Monday, Oct 24, 2011, 7:33 am
As Emanuel Flexes, Bloomberg Backs Away From OWS “Plan Of Action”
I'm going to pack my possessions after I'm finished typing this post, strap them to the roof of a rented car, and make my way to ol' Californee where I'll pitch to Hollywood's suits my idea for the NEXT BIG THING in television: a sitcom starring Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg called "Lil' Dictators." Every week, Rahm and Michael will have to invent new, creative ways to squash meddlesome uprisings in their respective cities, and any time another protester gets maced in the face, Michael, for example, will mug to the camera and say, "Whaaat? Theys was disrespectin' me!" Cue voiceover: "Thaaaaat's Mikey!"
A couple weeks ago, I spoke with some participants and observers of Occupy Chicago who expressed optimism that the Chicago police were somehow exceptional players in the national response to the occupy movements. At the time, we'd already seen violent suppression by police in New York City and Boston, but thus far, Chicago was experiencing a more or less uneventful stand-off. Mind you, protesters weren't being treated well (they were still chased off public space by officers before the activists eventually settled in Grant Park), but there hadn't been the spectacular clashes we witnessed in other metropolitan areas… yet.
Then last week, 175 individuals were arrested in Grant Park. Following that, in the early Sunday hours, Chicago police arrested around 130 activists, including volunteer nurses, many of whom remained in jail into Sunday night. The occupation's official twitter account (@OccupyChicago) posted grievances from jailed activists, who allege they were denied phone calls and food for hours, were not permitted to pay bond, and refused needed medication for hours. Occupy Chicago then tweeted that the National Nurses United members were still being held 20 hours after being arrested, and that callers trying to reach the jail to voice their complaints were being hung up on.
Kelsey Smith, 21, complained about harsh treatment. “We were in a group in a waiting cell, with my experience, for a brief time and then I was taken into the holding cells with a couple of people and then they were taken out and I was in a holding cell by myself for an hour so… Nobody gave us any information. I wasn't read my rights, I didn't get a phone call,” said Smith.
Jonathan Timm, 22, spoke with reporters after being held for 16 hours, and said a police officer warned them that "next week is going to be a little worse" for the protesters. (You may have to use headphones to hear the interview because the audio is not stellar quality):
Footage of some of the arrests:
It seems the truce between cops and protesters in Chicago is off. None of the treatment of political prisoners I listed above is particularly new or shocking, but they are human rights violations, nonetheless, and as such deserve to be documented. Occupy Chicago has contacted the National Lawyers Guild to file an official complaint about the treatment of detainees.
Today, National Nurses United plans to picket the mayor’s office at City Hall to protest both the treatment of the arrested nurses and activists. As of this morning, five protesters are still being held in jail. These individuals (James Cox, Greg Goodman, Richard Malvin, Alec Plant, Mary Jo Fessenmier) have pending bond violations because they were arrested last Saturday, as well.
Meanwhile, in New York, tough guy Mayor Bloomberg is now frantically back-pedaling from statements he made Friday regarding how the protesters would need to be holding permits for marches and gatherings. Bloomberg was in Jerusalem on Sunday for the dedication of a medical centre he funded when some jerk reporter asked him about Occupy Wall Street. It seems like even when bunkered in the holy land, Bloomberg can't escape these damn activists. Weirdly, he expressed that he had spoken to his Jerusalem counterpart, Nir Barkat, about the protests (was he seeking spiritual guidance from Nir?) and said he has no intention of shutting down Liberty Park.
“No, there’s nothing,” he said, responding to a reporter who suggested that the mayor had promised a “plan of action” in his radio broadcast last Friday.
“We just want to make sure that people have the right to protest,” the mayor continued. “The First Amendment is a wonderful document. It gives you the right to protest, it also gives you the right to not protest.”
Talk about flip-flopping. First the mayor says the protesters can stay in the park "indefinitely" unless he crushes them for not using permits...which don't actually matter because USA! USA! USA!. Or something.
I'm not sure what that last comment means. OWS isn't trying to force anyone to protest. Also, it's sweet that Bloomberg continues to pretend the First Amendment has some kind of relevancy in New York City where we've seen police beat protesters with batons and pepper spray them and nearly crush them with horses when they attempted to exercise that precious freedom Bloomberg seems so fond of -- when he's in Jerusalem, anyway.
Not only is the Mayor quickly sidestepping his own words about getting tough with the protesters, but it appears as though the NYPD are no longer enforcing basic rules at Liberty Park. Tents have reportedly been springing up in the park, so it seems that "no physical structures" rule is not being enforced, at least for the time being. The Wall Street Journal describes some of the tents being camouflaged in clever ways, but observers I spoke to said the tents are extremely easy to spot.
In fact, the police acknowledge they're aware of the tents but claim they're not making protesters remove them because the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., hasn't asked them to.
Just a friendly reminder: Diana Taylor, Bloomberg's live-in girlfriend, sits on the Board of Directors at Brookfield Properties. One has to assume any decision made by the board henceforth will reflect directly upon the mayor. If a ruling comes down tomorrow by the board that all tents must be dismantled, leaving protesters exposed to the elements, it may become problematic for the mayor that his live-in girlfriend was one of the persons responsible for the ruling.
At the end of this episode of "Lil' Dictators," an activist throws down a banana peel and Mikey Bloomberg slips on it, remains suspended in the air for a comical amount of time, before landing flat on his back. Cue sad trombone.
Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.