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Naomi Wolf Versus Joshua Holland: Was There a Coordinated Federal Crackdown on Occupy Wall Street?

Naomi Wolf responds to Joshua Holland's criticisms of her piece alleging a coordinated federal crackdown on Occupy Wall Street.

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In "The Closed City: Downtown Security Zones and the Loss of Public Space" (pdf) , published before the Occupy movement came to be, Dr Nemeth and his team confirmed in detail how the embedded partnership between DHS and municipalities in controlling public space in "security zones", such as that around Zuccotti Park, would be used by municipalities to crack down on public assembly and dissent and to federally compile detailed surveillance of protesters. He wrote:

"I demonstrate how the post-9/11 security apparatus operating in US cities challenges physical, social and representational 'rights to the city' by limiting access to physical space, sorting and segregating users while reducing opportunities for social learning and active engagement, and carrying with it a broader anti-terrorism rhetoric that is employed at will to restrict political expression, assembly and a spirit of civic representation. The results of this study and the omnipresence of security zones should encourage planners and policy makers to consider them a new and increasingly pernicious land use type."

Nemeth is not a polemicist; he is an urban design critic. But he points out how DHS has "militarised" – his word – the "downtown security zone" of the financial district, where the Zuccotti Park clearances took place. He also notes that Civic Center in NYC, as well as areas in the other two cities, have become DHS "security zones" in which the very fabric of urban design is directed by DHS guidelines, in close collaboration with municipalities and municipal police, to contain an extensive system of surveillance and data retrieval about citizens, geared to manage and surveil public assembly.

Dr Nemeth cites the DHS term "Downtown Security Zones" in his title. The day after the clearing of Zuccotti Park, I was observing the protest site, which was ringed with unmarked white vans, which is no evidence, of course, of anything. But I also witnessed a white vehicle parked – illegally, suggesting that NYPD was leaving it alone – on the northwest edge of the square, on East side of the street, at about 11.30am. It was identified with blue lettering as "Downtown Security". There is no business in New York City listed under that name. There is, though, a region of lower Manhattan, in which Zuccotti Park lies, as you can see on the maps in the Nemeth article, that Homeland Security has repeatedly, publicly and legally identified as the DHS "Downtown Security Zone". There are other DHS "security zones" as well).

Is this sighting proof of DHS surveillance of the protests that day, over and above the DHS surveillance of public protest that Nemeth documents, that has been coordinated since 2002? No. Does it merit further investigation? I believe so.

Mr Holland also seems unaware of the billions that DHS has pumped into domestic police forces, integrated in such a way that it is naïve, in a sense, for him and for me to even be debating whether federal forces "coordinate" with municipal ones because now they are often financially merged into one entity. The amount of money flowing from DHS to NYPD is stunning,  as El Diario reports :

"The New York City Police Department plans to spend about $24m in federal homeland security grants to pay for overtime. The NYPD budget lists an estimated $180m in counter-terrorism and intelligence spending for the upcoming year, with one half covered with federal grants. […] A study by the academic journal Environment and Planning estimated that nearly 40% of public space in downtown Manhattan is a 'security zone'."

In other words, this 2011 report indicates that DHS is paying NYPD  three and a half times  NYPD's overtime budget annually: $180m of DHS money is spent on "intelligence gathering"; so $90m of NYPD's budget, in one year alone, is from DHS. Thus, Holland and I are foolish to debate over whether there is "coordination" between NYPD and DHS. If you look at the numbers, financially, NYPD  is, to some extent, DHS. Look at the Nemeth maps: geopolitically, lower Manhattan  is, within certain boundaries, the province of DHS. This is true of Zuccotti Park, where  NYPD received $25m to surveil and track license plates .

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