although I had to scale-back the color scheme to red on black or black on red to contain the cost. I should have the buttons in hand by the end of next week.

My object was to distribute them in person rather than act as a mail-order house to send them to people all over the country. I hoped that people in other parts of the country would emulate what I did, and order and distribute them personally as well. That will spread the buttons in a viral fashion and is much more cost effective.

For instance, it cost me $115.00 to have 250 buttons made and 125 shipped to me. The button maker, Donnelly/Colt: Progressive Resources, will hold the other 125 so they can fulfill direct orders. They won’t change for the buttons, but will charge for postage and padded packaging. The charge to package and mail one button will be $1.84, two $2.30, three $2.76, four $3.22, five $4.41 and ten $6.38.

They can be ordered from Donnelly/Colt, PO Box 188, Hampton, CT 06247 (phone – 860-455-9621 & fax 800-553-0006), or at  www.donnellycolt.com.

On another note, our local Occupy Northampton movement made simple peel and stick labels (12 to a sheet) at our local copying collective, that read “99%” in black and white. The worker-owners liked them so much they deeply discounted the cost and didn’t charge for the slicing. We got 1000 labels for under $20. The problem is that they haven’t stuck well to coats in New England’s November cold.

One fell off my coat as I was getting out of my car so I slapped it on my bumper. It stuck beautifully and the 99% was clearly visible from a distance. I’ve taken to carrying a bunch around in my coat pocket and offering them to others.

I know that a lot of my age-mates are full of verbal and written advice for the “Occupiers.” I prefer to show my support. The multifaceted conversation OWS has started and the near universal appeal of its 99% slogan, have driven its growth. Almost everyone knows what 99% stands for. Millions of us can wear a button or have a bumper sticker that says nothing more than 99% and play a role in keeping the conversation alive. There is strength in numbers - this is such a simple way to show that we have them.

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2011 ushered in a new era of activism; although from the mainstream media’s perspective the wave of global protest didn’t crash upon our nation’s shores until the fall. Perhaps at the RFC we should have been aware of its impending arrival, because we noted an uptick in new applications starting at the beginning of the year. We weren’t swamped with requests from the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in 2011 because it was still in its infancy when our fall application deadline passed in early October. But we were already straining to meet the rising demand for our support.

Years of hard times, vicious attacks on unions and international solidarity workers, as well as a militarized domestic security complex, ignited both protest and repression. With hindsight it is easy to see why we were deluged. It seems obvious now that resistance was building and that OWS caught an existing wave.

Predictable or not, it sure was a dramatic year at the RFC. 2011 would have been very busy and productive for us even without the upsurge in domestic activism. On top of increased activity on the granting side, we produced a tremendous amount of programming these last 12 months.

We concluded our 20/20/20 series during the first half of the year. As you may recall, starting in the fall of 2009 we began what we planned to be 20 events in 20 cities over a 20 month period to mark our 20th anniversary. We ended up holding 26 events over 21 months in 16 states ending in June of 2011. We personally thanked over 1000 supporters, and introduced the RFC to hundreds of new friends. This extraordinary effort also generated over $63,000 more for our beneficiaries. This is something that our entire community should be proud of.

Then in August, we held our first Carry it Forward Gathering since 2006. Originally we planned this event for 2009, but in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 we were forced to postpone it for lack of funds. We brought together over 20 young adults, all current or former RFC beneficiaries, for four days of sharing, network building, artistic expression and fun. They were a dynamic and inspiring group. Their level of engagement, coupled with our exhilaration at reinstating this threatened program, had a cathartic impact upon all of us.

We could tell from how they responded to us and each other that the Gathering had a powerfully positive impact on the young participants. Moreover, a number of the attendees connected with kindred spirits who, I believe, will provide mutual support for their ongoing organizing work in the future. I wish everyone in the RFC community could have shared this experience, because no one who did could have doubted its value. If you have not seen it already, I urge you to view our video of the event here.

Finally, in November we completed our 21st year of granting. We awarded over 150 grants, totaling just under $370,000 (an increase of $10,000 over 2010) to benefit hundreds of children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth. I am proud to announce that the RFC has now made over $4 million in grants since our first award of $805 in May of 1991. I wish to emphasize that the vast majority of these funds came from tens of thousands of modest donations from our activist-oriented, beloved community of support.

We face 2012 wondering where the recent burst of progressive activism will lead us in the coming year. I admit to being a little concerned that it might become positively manic around the RFC office as our spring deadline approaches if we receive many new requests from those who were targeted during the last couple of months. But I’m more excited than worried. I know that all of you in the RFC community stand with us and that together we will rise to the challenge.

