Tag Archives: occupy Burlington

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

Note: This article offers some excellent background information on how the violent crackdown on the Occupy movement in the United States was coordinated from the top by way of the Department of Homeland Security–because of its threat to the personal profits of the 1% in congress and their puppet masters.  However, Global Justice Ecology Project has a broader analysis of the threat of the Occupy movement.  The Occupy movement has the potential to fundamentally transform what GJEP calls “an unjust and suicidal system” that is literally destroying the Earth’s web of life.  Yes this is about money in politics, but is is also about whether or not we or our children–or any other species for that matter–will have a future on this delicate life-giving planet.  That is why GJEP is at the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa–not because we think the 1% dominated negotiations have a snowball’s chance in hell of accomplishing something useful–but because this is where the climate justice movement is taking a stand for the Earth–for system change not climate change.  There are plans tomorrow for a general assembly to discuss the formation of occupy COP 17.  [After article see photo and additional GJEP note]

–The GJEP Team

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

by Naomi Wolf

Cross-Posted from The Guardian, 25 November

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, andpenned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette andWashingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS.Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling in the shut down Occupy Burlington encampment. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Additional GJEP Note:  The Occupy Burlington (VT-US) encampment was shut down last month by the Burlington Police Department. The excuse they used was the November 10th suicide at the camp of a homeless young man named Josh Pfenning who once served in the military.

Later that same day, the police and mayor invited Occupy Burlington participants into City Hall to discuss next steps. While the protesters were in the meeting, police cordoned off the entire camp as a crime scene and would not let participants return to their tents.

A statement from Burlington city officials and Police Chief Michael Schirling to Occupy Burlington explains, “In the wake of the tragic death of Josh Pfenning, Burlington Police have an active criminal investigation that involves serious and complicated work to ensure that all aspects of this investigation are conducted thoroughly and professionally. Among the issues this raises is the need to maintain control of the “crime” scene while investigation continues. Until we are fully confident that all possible investigative avenues have been expended we must maintain control of that area of the park and it remains closed until further notice.”

This photograph shows Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling’s idea of “serious and complicated work” at the crime scene on Saturday, November 12th, two days after the suicide. His “thorough and professional” effort involved dismantling parts of the camp prior to the official investigation. A Burlington police officer explained that the detective charged with investigating the crime scene had Saturday day off and would not complete his investigation and release the “crime scene” until Sunday the 13th.

The Burlington Free-Press reported that: “Police Chief Michael Schirling… said the shooting [Pfenning killed himself with a gunshot to the head] … had convinced him that the public’s safety cannot be assured unless the encampment is disbanded.”

Did the shooting convince him or did Homeland Security? Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Comments Off on The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Political Repression

Mourning for suicide victim at Occupy Burlington

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Burlington, VT–Occupy Burlington and their supporters, to pay their respect to Joshua Pfenning, a homeless man and a participant of Occupy Burlington, who once served in the military, held a candlelight vigil and memorial tonight.  Pfenning committed suicide yesterday.

At this point the Occupy Burlington encampment is cordoned off by by police tape.  No one is allowed to stay in their tents.

The Burlington Free-Press reported that earlier in the day:  “Police Chief Michael Schirling, speaking at a press briefing at the police department’s North Avenue headquarters, said the shooting Thursday afternoon and the near-riot later that night had convinced him that the public’s safety cannot be assured unless the encampment is disbanded.”

Tina Goldman an Occupy Burlington supporter said later, ” So I guess this means if a homeless person commits suicide at a homeless shelter, officer Shirling would have everyone in the shelter thrown out on the street and have the shelter shut down.  This is utterly ridiculous.”

Occupy Burlington, now all homeless, will discuss their next steps tomorrow.

–Orin Langelle

Comments Off on Mourning for suicide victim at Occupy Burlington

Filed under Uncategorized

Music Video: David Rovics – Song for John Brown

Note:  This is our third post in the spirit of Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement’s Western Fall by showing a music video a day until this weekend from the prolific songwriter and singer, David Rovics.

And since this is Veterans Day, please watch the ‘Song for Bradley Manning’  immediately following the ‘John Brown’ music video, especially in the light of the Occupy Burlington (Vermont) homeless military veteran who took his own life yesterday.  And Kayvan Sabehgi, the second Iraq war veteran hospitalized following involvement in Occupy Oakland protests. Another veteran, Scott Olsen, suffered a fractured skull also in Oakland.   How many veterans have committed suicide, hospitalized or are amongst the walking wounded?  No wonder there is talk of revolution in the air.

-Orin Langelle for the GJEP Team

Comments Off on Music Video: David Rovics – Song for John Brown

Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization

Breaking News: Occupy Burlington (Vermont) protester takes his life–Statement from Occupy Burlington

Note: The latest information is that Josh was a military veteran-Orin Langelle for GJEP in Vermont.

Today, November 10th at 2pm, Josh, a valued member of Occupy Burlington and the houseless community, took his own life at the encampment. We want to take this moment to offer our thoughts and condolences to Josh’s family, and to the members of the Occupy community who got to know Josh over the last two weeks.

