The Eternal Flame has burned continuously since Jackie Kennedy lit it in Arlington Cemetery on November 25, 1963 during her husband’s state funeral. Today, fifty years to the day after it was lit, hundreds have come to take photos of the flame flickering in a cold breeze, while others stand silently watching flowers laid at its granite base.
At his inauguration, President Kennedy spoke of a “torch” passed to a “new generation”:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Fifty years after his assassination, this torch has been neglected, and the flame has nearly gone out.
Since JFK was killed, the Civil Rights movement has achieved important successes. But the present state of freedom and human rights in the U.S. is like a wound left unattended, and every day the hemorrhaging grows worse. Our government is systematically eviscerating our freedoms and those of people around the world. There are several signs of this: the police state, the huge numbers of citizens incarcerated, illegal NSA surveillance, and drone warfare. Continue reading →
Left: Still photo from a video of the May 15 protest at Children’s Place. Right: Photo from @snufftastic Twitter account. by Mike Elk / In These Times
Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
USAS and its lawyers have numerous pieces of evidence placing Rizzi at…
New York police officers detain and search hundreds of thousands of people every year under its stop-and-frisk law, a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment and a form of racial profiling. It’s the official policy of the NYPD to harrass, intimidate and bully citizens into submission, the vast majority of them minorities.
As the video above shows, some police officers have troubled consciences when their Captain tells them, “We’re gonna go out there and violate some rights!” and “We want 250’s [the Stop, Question and Frisk report form]!” And others, like the ones recorded by young Alvin, seem to relish the permission to unleash their sadistic urges.
Today the Associated Press reports that New York City Council will begin hearings on stop-and-frisk on October 10. Repeal seems unlikely, and it’s uncertain exactly what reforms will be considered.
Two police officers refused to provide names and badge numbers to protestors at the Occupy Our Homes action Monday at the Chase Bank offices on I Street. Fortunately for the protestors, they only had to cross 14th St. to reach the building where they could file a complaint.
The two police officers were wearing jackets clearly marked “MPD” (Metropolitan Police Deparment) but no badges. They refused to identify themselves when confronted. One was video-taping the protest.
Mike Isaacson filed the complaint along with three witnesses in consultation with Occupy DC counsel Jeff Light.
One of the witnesses, Ryan Lash, explained why he felt identifying the officers and reporting their refusal was important, “It’s an issue of personal safety,” he said, citing incidents of impersonation by police.
Jeff Light agreed. Without identifying information, he said, there’s no way to hold someone accountable. “Police officers often test what they can get away with,” he added.
Let’s be clear, when US Park Police entered McPherson Park before dawn today, they planned on evicting Occupy DC.
But that’s not what they told Occupiers, or reporters. “This is not an eviction,” said Sgt. David Schlosser of the Park Police. In a statement issued this evening, Occupy DC more accurately described it as a “slow-motion eviction.”
From the beginning, it was a containment strategy employed by Park Police intended to minimize violence and avoid the massive push-back that police have experienced while conducting Occupy evictions in other cities. In this respect, the Park Police was both clever and downright mendacious.
After Park Police officers arrived in overwhelming force, not surprisingly they first turned their attention to the large “Tent of Dreams” which has decorated the statue of General McPherson all week. Occupiers agreed to remove the tent themselves and allow police to conduct a “compliance inspection” of the park.
Throughout the day, this word was endlessly repeated: “compliance.” The camp was supposed to bring its tents into compliance with the Park Service’s regulations. The meaning of “in compliance” shifted with each passing hour as Park Police enacted a carefully planned charade.
At first, inspectors only removed “camping material” from tents, defining it as bedding such as sleeping bags. Belongings were bagged and marked with property slips. Then the standard altered. The definition of bedding was stretched to a yoga mat. Every tent considered to have some violation was deemed “not in compliance,” then taken down. Police declared that completely empty tents were in compliance, yet some empty tents were taken down amyway, such as the teepee on the south side of the park, which a forklift carried away.
Nonetheless, Occupiers scrambled to meet the shifting standards, taking pictures and video of tents being cleaned out to have evidence in hand to prove they were empty before police reached them. By this time, everything was being thrown wholesale into trash compactor trucks.
Acknowledgment of betrayal spread gradually, until it became obvious that Park Police exceeded their purported mission. Large swaths of the park were being cleared. Brian Eister was one Occupier who negotiated with police. As the morning progressed and police officers’ words contradicted their actions, he began to see through the charade. “They’re lying to our faces, and they know they’re lying.”
He got an impassive response. Sgt. Todd Reid repeatedly intoned, “I’m not in charge here, not by any stretch of the imagination.” The I’m-just-following-orders line was used all day like one of the metal barricades placed around the park to cordon off the crowd.
Later across a barricade, Brian shouted, “I defended the Park Service, and you fucking lied. You know you lied to me. I told them you would treat us right!” Soon afterwards he launched a kamikaze mission by breaching a barricade to purposefully get arrested. He reportedly shouted at Captain Phil Beck, the commanding officer, “You’re a liar, you’re a liar!”
When asked why the police would lie to a negotiator like Brian, Occupy DC’s lawyer Jeff Light said, “That’s what they do.”
Still, even in light of the whole day’s events, ultimately the eviction of Occupy DC was a surprise. In comparison to the restraint and planning applied earlier, the sudden outbreak of violence at 5pm seemed uncharacteristically out of control. The eviction became official as Park Police officers pushed everyone out of McPherson Square and read notices which said, “The park is closed.”
“This is not an eviction,’ they said in the early morning light.
I suggested before that Park Police used the lie-in-your-face strategy to minimize violence. They probably thought they were justified. In fact, briefly seeing the apparent sincerity in Captain Beck’s face, I must believe that they were thoroughly convinced in their mission to protect. Yet that very conviction belies the complete contempt with which they held the members of Occupy DC and their goals. Deception was the key strategy of the day, to make the Occupiers believe that they had some control over the situation when in fact they had no control, to lull them into compromise and peaceful submission–“compliance.”
Park Police held all the cards by virtue of sheer force. The answer to the question “Why do they lie?” shouldn’t be “That’s what they do.” Protestors are not murderers, terrorists or criminals. Police should not be liars. When First Amendment rights are bulldozed, in violation of recent court rulings, it stings with the betrayal we feel when authority can and does arbitrarily choose not to operate in good faith. It reveals the true impotence we citizens have in the face of power, when in a democracy we ought to hold the reins. Above all, we should not be required to be “in compliance.”
I spent several hours today at McPherson Park, the K St. encampment site of OccupyDC. They erected the skeleton of a building which they contend was built according to standards for a temporary structure. Capitol Park Police arrived Sunday morning to give notice that it had to be taken down. A day-long stand-off ensued.