Photographs from the January 20, 2012 Occupy the Courts demonstration at the Supreme Court
Supreme Court police said eleven people were arrested in the demonstration and a twelfth was later arrested inside the court. That man, Scott Fitzgerald, was reportedly already wearing the jacket that said “Occupy Everything” when he went through security upon entering the court and was not attempting to be disruptive.
On October 16, Dr. Cornel West was arrested along with eighteen others for demonstrating on the Supreme Court steps.
After a 14-hour drive, two of which were spent in northern Virginia traffic, we arrived back in DC.
McPherson Square had changed dramatically since our departure. The park, which had seemed so large when we were only sleeping on the ground in one quadrant, had been filled with tents.
We made our way to the Capitol building, where the day’s demonstrators were planned. The group was filled with both young and old, seasoned protesters, Occupiers, children and grandparents – people had traveled from across the country to attend the protest.
Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis was in attendance, and quickly stopped and held by Capitol Police. Assuming his arrest was imminent, protesters rallied behind him.
Captain Lewis was released to cheers and told protesters Capitol Police were confirming his identity and that he was not carrying a weapon. In a later interview with Occupy San Diego, he gave protesters some advice about dealing with police:
“Don’t be shouting things at them that rile them up. I understand the frustration, I understand the anger…we worked within the system, we elected Obama…but if you’re ever involved, do not become physical with the police. You will not win. You will come out worse.”
He also spoke about the Occupy Wall Street eviction, the increasing militarization of police, and the use of tasers and the LRAD system.
After the initial breach, the atmosphere around the Capitol steps turned jubilant, with protesters feeling they had achieved a small victory for the day.
Capitol Police quickly lined up to contain the situation. Most were professional, calm, and even seemed to be enjoying the revelry, but several arrests did occur.
Another young man was arrested shortly after. “I’m not resisting!” he said, “I’m standing here.”
After 2 pm, groups formed for planned autonomous actions and meetings with their Congressional Representatives, including at the Rayburn Office Building, which houses the offices of 169 Representatives. The group decided to forgo the crosswalks to the Rayburn Building and took to the street instead.
Shortly after leaving the Congressional offices, protesters held an impromptu march through the streets. The police response was unprecedented. This was not the first time that an Occupy had taken the streets, but Capitol Police seemed more interested in containing the march than preventing it.
Already people were mic checking for another march, but the group decided to wait until the planned time on the permit.
Just before 7 pm, protesters again took to the streets for the planned march following a route from the Capitol to the Supreme Court and ending at the White House. I lost battery at this time, but still ran ahead of the march with other media. Police presence, perhaps in response to the earlier march, was heavier and more aggressive. At one point an officer forced me off of the sidewalk and into the street. When I told him I was covering the action he said, “if you’re covering it, you’re with them.” Another citizen journalist was similarly forced into the street.
The march ended at the White House.
After chanting and singing, the crowd began to dissipate slightly, with some people leaving for a planned party at the Capitol lawn and others demanding President Obama make an appearance. What we didn’t know at the time was that the President was out to dinner for the First Lady’s birthday. The security demanded by his motorcade returning may explain the events that followed.
Both Park and DC Metro Police were on scene but allowed normal pedestrian traffic to flow through the street in front of the White House and Lafayette Park. As protesters lingered, police presence began to intensify, with Secret Service mobilizing. One person mic checked that he was informed (through sources unknown) that riot police were on their way, bringing dogs, to disperse and presumably arrest any remaining protesters. Several of us decided to remain on site to document the events, aided by our ‘Ninja Backpack’ with its portable military-issue personal generator. After some time we began to see police donning riot gear and there were indeed vehicles marked as K9 units, but there were no signs of dogs or even police mobilization. There were, however, a number of fire trucks and ambulances staged on 17th Street, and police moving in from that area (Note – I lived in DC for a year and saw this many times when the Presidential motorcade was due to pass through a particular street).
Tension steadily increased and we decided to leave the scene, as there were about 20 – 30 people remaining at the White House gate.
As we were walking back on H Street, on the north side of Lafayette Park, police informed us that the park and Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House were closed because “one of you Occupy people” lobbed a smoke device onto the lawn.
The corporate media has reported extensively on that incident, and I was not there, so I will not attempt to recount it. However, I do wonder if there is any correlation between mainstream media’s coverage of #J17 being almost entirely limited to this event and that members of the White House press pool held while the device was investigated.
I can also assert that there were not 1500 people present at the White House at that time, as Secret Service spokesperson George Ogilvie has been quoted as saying.
When we left, the remaining demonstrators were hanging paper hearts on the fence, confident that #J17 had been a success.
On Saturday, December 3, members of Occupy Birmingham traveled to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama to stand in solidarity with opponents of HB56, Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration bill.
