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General News    H1'ed 9/25/09

National Lawyers Guild: Cops Run Wild in Pittsburgh

By Press Release  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)     (# of views)   4 comments
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For Immediate Release-September 25, 2009

Contact: Paige Cram, Communications Coordinator, communications@, 609-668-0645
Pittsburgh--National Lawyers Guild members witnessed first-hand yesterday the unwarranted display and use of force by police in residential neighborhoods, often far from any protest activity.
Police deployed chemical irritants, including CS gas, and long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) in residential neighborhoods on narrow streets where families and small children were exposed. Scores of riot police formed barricades at many intersections throughout neighborhoods miles away from the downtown area and the David Lawrence Convention Center. Outside the Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside, police deployed smoke bombs in the absence of protest activity, forcing bystanders and hotel residents to flee the area.
Later, while some protests were ending, riot-clad officers surrounded an area at the University of Pittsburgh, creating an ominous spectacle that some described as akin to Kent State. Guild legal observers witnessed police chasing and arresting many uninvolved students.
Among other questionable tactics, officers from dozens of law enforcement agencies lacked easily-identifiable badges, impeding citizens' ability to register complaints.
Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, said: "Accountability and chain of command is virtually impossible to establish given the lack of visible individual identifying badges on officers. The small, paper armband badges that law enforcement are wearing are difficult to read, and many wore black chest coverings with absolutely no identifying information. We've seen many law enforcement personnel, including Pittsburgh Police Department officers, deliberately covering up the arm IDs by rolling their shirt sleeves up over them."
The National Lawyers Guild is a progressive bar association, founded in 1937, with chapters in every state. Its national mass defense program includes education about laws and practices that affect individuals engaging in dissent, criminal defense of protesters and civil litigation to curb unconstitutional police practices, and its legal observing program. Resources detailing police tactics are available on the Guild's website,, including Punishing Protest and The Assault on Free Speech, Public Assembly, and Dissent.
You can log onto and listen to the live police and EMS scanners as they confront the marchers.
In Pittsburgh yesterday, "By midnight, hundreds of police in riot gear moved down Forbes Avenue. With no obvious protesters in sight, they sprayed pepper gas on passersby and even students looking down from the balconies of their residences above the avenue.

"'We were just looking, then there were loud sirens and then it was hard to breathe and I was coughing up a lung,' said student Dustin DeMeglio, 19, who was watching as police moved by his apartment building."

The above is from British news this morning.

"Justin Hershkovitz, 26, a student from Michigan, complained about the police tactics as he ran from the officers. 'This kind of force has been used as an option of first resort by cops (at summits) in Italy, London and now Pittsburgh,' he said."

"'We're here to put pressure on the G20 to ultimately abolish global capitalism,' said a 24-year-old man from Delaware, who declined to give his name." The young man should know that you will be tear gassed, beaten and arrested in the Land of the Free for this kind of talk, which is not allowed by the ruling banksters.

NPR sees nothing wrong with the treatment of protesters in Pittsburgh, concentrating this morning on protests in Iran. Steve Inskeep interviewed Iranian President Ahmadinejad this morning, rudely raking him over the coals for his treatment of protesters in Iran, pointing out that people have died in Iranian prisons.

Ahmadinejad replied that people die every day in American prisons, but of course, this does not make the corporate media news, although human rights abuses in American prisons are condemned by international human rights groups.

French news reports onyesterday's G20 demonstration,"About half-an-hour into the march, the police began broadcasting a pre-recorded announcement in English and Spanish, declaring the protest was an 'unlawful assembly' and ordering the crowd to disperse." What is lawful, in fact the highest law of the land, is defined in the First Amendment, and says nothing about police having the right to demand a permit as justification to harass those peaceably assembling.

"'They pushed us into a side street in a residential area and then shot tear gas at us. They shot like three canisters,' demonstrator Ross McCoy told AFP."

"The main message the mass march wanted to convey to the world leaders at the G20 was that human rights and dignity were more important than capitalism and profit margins, several of the demonstrators told AFP," but of course, such a message is not allowed.

"'The people who developed the system that's falling apart and trying to fix it? That's just crazy,' said Sondra Perry, an art student from New York state.

"'Our message here is about climate change, poverty, capitalism: they're all very intertwined and it's time that we all understand that if we are going to do anything, we have to work together,' she said."

"Paul Erb, a student from Ohio, said he had come to Pittsburgh to protest against a system that puts monetary profit before all else.

