Demanding "Democracy" Abroad, While Crushing U.S. Protests

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

America often boasts about its “democratic” concepts such as the First Amendment, which upholds “the right of the people peaceably to assemble" and "to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

But as the world watches the pugilism being perpetrated, by police, against peaceful protestors the question is: why aren’t the First Amendment Right of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators being respected?

For the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed widespread raids on Occupy encampments across America—and violations of demonstrators’ constitutional rights are being done uniformly. Protestors have been beaten, brutalized and pepper-sprayed with regularity in places like: Oakland, Los Angeles and New York.

On Monday, approximately 18 people were arrested during a protest at the Winter Garden in Lower Manhattan. The action was called in solidarity with Occupy demonstrations targeting commercial shipping ports along the West Coast—from San Diego to Anchorage Alaska.

Actions were organized in places like Oakland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, where protesters successfully shut down two shipping terminals. Work was also seriously impacted in Oakland and Longview, Washington, with other disruptions occurring in Seattle and Long Beach, California.

The port protests were aligned with a labor dispute pitting port truckers against a company called SSA. SSA is an anti-union terminal operator connected to Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is the majority shareholder in SSA. Goldman Sachs has shipping companies throughout America, with an extensive concentration in California.

Occupy Wall Street staged a protest outside the offices of Goldman Sachs in New York. Organizers used imagery of Goldman Sachs as a giant vampire squid inspired by a 2010 Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone magazine. In the piece, Taibbi referred to Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Recently, U.N. Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue told the Huffington Post the violent crackdowns against Occupy protestors in America appear to violate their constitutional—and human—rights. Mr. La Rue said he would be drafting "an official communication" to the American government "to ask what exactly is the position of the federal government in regards to understanding the human rights and constitutional rights vis-a-vis the use of local police and local authorities to disband peaceful demonstrations." The communique would have no legal weight but could be, potentially, damaging to the international prestige of the United States.

A Special Rapporteur is an independent specialist appointed by the Human Rights Council to study and assess specific human rights violations worldwide. Special Rapporteurs are a function of the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures. Mr. La Rue, a Guatemalan, was appointed to the post in August 2008.

"I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order," La Rue said. "But on the other hand I also believe that the state -- in this case the federal state -- has an obligation to protect and promote human rights. If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights."

La Rue insisted protesters had the right to occupy public places "as long as that doesn't severely affect the rights of others." He decried the improper use of force by police. “The use of police force is legitimate to maintain public order—but there has to be a danger of real harm, a clear and present danger. And second, there has to be a proportionality of the force employed to prevent a real danger.” Mr. La Rue also declared “Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there's no need to use public force to silence that dissension."

In a “democracy,” supposedly, “by the people and for the people” it should be obvious citizens have such rights cemented into their constitutions. Yet, the brutal response being inflicted upon non-violent demonstrators across the country begs the question: are the First Amendment rights of Americans being stripped?

American politicians often lecture others nations about abiding by democratic principles. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked Vladimir Putin for the response to those protesting Russia’s recent election results, which some insinuate represent electoral fraud. A similar thing happened, in 2009, when Washington scolded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the alleged mistreatment of demonstrators in the aftermath of that year’s disputed election.

Isn’t Mrs. Clinton concerned about Americans who’re being bullied because they have chosen to utilize their First Amendment Right to protest peacefully?

The world is witnessing un-democratic tactics being used by police on protestors. We’ve seen them beat and stomp law-abiding people to a bloody pulp. And we’ve even seen them attack and injure innocent demonstrators including veterans like Scott Olsen—who had to be hospitalized, and was in a coma, after an attack by Oakland officers. We’ve seen police pepper-spray women, including 84 year-old Dorli Rainey in Seattle. And what about the now infamous incident at California’s UC-Davis Campus, where students engaged in a sit-in were sprayed like bugs?

Why isn’t the Beltway leadership denouncing this impudent, incendiary behavior by thugs in police uniforms? Is it because they approve, and endorse, these hardline actions—given their failures to provide for the people they’re supposed to govern?

In a BBC interview, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s comments hinted that a coordinated effort was being conducted by law enforcement entities at the highest levels of government. The establishment media, true to form, is again failing to accurately report the true scope of this historical mass movement now morphing before us. Meanwhile, they’re now stories of cops targeting independent journalists for arrest, in an apparent attempt to stifle media coverage.

Why’re our leaders trying to silence the fermenting frustrations of everyday folks? Is Capitol Hill committed to serving “we the people,” or are they exclusively servants of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street? In a time where the concept of corporate personhood is being championed, don’t the rights of flesh and blood people matter anymore to anyone in Washington?

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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