The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the encampment are with his friends and family. We appreciate the support we have received from the Burlington community, the country, and the world. We ask for everyone’s continued support and solidarity as we deal with this tragedy.From the first day of the encampment, we have welcomed all members of the community by providing anyone in need with food, shelter, and social support. Despite our best efforts to provide care and support to all members of the community, occupations are not equipped with the infrastructure and resources needed to care for the most vulnerable members of our community. The lack of resources to care for those in need was brought to the attention of Burlington city leaders. Unfortunately, our plea for assistance was not heeded in time to help Josh.This tragedy draws attention to the gross inequalities within our system. We mourn the loss of a great friend tonight, while discovering an ever-deeper resolve to stand with our most vulnerable citizens. The failure to provide citizens with adequate and accessible physical and mental healthcare is one of the many issues this movement is fighting for.

Again, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone reeling from this loss and we deeply appreciate everyone who has offered support, compassion, and solidarity. It is our hope that this tragedy will serve as a rallying cry for occupations around the country to continue the fight for system change.

In Solidarity,
Occupy Burlington

Comments Off on Breaking News: Occupy Burlington (Vermont) protester takes his life–Statement from Occupy Burlington

Filed under Climate Change

March & Rally in Solidarity with Oakland General Strike in Burlington, VT

Photos by Orin Langelle for Global Justice Ecology Project

Burlington, VT–Several hundred people marched and rallied in support of the Oakland General Strike, while expressing their outrage at the current state of affairs in Vermont and elsewhere.  The march was led by unions along with Occupy Burlington participants, students and supporters.  The march left from the Occupy Burlington encampment in City Hall Park, stopping at the University of Vermont (UVM) library, where the AFL-CIO and the Industrial Workers of the World met up with United Academics.  The group then invaded the UVM’s administration building where a coffin was placed in the halls at the Day of the Dead altar, representing the death of the soul of UVM, whose last president received hundreds of thousands of dollars when he left the university after his wife was involved in a sex scandal.  UVM has a history of letting high level executives go with giant severance packages while UVM employees and teachers salaries stagnate and student tuitions go up – exacerbating the debt load on graduates.

Protesters then marched back to City Hall and held a speak-out on its steps adjacent to City Hall Park where the Occupy Burlington encampment is. There was a unanimous call  for solidarity with the Oakland General Strike and in protest of last week’s police brutality in Oakland, including the injuring of Iraq Veteran Scott Olson. The failure of capitalism was strongly critiqued by the speakers as a failed system where workers suffer to make the rich richer.  There was talk of a potential occupation of UVM as this crisis escalates.

Comments Off on March & Rally in Solidarity with Oakland General Strike in Burlington, VT

Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization


Video from Al Jazeera about the Oakland Occupation below

NOTE:  GJEP stands in solidarity with the Oakland General Strike.  Shut it Down. We will provide coverage today, including photos and commentary later in the day from GJEP’s Communication Director, Jeff Conant, who runs GJEP’s Oakland office.  Of course that depends on what occurs during the General Strike and Jeff’s access to upload to Climate Connections.  Last night GJEP’s Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle did a Non Violent Direct Action training for Occupy Burlington.  Occupy Burlington will have a march and rally today in solidarity with the Oakland General Strike.  It will be an interesting day. The video below is from Al Jazeera English:

Protesters in Oakland, California are planning to try and shut down the city’s port – the fifth-busiest shipping container port in the United States, in what they are calling a general strike on Wednesday.

The protesters are part of the ‘Occupy’ movement sweeping the world in which people are rallying to stop, amongst other things, corporate greed.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Oakland.


Filed under Actions / Protest, Media

Occupy Burlington (VT) Takes City Hall Park

photo: Langelle/GJEP

Note:  At the first General Assembly of the Occupy Burlington encampment, GJEP ED Anne Petermann grounded the space in the history of the Indigenous Peoples of the region: the Abenaki.  She opened the circle by stating, via “people’s mic” that, “the land that this encampment is on is the traditional land of the Abenaki People.  This land was never ceded, never signed away in a treaty, but was stolen.  It has been occupied by the state of Vermont.  In 1992 the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that any rights the Abenaki People had to their traditional lands was no longer valid due to “the increasing weight of history. For these reasons, I am asking the Occupy Burlington encampment to recognize that this land is Abenaki land.”  The proposal was met with nearly unanimous twinkling of fingers supporting it.

The GJEP Team

Video: Occupy Burlington general assembly  from the Burlington Free Press [Please ignore the short sponsor advert in the beginning-The GJEP Team.]

PDF: Letter from Burlington Mayor’s office to Occupy Vermont after next two photos.

photo: Langelle/GJEP

Occupy Burlington takes over City Hall Park and spends the night. The city of Burlington issued ground rules to the Occupy Burlington crowd Friday afternoon with officials saying they do “not object to your use of the park” until midnight — City Hall Park’s official closing time — and reminding the protesters that camping is not allowed in the park, which is closed from midnight until 6 a.m. “However,”read the statement, signed by Mayor Bob Kiss, “in light of the circumstances, so long as the rules are complied with and no other public health and safety concerns arise, either internally or externally from the gathering, the City will take a wait and see approach as to enforcement of the camping ban while we carefully monitor the situation.” photo: Langelle/GJEP

Full Mayor Kiss  Letter from Burlington Mayor’s office to Occupy Vermont

Comments Off on Occupy Burlington (VT) Takes City Hall Park

Filed under Actions / Protest

Photos: Oct 15 rally and march in Burlington, VT

On Saturday, 2011 over 500 people participated in the October 15th Global Day of Action in Burlington, VT.  Other rallies and marches happened in the VT towns of Montpelier, Rutland and Brattleboro. The following photographs were taken in Burlington by Orin Langelle from Global Justice Ecology Project:

Comments Off on Photos: Oct 15 rally and march in Burlington, VT

Filed under Actions / Protest, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle