Occupy Wall Street Crackdowns: Was The Federal Government Involved?
In the wake of raids on Occupy Wall Street encampments in multiple cities, some, like AlterNet, have wondered whether federal law enforcement spent time and resources coordinating with local authorities to crackdown on the protests.
On Tuesday, The Examiner published a story quoting an anonymous Justice Department official who said local police agencies "had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies" including the FBI and Homeland Security.
That assertion was denied by the FBI in an official response sent to The Huffington Post.
"Recent published blogs and news stories have reported the FBI has coordinated with local police departments on strategy and tactics to be employed in addressing Occupy Wall Street protestors," the response said. "These reports are false. At no time has the FBI engaged with local police in this capacity."
The Examiner's source, who still reportedly stands by his story insists that the FBI advised local law enforcement on press relations, including "one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present."
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent this response to HuffPost:
“Any decisions on how to handle specifics situations are dealt with by local authorities in that location. If a protest area is located on Federal property and has been deemed unsanitary or unsafe by the General Services Administration (GSA) or city officials, and they make a decision to evacuate participants, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) will work with those officials to develop a plan to ensure the security and safety of everyone involved," DHS spokesperson Matthew Chandler said.
A HuffPost editor said he saw two Homeland Security vans parked near the Brooklyn Bridge during Thursday night's march.
In New York City, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne told HuffPost that his department did not work with any federal authorities before or after the raid on Zuccotti Park.
"NYPD enforcement action re: OWS was accomplished with no involvement by federal authorities (no coordination with them either)," Browne said in an email.
Occupy protester Max Berger, who is a member of the OWS direct action working group, said he's not sure the feds are being honest about their involvement in the raids. Berger told HuffPost he was arrested during the Zuccotti raid and held for 24 hours before being let go without any charges.
"I would be surprised if there was not some federal level of planning involved, in spite of what they say," Berger said. "They don't want that story out there. We're coordinating nationally, so why wouldn't they?"
Two civil rights groups seem to share Berger's skepticism. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee have filed a Freedom of Information request for any communications between federal law enforcement agencies and local police related to the protests, according to The Examiner report.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that mayors and police chiefs in cities around the country strategized with each other about how to deal with the Occupy protests.
From the AP:
As concerns over safety and sanitation grew at the encampments over the last month, officials from nearly 40 cities turned to each other on conference calls, sharing what worked and what hasn't as they grappled with the leaderless movement.
Berger said he believed all of the effort spent arresting and charging protestors would have been better spent investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the economic crisis.
"It speaks to how this country works right now that we saw such a giant investment in resources and huge amount of concern directed at the occupation while Wall Street gets off scot-free," Berger said. "If they spent half the time worrying about how to go after those criminals as they did going after us, we wouldn't even need to be out there."