Occupy Miami Apartment Building Raided By Police; Members Reportedly Questioned About Weapons (WATCH)
Police officers in SWAT-style gear descended Tuesday on an Overtown apartment building where dozens of Occupy Miami members moved after the group's Downtown encampment "Peace City" was evicted.
Occupiers say police arrived suddenly before a protest march, pouring from vans to order residents of 540 NW Seventh Street into the building's courtyard before searching both people and apartments. Three Occupy members were reportedly handcuffed before being released; three others were taken to police headquarters for questioning. No one was arrested.
"They said that they had gotten a tip that we had 'long guns' and were going to use them at our protest," Occupy member Thomas Parisi told Miami New Times. "But we are a peaceful movement and told them that we had no intention of doing anything like that."
A photo taken by one member who was detained suggested he was taken to MPD's Special Investigations Unit, which houses the Narcotics Unit, the Intelligence and Terrorism Unit, and the Joint Interdiction Unit. Miami Police have not yet responded to requests for comment, and the FBI would not confirm one eyewitness report that FBI agents were also present.
"It is not uncommon for the FBI to assist local law enforcement," FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock told HuffPost. "In this case, we are not going to discuss if this is one of those instances."
"They had military assault rifles and tactical shotguns. Fully lethal," reported Occupy on their Facebook site, before posting video showing residents of the "Fort Peace" building sitting or kneeling in the property's courtyard while officers with assault rifles kept order.
"This is some of the scarier footage I have ever seen," wrote author Naomi Wolf on her Facebook page. "What were they doing telling you to KNEEL and put your hands on your heads?"
Dozens of Occupy members moved into the building after its owner, an Occupier who changed his name to Sr. Paz (Mr. Peace), donated some of the vacant apartments to Occupiers rent-free. But recent postings suggest a rift between those living at the apartment building and other Occupy Miami members, and the last Twitter update from a main Occupy Miami account says it has been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members."
Another member posted on Twitter that the Facebook page, too, was "unilaterally taken over by a rogue element in the group following an attack by police in riot gear."
For the group at "Fort Peace," the trouble is not only internal.
"They were asking me questions like, 'Are you a Muslim?' and 'Do you love this country?'" protestor Ramy Mahmoud told New Times. "I said hell no I don't love this country and it's because of shit like this...They are calling us terrorists but what I saw today was demons pointing guns at us. They terrified us."
UPDATE, 9 p.m.: A eyewitness account of the police action has been published at OccupiedStories.com. Writes Occupy Miami member Chris Mazorra:
"Vans, trucks, cars, and even an armored Hummer were surrounding us and we all had this variety of guns aimed at us, being ordered to get on the ground...we were in front of a residential apartment building with children inside and a couple of them were actually sitting outside in the lot watching this happen...
Requests not to be stepped on were met with “Shut the f*** up!” Our questions regarding their reasons for all this were met with “Shut the f*** up!” Guess what our requests for a warrant for the searches they began were met with…
Everybody in front of the building who was heading to the rally was lying flat on the floor with our faces to the ground and were being searched by MPD while the agents and heavily armed officers dispersed around the building and rounded up everyone inside and searched all unlocked rooms."
Mazorra also writes that an agent in charge shortly explained that law enforcement suspected a small Occupy "splinter group...was planning to incite violence with weapons," and that officers present were both FBI and members of MPD's Intelligence and Terrorism Unit.
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.