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Earlier today, during a march associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, the NYPD kettled and mass-arrested demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge. Reports are sketchy so far, but as many as 400 may have been pinched.

Their crime was walking on the roadway (instead of the originally planned pedestrian walkway). Though police initially warned marchers not to take the roadway, little was done until hundreds were already on the roadway. This has prompted allegations that it was a trap, and given the outrage over last weekend’s roundup, and whether or not that’s true, this says a lot about the treasured legal status of automobile routes. Why should a little thing like public protest be allowed to get in the way of people driving wherever they want?

The commitment to nonviolence, so far, has been strict and inspiring. Not only does this take a lot of discipline (and isn’t always possible), but in the face of pepper-spray and kettling tactics, it takes a lot of personal courage as well. I know it’s not easy to stay peaceful under these conditions, but the fact that it’s happened is a really good sign.

Despite this crackdown, the protests have clearly been growing. Occupy LA began today, and the union support is just rolling in. Though, regrettably, the rumours of Radiohead, yesterday, were greatly exaggerated.

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Inspector Bologna, the now-infamous white-shirted officer caught on film pepper-spraying girls at the Wall Street protests last weekend is fast becoming a symbol of these protests, much like “Officer Bubbles” at the G20. Due to hundreds of complaints from the public, NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance has announced an investigation into his conduct. If only we saw such a swift response from the guardians of “justice”….

Not all is well with the authorities, however, as Mayor Bloomberg is now hinting at the possibility of a more severe crackdown.

Salon.com has an interesting tale from a citizen journalist caught up in last Saturday’s arrests. He talks a lot about the role of grassroots media in stories like this, as well as telling the stories of others he met in jail, arrested simply for taking pictures.

Business Insider has a list of unions lending their support to the Wall Street protests, including a recent vote from the New York Transit Workers Union, as well as support from the United Pilots union, Teamsters and IWW.

(Two stories in a row, outside the radical press, are mentioning the IWW. That in itself is an important victory.)

Pictures and clips are now rolling in from Occupied San Francisco and Boston is set for tonight after an assembly earlier this week. Oh, and Radiohead’s playing at the New York occupation site today at 4pm.

Over this past weekend the #Occupywallstreet protests in New York were hit by at least 80 more arrests for nonviolent offences. Videos of assaults, take-downs and pepper sprayings by officers (some who seem to hold high ranks) are now making the rounds online, infuriating countless viewers. These actions come as a timely reminder that Wall Street and the surrounding financial district are already occupied by the armed representatives of the state.

Last year’s G20 protests in Toronto brought issues of police brutality to the forefront, and ever since there’s been a spiralling set of stories about murders, abuse and injustice. Unlike the G20 protests, though, where (some) protesters struck back against store-fronts and cruisers, the protesters in New York have so far been entirely peaceful and civil, with protesters going no farther than to block sidewalks or hang tarps. Nevertheless, arrests and assaults are escalating. In a tactical sense, this is a huge gamble for the authorities – not only are they risking a much more powerful backlash, but unlike single-weekend protests arranged around summits like G20 meetings, the current Wall Street protests arent’ set to end. If the millions of people within reach of these protests get angry enough to show up, there will still be people to welcome them.

The strategy being used against these protests is increasingly ugly. If there’s one aspect of these policing actions that bothers me, it’s the recent shift toward targeting the most vulnerable members present. I’m no stranger to batons, pepper spray or Roman-Legion-style police formations. What’s different now from the “good old days” of OCAP and Quebec City is that police no longer seem to be concerned with large aggressive-looking males causing chaos, instead, they’re going after some of the most vulnerable people they can reach: young women, older folks and the disabled (prosthetic limbs, of course, being “weapons”). Arrestees get pepper-sprayed, illegally strip-searched and may even be sexually assaulted, with the hopes of frightening them into staying home next time. This helps destroy the free, festive and liberated atmosphere that exists at such protests, and maintain the illusion that protesters are threatening “troublemakers”, because as this repression gets worse, only those big, tough and brave enough to resist a “kettling” can show up. What happened this week on Wall Street shows once again that no rioting Black Bloc is necessary for mass-arrests. The police act according to orders, and those orders are given by people who have a lot to lose if these kinds of protests ever ‘catch on’.

