Protests against corporate greed and corruption are quickly spreading across the United States inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest encampment in New York City. On Saturday, New York City police arrested more than 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge. Many protesters say they were arrested after believing they had the approval of the police to march on the roadway instead of the pedestrian crossing. Despite the mass arrests, hundreds of activists continue to camp out in a park just blocks from Wall Street. Today is day 17 of the protest.
Jason, protester: "People are realizing that we are all one and it is our governments that work against us to keep everyone down. That’s how the one percent gets away with it, is by dividing us up and people not realizing we are all one. And that’s what this movement is about."
Other occupations against Wall Street have popped up in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and numerous other cities. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., organizers are wrapping up months of planning for a major protest this week to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Tarak Kauff spoke about the protest during a visit to Occupy Wall Street last week.
Tarak Kauff, activist: "It starts on October 6th, 9:00 a.m, at Freedom Plaza, right in the middle of Washington, right off Pennsylvania Avenue, right between 13th and 14th Street, and it will continue. And we intend to stay there. And every day there will be—we’re starting out with a concert and a rally, and then there will be something, a nonviolent direct action. It will sort of target one of these aspects of corporate militarism that exists in Washington, D.C."
Major demonstrations were held in a number of cities overseas over the weekend. In Lisbon, Portugal, as many as 130,000 marched on Saturday against austerity imposed under the terms of a bailout agreement between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. More than 20,000 rallied in the British city of Manchester on Saturday against government cutbacks. And in Greece, thousands of students rallied on Friday to oppose the presence of international E.U. and IMF inspectors.
U.S. officials have confirmed a second American citizen was killed in Yemen on Friday in the CIA drone strike that targeted the U.S.-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In addition to Awlaki, the strike killed Samir Khan, a 25-year-old U.S. citizen who was raised in New York and Virginia. He was the editor of an English-language jihadist magazine called Inspire. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups have condemned the Obama administration for assassinating two U.S. citizens never charged with a crime. Despite the criticism, President Obama praised the drone strike on Friday.
President Barack Obama: "The death of Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Furthermore, this success is a tribute to our intelligence community and to the efforts of Yemen and its security forces who have worked closely with the United States over the course of several years."
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai has decided to suspend efforts to begin direct talks with the Taliban following the assassination of peace negotiator, ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani, by a purported Taliban peace emissary. In an interview with the Journal, Karzai’s national security adviser said, "The peace process which we began is dead. It’s a joke." Karzai is said to be turning his attention to cutting a deal with Pakistan. This comes as Kabul alleged on Sunday that the killer of Rabbani was a Pakistani citizen.
Shelling by NATO-backed rebel forces in Libya has forced a Red Cross convoy carrying medical supplies to turn back from the besieged town of Sirte. Aid agencies claim the town is suffering from a humanitarian crisis with food, water, fuel and medical supplies running out as forces loyal to toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi attempt to hold off interim government troops. The Red Cross had assembled two trucks carrying aid as well as two four-wheel-drive vehicles to be taken into the city, but stopped short early Monday as rebels began to fire on the town.
Thousands of people packed the Jonesville Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, on Saturday for the funeral of Troy Davis. The state of Georgia executed Davis last month for the murder of a police officer despite widespread doubt about his guilt. Seven of the nine witnesses who originally testified against Davis later recanted or changed their testimony. Speakers at Saturday’s funeral included Benjamin Jealous president of the NAACP.
Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: "Troy’s last words that night were he told us to keep on fighting, keep on fighting ’til his name is finally cleared and Georgia admits what Georgia has done. But most importantly, keep on fighting until the death penalty is abolished and this [the execution] can never be done again to anyone else."
The billionaire right-wing Koch brothers are back in the news. An investigation by Bloomberg Markets magazine has revealed the brothers’ company, Koch Industries, has sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran in apparent violation of a U.S. trade ban. In addition, the article reveals Koch Industries paid out bribes to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East, possibly in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is facing mounting criticism after the Washington Post revealed that his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp was once called "Niggerhead." The Post reports the word was painted on a flat rock standing upright at the gated entrance for years—well after Perry became associated with the land and became a public official. Even today, the offensive word is reportedly still faintly visible under a coat of white paint.
In nuclear news, the two nuclear reactors at a Virginia plant remain shut down more than five weeks after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region. On Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the reactors can’t be restarted until it grants Dominion Virginia Power approval. According to the NRC, preliminary data shows the earthquake caused peak ground movement about twice the level for which the plant was designed. It reportedly was the first time an operating U.S. nuclear plant experienced an earthquake that exceeded its design parameters.
Five political activists and bloggers being tried in the United Arab Emirates on charges of insulting the country’s leaders refused to attend a court hearing on Sunday, protesting against alleged mistreatment. Samer Muscati is an officer with Human Rights Watch.
