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Occupy Wall Street: Movement Accepts Modest Help From The Left [LATEST UPDATES]

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Occupy Wall Street protestors march in the 39th annual Village Halloween Parade, Monday, Oct. 31st, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) | AP

By DAVID B. CARUSO, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- With its noisy drum circle, meandering parades of bandanna-clad youth and disdain for centralized leadership, the Occupy Wall Street encampment sometimes has the ragtag look of a group that is making things up as it goes along and discovering its own purpose along the way.


But from the start, the movement has also gotten support from a long list of experienced, well-funded organizations, unions and political committees – sometimes to the discomfort of more radical protesters who worry about their message being co-opted or watered down.

After an initial hesitation to get involved, unions from Boston to Los Angeles have sent members to march in the demonstrations and donate air mattresses, food and other supplies. In Oakland, unions representing teachers and government workers are encouraging members to take a day off from work to march with protesters Wednesday., a group that has given millions to liberal Democrats, has promoted the demonstrations relentlessly on its Web site and in blast emails.

To most of the youthful radicals at the movement's heart, all this help is welcome, but with a caveat.

"This is a movement of individuals, not managed political coalitions," said Alexa O'Brien, one of the many early organizers who helped get the New York occupation started on Sept. 17.

Unions can be great, and their support is "critical," but they can be corrupt, too, she said. And the Democratic Party, she added, is part of the problem.

"If you are going to ask corporations to get out of elections, you have to ask all special interests to get out of elections," she said. "This movement is about building civic infrastructure for regular citizens."

Today, the group that has now occupied a city park for six weeks shows few signs that it is allowing outside organizations a substantial role in planning its marches, making decisions, or deciding what issues to embrace. But it has also turned to a network of left-leaning organizations for help, some of which have been around since before most of the protesters were born.

The group of activists who began meeting to plan the demonstrations in mid-summer included several people who had been involved in an organization called US Uncut, which is affiliated with the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank that cut its teeth opposing the Vietnam War.

When Occupy Wall Street needed an established nonprofit group to help handle incoming donations, which have now topped $500,000, they turned to the Alliance for Global Justice, an entity originally founded in 1979 to build support for the communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

The National Lawyers Guild, whose members have been representing dissenters, peaceniks, and civil-rights activists since1937, has set up Occupy legal hotlines in 19 cities and been representing protesters arrested across the country.

Even the unofficial newspaper of the New York encampment, The Occupy Wall Street Journal, didn't simply spring organically from the protesters' base in Zuccotti Park; it is a special edition of the Indypendent, an alternative newspaper that has been publishing for 11 years.

All of this support by outside groups has become a rallying point by the movement's critics, who have accused it being manipulated behind the scenes by government worker unions trying to keep taxes high, or by Democrats trying to use the "class warfare" card in upcoming elections, or by community organizing groups trying to drum up support for government entitlement programs.

If that's happening, there is scant evidence in Occupy Wall Street's daily organizational meetings, where the demonstrators seem to focus a substantial amount of time and energy on the logistics of keeping the camp running and building an organization. Much of the assistance provided has been more inspirational than operational.

Chuck Collins, a senior IPS scholar, said that while US Uncut activists provided a list of media contacts to the demonstrators, produced some graphics, and brought skills they had honed in past protests against "corporate tax dodgers," the organizing effort was autonomous, with no initial support from organized labor, foundations or other "major institutional players."

IPS Director John Cavanagh said that while was aware that some of his younger colleagues were involved in planning the protest, they did so independently of the institute. The institute didn't offer any financial assistance, "and I don't know any other established progressive groups who did," Cavanagh said.

"I will admit honestly that I had doubts as to whether they would have any impact," he said of his attitude toward the demonstration.

Even the editors at Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that came up with the idea for the demonstration and registered the website, appear to have had little influence over the movement's direction. Its subsequent calls for the occupiers to rally behind a demand for a 1 percent global tax on financial transactions has yet to be embraced by the encampment, which has strongly resisted making any specific demands.

But that hasn't stopped groups like unions from jumping on the Occupy bandwagon, and maybe advancing their own agenda.

"It's something that has energized our membership," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which has turned part of its New York headquarters into storage space for the protesters.

Strong union participation in an Oct. 5 march in Manhattan made it one of the largest for any "Occupy" event to date.

Communication Workers of America political director Bob Master said that while many demonstrators have a political philosophy to the left of the typical trade unionist, "Most of the labor movement in New York recognizes that these young people have sparked a national discussion about issues that are central to our agenda."

Support has also come from groups known for raising large sums for Democratic political candidates – a development that has bothered some demonstrators.

MoveOn angered some Occupy protesters with an Oct. 18 fundraising email that asked members to help it build on the momentum created by the protests by chipping in $5.

MoveOn's executive director, Justin Ruben, said the group wasn't trying to mooch off of the movement.

"We've been clear about what we're fundraising for," he said. "We're not them. We're not Occupy Wall Street. We're very clear that we don't speak for them. They seem like they are doing a great job getting their voice out. And we want to help."

Democracy for America spokeswoman Levana Layendecker said that while the PAC was prohibited by federal law from giving direct cash assistance to Occupy Wall Street, it was hoping to provide support in other ways, including donating cold-weather sleeping bags and medical supplies.

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Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17

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