Naomi Wolf’s ‘Shocking Truth’ About the ‘Occupy Crackdowns’ Offers Anything but the Truth
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There has been a flurry of speculation surrounding various reports suggesting that a “coordinated,” nationwide crack-down on the Occupy Movement is underway. The problem with these stories lies in the fact that the word “coordinated” is too vague to offer any analytic value.
The difference between local officials talking to each other — or federal law enforcement agencies advising them on what they see as “best practices” for evicting local occupations — and some unseen hand directing, incentivizing or coercing municipalities to do so when they would not otherwise be so inclined is not a minor one. It’s not a matter of semantics or a distinction without difference. As I wrote recently, “if federal authorities were ordering cities to crack down on their local occupations in a concerted effort to wipe out a movement that has spread like wildfire across the country, that would indeed be a huge, and hugely troubling story. In the United States, policing protests is a local matter, and law enforcement agencies must remain accountable for their actions to local officials. Local government’s autonomy in this regard is an important principle.”
But there has not been a single report offered by any media outlet suggesting that anyone – federal officials or police organizations – is directing or in any way exerting pressure on cities to crack down on their occupations. Instead, there have been a lot of dark ruminations that such an effort is underway – notably by Naomi Wolf in an error-filled blog-post and a somewhat bizarre column for The Guardian in which Wolf takes an enormous leap away from any known facts to suggest that Congress is ordering cities to smash the Occupy Movement in order to preserve their own economic privilege.
Before digging into Wolf’s claims, let’s review what has actually been reported.
1. Five major occupations were evicted in different cities in a span of less than a week. Although they didn’t follow the same pattern, there were similarities in the tactics employed by these different municipalities.
2. A police membership organization called the Police Executive Research Forum, PERF, organized two conference calls between local law enforcement officials to share information on OWS, including, presumably, how best to evict them.
3. The US Conference of Mayors organized two conference calls between various city officials to discuss the same issues.
4. Rick Ellis published a piece on Examiner.com which quoted an anonymous source in the Justice Department who said that DHS and the FBI were sharing information and advice with local law enforcement agencies. But the source stated quite clearly that “while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.” He has since published an update stressing that federal officials played "no active role" in any of the crackdowns.
5. Chris Hayes reported that a lobbying firm had offered a plan to the American Bankers Association to vilify and marginalize the Occupy Movement. The ABA insisted that it hadn’t acted on the proposal.
6. DHS vehicles were reportedly spotted near at least one eviction.
Among the “advice” reportedly disseminated by DHS was that cities should demonize their occupations by highlighting health and safety violations, and evict them without warning in the dead of night. As a supporter of the Occupy Movement and a civil libertarian, I find that offensive and inappropriate – DHS should be worried about terrorism, not political dissent.
But missing here is any suggestion that cities are being compelled to crack down on their Occupations in any way – mayors of all of the municipalities that evicted camps in recent weeks had made it very clear that they were going to do so. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan held three press conferences urging people to leave Frank Ogawa Plaza and promising that they would be removed by force if they didn’t comply. Local officials have an agenda, but it is not a hidden agenda, and thus not a particularly shocking story.