Samer Muscati, Human Rights Watch officer: "The activists didn’t show up. They feel that by participating in the trial, they’re actually giving the trial legitimacy. And so far, none of their concerns have been met, except for opening the trial. The evidence that had been used against the activists have actually not been shown to the activists. They don’t know exactly what the evidence is against them. Their lawyers have not had a chance to cross-examine the witnesses. They’ve been held in prison for almost six months now, and they have no right to appeal. So there’s really some fundamental problems with the quality of justice in this case, and I think that the accused realize that by showing up or not showing up, perhaps the judgment will be the same, and it’s already been written."
Hardline Jewish settlers are being blamed for vandalizing and setting fire to a mosque in a Bedouin village in northern Israel Sunday night. The fire sparked clashes between some 300 Israeli Arabs and state security forces. In related news, members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have frozen some $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to the PA’s U.N. statehood bid.
A leading British climate activist was prevented from entering the United States after flying into New York JFK Airport. The activist, John Stewart, was questioned by the FBI, Secret Service and Immigration for six hours before he was sent back to Britain. The 62-year-old Stewart heads an advocacy group that opposes the expansion of airports in Britain.
A new government probe has corroborated the disclosure of a major corruption scandal within the New York City public school system. The Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City Public School District has confirmed that the firm Future Technology Associates has charged taxpayers between $110 to $140 an hour for the wages of workers it was actually paying 10 times less. The workers were employed at dummy companies based in India and Turkey. To date, Future Technology Associates has received $74 million in school system contracts. The scandal has led to the resignation of one school official involved in the fraud, and company owners are expected to be indicted in the coming weeks. The report repeatedly cites the work of Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News correspondent Juan Gonzalez, whose exposure of the fraud kick-started the investigation two years ago.
A final settlement has been reached in our federal lawsuit challenging the police crackdown on journalists at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Democracy Now! producers Nicole Salazar, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and I filed the suit last year against the Minneapolis and St. Paul Police Departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff and Secret Service personnel. The lawsuit challenged the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the 2008 RNC that resulted in our arrests. We were among dozens of journalists arrested that week in St. Paul. On September 1st, 2008, the opening day of the convention, Nicole and Sharif were covering a police crackdown on a street protest. Nicole’s camera captured her arrest and assault by the officers. As the riot police came at her shouting, "On your face," she shouted back, "Press! Press!"
Nicole Salazar, Democracy Now! producer: "Watch out! Watch out! Press!"
Police officer: "Get out of here! Move!"
Nicole Salazar: "Where are we supposed to go? Where are we supposed to go?"
Police officer: "Get out of here!"
Nicole Salazar: "Dude, I can’t see! Ow! Press! Press! Press!"
Police officer: "Get down! Get down on your face! On your face!"
Nicole Salazar: "I’m on my face!"
Police officer: "Get down on your face!"
Nicole Salazar: "Ow! Press! Press!"
That was Nicole screaming as the riot police took her down bloodying her face. As Sharif told the riot police to calm down, they kicked him twice in the chest, threw him against a wall, and arrested him, as well. When I got the call on the convention floor about what had happened, I raced outside to the corner of 7th and Jackson, where the riot police had formed a line, having fully contained the area. I asked to speak with a commanding officer to get Sharif and Nicole released.
Denis Moynihan: "Release the accredited journalists!"
Amy Goodman: "Where’s the reporters? Sir?"
Police officer: "Ma’am, get back to the sidewalk."
Denis Moynihan: "Release the accredited journalists now!"
Amy Goodman: "Sir, just one second. I was just running from the convention floor."
Denis Moynihan: "You are violating my constitutional right. You are violating their constitutional rights."
Police officer: "Sidewalk now!"
Denis Moynihan: "You are violating constitutional rights, sir."
Amy Goodman: "Sir, I want to talk to your superior."
Police officer: "Arrest her?"
Amy Goodman: "Do not arrest me!"
Police officer: "You’re under arrest."
Police officer: "Hold it right there. You’re under arrest. Stay right there. Back up. Back up."
Police officer: "Everybody, you cross this line, you’ll be under arrest, so don’t do it."
Crowd: "Let her go!"
It wasn’t seconds before the riot police ripped me through the police line. As I pleaded with them not to arrest me, the riot police twisted my arms behind my back, handcuffed and arrested me. Later, when I was brought to where Sharif was standing handcuffed and we were loudly demanding to be released, indicating our press credentials, a Secret Service agent came up and ripped our credentials from around our necks. Three years later, we have reached a major settlement in the case that includes $100,000 in compensation paid by the St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments and the Secret Service. The settlement also includes an agreement by the St. Paul Police Department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations, including proper procedures for dealing with the press covering demonstrations. We, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will have input into the training program. The St. Paul Police Department will use its best efforts to get the Minneapolis Police Department to institute a similar program, and will also make the program available to law enforcement personnel statewide. We will be holding a press conference about the lawsuit today at 1:00 p.m. in Lower Manhattan on the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street.