What Do Occupy Protesters Think About the Pepper Spray Cop Being Awarded $38,000?
Remember pepper spray cop? He’s the campus police officer at the University of California, Davis who decided to handle a seated line of peaceful, non-threatening Occupy demonstrators in the most rational way he could: by calmly firing a stream of pepper spray directly into their eyes from close range, like a landscape gardener squirting pesticide at some overgrown flowerbeds.
At first, everyone was outraged at Officer John Pike’s blasé manner of temporarily blinding peaceful protesters, then the internet got involved, turned the image into meme—photoshopping Pike into basically every pop culture image ever created—and everyone kind of forgot about it. Until last week, when it emerged that he has been awarded $38,000 in workers compensation by California’s Department of Industrial Relations—more than the $30,000 each of his victims received—for the “psychiatric injuries” he’s experienced since that day in November of 2011. UC Davis will foot the bill, in addition to the $70,000 the school paid him in salary while he was on adminstrative leave.
I spoke to Bernie Goldsmith—an ex-Wall Street attorney and social activist who was an Occupy organizer at UC Davis and there the day of the pepper spraying—about what his fellow protesters think of Pike’s payout.
VICE: What happened that day? How did it escalate to the pepper spray incident?
Bernie Goldsmith: We all put up our tents in the middle of the day and predicted that the police would come at about 3 or 4 AM, arrest a few of us and allow the others to leave. We thought it would be a very typical protest. Instead what happened was a shockingly stupid mismanagement from the administration and the police force. The [UC Davis] administration decided that, instead of doing the sensible thing of evicting us at night, the police should evict us at 3 PM, surrounded by students.
Which riled everyone in attendance up a bit, I suppose.
That’s an understatement. I was a scout on the day, looking out for police approaching the quad. And, to my great surprise, instead of two or three officers coming and quietly writing tickets and telling us to leave, I observed a phalanx of fully armored riot police with helmets and shields. We’d moved the tents into a circle in the middle of what is basically a giant field, so there was no obstruction being caused. Protesters got into a ring around the circle and locked arms. Then the police tore apart the ring, handcuffed a couple of people in this first group, and started tearing down the tents.
Gerald Koch Hasn’t Been Charged with a Crime, but He’s in Jail Anyway
A New York anarchist has been jailed for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about his political beliefs, his friends, and the legal support he provided to Occupy Wall Street.
Gerald “Jerry” Koch, 24, was subpoenaed before a grand jury that is believed to be investigating the 2008 explosion outside a military recruitment center in Times Square. The blast damaged the front door of the center and injured no one, but the FBI began a “terrorism” investigation of local anarchists.
Koch isn’t accused of this crime—or any other crime. Prosecutors told his lawyers that they think he was at a bar in 2008 or 2009, after the bombing, and that someone else at the bar knew about another person who was involved. Koch was subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2009—when he was only 19—and publicly stated that he didn’t know anything about it and wouldn’t cooperate.
On May 21, he appeared before the grand jury again, refused to answer any questions, and remained silent the entire time. More than a hundred supporters yelled out to him as he was taken to jail.
"By the time you read this," Koch said in a statement released after the hearing, "I will be in the custody of the United States government for continuing my refusal to cooperate with a federal grand jury. This is the right thing to do."
Anonymous Hacked Bank of America and Seemingly Revealed That the Bank’s Spying on Hacktivists
You’ve probably already heard of Anonymous, the world’s most infamous group of cybertrolling hacktivists. They frequently make headlines for crashing websites and looting corporate and government servers. Usually these hacktivists come together in defense of others, such as Julian Assange, the people of Gaza, victims of police brutality, or even victims of rape. But now, Anonymous has turned its eyes on a personal rival. This enemy has its own cybersquad of secret spies who, according to Anonymous, spend the majority of their time in chat rooms collecting intelligence about them. With this latest release of stolen data, Anonymous has just pulled back the curtain on their foe: the Bank of America.
On February 25 @AnonymousIRC, an Anonymous Twitter account with over 280,000 followers, began posting “teasers” about a massive Bank of America data leak. The first post declared, “If you spy on us, we spy on you.” What followed was 14 gigabytes of private emails, spreadsheets, and a “text analysis and data mining” program called OneCalais. The emails in the release originated from “Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts” who identified themselves as employees of a company called TEKsystems. The TEKsystems website appears to be nothing more than a staffing agency and seems wholesome enough. There’s definitely nothing that screams “we are cyberspies!” It’s safe to assume these analysts were hired by Bank of America, regardless of their TEKsystems titles, because according to the leaked emails that Anonymous released, each of them were using @bankofamerica.com email addresses while filing their reports.
Having a team on staff to protect a corporation from potential cyberthreats is nothing new. This isn’t what caught the attention of Anonymous to begin with; it was the methods being employed by Bank of America to gather data. Each of the 500 plus emails pilfered reads like a surveillance report, most of them reporting on the activities of online activists from Anonymous to Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy’s Rolling Jubilee Wants to Give Americans Money for Nothing
Walking the streets of New York City this spring, you would have been hard-pressed not to come across posters promoting the Occupy Wall Street-led May Day general strike. “A day without the 99 percent,” is how it was billed. With the strike, the group was attempting to light a fire that might bring down capitalism and launch the US into an American Spring. However, Occupy’s rallying cry fell on deaf ears, as the rally had poor attendance and limited impact. Looking back, it seems like that was the moment that the pied pipers of political and economic discontent’s critical mass finally dissipated. The group’s momentum seemed to have run its course, and the fickle media’s attention turned to the sideshow that was the 2012 presidential election.
