More than 1,000 people gathered in Oakland Thursday night for a vigil for Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran who fractured his skull on Tuesday during an Occupy Oakland protest. Olsen was hit in the head by a police projectile. Hospital officials have upgraded Olsen’s condition from critical to fair. He has woken up and is now awaiting brain surgery to relieve pressure on his brain from swelling. Olsen served two duties for the U.S. Marines in Iraq. Longtime California labor activist Clarence Thomas spoke at a rally on Thursday in Oakland.
Clarence Thomas: “Rubber bullets, gas, sticks, shock and awe, cannot stop this movement. There is an Iraqi (sic) veteran fighting for his life in Highland Hospital. He survived two tours in Iraq. But when he came home, he was shot at the war at home. There’s two wars going on: there’s a war abroad and a war at home.”
Clarence Thomas of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union also praised calls by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly for a general strike in Oakland next week.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan attempted to speak Thursday at the Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall. After she was denied a chance to speak, she recorded a video message and posted it on her Facebook page.
Mayor Jean Quan: “What I wanted to say to you tonight is how deeply saddened I am about the outcome on Tuesday. It’s not what anyone hoped for. I understand it’s my responsibility, and I want to apologize to everyone about what happened.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the police crackdown in Oakland.
Jay Carney: “We understand the frustrations that are being expressed, specifically with regard to the need to make sure that Main Street and Wall Street operate by the same set of rules, and the general frustration with the need for jobs and economic growth that creates opportunity for middle-class Americans. And certainly we have a long and noble tradition of free expression and free speech in this country. We also—it’s also important that laws are upheld and obeyed. But that—I mean, that’s a broad view. I haven’t had a discussion about specific cities or instances with the President.”
Police in Nashville, Tennessee, and San Diego, California, have raided Occupy Wall Street encampments early this morning. At least 30 people were arrested in Nashville. The activist Kuttin Kandi of the All People’s Revolutionary Front Coalition witnessed the raid in San Diego.
Kuttin Kandi: “Cops started coming in, and the media wasn’t allowed to get in. I couldn’t even get in. And then they started arresting people, one by one. And then they started arresting the media. They arrested one of the media folks, I think the whole thing, and they arrested one of the organizers, Calli, as well. The cops started moving in, and then they started backing out of the area, like setting up like an almost like an army line. So they were starting to walk down the street and lining up as though they were calling out platoon lines. They even called it platoons. They were like, 'Platoon One!' And then they backed up. 'Platoon Two!' and then 'Platoon Three!' They were literally like army lines.”
In Arizona, the total number of people arrested at Occupy Tucson has now surpassed 350 since the protest began in the city two weeks ago. Here in New York City, organizers say thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators will march today to the headquarters of Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.
A new study released Thursday has found the distribution of wealth in the United States is among the most unequal among industrialized nations. The United States ranked in the bottom five on a combination of issues including poverty prevention, health and access to education—ahead of only Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey. The study was done by the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation. Meanwhile, a new study here in the United States has found New York State has the highest income inequality of all 50 states and that the New York City metropolitan region has the highest income inequality of any large metro area.
In London, St. Paul’s Cathedral has announced it is seeking legal action to remove the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters from its grounds 14 days after the protest began. Earlier this week, the cathedral’s canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, resigned because he was afraid police would use violence to rid the cathedral grounds of protesters. Fraser said, “I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated… The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence.”
Economic protests continue across the globe. In South Africa, some 2,000 Johannesburg youths marched on the Chamber of Mines and Stock Exchange Thursday to deliver a petition demanding big changes to an economy still controlled by the white minority. The marchers also called on President Jacob Zuma’s government to do more to tackle the chronic unemployment blighting the continent’s biggest economy.
Given Valashiya: “We’re just reminding the president of the country to say, as the youth, we need jobs, you know, we need to gain in the economy. We also want to inform and say, you know, the issue of the land, it’s important that we expropriate land without pay, so that those who are unemployed, they can also benefit on the land.”
In France, demonstrators rallied outside Moody’s credit rating agency in Paris on Thursday. Protesters said the firm is contributing to the worsening of the European economic crisis by cutting the ratings of countries’ sovereign debts.
