Hundreds of New York City police officers raided the home of the Occupy Wall Street movement shortly before 1 a.m. today. Police tore down the entire infrastructure built over the past 59 days in Zuccotti Park as they cleared the park. Tents were torn down. The library was removed. Personal belongings were thrown into massive piles and then taken away by dump trucks. Some protesters had chained themselves together in an effort to stay in the park. At least 70 people were arrested, including City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. Democracy Now! has just learned a legal team representing the protesters has obtained a temporary restraining order against the City of New York and Brookfield Office Properties directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings. The City is saying it will allow protesters to return to the park, but without sleeping bags or tents. In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had become increasingly concerned that the occupation was coming to pose a “health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community.” The raid on the park came just two days before a massive protest is scheduled to mark the start of the third month of Occupy Wall Street. As we went to air, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street supporters were gathering in nearby Foley Square to plan the movement’s next step. See all of Democracy Now!’s reports on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The raid of Occupy Wall Street in New York City early this morning came one day after officers cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment in California. Thirty-two people were arrested. Two prominent members of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s team have resigned over the past day. Hours before Monday’s raid, Oakland mayoral legal adviser Dan Siegel resigned to protest the city’s crackdown on the Occupy movement. Last night, Deputy Oakland Mayor Sharon Cornu also stepped down. We talk to Siegel later in our broadcast.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Congress overstepped its powers when it approved President Obama’s healthcare law last year. The court is expected to issue a ruling by July — just months before the 2012 presidential election. Over two dozen states have asked that the entire law be struck down. At the heart of the legal battle is the section of the law that requires all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a provision known as the individual mandate.
At least 69 people were killed in southern Syria on Monday amidst growing international pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign. For the first time, King Abdullah II of Jordan has called on Assad to step down. The Jordanian king made the comment in an interview with the BBC.
King Abdullah II: “I would believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down. However, it’s not — if I was in his position, I would — if it was me, I would step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we’re seeing. And again, I don’t think the system allows for that. So if Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest repeated the administration’s call for Assad to resign.
Josh Earnest: “I will say that we obviously applaud the decision that was reached or that was announced by the Arab League. It’s clear that the Assad regime is continuing — is continuing to be isolated, that the political pressure on them is building. It is clear what the administration — what the Obama administration’s posture is on this, which is that President Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule and should go.”
Meanwhile, Iraq is defending its decision to abstain from the recent Arab League vote to suspend Syria’s membership.
Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister: “This (Iraq’s stand) does not mean that we support this or that side, or we support the killing of innocent people, or we do not support freedom and free will for the Syrian people to choose the regime that they want, but there are also regional and international considerations. Iraq’s position is not like a state in North Africa or in the Gulf. Syria is a close neighbor, and what happens in it will affect us. We actually showed reservations on this decision.”
A new scientific study in Japan has revealed radioactive material in parts of northeastern Japan exceeds levels considered safe for farming. The study found the entire Fukushima prefecture is highly contaminated. Researchers looked at cesium-137, which has a half life of 30 years and therefore could affect the Japanese farming industry for decades.
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is back in the spotlight after he struggled to answer a question about his views on Libya. Cain was asked about the issue during an interview with the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee.
Reporter: “So you agreed with President Obama on Libya, or not?”
Herman Cain: “OK, Libya. [pause] President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, 'Yes, I agree,' or 'No, I didn't agree.’ I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason: [brief pause] no, that’s a different one. Uh… I gotta go back, see. Got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me, did I agree or not disagree with Obama?”
In campaign news, Elizabeth Warren has issued her first TV ad in her bid to unseat Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. In the ad, Warren paints herself as a crusader against the banking industry.
Elizabeth Warren: “For years, I worked to expose how Wall Street and the big banks are crushing middle-class families. It just isn’t right. I stood up to the big banks and their army of Washington lobbyists. I worked to hold them accountable. I led the fight for a new agency to protect consumers — and we got it. But Washington is still rigged for the big guys, and that’s got to change. I’m Elizabeth Warren, and I approve this message, because I want Massachusetts families to have a level playing field.”
Palestinian activists in the West Bank have announced plans to board Jewish-only public buses today to protest segregation under Israeli occupation. Dubbed the “Freedom Rides,” the campaign is inspired by the 1961 Freedom Riders who rode interstate buses to challenge the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South.
There have been a number of developments in the alleged child rape scandal involving a former assistant football coach at Penn State. Jerry Sandusky was charged earlier this month with 40 felony counts relating to the sexual abuse of children. On Monday, he spoke with NBC’s Bob Costas in his first interview since being charged.
Jerry Sandusky: “I say that I am innocent of those charges.”
Bob Costas: “Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?”
Sandusky: “Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their leg. Without intent of sexual contact.”
Jerry Sandusky is out free on $100,000 unsecured bail. It has been revealed that the judge who allowed Sandusky to be freed on a reduced bail was a former volunteer at his charity, Second Mile, a foundation for needy children.
Occupy protesters in Washington, D.C., took over a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce on Monday. The protesters disrupted a speech by BlueCross BlueShield CEO Scott Serota.
Occupy Protesters: “Mic check! We are the 99 percent. And we are here because Scott Serota, CEO of Blue Cross, who makes more than $2.5 million per year, is an example of the 1 percent in the healthcare industry, who testified in Congress and influenced the health bill to create more profit for health insurers at the expense of human suffering and preventable death.”
The protest continued for several minutes. As soon as one protester was removed from the event, another stood up and began speaking.