Domestic police forces monitor social media and use digital technology for tracking and repressing “Occupy”

[In this news report, the San Francisco Chronicle combines boastful techie claims with assertions that this surveillance is motivated by concerns for “public safety,” not to enable political repression and  control. — Frontlines ed.]

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Oakland police’s war room the new normal

Matthai Kuruvila, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, October 28, 2012

The massive undertaking by Oakland officials and police to prepare for protests would be an exceptional challenge for most Bay Area cities. In Oakland, it’s become the new normal.

It involves months of planning, orchestrating hundreds of police and other public workers, and has cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Occupy Oakland protesters who took to the streets last week were largely peaceful. But the city had prepared for the worst: They surrounded the protesters with more than a hundred officers on bicycles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, cars, vans and foot.

Public safety personnel work in the situation room of the Emergency Operations Center ahead of an Occupy march. Photo: Mathew Sumner, Special To The Chronicle / SF

Meanwhile, inside a downtown building, dozens of city, county, regional and state workers gathered at the city’s Emergency Operations Center to provide support and coordinate the troops on the streets.

Three officers sat at computers monitoring Twitter and other social media for clues on protester plans. Other officers coordinated the taking of internal affairs complaints, and some oversaw the gathering of street intelligence. Five televisions and several other screens showed live streaming video from locations around the city. Continue reading

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Protest, Throw Their Medals at NATO Summit!

May 20, 2012 CHICAGO (Reuters) – Nearly 50 U.S. military veterans at an anti-NATO rally in Chicago threw their service medals into the street on Sunday, an action they said symbolized their rejection of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Occupy Oakland Move-In Assembly: Statement of Solidarity with Occupy Oakland and supporters

February 7, 2012, by the Occupy Oakland Move-in Assembly:
 Armed police face off with Occupy Oakland protesters.

Armed police face off with Occupy Oakland protesters.

We are writing in regards to any misconceptions you may have regarding last Saturday’s (1/28) Move-In Day to reclaim the unused Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. We have had to brave a heavy campaign launched by the city and the mainstream media to discredit us, and unfortunately some within our ranks have taken such misrepresentations at face value. We hope that this statement can help clear things up.

We remember how beautiful we all were on our march, a diverse crowd of thousands coming together to turn an unused building into a social center and a new home for Occupy Oakland. We had a children’s brigade at the back and a line of shields in the front, and a celebratory crew of comrades in between. We should be emboldened that there are so many of us out there who are willing to take such action together and like the General Strike and the Port Shutdown, see it as sign of what we can do when united in purpose and solidarity.

Yes, we were met with the heavy hand of the police state when OPD chose to turn our peaceful march into a war zone. But one fact that should not go unnoticed is the courage and resilience we demonstrated on the streets that day. Whether it was advancing behind our shields towards a militarized police force, tearing down fences to escape a police kettle while being tear gassed, escaping through the YMCA to avoid arrest (thank you to whoever it was who let us in!), using a fire extinguisher as a smoke screen to assist the escape of those who were in City Hall, or attempting to free our comrades being transferred to the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility, the people of Oakland showed what we are capable of and what we can become. Above all, we demonstrated to the city and its rogue police force that we will not be intimidated or scared by their tactics, when we know that we have each other’s backs. Continue reading

1/28/12–Oakland police arresting about 100 Occupy Oakland protesters

CBS News, January 28, 2012

[Police move in on Occupy Oakland protesters on Oak Street and 12th Street as tear gas gets blown back on them in Oakland, Calif. on Jan. 28, 2012. An unlawful assembly was declared as occupiers planned to take over an undisclosed building. (Bay Area News Group,AP Photo/The Tribune)]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland officials say police are in the process of arresting about 100 Occupy protesters for failing to disperse.

Police Sgt. Christopher Bolton says the arrests come after Occupy Oakland protesters marched through downtown Oakland a little before 8 p.m. Saturday, with some of the protesters entering a YMCA building in the city’s downtown.

The arrests Saturday night come after 19 people were arrested in Occupy Oakland protests during the day.

Police used tear gas and “flash” grenades Saturday to break up hundreds of Occupy protesters after some demonstrators started throwing rocks and flares at officers and tearing down fencing.

