WASHINGTON -- Faculty in the University of California system said this week that the group appointed to lead an investigation into the controversial pepper-spraying incident on the UC Davis campus is far from independent.
On Nov. 18, student protesters at UC Davis were pepper-sprayed at close range by campus police while demonstrating against tuition hikes. Footage of the event went viral and the police chief and two officers involved have since been put on leave. In response to the controversial actions, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi called for an independent investigation.
"Multiple investigations and reviews are underway to learn why police -- despite my explicit instructions that no force be used in removing tents and other equipment from the area -- elected to employ pepper spray. But let me again be clear: it was absolutely wrong and unnecessary," Katehi said in a message sent to students on Nov. 23.
But in an open letter, Robert Meister, head of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, called for University of California president Mark Yudof to swap out Kroll Security Group and its chairman William Bratton as the ones in charge of the investigation.
Meister, who is also a political science professor at UC Santa Cruz, said Kroll has already been hired as a security consultant for UC campuses, and has a conflict of interest in conducting an "independent" review of policies they may have helped put in place.
Lynn Tierney, vice-president of communications at UC, said the work Kroll has done in the past consisted of background checks, security around visits from foreign dignitaries and security around faculty singled out for the work they do.
Jack Papp, a spokesman with Altegrity/Kroll, insisted there is no conflict of interest with Kroll and was quick to dismiss Meister's criticism.
"[I]t is clear that some of the commentators do not have a complete understanding of the nature and content of the professional advice and counsel that Bill Bratton provides to nations and organizations," Papp said.
Tierney said the Kroll investigation -- which the UC Davis chancellor requested be conducted by an outside entity -- is narrowly tailored to the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis on Nov. 18. Other reviews are also being conducted across the UC system of colleges by faculty, campus leaders and alumni.
A broader concern for Meister, however, is that Kroll has been hired by a who's-who of financial industry giants like Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bloomberg.
"The University is literally hiring the same security company that is protecting the financial service industry," Meister told HuffPost.
Bratton, the man chosen to lead the UC Davis investigation, is a former police chief in Los Angeles, Boston and New York City. He currently serves as vice-chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, in addition to serving as the chairman of Kroll.
Meister said students who have been protesting against tuition hikes for years in California are turning their attention from the state making budget cuts to the University itself. He said connections from the UC Board of Regents to financial institutions are an incentive for both to increase the student loan debt burden.
Regent Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Fienstein (D-Calif.), is the Chairman and President of Blum Capital. Regent Monica Lozano has worked for Bank of America and Regent Paul Wachter was Senior Vice President of Wachovia. George M. Marcus, Paul Wachter and Leslie Tang Schilling are other Regents who have ties to investment banking.
"Students are now much more focused between the increasing links between the University and Wall Street and less against the budget cuts," Meister said.
In the open letter, Meister also wrote that Kroll's parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a "major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education."
Other professors were pessimistic about any investigation, after seeing reviews of controversial campus police action before. Catherine Cole, a professor in the theater department of the UC Berkeley campus, said "There's a lot of suspicion about these reports and investigations that don't lead to anything [despite taking a lot of time]."
Hannah Kirshner, a student at UC Davis, said students are largely looking to the administration for answers at this point, in part because Katehi ordered police to clear student protesters from the campus on Nov. 18. But in the meantime, Kirshner said, the pepper-spray incident pushed more students to join protests on campus.
The investigation is supposed to conclude within a month and a fee to be paid to Kroll has not yet been nailed down, Tierney said.
Tierney said the University did not see a conflict of interest in hiring Kroll and will not be dismissing them from the investigation."In every case when Bill Bratton's professional expertise and advice is sought -- be it in the U.K. this past summer to the Home Secretary following riots in the London area or his service as Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, whose members provide recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security -- his work is based on comprehensive reviews of the specific incidents that examine the facts and circumstances through the lens of his significant professional background and success in the fields of security, counter terrorism and law enforcement," Papp said.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
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.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
- Show quoted text -
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.
|@ 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!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
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.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ 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|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ 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|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.