Occupy Wall Street Monitored By U.S. Conference Of Mayors, Emails Show
WASHINGTON -- After denying that they are coordinating responses to Occupy Wall Street, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently surveyed city administrations across the country about the movement.
In late November, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the District of Columbia mayor's office received a request to update its answers to the survey. The questions to city officials appeared to elicit profiles of Occupy activists and answers that could help show the activists as a drain on resources.
The mayor's conference asked via the emailed survey: What are the estimated Occupy-related costs? What are the major issues relating to Occupy events? Has the Occupy membership changed and if so "describe those involved in the movement how they've changed in terms of who they are and what their intentions for the demonstrations are."
In the survey, the organization also called on city administrations to share tactics. "Please describe any strategies or tactics your city is employing in responding to Occupy-related events, including an assessment of their effectiveness if possible."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has quietly led efforts to coordinate city responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the records show. These documents -- which comprise emails to local D.C. officials -- appear to contradict previous statements in which mayors denied any sort of group strategy sessions.
In early November, Oakland's Mayor Jean Quan created a firestorm after admitting in an interview that she had participated in one of the group's conference calls on Occupy. The call, she said, included 18 other cities. As one city encampment after another was razed on similar pretexts, activists charged that Quan and other big city mayors were colluding against them.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, has obtained her own set of conference-call related documents and says the mayors' conference is an active participant in setting the stage for the camp raids. "These are sessions that were intended in assisting cities in creating the public pretext for the eviction of the encampments," Verheyden-Hilliard said. "I think they tried to play a fairly covert role in what was an extremely significant nationally coordinated effort to shut down the occupations."
The participating mayors downplayed the calls as "general information sharing." After the news of the Quan call broke, a spokesperson for Portland Mayor Sam Adams described one call as a mere "therapy session" during an interview with MSNBC.
But in promotional letters and emails obtained by HuffPost, the Conference of Mayors pitched the calls as far more substantial.
In a Nov. 10 email, Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director for the conference, hyped a follow-up conference call led by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Cochran wrote that the call "will enable more mayors and police chiefs from across the country to participate in the discussion, sharing information about the situation in their cities, their concerns, and the strategies that are working."
Cochran went to write that regular Occupy-themed conference calls were being arranged. "We also agreed that the Conference of Mayors will host regular conference calls of mayors and police chiefs on the impact of the Occupy Movement in cities for as long as we need to," he wrote.
In his own letter outlining an upcoming session, Mayor Nutter wrote on Nov. 8 that the discussion would "cover what has been happening in cities, costs incurred, issues that have arisen, and strategies being employed to respond. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss what cities can expect in the future, and the best ways to minimize any problems."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors refused comment and deferred all questions to its participating mayors.
Nutter's office did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Pedro Ribeiro, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's communications director, said he remembers city police officials and representatives from the Office of the Attorney General participating in one call in mid-November. Emails show Attorney General Irvine Nathan was on one call with Nutter.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told HuffPost that Chief Cathy Lanier "participated in many calls about this issue."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors may not have just been assisting with strategies, but may have also been seeking to compile evidence for the argument that Occupy cost cities. During the back and forth over the survey questions with D.C., Occupy-related costs rose dramatically. As Verheyden-Hilliard pointed out in a piece on her organization's website: "The Mayor's Office's cost estimates rose from $21,000 (as of 10/19) on November 15, to $894,000 on November 18 to $1.1 million in MPD costs on November 22 to $1,579,000 on December 1."
Verheyden-Hilliard says the D.C. numbers are bogus. "These are not real numbers," she tells Huff Post. "These are numbers that are being created because they want to dramatize the cost to D.C."
Ribeiro blames the steep cost increase on confusion over what was an Occupy cost versus what was a non-Occupy cost. "The MPD wasn't giving the full tally," he says.
In a Nov. 15 email to the Associated Press obtained through the FOIA request, Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy wrote that the Occupy costs came to $21,000 as of Oct. 19, with less than $1,000 spent on police overtime. But even that number may have been high. It was difficult to tell what was Occupy-related expenses and what were normal city expenses such as trash pick up and traffic control.
Of the $21,000, McCoy wrote: "These are not additional costs because city agencies are performing normal daily duties."
Crump repeated this sentiment to an Examiner reporter, the FOIA documents showed. "The majority of the costs are budgeted in the local budget," she emailed. "The overtime costs are manageable, at this time."
A week after the D.C. mayor's office received the conference's survey, the group emailed Gray's office again. They'd received the survey answers. But they had one problem. "With calculus you gave us, DC through MPD has spent about $65,000 since demonstrations began Oct. 6," wrote Laura DeKoven Waxman, the conference's director of public safety. "That seems low to me, so wanted to make sure it's correct."
D.C. government then coughed up the bigger $1.6 million cost figure. The jump did not produce any skepticism from Waxman. "I'll make sure to replace DC's previous responses," she wrote in an email to the mayor's office and Chief Lanier. "This will be especially helpful as we try to show what the Occupy Movement is costing cities."
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:
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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.
|@ 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.