Among those in attendance were undocumented immigrants, such as Victor, a young man who was denied enrollment into any of the collages he was accepted to because, despite growing up in America, he was classified as an international student. Victor stood before the crowd and proclaimed, “I am undocumented and I am unafraid” before launching into a passionate speech.
“I have been here since I was six years old,” Victor said. “I consider myself a Mexican, and American, and a southerner. To anyone who says, ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand?’ I say, ‘what part of humanity don’t you understand?’”
His speech, like all the others, was translated into perfect Spanish. The translators – a young black man and a young white man – were symbolic of the diversity within the crowd.
13-year old Jocelyn stood before her supporters, nearly shaking as she struggled with the bullhorn. At first she just seemed nervous, but soon the extent of her trauma was made known. Her mother, who brought Jocelyn to the United States as a six-year old girl, had fled the state last month with her husband and baby daughter because she feared the implications of HB56. Jocelyn, through tears, spoke of how she begged her mother to let her stay – just one more year – and live with her uncle, because she wants to finish school. “I stayed because I want to fight for my dream – I want to be the first one in my family to graduate,” she said.
Mrs. Mohammad was detained with her husband and 18-year old son in 2009. The family was forced to make the devil’s choice between the two parents. As her husband was the sole wage-earner, they decided he would stay with their remaining children while she joined their son in custody. She was held in detention, not only with other immigrants, but with criminals. Though she pleaded with the prison authorities, they repeatedly made her remove her religious headcovering to be photographed during processing. The photographer was male – a violation of her religious rights and an assault on her dignity. As for her now 21-year old son, he was born in Saudi Arabia but was raised in the United States – his parents brought him here when he was just a year old. “We are not criminals. We are immigrants. We are here to work and raise good children.”
Though our original plans were to surround the facility, we were given permission only to march around the front on the sidewalk. As we marched and chanted, we began to see faces appear in the top windows. They began to rattle – “let our people go” and there they were, able to see our outpouring of love in the form of signs and chants, screams of “we love” you and fingers held up in ‘V’s. “Una familia!” we yelled, and the detainees, our sisters and brothers in bondage, yelled back. Amazingly the detainees held up signs of their own – “Detention = Injustice” and simply, “L-O-V-E-U.”
The Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request notes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) developed an action plan that reduced the average length of stay (ALOS) for ‘criminal aliens’ by 11 percent in 2009. It makes no mention of the ALOS for non-criminal ‘aliens’.
The Migration Policy Institute report for that same year showed that 34% of ICE detainees had received their final removal orders. Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) concerns “Aliens and Nationality”. 8 CFR 1241.33 stipulates, “once an order of deportation becomes final, an alien shall be taken into custody and the order shall be executed.” It does not specify how soon the removal is to occur, except that to be no sooner than 72 hours after the service of the final deportation decision. Nothing in the federal statute or the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) dictate how long an alien may be held after receiving their final deportation orders. Of the 10,771 detainees for which a final removal order date was provided, the average length of detention following those orders was 72 days. The average length of time in detention for post-removal order detainees, including time both before and after the final removal orders were issued was 114 days. 1,792 post-removal order detainees had been held for over six months. Information obtained via a FOIA request in January 2009 listed more than 400 detainees without any criminal conviction who had been held for more than a year.
The MPI report also spells out the underlying problem with ICE ‘criminal alien’ numbers – they include persons who have committed immigration-related crimes. For nearly 20% of the detainees in the MPI report “the most serious criminal offense recorded was traffic-related (13%) or immigration-related (6%).” Even with these petty offenses being considered criminal, an astounding 58% of the detainees had no criminal record whatsoever. The report editorializes, “[these detentions are] difficult to explain since mandatory detention laws largely apply to criminal aliens.”
There is an underlying financial incentive here. Though ICE’s FY2009 budget included $63 million for “alternatives to detention” programs, 12 of the 17 of the most immigrant-populated detention facilities were operated by private contractors – correctional facility companies who stand to make a higher profit from every full bed. For FY2012, ICE will pay the Etowah County Detention Center $30 per bed per day.
Laws like Alabama’s HB56 work in tandem with Secure Communities (SCOMM), a mandatory ICE program that allows federal and local law enforcement agencies to share biometric information through the FBI’s IAFIS and DHS’s IDENT programs. A person arrested under HB56 can be held for an additional 48 hours by local law enforcement, allowing ICE agents time to review these databases and detain them for deportation proceedings. The FY2012 budget request for SCOMM is $184 million, a $64 million increase over FY2010, and will expand program deployment to 96% of jurisdictions. DHS maintains that SCOMM will be fully implemented by 2013. Alabama signed on to SCOMM on April 25, 2011.
The IIRIRA combined Deportation and Exclusion proceedings into a new one – Removal, giving immigration judges the power to adjudicate both. §237 reflected the Woodby v. INS, 385 U.S. 276 (1966) decision that immigration officials must demonstrate “clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence” for an immigrant to be deported in order to sustain the specific deportation charge. The court found in Woodby that it is appropriate to place the burden of proof on the government, as is required in other denaturalization cases.