The second big hurdle hit by these protests is an overwhelming disinterest and scepticism by the mainstream media. After spending most of this year cheerleading for similar protests against regimes in Egypt, Libya or Syria, they’re taking a very different approach to the Wall Street protests. Everyone loves a good riot (in China, Iran, etc) – until it’s happening in their own back yard. According to the press, protesters are “confused” and lack focus, coherence or leadership. While it’s true that there’s no great uniformity of platform or ideology at these protests, the assumption that this is a bad thing is very questionable. After nearly a century of Red Baiting protesters for their (alleged) unquestioning adherance to authoritarian ideologies, the criticism has seen a complete reversal. Would the Wall St. Journal be happier to see a Lenninist vanguard with a strict party policy? (Probably…) Leaderless, self-directed movements are the product of more than a century of evolution. Vanguards don’t work – they’re not inspiring, they’re explicitly anti-democratic and generally end up doing horrible things if they ever get into power. The “left” learned from the failures of Stalinism decades ago – when will everyone else?

Protest, resistance and civil unrest have been evolving since the dawn of of the industrial age. What we’re seeing now in New York, Spain, Egypt and other places like them represents the next stage in this process. These people-powered demonstrations address many of the main problems of 20th century protests: they’re self directed, diverse, and ongoing. Put more simply – they run themselves, meaning no need for a vanguardist “leadership”. They reject traditional political parties and invite many people with different personal and political backgrounds to join. And they keep going as long as there are people to carry on, instead of packing up and going home when the summit ends. These are the seeds of a truly popular movement, and exactly what many of us have been dreaming of for years. If the Wall Street protests lack focus or coherence, it’s because this movement is in its infancy and hasn’t yet come to those conclusions. The fact that this is being done in such an open, democratic and painstaking way only goes to show that it is, in fact, aspiring to be something truly different.

There are now over fifty cities across America joining in these occupations. In the past week, OccupyWallStreet has recieved words of encouragement from Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Immortal Technique and Cornel West. Word is spreading in the overseas media, and there’s even occupations in the planning stages next month for London England and even Toronto. We may soon have a much closer look at this kind of action.

Occupytogether.org
Occupywallst.org(Secure)
OccupyToronto(Facebook)

After a march of several thousand people last weekend, an occupation has begun in Zuccotti Park on Liberty St in Lower Manhattan. Braving rain, arrests and censorship, news is beginning to spread.

Estimates for Saturday’s march ranged from one to five thousand people. The atmosphere was festive and nonviolent, but a heavy police presence nonetheless blocked them from many streets. On Sunday a general assembly was held in order to set directions and demonstrate direct democracy in action. In the two days since then, protests have continued, through yesterday’s miserable rains and are continuing to get some attention. This morning there were a number of arrests as police did what they could to dismantle the camp, targeting people for malicious use of megaphones, tarps and sidewalk chalk. Nevertheless, protesters continue to occupy the square and are vowing to remain. Another general assembly was held tonight, and the story is beginning to spread.

One part of this story really caught my attention: it seems occupywallstreet.org was added to yahoo mail’s spam filters in a very serious way. Attempting to send this address got messages blocked and accounts singled out for “suspicious activity” (from then on requiring Captcha text to send messages). Yahoo has since apologized, calling it a mistake, but this has done nothing to calm the sea of angry web users. This sort of action sets a very bad precedent – what rights do we really have using a corporation’s email accounts?

These protests may be small, so far. North American protests usually are (what does that say about us?). Nonetheless, they’re inspiring. The seeds of the overseas directly democratic revolution are finally being sewn on this continent, and it’s happening in the heart of the American financial district. For all of our sakes, let’s hope it grows.

Occupy Wall St @ Adbusters
Occupywallst.org
Pictures from today
Excessive Police Force in Occupy Wall Street Arrests (with Video) @Death and Taxes

A new communique has been issued by the hacker group Anonymous, joining those planning for an occupation of Wall Street in New York this September. Their calls echo others in recent months, planning for a Tahrir-Square-style occupation of the world’s most important financial district.

Information, so far, is slim, and it’s hard to tell whether the popular support for such an action is really – many of Anonymous’ real-life rallies so far have been lightly attended. Still, many have been wondering if the mass-movements of Europe, Africa and the Middle East might spread to America – this may be the test. The “Day of Rage”, September 17th, is planned to coincide with similar nonviolent occupations across America and abroad. San Francisco (#OCCUPYFDSF), Madrid (#TOMALABOLSA) and even Toronto (#OCCUPYBAYSTREET) are on the list, as are many others. Can this, too make the jump from Twitter, Facebook and other online venues to a real-life protest? In less than a month, we’ll know.

occupywallst.org
Occupy Wall Street @Adbusters
What is the NYC Assembly to #occupywallstreet on #sept17, and who is behind it?@ Takethesquare.net

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