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'Occupy Wall Street' Fighting Bankster Greed and the Surveillance State

Over a week in, and despite mass arrests, the protesters are still camped out around the corner from Wall Street, and the Internet is watching.

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Moreover, the NYPD has a history of targeting those with ideological differences—and recently obtained permission to loosen safeguards around surveillance. In 1971, left-of-center activists led by Barbra Handschu lodged a complaint against the NYPD alleging wiretapping, eavesdropping and infiltration of political gatherings. The resulting settlement decree—the Handschu degree—forced the NYPD to install new guidelines limiting the monitoring and retention of information about political activities in their Patrolman’s Handbook. But in 2002, spooked by the shadow of 9/11, a federal district court judge allowed its substantial modification. Rather than focusing on alleged terrorists, the NYPD quickly returned to old habits of targeting political activists around the 2004 Republican National Convention.

At least some of the protesters are well aware of the history of the tactics used so recently on their group. Camille Raneem noted, “There's a huge connection between creating a bogeyman and also breaking a group of people, and maintaining economic control over a system as a whole.”

She continued, “It's a network of fearmongering and deception and the people that benefit are the one percent. They have created a system of control that goes straight into an individual psyche.”

The group down in the square at Liberty and Broadway call themselves the Other 99 percent—one protester held up a sign that said “Cops are Also 99%. Join Us.” That's their message to the country and the world—most of us are not being helped by the system as it is.

As Matt Taibbi pointed out:

“I would imagine the end game of any movement against Wall Street corruption is going to involve some very elaborate organization. There are going to have to be consumer and investor boycotts, shareholder revolts, criminal prosecutions, new laws passed, and other moves. But a good first step is making people aware of the battle lines. It sounds like these demonstrations have that potential.”

The continuing protests are a question to us all. Which side are you on?

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.