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Occupy Wall Street Protester Guilty of Lynching?

This morning I read that an ardent member of the Occupy Los Angeles movement has been arrested and charged with lynching.  You might think the protester, Sergio Ballesteros, attacked and hanged someone.  After all, California’s anti-lynching law was designed to protect minority defendants in police custody from vigilante lynch-mobs.  But no, the police have used the law which defines lynching as “taking by means of riot any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer” to charge a non-violent activist with this felony for allegedly trying to keep a fellow demonstrator from being arrested.

I’m drowning in irony.  First, given Southern California’s history of troubled race relations, and the long-term institutionalized racism of the Los Angeles Police Department, I suspect that city had its fair share of lynching in the 19th and early 20th century, and that this law provided the victims with virtually no protection because the police did not enforce it.  Second, given the heroic pacifism of the Occupy Movement in the face of mounting police violence, I doubt any of the cops holding the demonstrators in their custody could legitimately be called “peace officers.”  Finally, as far as I can tell from the videos, it was the police, not the demonstrators, who were rioting.

But then again, is it really that surprising that a law designed to protect the oppressed, should be turned on its head and employed against those who are rebelling against their oppressors?  I’m sure this isn’t news to the OWS folks whose principle slogan is “we are the 99%.”  Like the lynching law, the 14th Amendment was designed to aid the newly freed slaves.  However, today its main purpose has been perverted to protect the “personhood” of the 1%’s corporate creatures.

I wrote here in early November that: “It is not surprising that OWS became intolerable to the authorities the movement refused to recognize.  Such public naming of capitalism as Public Enemy Number One could not be countenanced...  If the movement persists and grows, as I hope it will, the attacks upon it are sure to intensify.”

This new felony charge is a manifestation of that intensification.  Hopefully the community will rally to Ballesteros' defense.  The police have chosen a target they may regret.  When Ballesteros is not occupying Los Angeles he’s building homes with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a summer camp for children in Appalachia, studying urban education at UCLA, and mentoring Los Angeles-area kids.  But convicting Sergio may not be the prosecutor’s primary goal.  This felony charge is designed to scare away those who might get involved.  However, strong-arm tactics do not appear to be intimidating the OWS folks.  I hope this attack will backfire, and attract even more people to “the 99% movement.”

This is an appropriate place to reiterate that I had 250 “99%” buttons made in December; 125 were shipped to me.  I have a couple of dozen left which I am distributing for free.   The button maker, Donnelly/Colt: progressive promotional resources, is holding the other 125 so they can fulfill direct orders.   All have a union label.  The maker won’t charge for the buttons, but will charge for postage and padded packaging.  The fee to package and mail one button is $1.84, two $2.30, three $2.76, four $3.22, five $4.41 and ten $6.38. 

If you want any, you can get buttons from Donnelly/Colt, PO Box 188, Hampton, CT 06247 (phone 860-455-9621 & fax 800-553-0006).

[To read Robert's other blog posts about the OCCUPY movement, click here.  To comment on any of those older posts, click on "permalink" at the bottom of each entry.]

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Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin and Saving the American Dream

Sometimes catch phrases become so commonplace that we lose sight of their meaning. Lincoln’s 203rd birthday a couple of days ago left me thinking about one of them. He concluded his Gettysburg address with the oft-repeated words that those who died fighting for the Union during that great battle fought so “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Sadly, only the most naive or dishonest among us would claim that those phrases characterize our system today. It is obvious that government “of the people, by the people [and] for the people” is no-longer alive in the United States of America. But as I considered that evocative statement, it struck me that it embodies the desires of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement.

You could argue that we never really had such a government. That the America of Lincoln’s time, even after the emancipation proclamation, was not of, by and for women, people of color, workers or the poor. But those nine words summed up the American ideal. They have helped inspire those striving for freedom and fairness in this country ever since. This is another reason why the OWS Movement has struck such a responsive chord. It is plain that the 1%, their corporate creatures, their mouth-pieces in government and media, and their hacks on the Supreme Court, are destroying all hope of ever achieving those democratic impulses, no matter the lip service paid to them.

But while many are fighting against the destruction of their dreams, the majority remains quiescent. That got me thinking about another, nowhere near as popular, catch phrase. Ben Franklin said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

This phrase dogged me when I read the day after Lincoln’s birthday that a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 42% strongly approved and 28% somewhat approved of keeping Guantanamo open to hold suspected terrorists. That’s a whopping 70%. Since 5% had no opinion; that means only a quarter of the American’s polled felt it was time to close Guantanamo.

