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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is the Right Trying to Use Dirty Tricks to Frame the Occupy Protests?

This interview from Monday, October 10th 2011 suggests that there is a move by the right to frame the protests, both in the sense of frame the debate over the issues raised by the protests, and also frame in the sense of setting someone up for legal action that is not a guilty party.  We have seen references to the right considering using provocateurs to discredit protests before, notably in the conversation between Governor Walker while he was being pranked by someone representing themself as one of the two Koch brothers.  There are right wing bloggers bragging about doing exactly that here.

If you doubt that the American Spectator has a right wing viewpoint, I excerpted this from their 'about' section, in reference to hiring interns, for which being conservative appears to be a prerequisite:
The American Spectator takes pride in its history of providing meaningful experience to young conservatives.

And here is the admission of the provacateur from the American Spectator, although subsequently the post was 'sanitized', as quoted on firedog lake.
Immediately after the incident began hitting the newswires Howley published a “Breaking News” story with The American Spectator online in which he reveals that he had consciously infiltrated the group on Friday with the intent to discredit the movement.  He states that “as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator — and I wasn’t giving up before I had my story.”
According to Howley’s story he joined the group in its march toward the Air and Space Museum but the protesters on the march were unwilling to be confrontational.  He states “they lack the nerve to confront authority. From estimates within the protest, only ten people were pepper-sprayed, and as far as I could tell I was the only one who got inside.”
As the original piece was altered to omit the admission of being a provocateur, and I cannot find any indication there was any objection put forward to this writer being a provocateur attempting to discredit the activities of the protesters by the American Specator, it would appear that they at least tacitly approve of that kind of conduct to mislead the public about the protests.

An interview by Keith Olbermann with David Swanson - transcript  :


David Swanson discusses Oct. 8 pepper-spray incident at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum



Keith and David Swanson, organizer of the October 2011 protests in Washington, D.C. and a campaigner for rootsaction.org, discuss the pepper-spray incident at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum on October 8, 2011.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, October 10th, 393 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The Occupy movement continuing to spread, with grudging tolerance for its protests from politicians in some cities, pushed back from police in others, and while one right-wing reporter — who came to mock a related protest — helped trigger a pepper spray incident at the Smithsonian. A Fox News dilettante finds there is no patience for his employer’s brand of poison at Zuccotti Park.
The fifth story tonight — growing pains for a growing movement, protests continuing in cities big and small around the country. In Washington, where the related group — October 2011 — says it will not leave Freedom Plaza even though its permit has expired.
And in New York City, where Mayor Mike Bloomberg finally found a march he fairly approved of, the Columbus Day parade. But giving the mayor his due, before stepping off, Mr. Bloomberg told reporters that where Occupy Wall Street was concerned, “People want to express themselves.  And as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to.”
In Washington, protesters are saying they are willing to risk arrests to keep their movement going. Again, many of the protesters, members of the October 2011 Stop The Machine group, which is separate from, but supports, Occupy Washington. Park police had given them a two o’clock deadline to fold their tents and leave.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: We are not leaving at two o’clock. We feel that this is our city square. There’s people all over the country who are taking over their city squares, and we’re going to stay in this one.
OLBERMANN: As yet, there are no reports of arrests nor disturbances from Freedom Plaza where organizers have been speaking with police, but violence did break out Saturday when security guards at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum fired pepper spray at October 2011 marchers protesting drone attacks, American militarism and the Afghan war. And among those sprayed was organizer David Swanson.
(Excerpt from video clip) SWANSON: I’m here at the Air & Space Museum. I just got pepper sprayed as we tried to go inside.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Swanson will be one of my guests in a few moments. All of this happened with the help of an assistant editor for the Conservative American Spectator named Patrick Howley. Mr. Howley claimed he came as a journalist. He, apparently, stayed as a provocateur, writing in an online column that was later sanitized on the Spectator site, that “As far as anyone knew, I was part of this cause, a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine.”
After pushing past a protester and security guard, Howley entered the museum. ”I was the only one who made it through the doors.” Mr. Howley claimed he wasn’t giving up before he had his story. He had a face full of pepper spray for his efforts. The only story he has is his own. Howley also mocked the protesters for not having what he called “courage to follow his lead and enter the museum.”
Another possible case of infiltration today at Wall Street, Gawker.com posting this video of a man who looks, surprisingly, like the notorious Republican frat boy James O’Keefe — evidently, one of the last ten Americans to still own a colored shirt with a white collar. And 1991 would like it back.
These protesters in Des Moines didn’t need a provocateur to risk arrest and make their point. Thirty-two of them were hauled off by police when they refused to leave the park area in front of the state capitol, in solidarity with Occupation Wall Street. The protests have also spread to Toledo, Ohio, to Charlotte, North Carolina — where weekend protests stretched into today. And back in New York, Zuccotti Park, where protesters focused their anger on the media arm of the right-wing machine.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies!
OLBERMANN: Geraldo Rivera, a long way away from his New York street cred, beat a hasty retreat. Perhaps he did not think the protesters knew what Fox News has been saying about them. Lies might be the least of it. You might try slander. David Swanson, organizer of the October 2011 protests in Washington and a campaigner for rootsaction.org joins me now, as promised, from Washington. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
DAVID SWANSON: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: What’s the latest with the protests at Freedom Plaza? Is everybody still there? Do we know what the status is?
SWANSON: The permit expired at 2:00 P.M. today, in terms of having to have everything out. And the police came by and we asked them to speak with us publicly and they refused. So, we sent a delegation to meet with them privately and we’re waiting to hear what they have to say. But our — our determination is to remain and not to voluntarily leave. We think we have a right to be there.
OLBERMANN: The pepper spray incident. Obviously, you were there. Talk us through it from what you saw.
SWANSON: Many people got inside doors. You’ll see photographs of that gentleman and others inside doors. And the man in front of him in the photos — in the black T-shirt — is also a provocateur. The two of them were there to cause trouble. The rest of us were there to deliver a message and to leave. We didn’t want to shut the place down. Instead, we were greeted with pepper spray in the face. I didn’t even get it directly. I got it 10 feet away and it’s horrible, horrible stuff.
And, you know, the Air & Space Museum was not our primary target. We were waiting for Congress to get back Tuesday morning, and they will be hearing from us. But this is a museum that’s marketing weaponry, that’s pushing drones and missiles and bombs. And we don’t have any museums promoting health care or housing or retirement security, you know. We wanted people to look at the museum a little bit differently. We didn’t want them to be shut out. And I think the guards overreacted dramatically to a message that — as we marched through the streets to the museum — people were leaving the sidewalks to join us.

