Occupy Wall Street protesters have returned to Zuccotti Park, but without the camping gear that was dismantled and seized during Tuesday’s early morning raid. The protesters are now banned from bringing in backpacks, tents and sleeping bags after a judge ruled in favor of a move by city officials to ban camping in the park.
Protester 1: “I think what we’re showing here is that we’re resilient, we’re going to persevere, and no matter what court ruling comes out or what Mayor Bloomberg and his billionaire friends may say about us, our message of economic justice and democracy is resonating with a wide sector of society.”
Protester 2: “This does not feel like a victory to me at all. I have been fighting here for 17 hours straight, since two in the morning today. It is now seven o’clock, and I’ve been here all day. I barely got a chance to sit down, eat a good meal, get some—I’m so thirsty right now, and I can’t even go inside, because I have a backpack.”
Around 200 people were arrested in the police raid on Zuccotti Park yesterday. At a news conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the arrests, calling it an issue of public safety.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “The occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community. We have been in constant contact with Brookfield, and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the 'no sleeping and camping' rules in the park. But make no mistake: the final decision to act was mine, and mine alone. There is no ambiguity in the law here. The First Amendment protects speech. It does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space. Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
Scores of students rallied at the University of California, Berkeley, on Tuesday as part of a day-long strike protesting the campus arrests of 39 people last week. Student activists have erected a new encampment after the first was dismantled during last week’s crackdown. Police have now given them a new order to disperse. A few hundred people from Occupy Oakland took part in a five-mile march to join up with the students. The campus received a scare after police shot a man who a brandished a gun in a computer lab, though police say the incident was unrelated to the protest. Just miles away, there are fears of a new raid on Occupy San Francisco after a battalion of riot police surrounded the downtown encampment. San Francisco police say they do not plan to clear the main camp but have arrested seven people who set up tents on a sidewalk.
At least six people were arrested at an Occupy protest in Seattle. A crowd of several hundred had marched through the city in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City. Activists say a number of people were pepper-sprayed, including an elderly woman, a pregnant woman and a priest.
Eight people have been arrested at the headquarters of Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. Protesting Bank of America’s financial practices and support for the coal industry, the activists unfurled a large banner reading, “Not With Our Money,” at the building’s entrance.
In London, city authorities have resumed legal action to expel the Occupy encampment at the landmark St. Paul’s Cathedral. The move could set the stage for a police raid similar to those seen in the United States over the past few weeks. Activists at the encampment criticized London officials for seeking their displacement.
Protester 1: “It saddens us because it was looking very promising with the church agreeing to drop a legal action, and then obviously the Corporation (of London) following suit. But to renege on and go back on it again, it does beg the question why.”
Protester 2: “We’ve been faced with the possibility of this camp being swept away nearly every day since we’ve been here, so it’s not a concern. We’re here for a much greater reason, which is to address the social ills, not only on a national level, but on an international level.”
The oil giant TransCanada has agreed to reroute its proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline to avoid a critical state aquifer in Nebraska. After initially joining with environmentalists to oppose the project, Nebraska officials have now approved a deal that would see TransCanada divert its planned pipeline away from the state’s Sandhills region. The move comes just days after the Obama administration delayed a final decision on approving the pipeline until 2013, citing the need for an environmental review. In a statement, the environmental activist Bill McKibben, who’s helped lead the campaign Tar Sands Action, said, “We’re awfully happy that the Ogallala Aquifer is going to be safe, and the Sandhills — that only leaves the entire atmosphere of the planet to worry about.”
In Syria, army defectors have attacked an intelligence complex near the capital of Damascus earlier today, their boldest action yet in the popular uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The operation comes as the Arab League is meeting in Morocco, where it is expected to affirm a decision to suspend Syria’s membership and pressure the Assad regime to stop the crackdown. Ahead of the meeting, Syria released nearly 1,200 prisoners in an apparent bid to avoid another rebuke. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said pressure is growing on Assad.
