(MintPress)– As of January 11th, at least 5,884 documented arrests have been made across 106 US cities in connection to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Critics who are calling the Occupy movement “dead” have clearly not met the 133 protesters who have been arrested in the month of January alone. These arrests are being closely […]
(MintPress)– As of January 11th, at least 5,884 documented arrests have been made across 106 US cities in connection to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Critics who are calling the Occupy movement “dead” have clearly not met the 133 protesters who have been arrested in the month of January alone. These arrests are being closely monitored by activists concerned with falsified charges and police brutality while others within the movement are concerned about what these arrests mean in the context of the recently signed controversial National Defense Authorization Act.
According to Chris Ernesto, founder of OccupyArrests.com, two credible news reports are required in order for an arrest to be officially counted in the tally. “This methodology of collecting data is designed to be very conservative as we want to be certain there is no room for questioning the legitimacy of the total minimum number of Occupiers arrested since Occupy Wall Street began in September” says Ernesto. OccupyArrests.com provides a link to verify each arrest listed on the website. The data for the website is compiled entirely by volunteers.
OccupyArrests.com shows a multitude of questionable arrest charges made since the movement began back in September.
December 22, 2011- Two arrested for use of sidewalk chalk; December 3, 2011 – Four Charged with Misdemeanor for Careless Use of Fire; January 2 – Three arrested for disturbing peace via flash mob; January 7 – Two arrested for trespassing on sidewalk — the list goes on. Links to local news reports on the arrests quote witnesses and videos showing the invalidity of most charges. “Sometimes people do resist, but most of the time those are made up charges,” says Joshua Collins, OWS protester.
According to Hilary Bettis, member of the OWS messaging committee and contributing writer to the OWS Journal,
“a lot of times cops blatantly tackle innocent protesters…if anyone gets hurt, the police will automatically make a charge to cover it up.”
On the night Zucotti Park was raided, Bettis was standing next to a young woman taking a picture of a cop hitting a protester on the back with a baton. “When the cop saw the woman with the camera, he grabbed the back of her jacket while another cop threw her into the pavement face first and cut her lip” says Bettis, “She was not resisting and was charged with resisting arrest in order to justify of the attack.”
Once arrested, protesters spend on average 6-48 hours in jail before being released on bail. Bail and associated costs are paid for by the OWS General Assembly. OWS is estimated to spend up to $40,000 per week on bail, meals, transportation, and other operational costs. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a non-profit federation of lawyers, legal workers, and law students working to advance social justice and support social movements, has represented most OWS cases in court though. NLG is the oldest and largest public interest bar organization in the United States dating back to 1937. Although NLG operates separately from OWS, it have been instrumental to the movement by providing around the clock legal advice.
For now, OWS protesters can rely on support from groups like NLG for legal representation. However, the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act by Congress has left many members of OWS concerned over the legal precedents this bill may establish. President Obama signed the NDAA on December 31, 2011 despite reservations over vague passages granting the military the right to indefinitely detain US citizens without trial for association with organizations that engage in terrorist or other hostilities against the United States or its allies.
OWS is not and has never been associated with any terrorist organizations nor has it carried out hostile attacks against the US government. However, the City of London police issued a letter to local businesses headed “”Terrorism/extremism update for the City of London business community” in which the Occupy London movement was listed among groups like Al-Qaeda and FARC. Although the Occupy Movement has not officially been labeled a terrorist group by any government agency, the letter sent by the City of London inadvertently gave this message to local businesses. What would happen to American protesters if the US government took the a similare approach with OWS?
“Any movement that seriously challenges the status quo and money in politics is going to be seen as a threat” says Bettis.
American protesters are concerned that the US government could try to link OWS to terrorism in order to use the NDAA against US citizens as the movement evolves. It is unlikely that the government will take such a drastic step against OWS, but nonetheless the NDAA could be a gateway to painting future movements, maybe even OWS, as terrorist organizations in order to block their impact on society. Such an action would not happen overnight and there would have to be enough political rhetoric circulating around to persuade the population to go along with such a decision.
Although OWS does challenge the status quo of money and political power in the United States, the movement is not out to destroy capitalism or the US government. According to Bettis, “the vast majority of Occupy followers are really very patriotic people who love America and simply wish to restore the American dream.” The OWS movement is not planning to stop anytime soon, as can be seen through the continued protests and subsequent arrests seen even this week. If OWS is affected by the NDAA in the future, then the next 5,884 protesters arrested in connection with OWS could face an unprecedented breach of their constitutional rights that even the NLG may not be able to defeat.