OLBERMANN: 
So, the actual confrontation there, do you think that was — I mean, the man is boasting, the fellow from The American Spectator, and the other one that you mentioned — he doesn’t talk about it, but – - he would be involved in it, too. But this fellow, Patrick Howley, is basically saying “I sort of escalated this into what it was.” Is that your assessment — that without him, we wouldn’t have seen pepper spray?
SWANSON: Well, we already had some people inside dropping a banner and displaying messages. The guards were already on high alert and they were prepared to overreact dramatically, I think. But, no doubt, those two gentlemen contributed significantly to what happened.
OLBERMANN: Is it — if you’re looking from outside at your own movement, isn’t it kind of foolish for people who would be opposed to your movement to not necessarily to try to be provocateurs because — obviously — they were to some degree successful at that, but then to come out and boast that they were provocateurs? It kind of blows the provocateurism? Doesn’t it?
SWANSON: You would think so. Yes, they are advertising that our movement, in fact, was more disciplined and more non-violent and more principled than it appeared because they were the problem. They’re advertising that. They may be asking for lawsuits as well.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you about the Occupy movement. Are you surprised by this sort of — tidal wave is an exaggeration, of course, and an unfortunate connotation anyway — but it certainly has taken root in a relatively short time and after a relatively inauspicious beginning in terms of public reaction to it. What’s your thoughts on it?
SWANSON: Well, some of us have been trying to make this happen for many years and are more encouraged in this moment than we’ve been for a decade. And a lot of it has to do with the economic insecurity being so widespread and the growing awareness that difficulties in one’s home are not personal failings, but problems that everyone’s neighbors are dealing with as well.
And so, there’s this growing awareness that we are 99 percent. And you’re us. And you should join us. And it’s a message being welcomed by everyone. Cabbies are dropping people off and not charging them at Freedom Plaza — if they’re protesters. You know, we haven’t seen that before. And that’s what seems, to me, to have the potential to snowball. There’s no guarantees. But it’s — you know, it’s not that the wars have gotten worse or the policies have gotten worse, it’s that the economy is hitting people.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. David Swanson, organizer of the 2000 — October 2011 protest in Washington, campaigner for rootsaction.org. Great, thanks.
SWANSON: Thank you.

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