"'I'm here because the current global economic system, which they are meeting about, values profit over people,' Erb told AFP.

"'Profit, power and control have become more important than human lives. But that's not what we were raised to think is right. That's not where we come from,' the 24-year-old said."
It has been widely reported in the corporate mediathat some of the youthful demonstrators employed violence in isolated incidents, themselves, without mentioning that there may have been provocation.

The Mystique of 'Free-Market Guy' Obama
by Jeff Cohen
No matter what the facts are, some liberal activists and leaders persist in seeing President Obama as a principled progressive reformer who lives and breathes the campaign rhetoric about "change you can believe in."

When he compromises, it's not Obama's fault - it's the opposition. Retreat is never a sell-out but a shrewd tactic, part of some secret long-range strategy for triumphant reform.
He's been in the White House eight months. It's time for activists take a harder look at Obama. And a more assertive posture toward him.

Because if Obama believes it's okay to pass healthcare "reform" that subsidizes insurance firms without a robust public option and he dispatches still more troops to Afghanistan, it could demobilize progressive activists while emboldening the Teabag & Beck crowd to bring the GOP back from the dead in low-turnout congressional elections next year. That would be a rerun of the 1994 rightwing triumph brought on by President Clinton's weakness (e.g. healthcare reform) and corporatism (e.g. the business-friendly NAFTA).
Some activists still see Obama as a brilliant political superhero who - although maddeningly slow to fight back against his opponents - always manages to win in the end . . . like Muhammad Ali defeating George Foreman.

But watching Obama last weekend on the news shows gave little reason for confidence. It's hard to win the public toward reform if you accept - as Obama often does - the rightwing terms of debate. The right frames healthcare as a debate over a dangerously over-intrusive government taking away individual freedom. The left says it's about greedy insurance and drug companies - with CEOs getting paid $10 million or $20 million per year - putting profits above public good.

Last weekend, when he was repeatedly asked to comment on Jimmy Carter's view about anti-Obama animosity being racially motivated, Obama kept wielding the rightwing frame about big "intrusive" government. On ABC, Obama talked about people being "more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right. I think that that's probably the biggest driver of some of the vitriol."

On NBC, Obama said: "This debate that's taking place is not about race, it's about people being worried about how our government should operate." He asked: "What's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look out for one another?"

The president has a huge bully pulpit, which he's largely squandered. I've heard him discuss healthcare close to ten times in recent weeks without once hearing him rally the public against the corporate greed that leaves our country No. 1 in healthcare spending and 37th in health outcomes, on par with Serbia. Without a populist challenge to corporate profiteering, what's left is either a bloodless debate about "cost containment" or a rightwing debate about "big government." Neither mobilizes the public toward progressive change.

Recent U.S. history shows that you can't serve corporate interests at the same time you're seeking reform - of healthcare or Wall Street or any other sector. Not when big corporations are the problem . . . and the major obstacles to change.

Placating big business en route to social reform is like downing a flask of whiskey en route to kicking alcoholism.
Yet there was the Obama White House this summer entering into secret deals with the pharmaceutical lobby protecting that industry's outsized profits.

If Obama is radical about anything, it's about NOT rocking corporate boats.

That's why he received more Wall Street funding than any candidate in history and why - before he was a front-runner in early 2007 - he was raising more money from the biggest Wall Street banks than even Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, presidential candidates from New York.

That's why - as soon as Hillary left the race - he went on CNBC and assured big business: "Look: I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market."

That's why he declared to the New York Times last March that his economic policies were absolutely not socialist, but rather "entirely consistent with free market principles."

That's why during his 2008 "I love the market" interview on CNBC, he shunned the "populist" label.
President Franklin Roosevelt showed in the 1930s that major reform is possible if a populist upsurge of ordinary people is mobilized to overcome the entrenched opposition of business interests - derided by FDR as the "economic royalists."

The problem today is that Obama doesn't seem to have a populist bone in his body. A smart guy, he should know that it's absurd - in an era when a shrinking number of ever-larger corporations dominate Congress and regulators as they deform markets in industries like banking and healthcare - to keep believing we have a "free market." Yet he waxes on about being a "free-market guy."

I guess he's smart enough NOT to call himself "a corporate guy."

Liberal activists need to be smart enough to see Obama for the status quo politician he is - and to act accordingly.
Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). His latest book is Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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