Lincoln’s and Franklin’s phrases in the context of post-9/11 and endless recession America go a long way toward explaining the explosion of youth activism and the continuing passivity of the majority. Too many Americans live in fear of terrorism, and of other races, religions and sexual orientations to join a diverse mass movement to attempt to gain control of the body politic. Many others are preoccupied by the vastest array of entertainment opportunities our species has ever known. The 1%’s strategy is plain: frighten some, distract others and repress the rest.

That brings to mind a third catch phrase. Our national anthem closes: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Maybe we should change the words to “we’re no longer free because we’ve become so afraid.” Too many of us will remain enslaved to the 1% until we awaken from our entertainment-enhanced stupor, and throw off the deadening blanket of the post-9/11 national security state. Until we do, we’ll never achieve government of, by and for the people.

Bad Medicine from the Mainstream Media

Watching the media coverage of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) just published book, The Evolving Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance – Options for Action, may teach us more about how the mainstream media operates than about this rapidly developing public health menace.

My wife, Elli, who left her job as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner six years ago to become a fiction writer, still acts as our family’s resident medical professional. Yesterday morning she informed me over coffee that the WHO had just released a frightening new report. She said that an explosion of resistant bacteria could make common infections like strep-throat difficult or impossible to treat in the near future, and that any invasive surgery would place patients in mortal danger from untreatable infections. She concluded that while over-prescription of antibiotics was part of the problem, that agribusiness’s systematic introduction of antibiotics into the food supply was the primary culprit.

At a news conference last week in Europe the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, urged governments to “restrict the use of antibiotics in food production to therapeutic purposes,” and argued that governments and companies need to regulate "how much antibiotics are used in food production.” Other solutions Dr. Chan mentioned were: “prescribing antibiotics appropriately and only when needed, following treatment correctly…and tackling the problem of substandard or counterfeit medicines.”

The WHO report caused quite a stir, and so I was not surprised that it was one of the featured stories on the NBC evening news. Anchorman Brian Williams discussed it with NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman. I do not recall Dr. Snyderman’s exact words, but she listed four things we could do to keep this rapidly approaching scourge at bay. She emphasized the first two; prescribing and using antibiotics only when appropriate and making sure to take them for their full prescribed course. Then in a somewhat off-hand manner she said there “probably” were too many antibiotics used in our food supply, before strongly urging that patients avoid counterfeit medicines.

In other words, the NBC story de-emphasized the impact of the wholesale use of antibiotics in the corporate-generated food supply, while focusing on the individual actions of doctors and their patients.

It probably surprises few who read this that the mainstream media - even NBC, viewed by some as the most “liberal” network - would spin the story this way. After all, NBC is a subsidiary of General Electric, which has its global corporate tentacles in many aspects of agribusiness. NBC is hardly going to emphasize that common business practice is a principle source of the problem, and sound the alarm that government needs to step in to alter and control the behavior of giant companies.

This is a typical liberal response to a systemic problem. Report on it, alert the public to the danger and provide some accurate information about how to alleviate it, while burying any information that suggests the practices of our corporate-driven economy are the primary sources of the problem in the first place.

It echoes the way the “liberal” end of the mainstream media reports on environmental issues. Yes, they note global warming, and cover recycling and alternative energy sources, but they never mention that even millions of Priuses and solar panels won’t put much of a dent in climate change if we don’t directly confront the massive carbon footprint of the military industrial complex and our global empire.

I know we can’t expect the supposedly liberal media to provide us with a radical critique on our society. Fortunately, masses of young people, exemplified by the Occupy Wall Street movement, are developing their own radical analysis of the problems we face and what needs to be done about them. They are voting with their feet; utilizing the few truly radical media outlets available, the blogosphere and direct social media networking to communicate; and leaving the corporate-oriented spin of the mainstream media behind them in the dust. Which is exactly where it belongs.

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Uninvited May Day Guests

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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Big Surprise: U.S. Secret Police & Big Banks Conspire to Smash Dissent

 In November 2011, shortly after the violent government crackdown on the two-month old Occupy Wall Street movement, I blogged here, “It is not surprising that OWS became intolerable to the authorities the movement refused to recognize.  Such public naming of capitalism as Public Enemy Number One could not be countenanced.  Beatings, tear-gassing, property destruction and thousands of arrests were inevitable, despite the protesters’ heroic non-violence.”