Protester: “Today we’re here to contest the fact that it’s the credit rating companies that decide the policy of European states. It’s not up to them to decide, make decisions that will hit workers, the retired, the jobless, etc., etc.”
In Chile, student protest leader Camila Vallejo predicted Thursday the movement will lead to the downfall of President Sebastián Piñera. The protesters say Chile’s education system is profit-driven and provides poor instruction. The billionaire Piñera is the first conservative president to rule Chile since democracy returned in 1990 after Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship. In recent months, Camila Vallejo has emerged as the face of the student movement.
Camila Vallejo: “We are at a difficult time, knowing we have to resist with unity and trying to generate some fissures. But the fight will last much longer, and it’s important to temper our expectations. We have very high expectations. We must think in terms of short, medium and long term, because what we’ve achieved as a movement is very nice. We’ve proposed deep changes, structural changes, to build a better society.”
In other news, the Washington Post has revealed the U.S. Air Force has begun secretly flying armed Reaper drones from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war in East Africa. The airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, is part of a constellation of secret drone bases in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. The Air Force has confirmed the location of the drone base and said an unspecified number of Air Force personnel are working in Ethiopia. The Air Force also operates drones from the tropical archipelago Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and from the tiny African nation of Djibouti.
In news from Libya, NATO said Thursday it will end its Libya operations at the end of the month following a decision by the U.N. Security Council to cancel its mandate covering the seven-month-old NATO military mission. At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice urged the new Libyan leaders to incorporate all aspects of Libyan society in the new government.
Ambassador Susan Rice: “We have the prospect for a free and inclusive Libya in which the aspirations of the Libyan people can finally be realized in the wake of the transition that’s underway. We’re very concerned that, as we move forward, that the authorities make maximum effort to swiftly form an inclusive government that incorporates all aspects of Libyan society and in which the rights of all Libyan people are fully and thoroughly respected, regardless of their gender, their religion, their region of origin, etc.”
The family of deceased Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi has announced plans to file a war crimes complaint against NATO with the International Criminal Court. Members of the family believe NATO’s actions led to Gaddafi’s death last week. On Thursday, Libya’s interim government said it would prosecute anyone found responsible for the death of Gaddafi after his capture, in a retreat from its earlier insistence that the dictator had been killed by crossfire.
A new report out of Japan has found the Fukushima nuclear disaster released twice as much radioactive cesium-137 into the atmosphere as Japanese authorities estimated. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research says the amount released was about 42 percent of the total from Chernobyl—the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The study said about a fifth of the cesium fell on land in Japan, while most of the rest fell into the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, 100 women from Fukushima have begun a three-day sit-in outside the Tokyo office of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, calling for the evacuation of children from areas with high radiation levels and the closing of nuclear power plants in Japan.
In campaign news, President Obama is relying on a group of prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid, despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists. The New York Times reports at least 15 of Obama’s “bundlers” are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign. Bundlers are supporters who contribute their own money to a campaign and solicit it from others. A number of the bundlers have hosted Obama at fundraisers, while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business. Obama’s bundlers include Sally Susman, who leads Pfizer’s powerful lobbying shop, and David Cohen, who oversees lobbying at Comcast.
A Brooklyn woman who was wounded by a stray bullet, then held by the New York City Police Department for five days, has announced plans to file suit against the city for $5 million. Takesha Griffin was struck in the leg by a stray bullet a block from her apartment on September 3. Her friend drove her to a nearby hospital, and because there was a shooting involved in her injury, the police investigated. After her wound was bandaged, she was cuffed to a gurney and taken to the 73rd Precinct. While in police custody, Griffin, a single mother to a nine-year-old boy, claims she was left handcuffed to a police desk for three days straight. Refused an escort to the bathroom, she says she urinated on herself. Griffin claims the police denied her a sanitary napkin and fed her one McDonald’s hamburger each day.
Former and current female employees at Wal-Mart have filed a new sex discrimination lawsuit against the retailer giant in California. The plaintiffs are alleging the company denied them pay raises and promotions because of gender bias. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of workers only in California. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court dismantled a class action case of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers across the country. Lawyers say the California lawsuit is the first in a series of complaints that will be filed in different regions in the next three to six months.