After May Day, Occupy had to find itself all over again. Call it an identity crisis. But in an organization as decentralized as OWS, where individual efforts and actions are constantly emerging as branches and nodes of a shape-shifting whole, identity is a fluid concept anyway. The post-May Day breakdown was a chance for rebirth—a function of Occupy Wall Street’s built-in eternal recurrence mechanism. It was in this ferment that Occupy forged its next project: Rolling Jubilee, a plan to buy anonymous medical debt, thus offering relief to Americans burdened by exorbitant healthcare costs.
“From the very beginning of Occupy Wall Street, the question of crippling debt that people are forced to carry has always been part of the agenda,” says Yates McKee, a member of Occupy’s Strike Debt team, which is leading the Rolling Jubilee project. “Student debt, mortgage debt, medical debt, and municipal debt—all of that has been a part of Occupy from the very beginning.”
Activists within Occupy Student Debt, an early sub-group of Occupy focused on the debt crisis, had the idea of using Occupy’s I Am The 99 Percent Tumblr to present real people who were debtors and break the silence around debt. It was a issue that was close to their hearts, as many of the original Occupy campers were debtors of all stripes.
As Yates explains it, Occupy Student Debt went on to create the Pledge of Refusal, which many Occupy participants signed. “It wasn’t about forgiveness,” Yates emphasizes. “It didn’t say, ‘Let’s come up with a piece of legislation that forgives our debt.’ Rather, it noted that going into debt is systematic. In order to live, you have to enter into this predatory debt. So the Pledge of Refusal was non-compliant with the debt system. It was similar to a debt strike.”
Originally, the debt strike concept gained a lot of traction within the Occupy movement, but people across the country weren’t ready for such an idea and conditions across the country couldn’t support a mass default. So in the post-May Day void, where Occupy’s idealism finally gave way to reality, they knew they had to take another approach to fighting debt. Luckily, the Occupy Student Debt movement still had a great deal of enthusiasm behind it, even after May Day.
“The only campaign that still had a lot of energy was the Occupy Student Debt campaign,” observes Yates. “So over the summer, we decided to have what we call ‘thematic assemblies,’ where in one assembly we talked about the environment, and in another assembly we talked about labor. And then we did one on debt. And we made sure to invite everyone from Occupy Student Debt, Occupy Universities, Free University, and Occupy Labor.”
The larger assembly then got together and discussed what would it mean to build a political movement around debt in all its forms and not just on certain types of debt in isolation, like student loans. This ultimately lead to the transformation of Occupy Student Debt into Strike Debt, the sub-group which now healms the Rolling Jubilee.
“One phrase we started to use was ‘Debt is the tie that binds the 99 percent’” says Yates. “There is something structural about the debt economy we’re forced to go into in our lives. And this was when we flipped the idea of a debt strike to Strike Debt. What would it mean to strike debt, to attack debt from all these different angles and metaphorically cross it out?”
Occupy describes the vast swaths of America’s debtors as “an invisible army of defaulters.” What if this invisible army were to come out of the shadows and become a political force? Out of this thought experiment came debt memes like “You are not alone” and ultimately the Rolling Jubilee program.
Jubilee, as laid out in the Bible’s book of Leviticus, was a time when debts were forgiven. Strike Debt appropriated the concept in a symbolic way and used it as the namesake for its first major project, in which a fund—financed by donations—buys debt.
May Day Made My Day
May Day was a repeat of every other OWS action I have covered, but with ten times the cops, barricades, unions, and ladies. Occupy Williamsburg and Occupy Bushwick started their day at the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge. From there they marched across the bridge and through lower Manhattan, culminating in a late-night clusterfuck downtown. We won’t get into all the specific who’s and what’s and where’s of the whole day here. If that’s what you’re looking for, click over to the live blog that we updated every few minutes yesterday from around the world. This here post is strictly for picture-looking and video-watching. Enjoy.
May Day 2012 is finally upon us. The video above is a live stream from New York City hosted by our editor-in-chief, Rocco Castoro, and maybe some relief reporters if Rocco loses his voice or gets hit in the head with a Molotov cocktail. The stream below is a live blog from the VICE global offices around the world. Stay tuned.
Free The Network - Occupy Wall Street Protesters Work to Build an Independent Internet
You’re on the Internet. What does that mean?
Most likely, it means one of a handful of telecommunications providers is middlemanning your information from Point A to Point B. Fire off an email or a tweet, broadcast a livestream or upload video to YouTube, and you’re relying on vast networks of fiber optic cables deep underground and undersea, working with satellites high above, to move your data around the world, and to bring the world to your fingertips.
It’s an infrastructure largely out of sight and mind. AT&T, Level 3, Hurricane Electric, Tata Indicom – to most these are simply invisible magicians performing the act of getting one online and kicking. To many open-source advocates, however, these are a few of the big, dirty names responsible for what they see as the Web’s rapid consolidation. The prospect of an irreparably centralized Internet, a physical Internet in the hands of a shrinking core of so-called Tier 1 transit networks, keeps Isaac Wilder up at night.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
Occupy St. Patrick’s Day
This Saint Patrick’s Day, occupiers and undercover cops with green ties celebrated OWS’s six-month anniversary. The goal was to reoccupy Zuccotti Park, and it went pretty smoothly till police raided it once again, around midnight. For most of the day, the protesters gallivanted around the downtown area, bringing back the drum circle and eating loads of birthday cake. Many attempted to throw up tents and pick fights with the cops. Once all these Direct Action troublemakers were escorted out of the park and into paddy wagons, the movement reached a peaceful standstill. A few hours later, a large group of foreign bagpipe players showed up and were instantly shut out by the cops. A cop broke one of their bagpipes and when a protester asked why, the infamous hipster cop responded, “They are French.” At this point of the evening, the protesters had enough and began putting their own barricades up around the park. Hundreds of cops regrouped and moved in, dragging them out by their faces. OWS activists are calling for a general strike on May 1 to protest these arrests.