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Occupy Wall Street Protests ALEC In What Activists Call Largest Coordinated Occupy Event This Year

Occupy Wall Street

First Posted: 02/29/2012 7:42 pm Updated: 03/ 1/2012 2:27 am

NEW YORK -- In cities around the country today, hundreds of Occupy protestors gathered for what the movement described in a release as its "largest coordinated action this year."

Since a wave of nationwide evictions effectively ended the movement's tent-city phase three months ago, Occupy activists have been trying to regain momentum. It's unclear whether today's event lived up to those expectations, but its organizers presented it as an important step forward.

In Washington, D.C., police arrested between eight and 12 people outside the headquarters of agriculture company Monsanto, according to protesters. In California, protestors blocked the entrance to three Walmart distribution centers. In New York, about 100 people demonstrated outside of Pfizer and gathered in Bryant Park for a talk by journalist Matt Taibbi. There were smaller demonstrations in cities from Albany, N.Y., to Tulsa, Okla.

A hundred people doesn't approach the movement's turnouts at its height between September and November, but the New York event differed from earlier protests in several ways that could prove important for the movement's future.

Remember when the main knock against the Occupy movement was that it didn't have clear goals? While it's true that the movement still lacks a cohesive message, its participants lately have focused on a host of specific issues. Today's event wasn't a spontaneous angry outburst at the 1 percent or Wall Street greed; it was a carefully planned attack on the reputation of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a non-profit organization that unites corporations and legislators to shape policy.

Last summer, two months before the first protesters showed up in Zuccotti Park, the Center of Media and Democracy obtained copies of ALEC's "model" bills and published them on the website, ALEC Exposed. David Osborn, one of the organizers of today's events and a participant in Occupy Portland, said he hoped today's events would draw attention to ALEC, which he described as a "particularly potent symbol of the failed system that we have in which profit and greed have become more important than everything else."

He considered today's events a success. He spoke from Portland, Ore., where he said 500 or 600 people were marching and "talking to everybody on the way," and noted anticipatory coverage of the event in the New York Times and on NPR. Today, a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine accompanied the marchers, said Osborn. "We've brought ALEC out of the shadows and into the light," he said.

Over the past few months, media coverage has clearly dwindled, and so have the crowds. For a movement that once measured crowds in the thousands, today wasn't great.

The weather was partly to blame. Protestors in D.C., New York and Portland had to contend with the sort of cold rain that has people using profanity when referring to February. Considering the conditions, protesters said they felt encouraged.

"Clearly it's not the numbers we had, but we're building here," said Jeffrey Brewer, an organizer of the New York gathering.

Although the plans originated in Portland, activists in other cities quickly joined in, coordinating the protests through a conference-call network used to plan several national events in recent months. Many activists said they hope to use this network to plan more nationwide protests in coming months, especially during the upcoming Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., and the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.

Joan Donovan, an activist with Occupy LA who helps run the network, said activists nationwide are starting to work together to ensure their protests "are bigger and much more amplified."

But Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University who is writing a book on the movement, said he wasn't sure such efforts would succeed.

"There may not be a unitary Occupy Wall Street in a year," he said. "There are so many moving parts. It's a huge and sprawling and not altogether visible beast."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified ALEC as the American Legislative Exchange Coalition.

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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 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?"

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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 http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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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 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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