Three officers were hurt and 19 people were arrested, the Oakland Police Department said in a release. No details on the officers’ injuries were released.

Police said the group started assembling at a downtown plaza Saturday morning, with demonstrators threatening to take over the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center. The group then marched through the streets, disrupting traffic. Continue reading

Oakland’s Dirty War: Coercive Attrition and the Occupy Movement

January 09, 2012
by GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER, Counterpunch

As winter sets in, the Occupy Movement nationwide confronts a new series of challenges. Conspiring with the weather, however, is the threat of a shifting policing model currently being tested out in Oakland.

Coercive Attrition

The Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci spoke of a distinction between “war of position” and “war of maneuver,” between those gradual and occasionally imperceptible political struggles that occur every day and the frontal attack on power toward which they eventually build. While this distinction is necessary, it should not be overstated, and nor can we associate the war of position too directly with ideological struggle and war of maneuver with direct military attacks on and by the coercive apparatus of the state. Recent events in Oakland and the strategy of coercive attrition directed against the Occupy Movement make perfectly clear just how insufficient such a correlation would be.

Recent weeks have seen the Occupy Movement confronted with a war of attrition nationwide: as cold weather sets in, many cities have opted to wait out the movement, allowing excitement to fade and the movement to devour itself in the petty squabbles of disempowerment. Often, though, this strategy of passive attrition operates alongside a more aggressive approach. In Philadelphia, for example, a hands-off approach to the now-decamped Occupy Philly operates in tandem with ferocity toward those who step out of line in a transparent attempt to bully radicals into submission (as with the case of two housing activists currently facing multiple felonies).

But it is in Oakland more than anywhere else that friendly weather and sustained militancy have given rise to a different approach, one similarly premised on chipping away at the movement through attrition and fatigue but doing so in a far more repressive manner. One key ingredient to this peculiar constellation of forces is the empty vessel perched atop the city government: Mayor Jean Quan. Quan was discredited long ago and from all sides, hated by the left for unleashing the near fatal attacks on Occupy Oakland in October, and by the right (represented by OPD and the City Council) for not taking a harder line. Now, having opted to vacillate rather than stand on the side of history, she will simply be hoping to serve out her term and avoid an embarrassing recall campaign.

This vacillation has been nowhere clearer than on the question of the epic Port Shutdowns on November 2nd and December 12th, the first of which catapulted Occupy Oakland to the forefront of the national movement, and the second of which demonstrated a capacity for coordinated militancy not seen in this country for decades at least. Since it was Quan who took the heat for the unrestrained actions of police in October, one could hardly blame the Mayor for hesitating to unleash OPD and other forces against those blocking the port. But when Quan suggested that the city might not be able to prevent future shutdowns of the port, her critics in City Council found powerful echo in Governor Jerry Brown. But for now at least, OPD’s hands are at least partially tied, and the full-on assaults of many an officer’s dream go unfulfilled for now.

Blocked from engaging in a brutal war of maneuver, OPD’s strategy has been a different one, and what remains of Occupy Oakland’s presence in Oscar Grant Plaza has seen small raids with a handful of arrests several times a week. While some interpret this half-heartedness by the forces of order as a sign of impotence, the frequency, the timing, and the serious charges incurred in the raids speak to a more sinister strategy. Continue reading

Combatting media distortions: On the history of shutting down the port

Ignoring history of port-related discord not wise

by Jack Heyman, in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, December 30, 2011

The San Francisco Chronicle’s front-page headline “Governor to Oakland: ‘Keep the port open’ ” could have been gleaned from the newspaper’s 1934 edition when Gov. Frank Merriam vowed to bring order to the city and break the maritime strike by deploying the National Guard. It was the height of the Great Depression and workers were desperate for jobs or to share the existing jobs on the waterfront. But the union stood fast. After a general strike to protest the police killing of two strikers, the seamen and longshoremen won the union hiring hall that shared the available work equitably.

