September 13, 2012 : Chris Hedges Big Day, Jay Z Rap Draws Fire
In a case with wide-ranging implications, Twitter has until Friday to turn over the tweets of protester Malcolm Harris. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino rules the company must do so or else face fines, based on a review of its last two earnings statements. Huffpost
With the physical presence of Occupy mostly gone, authorities are free to throw the book at arrested protesters. Occupy Oakland has seen some of the worst police violence and protester vandalism. Now, Cesar Aguirre, 24, will pay - figuratively and literally. He's sentenced in Superior court to 6 months in jail for smashing police station windows at a 2011 protest. Aguirre, who has steadfastly denied that he broke anything, owes $6,654 in fines and restitution. Broken windows by protesters are topics of great concern these days (video, above) sfgate
Mogul Russell Simmons responds to Rapper Jay-Z's comments that he never understood what Occupy Wall Street was all about, even as he marketed t-shirts with the group's name on it. Simmons vows to enlighten his buddy, saying Jay-Z is right “99 times [out of 100] but this ain't one [of them.]”
Simmons addresses Jay Z directly, writing “special interests are nothing special at all...they spend millions of dollars destroying the fabric of the black community and make billions of dollars in return." huffpost
Writer Zack Greenberg goes deeper, suggesting Jay-Z's problem with OWS reflects Hip-Hop's overall problem with Occupy. Greenberg notes the culture's sense of allegiance to the One percent, even as many of its superstars - such as Jay-Z and Simmons - came from slums and engaged in acknowledged illegal activity.
“Mainstream modern hip-hop is, in many ways, a celebration of wealth–for evidence, one need only look at the ubiquitous references by Jay-Z and others to FORBES and its Hip-Hop Cash Kings list over the past few years,” says Greenberg Forbes
OccupyGuitarmy and ex-Rage guitarist Tom Morello also promise to get Jay Z up to speed - by occupying the first night of his sold-out residency at Brooklyn's Barclay's Theater, which begins Sept. 28th.
Guitarmy says it will stage a teach in to “show Jay-Z what we want and how he can help: by encouraging his fans to take action for social justice in their communities, schools, workplaces, and homes.” PopCrush
Jay Z's comments, taken to heart, reflect general popular ambivalence and confusion over Occupy's messages. America is a pioneer society that values individual accomplishment, at times to the exclusion of all else. Members of the one percent feel they worked hard to get there and don't wish to look back. Even if some were born on third base and woke up thinking they'd hit a triple.
It goes to the core of the question as to how Occupy may broaden its appeal beyond hard-core activists to encompass the 99 percent. Many of whom want to be rich like Jay Z. Or at least think they do. The downside of fame and riches are rarely mentioned.
Today, US journalist Chris Hedges makes news, rather than reporting it. First he wins in New York City Federal Court in Hedges vs. Obama, the case challenging the Prez on NDAA. Federal Judge Katherine Forrest, a recent Obama appointee, rejects new provisions of the law -said by Hedges et al to essentially do away with the right of haebeus corpus - as unconstitutional. Forrest issued a temporary restraining order against the legislation in May.
Her latest ruling upholds that decision :
“The Government did not--and does not--generally agree or anywhere argue that activities protected by the First Amendment could not subject an individual to indefinite military detention under § 1021(b)(2). The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for greater protection: it prohibits Congress from passing any law abridging speech and associational rights. To the extent that § 1021(b)(2) purports to encompass protected First Amendment activities, it is unconstitutionally overboard”
The legal ball now is in the government's court; they will appeal both the ruling and the upheld injunction.
"That's all right," Hedges says,"if they appeal, we'll fight them, and we'll keep fighting them, and we'll fight them until we win." Complete text of judge's ruling available online at blogs.villagevoice.com
Twitter and blogosphere abuzz yesterday with news of the blockbuster Hedges Crimethinc collective debate, held on the subject of Black Bloc tactics and the role of violence in the Occupy movement. The showdown takes place in a sold out hall at CUNY.
Hedges, the former Seminarian and NY Times reporter who has covered war zones from El Salvador to Sarajevo and Iraq, adheres to the Gandhian principle of non-violence, and has been outspoken in his support of Occupy. He recently took heat for denouncing the so-called Black Bloc - masked anarchists who have, at times, committed acts of vandalism during Occupy demonstrations.
Writer AK Thompson previews the debate, uploaded to youtube (above) at truth-out For the most part, it's a serious and respectful discussion, lapsing only occasionally into theory and slogans
Crimethinc is invited after having penned the article “The Illegitimacy of Violence, the Violence of Legitimacy” a response to Hedges' article referring to Black Bloc as a cancer in the Occupy movement.
the most part, Crimethinc rep Brian Traven is well-spoken and makes
his points, the main of which is : give proper respect to black
blockers as an appropriate citizen response to certain conditions –
such as brutal police repression in cities such as Oakland.
Given his dogged defense of individual liberties in the NDAA case, it's tougher to accept the notion that Hedges, from some privileged perch, is acting as an instrument of the authorities.
