The Weight of Thought

In July, I reported on a violent “thought crime” raid in Seattle, Washington, at the home of Occupy-affiliated activists. As I wrote then, “Most of America was not awake when a SWAT team burst in the front doors of an apartment in Seattle on the morning of July 10, 2012. Four local activists struggled to dress; but, they say, after the agents stormed in, they grabbed them physically. The activists reported that these agents tied their hands at the wrists, while holding automatic rifles poised against them.”

Vandalism had occurred in a protest in May; but the sight of several black-clad individuals engaging in vandalism against property hardly justified, many would say, the severe repression that followed.

Many scoffed at that time at the notion of a “thought crime” arrest in the US and insisted that the victims of the militarised SWAT team must have done something to deserve the response. But the early reports turn out to beno exaggeration. Those peaceful activists, including 24-year-old Leah-Lynn Plante, are now being held in Federal prison for refusing to testify about other protesters to a Federal Grand Jury.

The warrants issued for the original raid specifically targeted these activists for the colours they chose to wear - the original raid identified their black sweatshirts as one of the reasons for them to be subjected to arrest.

The raid also targeted the literature which they chose to read in their homes (anarchist literature). Their home and lives were invaded, in violation of First and Fourth Amendment protections; and they are now being judged by a government which has recently defined even peaceful anarchists, in a newly released FBI presentation, as "Criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities".

Unconstitutional weapon

After the raids, the activists received subpoenas to face a Federal Grand Jury. Because one cannot retain the right to remain silent - that is, the right not to be forced to incriminate others - a  Grand Jury proceeding can be used as one of the most draconian and unconstitutional weapons in the Department of Justice’s arsenal against peaceful activists. 

In other words, if you choose to remain silent in a Grand Jury, you may face 18 months in jail. As Natasha Lennard, a long-time Occupy reporter, notes in her excellent continuing coverage of the case:

"The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resisters, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-co-operators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury."

A New York University professor, a group of veterans and an artist featured in The Nation magazine this month were among more than 100 people arrested Monday as Occupy Wall Street marked its first anniversary with various demonstrations in New York City.

“Just grabbed off sidewalk, along with everyone else,” artist Molly Crabapple said on Twitter shortly after being picked up by police. She continued tweeting from the back of a police van — “Everyone in this police van is wicked smart and funny except for the driver,” she said at one point — before other activists said her phone was shut off.

Crabapple had recently contributed illustrations as part of the magazine’s Sept. 24 coverage of the movement’s first anniversary and possible future.

Gideon Oliver, president of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild said more than 70 arrests had been reported by 10 a.m. EST.

Elsewhere, Jacobin magazine founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara reported that NYU Social and Cultural Analysis professor Andrew Ross, was arrested as part of a demonstration in the lobby of the JP Morgan Chase building on Park Avenue.

“Cops are never friendly, but these cops aren’t cops,” Sunkara said. “They’re militarized beyond comprehension.”

The Associated Press published video Monday morning of some protesters being arrested during a march near the New York Stock Exchange, which can be seen below.

Protestors Target Democratic National Convention

Journalists allege assault at hands of undercover police at DNC

As Occupy Wall Street prepares to mark its first anniversary, members of Occupy Austin have discovered that their arrests on felony charges after a protest last December are directly linked to equipment provided by a police detective who infiltrated their group. The activists locked arms inside tubes made of PVC pipe that the police had designed, constructed and dropped off for the protest. We’re joined from Austin by Ronnie Garza, one of the members of Occupy Austin facing felony charges stemming from the December protest, and from Houston by Greg Gladden, National Lawyers Guild member and past president of the Texas American Civil Liberties Union recently gained the response they wanted on their November 11, 2011 Freedom of Information Request. They found themselves handed pages upon pages of documentation from the White House on their responses to the Occupy movement, which began last year. The emails show that the Obama administration was against the crackdowns on the movement. With Romney being on record as being against the Occupy movement itself, these letters give insight into the mind of the administration in Washington.

