Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sandy

Hey, librarians!  I’m sitting high & dry here in Brooklyn, as all us folks here on the east coast wait out this hurricane.

Some of the occu-fam is out and about.  Our very own weatherman is tweeting from a boat off the Chelsea Piers at @Occuweather; he’s also occasionally streaming.  Other streamers are here and here.

In a day or two when we start to clean up, look to your local libraries — especially in New Jersey’s coastal towns, things are really getting torn up, and they might need some hands or some cash to help recover.

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Occupy Goldman Sachs: Night 8

An occupation outside of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s house is in progress in New York City at 61st and Broadway. So, head on down and show your solidarity!

Join and support online as well here: Occupy Goldman Sachs.

 

From the Facebook page:

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a multinational investment bank founded in 1869 and headquartered at 200 West Street in Lower Manhattan. Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman Sachs engaged in some of the worse financial fraud the world has ever seen, including packaging and selling billions of dollars in subprime housing derivatives and other worthless securities to small and mid-level investors while hiding the fact that they were simultaneously betting against these same securities. Through such fraud Goldman Sachs decimated the 401(k)s, pensions and mutual funds of thousands of Americans.

Despite blatantly vilating the Securities Act of 1933, which “prohibits deceit, misrepresentation, and other fraud in the sale of securities,” and despite a 650-page Senate subcommittee investigation report accusing them of defrauding clients, not a single official of Goldman Sachs has been prosecuted. Rather, the corporation was rewarded, receiving more government bailout funds than any other investment bank. Goldman Sachs then used this taxpayer money to give its senior executives a staggering $44 billion in mega-bonuses between 2008 and 2011.

While Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein makes an estimated $250,000 a day, regular Americans are losing their jobs and homes at the highest rate since the 1930s. The real unemployment rate (in 2012) is almost twenty percent, far higher than the official number of nine percent, which intentionally factors out workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and those working temporary or part time jobs. The so-called “jobless recovery” means that speculators like Lloyd Blankfein can get richer even during a recession. As one private trader, Alessio Rastani, candidly told the BBC in Fall of 2011, “Most traders don’t really care about fixing the economy. If you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this [recession].” He continued with another dose of frank cynicism, “This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. Governments don’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world.”

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Filed under #OccupyGoldmanSachs, Direct Action, Michael, Solidarity

Neil Smith, NYC Occupy History and the Political Geography of Revolt

I’ve wanted to mark the recent sudden and tragic death of radical geographer Neil Smith, but wasn’t sure quite how. Just now, as I was re-reading his book “The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City” I realized that I could do this in two ways. First by sharing some passages from the first chapter, which contains an account of the eviction of the Tompkins Square Park occupation in 1988 (and again in 1991) echoing the eviction from Liberty Plaza of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, and second by sharing a link to the entire book in PDF form, which is available free online from the National Technical University (NTUA) in Athens.

Neil Smith’s account of the occupation and eviction, as well as his analysis of urban class struggle are vital texts for occupiers to understand the history of resistance in the city. For those who haven’t read them, or aren’t familiar with the occupation of Tompkins Square, they will be eye-opening:

On the evening of August 6, 1988, a riot erupted along the edges of  Tompkins Square Park, a small green in New York City’s Lower East Side. It raged through the night with police on one side and a diverse mix of anti-gentrification protesters, punks, housing activists, park inhabitants, artists, Saturday night revelers and Lower East Side residents on the other. The battle followed the city’s attempt to enforce a 1:00 A.M. curfew in the Park on the pretext of clearing out the growing numbers of homeless people living or sleeping there, kids playing boom boxes late into the night, buyers and sellers of drugs using it for business. But many local residents and park users saw the action differently. The City was seeking to tame and domesticate the park to facilitate the already rampant gentrification on the Lower East Side . . .”Whose fucking park? It’s our fucking park,” became the recurrent slogan . . .

. . . In fact it was a police riot that ignited the park on August 6, 1988. Clad in space-alien riot gear and concealing their badge numbers, the police forcibly evicted everyone from the park before midnight, then mounted repeated baton charges and “Cossacklike” rampages against demonstrators and locals along the park’s edge:

‘The cops seemed bizarrely out of control, levitating with some hatred I didn’t understand. They’d taken a relatively small protest and fanned it out over the neighborhood, inflaming hundreds of people who’d never gone near the park to begin with. They’d called in a chopper. And they would eventually call 450 officers… The policemen were radiating hysteria . . .’ (Carr 1988:10)

. . .In the days following the riot, the protesters quickly adopted a much more ambitious political geography of revolt. Their slogan became “Tompkins Square everywhere” as they taunted the police and celebrated their liberation of the park. Mayor Edward Koch, meanwhile, took to describing Tompkins Square Park as a “cesspool” and blamed the riot on “anarchists.” Defending his police clients, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association enthusiastically elaborated: “social parasites, druggies, skinheads and communists” –an “insipid conglomeration of human misfits” –were the cause of the riot, he said. . .