Traven, in his attempt to legitimize certain tactics, draws metaphors, saying “the landlord who raises rent is not violence, but resisting an eviction is, dumping carcinogens in a river is not violence, but blocking or [attempting to disable] the factory that did it is.”
It's finally curtains for Occupy Central (Hong Kong) as bailiffs (instead of police) remove the protesters. Keith Bradhser digs into the dynamics behind the largely peaceful eviction and long-running protest. Ny Times
This space has noted how stakes for Occupies are considerably higher beyond the US' borders. While domestic Occupiers deal with over the top cops, demonstrating and organizing abroad is often a matter of life or death.
Mexican poet Javier Sicilia knows the meaning of violence. He gave up writing last Spring after his son, Juanelo, was discovered murdered - yet another victim of an insane, raging drug war. “The world is not worthy of words,” Sicilia wrote then.
Now, he's part of a cross-border caravan that leaves from Tijuana, and makes its way through the heart of America, demonstrating for fair treatment of immigrants. The caravan arrives in New York, and urges Occupy to expand its definition of the 99 percent to include the undocumented, a stance that has generated controversy - even within the movement itself.
Laura Gottesdiener documents the caravan's travels and says Occupy must confront the wave of fear-based thinking and anti-immigrant sentiment that exists in our current time.
“Some things — such as money, corporations, corporate-sponsored culture and trade agreements — are free to trapeze across borders. Other things, such as people, are not. A moral crisis arises when the contradictions of sovereignty collide” says Gottesdiener Opposing Views
One such unifying thread may be organized resistance to debt. Picture the mass dumping into Boston Harbor of student loans, and overwrought, unfairly arranged mortgages, hospital bills. Call it Tea Party Redux.Astra Taylor addresses the phenomenon of debt and its prospects as an organizing principle for occupy.
Debt advocates point out : it transcends borders and countries. Can it transcend social distinctions or is it primarily a middle-class phenomenon?
Jerry Ashton is a thirty year veteran of debt and collection agencies with no love lost for his former employers. Ashton calls them “bottom feeders” who “feed off the pain of others” by repurchasing debt, and not caring where it came from - or whether the debt they go after is even legitimate.
According to Ashton, the problem is “everyone is fragmented— whistle blowers in their world, victims of debt collectors in another. How do they communicate with each other and create a united front? It will take something like Occupy and the enthusiasm Occupy can engender to get this in people’s faces.”
Taylor puts it more simply “why should the 99 percent honor their debts when the 1 percent have walked away from theirs without remorse?” thenation
Small, tactical efforts through-out the country continue, with Occupy Monsanto garnering praise as nine are arrested for attempting to block access to the company's distribution facility in Oxnard, CA.
The protest focuses on the threat posed by Monsanto's use of genetically-modified foods as well as to promote support of California Prop 37, a state referendum on November's ballot that calls for foods containing genetically modified materials to be labeled. LA Times
Up North : Occupy Augusta wants Colby College to finally do something about the Chairman of its Board, Bob Diamond. Namely, remove him. For those not in the know, Diamond is the former Chairman of Barclay's international and a 1973 graduate of the liberal arts college.
Diamond resigned as chief executive of Barclays on July 3 in the midst of a scandal regarding interest rate reports of its interbank borrowing rates that were falsified.”
The group calls Diamond antithetical to the mission of a liberal arts college. The size of the group has doubled, attracting the attention of long-time activists like Todd Gitlin bangor daily news
The flip side of thinking globally is acting locally. At the local level, occupy becomes a tactic for addressing specific community needs, exacerbated by economic crisis and income inequalities.
Headway appears to be being made in some of America's most economically troubled cities.Occupy Detroit has earned praise for its local focus and opening of an office where residents and activists meet. Now accolades for the Detroit group This Hood of Ours, considered by some to be Occupy's predecessor, if not inspiration.
The group's focus has been the Barton-McFarlane neighborhood, victimized by the economic downdrafts that have sucked air out of many American cities : spiraling debts, foreclosed homes, vacancy causing urban blight and decay, high unemployment, you name it.
The group began by pitching tents to call attention to the community's plight and according to reporter David Sands, have since achieved numerous small victories, including :
cleaning up several neighborhood lots
boarded up vacant houses, planted a community garden,
put up a basketball hoop and dug a community fire pit.
sponsoring regular free public meals
holding community film nights by projecting movies onto the sides of abandoned buildings.
A free list to consult when people in your town start to ask “what can we do??” Maybe the undercover cops can focus on the community film nights, by swapping out the film canisters. You never know. Potential there.
The group forms/becomes part of the Housing is a Human Right Coalition (though not all are thrilled by the group's efforts to move squatters into previously abandoned buildings.)
This Hood of Ours gives this logic : “We'd rather stabilize the community by putting people in these [homes]. They're viable. Why do we have to wait out until they're burned out gutted and useless?"
Those involved with This Hood of Ours offer a sunny forecast for Occupy :
"When you combine the wisdom of some of the older people such as myself, with the enthusiasm, work ethic and energy of the young people in This Hood of Ours, it's a formidable force," he said. "We can do a lot of things when we work together," says Kerry Sanders, the president of the Barton-McFarlane Neighborhood Association huffpost