Mark Toner: “We look for the Arab League tomorrow to again send a forceful message to Assad that he needs to allow for a democratic transition to take place and to end the violence against his people. The King of Jordan came out yesterday and said that Assad should step down, and we also have Turkey coming out today with very forceful statements about the situation in Syria. So I think what we’re seeing here and continue to see is that the drumbeat of international pressure is increasing on Assad.”
Six Palestinian activists were arrested in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday after staging an action inspired by the civil rights movement of the United States. The activists
boarded Jewish-only public buses near a Jewish-only settlement to protest segregation under Israeli occupation. They dubbed their effort the “Freedom Rides,” a nod to the 1961 Freedom Riders who rode interstate buses to challenge the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South.
Huria Ziadah: “They will go and try to board the settler buses to send a message for the world: first thing, that the occupation regime is a racial regime on our (Palestinian) land. The second thing is to call for the real work to boycott Israel, because all the world recognizes that this occupation is illegal on our lands, but they help him (the occupation) when they support the buses that transport only settlers on our lands.”
Israeli forces later arrested the activists after stopping the bus near a military checkpoint. A journalist covering the action was also detained.
The Freedom Rides are one of a number of Palestinian civil disobedience actions planned to protest the Israeli occupation. It comes amidst a wave of recent settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Recent U.N. figures show attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians have increased by 40 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 165 percent compared to 2009. Nearly 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees have been damaged or destroyed, and hundreds of Palestinian families have been forced to relocate away from ancestral farmlands. Over 90 percent of monitored complaints filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police have been closed without indictment.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared before a Senate panel on Tuesday to discuss the Obama administration’s recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops at the end of the year. Panetta got into a heated exchange with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who questioned Obama’s plan.
Sen. John McCain: “The truth is that this administration was committed to the complete withdraw of U.S. troops from Iraq, and they made it happen.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “Senator McCain, that’s just simply not true. I guess you can believe that, and I—and I—and I respect your beliefs.”
Sen. John McCain: “And I respect—and I respect your opinion.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “But that’s—”
Sen. John McCain: “And the outcome—”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “But that’s—but that’s not true.”
Sen. John McCain: “And the outcome—”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “That’s not—”
Sen. John McCain: “— has been exactly as predicted.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “But that’s not—that’s not how it happened. This—this was—”
Sen. John McCain: “It is how it happened. I was there, Mr. Secretary. You were not.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “This is—this is about negotiating. This is about negotiating with a sovereign country, an independent country. This was about their needs. This is not about us telling them what we’re going to do for them or what they’re going to have to do. This is about—”
Sen. John McCain: “It’s about our needs, as well, Mr. Secretary.”
In campaign news, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is drawing new scrutiny over his financial ties to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Bloomberg News is reporting Gingrich received between $1.6 million to $1.8 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac over an eight-year span beginning in 1999. Gingrich has maintained he never performed lobbying for the company and in fact advised them their business practices were “insane,” an account Freddie Mac officials have denied.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has filed an appeal with Britain’s Supreme Court of a decision allowing his extradition to Sweden. Swedish authorities are seeking to question Assange about claims of rape and sexual assault, though he has not been formally charged.
The physician and public health expert Dr. Paul Epstein has died at the age of 67. As associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Epstein was among the first to make the link between the spread of infectious diseases and extreme weather caused by a global warming. He discussed his work in an interview on Democracy Now! last December.
Dr. Paul Epstein: “It’s not often considered as part of the global warming story, but the heat of the last half century has built up in the oceans, and it’s the accelerated evaporation off of warm oceans that drives the heavy rains. A warmer atmosphere also holds more water vapor. For each one degree centigrade it heats up, it holds 7 more — 7 percent more water vapor. So there’s a push and a pull on the whole water cycle. And the key here is that global warming in the hemisphere, through the ocean engine, is now changing the weather patterns, and it’s the hydrological cycle, the earth’s water cycle, that’s been dramatically changed, with more droughts in some areas and more intense rains in others, and now intense snows.”