Once again, the Bay Area is at the forefront of social protest. Twice police evicted Occupy Oakland using tear gas and “less lethal” munitions, and twice supporters of the Occupy movement responded. Thousands of Occupy protesters peacefully marched to the Port of Oakland, shutting it down in protest of the depredations of what they call the 1 percent. The protesters proclaimed their solidarity with the longshore union’s struggle in Longview, Wash., and with port truckers. The business community cheered the evictions, but now its members are up in arms, complaining about shutdowns at the port, the funnel for much of their profits. It’s obvious which side they’re on.

The Oakland Port Commission tried to stop the Dec. 12 protest with full-page ads in the Oakland Tribune, the New York Times and The Chronicle, shedding crocodile tears about the port truckers and other port workers who would be unable to work. The commissioners pose as defenders of the “99 percent,” but in fact they stand in the way of the heavily exploited port truckers and port warehouse workers getting into a union with decent wages, benefits and conditions. Port workers recognize a sham when they see one and thus honored the picket lines.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente also have joined the fray by chastising Mayor Jean Quan for not stopping the protests. Yet both were involved in similar port protests 14 years ago.

Brown, just launching his mayoral campaign, participated in a solidarity picket line in 1997 that shut down the Oakland terminal for four days in support of 500 sacked Liverpool, England, dockworkers.

Union leaders, including ILWU Local 10 President Henry Graham (left), California Federation President Jack Henning, Alameda Labor Council President Judy Goff and Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente (wearing a gray suit,), paraded down 13th Street in Oakland in 1998 to protest the lawsuit filed against union members who picketed a ship from Liverpool.

And De La Fuente led the thousand-strong union protest through downtown Oakland in 1998 to demand the charges be dropped against the port protesters.

Now they’re singing a different tune.

This isn’t the first time Brown has called to use police power in the port. As Oakland mayor in April 2003, he called in the riot police to quash a peaceful antiwar demonstration at the port. Scores of demonstrators (and several longshoremen) were badly injured by some of the same munitions recently used on Occupy Oakland. The U.N. Human Rights Commission condemned the police action as the “most violent” repression of protests against the war. It cost the city more than $2 million. Brown promised to appoint a “blue ribbon” commission to investigate, but it never materialized. Now he admonishes Quan for not following his example.

Businessmen, politicians and even union officials have expressed outrage about the “damage” done by port “disruptions.” Yet when maritime employers shut down all West Coast ports for two weeks in 2002 by locking out longshore workers in the midst of contract negotiations, you could hardly see any complaints in the media or from politicians about the employers’ “disruption” of the port. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was lauded when she called on President George W. Bush to invoke the slave-labor Taft-Hartley Act, forcing longshoremen back to work under conditions favorable to the maritime companies. They knew which side they were on then, too.

And not only did ILWU protesters have the right to try to stop the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, they were right that the war was based on the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Continue reading

Occupy Oakland Calls for TOTAL WEST COAST PORT SHUTDOWN ON 12/12

Occupy Oakland Calls for TOTAL WEST COAST PORT SHUTDOWN ON 12/12 | OccupyWallSt.org:

In response to coordinated attacks on the occupations and attacks on workers across the nation:

Occupy Oakland calls for the blockade and disruption of the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12th. The 1% has disrupted the lives of longshoremen and port truckers and the workers who create their wealth, just as coordinated nationwide police attacks have turned our cities into battlegrounds in an effort to disrupt our Occupy movement.

We call on each West Coast occupation to organize a mass mobilization to shut down its local port. Our eyes are on the continued union-busting and attacks on organized labor, in particular the rupture of Longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview Washington by the EGT. Already, Occupy Los Angeles has passed a resolution to carry out a port action on the Port Of Los Angeles on December 12th, to shut down SSA terminals, which are owned by Goldman Sachs.

Occupy Oakland expands this call to the entire West Coast, and calls for continuing solidarity with the Longshoremen in Longview Washington in their ongoing struggle against the EGT. The EGT is an international grain exporter led by Bunge LTD, a company constituted of 1% bankers whose practices have ruined the lives of the working class all over the world, from Argentina to the West Coast of the US. During the November 2nd General Strike, tens of thousands shutdown the Port Of Oakland as a warning shot to EGT to stop its attacks on Longview. Since the EGT has disregarded this message, and continues to attack the Longshoremen at Longview, we will now shut down ports along the entire West Coast. Continue reading