Smith, N. 1996. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. Routledge.

First photo from Ángel Franco of The New York Times. Additional images are from Q. Sakamaki‘s book Tompkins Square Park.

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Filed under 11/15 Eviction, Announcements, Michael, Privatization, Public/Private Parks, Reference, Scholarship

Grand Jury Resistance, Banned Books, and You

Listen up, kids, this is important!  Today we’re going to talk about grand juries.  With a side of intellectual freedom.

Look, we’ve got three people — Matt Duran, Kteeo (Katherine Olejnik), and Leah-Lynn Plante — locked up for contempt out in Seattle, WA.  They’ve all refused to testify before a grand jury.

Grand juries are one of the government’s shittiest tools for squishing dissent.  They were originally intended as a way for individual citizens to bring a matter before their peers to make the government do something about it.  Today, though, they are a way for the government to intimidate and punish people who make noise, without those people having any recourse.  Folks get hauled into court, without having been accused of anything, and are asked a bunch of questions.  They are not allowed to have an attorney with them, and the room is closed and what goes on is kept secret.  They must answer the questions — the 5th Amendment, which otherwise protects us from having to testify against ourselves, does not apply.  If they refuse to testify — a choice that is usually a good idea in cases of political repression — they may be jailed for up to six months for contempt, in order to coerce testimony.  If after six months a person has not spoken, they can be sent back for another six months, et cetera, et cetera, until someone gives up.  Remember, these folks have not even been accused, let alone convicted, of a crime in the first place.  The point of a grand jury is for the government to figure out if there’s anything floating around that they can prosecute someone for.

Back on July 25, if you’ll recall, Plante and Duran were a couple of the folks in Oregon and Washington states who woke up to the early morning sounds of their doors being smashed in by federal officers.  Their residences were searched by feds looking for, among other things, black clothes and anarchist literature.  Yesterday, before Plante went back before the grand jury and again refused to testify, she wrote:

On the morning of July 25th, 2012, my life was turned upside down in a matter of hours. FBI agents from around Washington and Oregon and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents from Washington busted down the front door of my house with a battering ram, handcuffed my house mates and me at gunpoint, and held us hostage in our backyard while they read us a search warrant and ransacked our home. They said it was in connection to May Day vandalism that occurred in Seattle, Washington earlier this year.

However, we suspected that this was not really about broken windows. As if they had taken pointers from Orwell’s 1984, they took books, artwork and other various literature as “evidence” as well as many other personal belongings even though they seemed to know that nobody there was even in Seattle on May Day. While we know that knowledge is powerful, we suspected that nobody used rolled up copies of the Stumptown Wobbly to commit property damage. We saw this for what it was. They are trying to investigate anarchists and persecute them for their beliefs. This is a fishing expedition. This is a witch hunt. Since then, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, we have learned that this Grand jury was convened on March 2nd, 2012, two months before the May Day vandalism even took place…

As predicted, she was locked up after yesterday’s grand jury session.  Matt has been imprisoned since September 13, including time in solitary confinement, and Kteeo since September 28.  So, shit’s scary.  But, we’re all in this together, and the best way to handle this is for us all to create and maintain a loving community and to take care of each other.  Which is what grand jury resisters are doing, by they way — they are taking a hit for the rest of us.  We should all be supporting these three, in word and deed, as much as we can, since they’re going so hard to protect our asses.  Here’s some stuff you can do for Matt and Kteeo, and I’m sure there’ll be a similar round up for Leah shortly.

So, this is the Library blog, right?  Let’s bring it back home.  See up there where Leah writes about her house being searched?  What did the feds take?  Books, art.  As many folks around the internet have noted, if the FBI came gunning into any of our houses they’d find black clothing and subversive literature.

Yo, feds, Senator McCarthy called, he wants his game plan back.

Aside from the 5th Amendment mentioned above, we are also supposed to be guaranteed rights of speech and press under the 1st Amendment, and the rights to free speech and assembly include freedom of association, as clarified by Supreme Court rulings.  Now, I know some of us don’t truck with the idea of rights (Utah says, “The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”), but it’s what we’ve got to work with right now.

And yet we have doors being busted down over books, and the printed word being taken away as evidence of…  …something.  That our three grand jury resisters hold certain political opinions, and know others with similar opinions, is enough to have gotten them into this spot in the first place.  Librarians, our professional association has a lot to say about the 1st Amendment.

We’ve just come off of Banned Books Week.  I hope you read something subversive!  I always hope that, actually.  I also hope that I don’t need to be too heavy-handed in drawing the lines between the FBI searching someone’s house for radical literature and the stuff we usually talk about when we talk about banned books.  It is a matter of degree, rather than kind.

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Filed under #OccupyPortland, #OccupySeattle, Free Speech, Jaime, Solidarity