The information found in the emails was focused on a handful of Occupy protests, such as the Occupy Portland protest which was particularly ugly with the potential for more releases in the future. In the mails you see the intelligence agencies focusing more on violence control and the efforts of the hacktivist group Anonymous. You also can find clear condemnation of the arrests performed by the Portland Police Department. An email from Robert Peck, Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service department of the US General Services Administration says, in part:

The arrests last week were carried out despite our request that protesters be allowed to remain and to camp overnight

As well as:

We are trying to be flexible, cognizant at the same time of first amendment rights to petition and our need to protect Federal property and access to Federal buildings

Other interesting pieces are that rather than attempt to shut down criticism against the administration, you will find emails discussing outreach, and a general wish to explain the administration’s position. This comes as a refreshing difference from previous administrations which attempted to quell dissenting voices. Of course those running for office today seem to want to return to violating the Constitution and to prevent the redress of grievances.

"The first criminal charges in connection with the BP oil spill have been filed against a former BP engineer named Kurt Mix," NPR’s Carrie Johnson reports exclusively.

Carrie just told our Newscast unit that Mix has been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting text messages after the spill. The texts were related to the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. Mix will make his first appearence in court today.

Carrie adds that there has been an expectation that criminal charges would be brought against individuals, but this is the first person charged since the spill happened two years ago.

These are preliminary charges and a law enforcement official says there are more charges to come, Carrie reports.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

Update at 12:59 p.m. ET. Operation Top Kill:

The Justice Department has now made the arrest and charges public, issuing a press release on its website. Essentially the Justice Department claims that Mix, who at the time was “a drilling and completions project engineer for BP,” deleted hundreds of text messages even after he was notified that he was legally obligated to preserve them.

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today said a split Supreme Court ruling that people arrested for even minor offenses can be subjected to a strip search puts the privacy rights of millions of Americans at risk.

“Today’s decision jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year and brought to jail, often for minor offenses,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU. “Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion. Jail security is important, but it does not require routinely strip searching everyone who is arrested for any reason, including traffic violations, and who may be in jail for only a few hours. ”

New York City has the dubious — and well-earned — reputation as the world’s marijuana arrest capital, with more than 50,000 people being arrested for pot possession there last year alone at an estimated cost of $75 million. It also has a mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who has famously said he smoked marijuana and enjoyed it, yet who presides over a police force that has run roughshod over the state’s marijuana decriminalization law in order to make those arrests, almost all of which are of members of the city’s black and brown minority communities.

The first of the more than 70 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested Saturday afternoon and evening were arraigned yesterday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Exhausted by a night and day in jail and shaken by the violence of the police response to Occupy Wall Street’s six-month anniversary celebration, many burst into tears of relief when they were finally released to the friendly welcome of the movement’s Jail Support team.

Unlike many of the other defendants with whom they shared cells, the protesters could feel confident that they would soon be released — Occupy posts bail for those arrested during movement actions.

But protesters and their legal advisers were surprised yesterday to learn that the size of their bail was being affected by whether defendants were willing to have the distinctive patterns of their irises photographed and logged into a database.

Interpol has arrested 25 suspected members of the ‘Anonymous’ hackers group in a swoop on over a dozen cities in Europe and Latin America, the global police body said Tuesday.

“Operation Unmask was launched in mid-February following a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain,” said the world police body based in the French city of Lyon.

The statement cited attacks on the websites of the Colombian Ministry of Defense and the presidency, as well as on Chile’s Endesa electricity company and its National Library, among others.

The operation was carried out by police from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain, the statement said, with 250 items of computer equipment and mobile phones seized in raids on 40 premises in 15 cities.

Police also seized credit cards and cash from the suspects, aged 17 to 40.

“This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity,” said Interpol’s acting director of police services.

However, it was not clear what evidence there was to prove those arrested were part of Anonymous, an extremely loose-knit international movement of online activists, or “hacktivists.”

Spanish police said earlier they had arrested four suspected hackers accused of sabotaging websites and publishing confidential data on the Internet.