Stephen Lendman, Contributor
Grassroots activism takes time to grow. Broad-based participation is vital. Issues must be clearly defined. Leadership is needed. Major obstacles must be overcome.
Avoiding being co-opted, diverted, divided, and/or subverted are key. So is staying the course because major struggles aren’t won short-term. Achieving social justice is the mother of them all, especially in today’s environment.
What began last September waned during winter cold. Perhaps May Day protests began Act II. Only the fullness of time will tell.
Thousands rallied in cities across America. Public anger drew them. Demonstrations and marches were held. Issue one is social justice. Getting it is another story.
Trillions of dollars will be cut over the next decade. Despair promises to replace hope and change. The fading American dream is on life support. Reversing it indeed is the mother of all struggles. It’s tougher with Homeland Security allied with local cops to monitor and crack down.
Last fall, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, and other federal security agencies began coordinating with city officials and police to subvert and disrupt Occupy Wall Street encampments.
Tactics include violent confrontations, infiltrating local groups, and close monitoring. In 2003, a federal judge expanded New York police surveillance powers. Citing “fundamental changes in the threats to public security,” he relaxed a longstanding court order restricting police monitoring of political groups.
A 1985 Handschu agreement consent decree imposed restrictions. It involved a political advocacy group’s 1971 lawsuit against NYPD’s Red Squad.
FBI COINTELPRO tactics still harass disruptively. Targeted groups are monitored, infiltrated, sabotaged, and destroyed. At issue is subverting social, economic and political equality advocacy.
Secret/illegal tactics are used. Earlier targeted groups included communists, political dissidents, anti-war, human and civil rights activists, the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and other organizations.
In their book Agents of Repression, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall wrote:
COINTELPRO “came to signify the whole context of clandestine (typically illegal) political repression activities (including) a massive surveillance (program via) wiretaps, surreptitious entries and burglaries, electronic devices, live ‘tails’ and….bogus mail.
At issue was inducing paranoia to foster splits within or between organizations.
Other tactics included:
‘black propaganda’ through leaflets or other publications; they were ‘designed to discredit organizations and foster internal tensions;’
‘disinformation or ‘gray propaganda’ for the same purpose;
‘bad-jacketing’ to ‘creat(e) suspicion – through the spread of rumors, manufacture of evidence, etc. – that bona fide organizational members, (usually leaders were) FBI/police informants;’ the idea was to turn some members against others violently;
‘assassinations (of) selected political leaders;’ on December 4, 1969, Chicago police murdered Fred Hampton and Mark Clark while they slept; and
‘harassment arrests (on bogus) charges.’
Groups and individuals were targeted for political advocacy, not crimes. It’s similar today. Advanced surveillance technology makes it easier. So do repressive laws like the USA Patriot Act and FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all.
Social justice advocates are especially vulnerable. No holds barred tactics target them. Federal and local authorities coordinate activities.
On March 11, The New York Times headlined “Wall Street Protesters Complain of Police Surveillance,” saying:
NYPD “surveillance efforts have recently gained attention and criticism with reports that officers compiled detailed data on Muslim communities. Now, some Occupy protesters worry that they are being subjected to similar scrutiny.
For months, OWS organizers said police targeted private meetings, questioned protesters, and visited them at home. According to New York ACLU executive director Donna Lieberman:
The NYPD surveillance does not appear to be limited to unlawful activity. We count on the police, of course, to be on the lookout for terrorists and terrorism, but to think you could be on that continuum just by going to a peaceful protest is nuts.
Undercover cops are involved. FBI agents join them. Activists know they’re closely monitored. One said “(t)hey know who we are, where we live, and where we are organizing.”
It’s also happening in other US cities. Washington’s very much involved. If spring and summer protests grow, America’s homeland could become a battleground. It’s happened before.
On May 2, The New York Times headlined, “Police Warrant Squads Were Used to Monitor Wall Street Protesters, Suspects Say.”
