Who coordinated the Occupy crackdown?

When the nationwide Occupy crackdown began in late 2011, this author found himself in California. Increasingly I was drawn to Occupy Oakland, where I had lived previously, and where a police raid on  the occupy encampment had nearly killed a protester, Marine Corps Iraq veteran Scott Olson, by shooting him in the face with a tear gas grenade at short range.

I found myself nearly every night in Oscar Grant Plaza, the space in front of Oakland City Hall where Occupy made its camp. The plaza had been renamed by protesters for Oscar Grant, a young African American man who was fatally shot in the back by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police while prone and  handcuffed in 2009. According to court testimony, Grant's last words were “I give up, I surrender.” and the last words he heard from the officer who summarily executed him were “Fuck This.” A jury without a single African American member in Los Angles found the officer guilty of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder after months of public outrage and lack of effective independent investigation. The jury believed that the officer had intended to merely publicly torture the young man with a taser rather than “slip” and end his life on a train platform. It was yet another twitch of American justice.

Nationally tension increased as nearly every Occupy encampment was militarily crushed with a brutal wave of arrests that saw more Americans jailed for protesting social injustice than Iranians jailed for protesting rigged elections. In California there seemed to be nowhere to run.

The hammer falling everywhere made me feel like a nail. As suburban police departments came to assist Oakland in the suppression of speech and the violation of human rights, state security forces crushed nearly every Occupy. As I looked around the Bay Area, it rained pepper spray, batons and rubber bullets in San Francisco, at UC Berkeley. I looked north and saw it happening in Portland and Seattle. I looked South and saw the iconic photos of a Campus Police officer spraying gallons of chemical agents on seated non-struggling students. I looked east and saw repression in New York, Chicago, Columbus and nearly every other city.  

I wasn't alone when I wondered how so many local police departments could coordinate their brutal suppression of human rights so closely. Bay Area progressive media professionals had the same questions. Our research put a name to the hand that had closed to a fist around the throat of America to  silence the people's voice. President Obama's department of Homeland Security denied involvement. A widely reported national conference call of mayors also was not where this national spasm of repression was conceived.  

The research, and various public statements, lead us to the Police Executive Research Forum (called PERF) a national, professional, non-profit organization of police chiefs which has a role in Homeland Security. In an interview with Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” PERF executive director Chuck Wexler confirmed that dozens and perhaps as many as 40 police department heads across the nation coordinated through PERF to violently smash the Occupy movement.

Past and present PERF board members, executives and luminaries reads like a who's who of Bull Connor's spiritual progeny. According to Shawn Gaynor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian Wexler's predecessor as PERF executive director was Charles Ramsey, who headed the violent police response to the IMF protests in Washington DC in 2000. Preceding Ramsey was Miami police chief John Timoney, who became world famous for his use of force and preemptive arrests during the 2003 suppression of protests against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. Miami hired Timoney for that role in part because of his record of brutalizing demonstrators during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, a week of protests that resulted in 420 arrests with only 13 convictions. Those convictions resulted in zero sentenced jail time for demonstrators. PERF's board also included Tim Dolan, who also was responsible for a crackdown on protesters on behalf of the Republican National Convention, this time in Minneapolis in 2008.

Although Oakland, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle and Philadelphia are known to have been involved in the PERF coordinated crushing of an American social movement, no hard evidence yet links Columbus Police Department executives directly to the planning of this suppression of dissent and brutalizing of everyday people seeking a fair society. The Columbus Free Press will continue to seek information and evidence, and will expose this and any other moves to meet cries for justice with gas, rubber bullets and swinging batons. When such evidence comes to light, we will report it to our readers without fear.

Date Originally Published: 
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Article originally published at: 
Gerry Bello