Under the IIRIRA, an immigrant ordered removed but whose home country will not accept returnees may still be administratively ordered removed and held in detention indefinitely. According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, others at Etowah County are victims of torture or persecution in their home countries. Immigrants who cannot be repatriated or who do not qualify for political asylum due to bureaucratic hindrances would, in a just system, be considered stateless people in need of protection, not detention. Article 31 of the 1954 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons protects such persons from expulsion except on grounds of national security or public order. The United States is, however, not a signatory to this convention.
The United States is also not alone in its increasing deportation efforts. Europe and Australia are increasingly hostile to immigrants, even defying the Refugee Convention to deport Iranians who qualify for political asylum due to a clear threat of persecution if forcibly returned. However, as flawed and xenophobic as our immigration laws may be, the people detained in Etowah County are not even being held according to the law.
In Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001), the United States Supreme Court ruled that immigrants subject to removal but who could not be repatriated to their countries of origin could not be detained for longer than six months, barring extenuating circumstances. Though the case dealt specifically with non-citizens who were lawfully admitted to the country, it found that detention longer than six months would raise due process concerns. Specifically, the noted that the statute (INA Subsection 241(a)(6)) may be interpreted to justify indefinite detention. In Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371 (2005), the court clarified its position regarding to which non-citizens the language applies. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, found that six months was the time reasonably necessary to achieve removal and a non-citizen may be eligible for release if they can demonstrate that their continued detention beyond that period will not further removal in the foreseeable future.
The problem with the Clark ruling here is that it is incumbent upon Etowah County detainees – the same ones who can only speak to their families via television screen and have little access to legal advice – to argue their case.
And this is where we come in.
As Victor said, “Revolutions start with thoughts. Revolutions start at home. We can do this together.”
Today is the tenth anniversary of the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act.
As seen from a nearby office building, here’s footage of Oakland, California celebrating. It appears someone mislabeled the fireworks and festivities kicked off a few hours early, but no mind.
Caution: language (and, if that bothers you, consider finding another blog to frequent).
The Oakland Police Department issued a press release early on October 26 defending their actions. Curiously, the press release claimed, “[t]hose who chose to stay were removed without any reported injuries.”
This video is graphic – it purports to show Marine veteran Scott Olson (the man is wearing a “Veterans for Peace” tshirt but is unable to identify himself) after he was shot by plastic bullets. The most I can attest to is that the man is being carried, is unresponsive, and is indeed bleeding from the head.
Of note – there were reports that the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) ‘sound cannon’ was on-site as well. LRAD is a non-lethal crowd control weapon developed for military use. It was used against protesters at the 2009 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh and can permanently damage hearing. No media has yet emerged confirming that LRAD was used in Oakland last night.
Also getting in on the celebration were Atlanta and Albuquerque.
Twenty people had volunteered to be ‘arrestibles‘ after the University of New Mexico refused to extend the permit for Camp Coyote, (Un)Occupy Albuquerque’s name for their site at Yale Park.
University of New Mexico police have confirmed that 35 protesters were arrested on site and an Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson confirmed another two arrests by the department.
A veteran of the Iraq war tied himself to a tree in Atlanta’s Troy Davis Park as protesters rallied.
53 OccupyAtlanta protesters were arrested overnight after volunteering to remain in the park after the midnight eviction deadline. Early reports say the arrests were largely peaceful, though some protesters were dragged out. Among the arrested were State Senator Vincent Fort, who represents part of Atlanta.
Baltimore had been rumored to be a target for eviction as well, but the Occupy Baltimore account confirmed there was no attempt at enforcement and the camp remained intact as of midday on October 26.
By the way, if you’ve actually read the text of the PATRIOT Act, you are in the minority. The bill was introduced on October 23, 2001 and passed the next day, with President Bush signing it on October 26. Though Democrats and others, including Ron Paul, later ‘expressed extreme displeasure‘ over not having time to read, deliberate, or debate the bill, it passed in the House 357 to 66 (of 435) and in the Senate by 98 to 1.
Charlie spoke at the GA meeting today. He arrived this morning from Mexico and brought a letter from the Don Sergio Mendez Arceo Foundation, which annually presents a human rights prize.
Pericón is a Mexican marigold. In the tradition of milpa agriculture practices of the Nahuas, Charlie tied crosses made of pericón to trees on the four corners of Liberty Park.
Update 7:30 a.m. eastern (vid taken shortly before 7 a.m.)
Quick update as the sun comes up:
Most of people stirring are the people who didn’t actually spend the night. Strange happenings here in Liberty Park.
We need access to press as soon as possible. Also there is no media here right now. We need the world to be watching to preserve the integrity of the movement.
Next update forthcoming.