People with old warrants for minor violations are targeted. Those questioned said cops had other motives. One was asked about his May Day plans. Another said police examined political fliers in his apartment. They arrested him on an outdated 2007 warrant for an open container of alcohol violation.
Questions are now raised on how far authorities will go. Police had no comment. Power yields nothing. Gerald Celente calls cops enforcers for crime bosses. That’s why they’re hired in the first place. They serve and protect elites. Ordinary people are sacrificed for their interests.
Last October, an internal DHS report revealed its involvement with local authorities. Titled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street,” it said “mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas.”
Protests throughout the country are peaceful. Nonetheless, DHS said “large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement.”
Social web sites are monitored for information on planned activities, when, and who’s involved. DHS said “(s)ocial media and the organic emergence of online communities have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement.”
The report ended, saying:
The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence.
While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI).
The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests.
Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged.
OWS growth and survival depends on confronting hardball government tactics effectively. It’s also about disassociating from political Washington. Democrats are as venal as Republicans.
Obama’s DHS and FBI target local groups. Bipartisan complicity supports it. So do labor bosses and other alleged allies.
Local activists are on their own. Clearly defined goals are needed. Some are articulated, many aren’t, and key ones aren’t mentioned.
Most important is understanding that money power in private hands is public enemy number one. Returning it to public hands is crucial. Achieving other goals depends on it.
Privatized money control and democracy can’t co-exist. Wall Street crooks transformed America into an unprecedented money making racket. Ordinary Americans lost savings, jobs, homes and futures to let privileged elites get richer and more powerful.
Washington is Wall Street occupied territory. Profits are privatized. Losses are socialized. American households are on their own sink or swim. Class war rages. Billionaire Warren Buffet said his side’s winning.
Social justice is on the chopping block for elimination. The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. Complicit with business, they’ve wrecked the economy and working households for profit. America’s resources are earmarked for militarism, imperial wars, banks and other corporate favorites.
Institutionalized inequality is policy. People needs no longer matter. Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRF) recommended deep social spending cuts.
Post-election, they’re coming. At the same time, expect more corporate tax cuts. OWS protesters must rally around Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, universal healthcare, creating jobs, ending imperial wars and corporate bailouts, directing America’s resources to public needs, making rich elites pay their fair share, and other specific social justice issues.
Workers and those wanting jobs must get involved. Raising the right issues will draw them. Enlisting others to join them is crucial. Strategy entails challenging authority.
Disruptive social initiatives worked before and can again. Ordinary people have power when they mobilize for justice, defy the rules, challenge established institutions, and force political debate on new issues.
Elections don’t work. America’s a one-party state with two wings. Corrupted media bosses support it. Democracy and social justice are sacrificed for profits. Only fighting the beast and slaying it works. Otherwise the worst of all possible worlds awaits.
OWS activism has possibilities. It’s the first social justice initiative since the 1960s. It’s long overdue. Jefferson once said:
A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.
Lyrics from a WW II era song said “We did it before and we can do it again.” Indeed so, war triumphalism aside. The battle to end slavery succeeded. Labor and civil rights were gained. Presidents once favored Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other popular measures.
Before his death, Franklin Roosevelt proposed an economic bill of rights. He felt constitutional ones weren’t enough. He wanted legislation guaranteeing employment with a living wage, housing, medical care, education, social security, and freedom from unfair competition and monopolies.
Presidents today don’t talk that way. Roosevelt wanted more for ordinary people. Obama wants social justice destroyed. Austerity, not vitally needed help, is policy.
Sustained popular resistance for change works. Organized people can beat organized money. Succeeding depends on doing what it takes for as long as it takes.
The Washington/corporate America nexus is venal. Job one is slaying the beast. Yip Harburg’s lyrics from “Over the Rainbow” said somewhere “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
It takes sustained sacrifice. There’s no other way. Quitting’s not an option! There can’t be, no matter the odds.
Friend and ally Ilya Sandra Perlingieri began her new article with the following quote. It bears repeating and sharing:
A tree as great as man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.” ~ Lao Tsu. Tao Te Ching, #64.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His new book is titled How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.