Occurring without provocation, the Occupy crackdown gives the appearance of an orchestrated effort to thwart an emerging protest movement. Early morning Tuesday, in New York City, hundreds of police officers, many in riot gear, swept down on Zuccotti Park, throwing away private property, restricting press and using aggressive tactics to remove protesters and supporters. Here are some things we’d really like to know.
1. Who convened the mayors call? In an interview with the BBC, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan alluded to her participation in a conference call with leaders of 18 US cities just prior to the raids on encampments across the country. Mayors' associations do exist, but they do not typically organize police interventions or local decision-making in such detail. Given the abuses of the past, such as the notorious COINTELPRO and other intervention programs that the U.S. government organized during the Vietnam protests, the public has a right to know the details of who organized that call.
2. Was there an attempt to control press coverage? New Yorkers awoke to front-page stories and photographs in both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Coverage by the two papers was supportive of the mayor and the police actions but disparaging toward the protesters. An AlterNet reporter, arriving on the scene at 1:30am, shortly after the raid began, could get nowhere near Zuccotti Park due to police barricades (and was subjected to pepper spray while attempting to report on events). How did the friendly reporters gain their access? Was there advance coordination to allow certain media outlets access and block the rest? Why was press access restricted? Were some reporters' credentials confiscated? How will reports of unwarranted force on the part of police toward the press be addressed?
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3. What, if any, was the role of the White House? Who was in charge of following the nationwide Occupy crackdown at the White House? What does President Obama, the man who celebrated the uprisings in Egypt (and who is currently out of the US, in Asia), think about the raids and the encroachments on the civil liberties of peacefully protesting Americans? As a constitutional scholar, what is his view of the restrictions of the press and the arrests of journalists?
4. Was the Department of Homeland Security involved in the raids? Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted this question, asking if the Department may have given the green-light to the raid. The DHS has been reportedly following Occupy Wall Street Twitter feeds and other social media networks. Did it play any role in the crackdown?
5. What, if any, was the role of the FBI? Suggestions are circulating that the FBI and other federal agencies may have advised local law enforcement agencies on how to conduct the raids and even how to handle press relations. Did this happen? Was there any coordinating of arrests across the country on the part of the FBI?
6. Where are the libertarians? In the face of all the clamor about “states' rights,” local government and the Constitution, we want to know where all the libertarians have suddenly gone. It’s enough to drive you to drink an emergency cup of tea.