Last week we gained definitive proof that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, local police forces and a set of cooperating governmental and private authorities too long to list here instituted a coordinated plan of repression designed to destroy a lawful protest movement.  We have the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s (PCJF) Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to thank for forcing the release of heavily redacted FBI documents that reveal this conspiracy.  I doubt that many of my readers will be startled by this information.  Perhaps it is more surprising that PCJF was able to ferret out this much of the truth so quickly.

Fewer people may realize, however, the scope of these repressive machinations.  It involves something called the Domestic Security Alliance Council.  This “Council” includes not only an array of federal, state and local policing authorities, but also private security organizations working for the big banks and the New York Stock Exchange.  In the words of Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF:  “These documents also show these federal agencies function as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

What justifies bringing the full force of our nation’s private and public control mechanisms to bear against a legal protest movement?  The documents reveal that from August 2011 onward the FBI, while acknowledging Occupy Wall Street’s commitment to non-violence, treated the movement as a “potential terrorist threat.”

It has been apparent for several years that the post-September 11th, 2001 “counter terrorism” laws ultimately would be used against domestic dissenters.  In the name of combating terrorism the “National Surveillance State” has grown exponentially, police tactics have evolved into those of an occupying army, and the courts increasingly look the other way at governmental disregard for civil liberties.  The transformation is close to complete.  As far as the FBI and its fellows are concerned even those protesting peacefully against the powerful are potential terrorist threats and should be dealt with accordingly.

While this news is not surprising, it is alarming.  At the RFC we enter 2013, as we do every year, wishing the need for our aid would abate.  But alas, the forces of repression appear even more determined to preserve the rule of the 1% and squash all who engage in organized protest.   The agencies involved in this massive plot don’t care about the children of those they brutalize.  But we do, and we’ll keep serving their needs for as long as it takes.  

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RFC Spring Grants Support Grand Jury Resister, Torture Survivors and Occupy Activists

We’re in the midst of our spring granting cycle this month at the RFC. We’ve made our first of two sets of awards. Already, three families and one targeted activist youth have joined our community as new grant recipients. These new grantees include:

  • A mother who became involved with Occupy Wall Street after being laid off from her job in communications. A month after she became involved with OWS, a national magazine published an article naming her as a key member of the group, which resulted in potential employers cancelling job interviews and temp agencies telling her that they were no longer interested in placing her. She had to relinquish full time custody of her daughter for six months to her child’s father, and faced eviction for nonpayment of back rent. She still owes thousands of dollars from this period. An RFC grant will pay for summer camp for her 11-year-old daughter.
  • A grandmother who is helping raise her three-year-old granddaughter, Carmen (not her real name). She was a pro-democracy activist who fought against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and was detained and tortured by the government. She spent five years in political concentration camps under horrific conditions; protests eventually secured her release. Once in the US, she and her husband, also a Chilean activist and torture survivor, founded a community center to serve as “a safe space for all,” especially those who were hungry, homeless, unemployed, undocumented or HIV-positive. The center offers food, support for drug addiction and homelessness, help with the citizenship process, English and Spanish classes, artistic workshops, and resources for survivors of domestic violence. She and her husband are also outspoken anti-torture activists. An RFC grant will help with childcare costs for Carmen while Carmen’s mother helps care for this grandmother (who is battling cancer) and also Carmen’s grandfather, who is fighting efforts by the US government to deport him back to Chile.
  • An Occupy activist who was arrested after traveling to the Midwest to protest the 2012 NATO Summit.  Along with several co-defendants, this father of a six-year-old son was ultimately charged with 11 felony counts, including material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism under a never-before-used state statute. His attorneys argued that the prosecution was politically motivated, aimed at disrupting legal demonstrations again the NATO summit. While he and his co-defendants were acquitted on the more serious terrorism charges, they were convicted of lesser charges and face up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced at the end of this month. An RFC grant will send his young son to camp this summer.
  • A 24-year-old targeted activist youth who organized students on his campus for the new Students for a Democratic Society. He was also active in anti-war organizing, helping other activists navigate the legal system as they experienced increased police surveillance.  He was subpoenaed in 2009 to appear before a grand jury; he insisted publicly that he had no information and would not testify.  After a meeting between his attorneys and the judge, he was dismissed.  Four years later, he was re-subpoenaed.  He once again refused to testify and spent eight months in prison on contempt charges before being released. As he explained in his application, “I am no longer in prison, but prison remains in me…  My physical, mental, social, emotional, economic, and academic identity has been shaken by this experience, but I am firmly committed to picking up the pieces…." A Development Grant from the RFC will help him in his attempts to rebuild his life and focus on his educational and emotional needs.

We welcome these new members of the RFC Family and thank our supporters for making it possible for us to stand with them and their children.

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