Today presidential candidate Jill Stein of the Green Party released the following statement condemning recent police actions against the Occupy Wall Street movement:
“The aggressive, needless police actions across the country against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are an assault on civil liberties and an effort to suppress a much needed movement for economic justice and democracy. The courageous protesters who have stood up to intimidation by lethal force are standing up for us all.
The use of police in full riot gear with helicopters buzzing overhead to arrest peaceful and largely sleeping protesters is frightening commentary on the militarization of state and municipal security. Unprovoked police violence against citizens practicing peaceful civil disobedience – clearly documented on videos gone viral on the internet – is deeply alarming: young women being corralled and pepper sprayed on Wall Street, students at University of California Berkeley being attacked with nightsticks, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen who served two tours of duty supposedly defending freedom, yet whose own freedom was assaulted in a police attack at Occupy Oakland that fractured his skull and rendered him unable to speak.
In conducting these raids, public officials are suppressing rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Routinely, reporters were physically prevented from observing the raids. Many of those who managed to get in to the sites were reportedly intimidated or arrested. If access to public ways and public health and safety concerns were significant, other non-military solutions were available to deal with them. The lack of such efforts belies the excuse that these concerns justified police raids.
As the OWS protesters have said, the defenders of the 1% can evict the protesters, but they can’t evict an idea. The protest is here to stay. I call upon the mayors of the occupied cities to follow the example of Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, California, who welcomed the local occupation, and to allow the Occupy gatherings to continue.
Throughout American history public assemblies by the people have been essential to the advance of our civil liberties and to the defense of our freedoms.
Coxey’s Army in 1894 marched from Ohio to DC, demanding public jobs for the unemployed in the midst of a recession. In 1932, the Bonus Army of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families, in the third year of the Great Depression camped in DC demanding the immediate cash-payment redemption of their World War I bonuses that were scheduled to be paid in 1945. In 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign, a legacy of recently assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, set up a shantytown in DC known as “Resurrection City” in support of an Economic Bill of Rights, seeking full employment, a guaranteed annual income, and affordable low-income housing. In 1985-86, students erected and camped in anti-apartheid shantytowns on college campuses to protest investments in corporations in apartheid South Africa.
Some of the OWS protesters are homeless. Many more are young and jobless, often carrying unconscionable college-loan debt burdens. They are the tip of the iceberg of insecurity that is increasingly intolerable for growing numbers of the American public, with the upper 1 percent of Americans now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year and controlling 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Income disparity in the US now exceeds that before the Great Depression. Thus, the anguish that compels protesters to sleep on the cold hard ground is not going away.
The political parties of the 1% are showing signs of neither understanding the protest, nor acting to address the root economic causes. I challenge President Obama to forbid all Federal involvement in these disturbing violations of civil liberties, and to urge all elected officials to respect the right of citizens to peacefully assemble to petition their government for redress of the economic grievances caused by rule by the 1%.”
To find out more about, or to contribute to the Jill Stein for President campaign, please visit http://www.JillStein.org