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U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn't Protecting Occupy Protesters' Rights

Posted by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM
  • 53 Replies

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/02/occupy-wall-street-un-envoy_n_1125860.html

WASHINGTON -- The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded -- sometimes violently -- by local authorities.

Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. "special rapporteur" for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.

"I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order," he said Thursday. "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," he continued.

La Rue, a longtime Guatemalan human rights activist who has held his U.N. post for three years, said it's clear to him that the protesters have a right to occupy public spaces "as long as that doesn't severely affect the rights of others."

In moments of crisis, governments often default to a forceful response instead of a dialogue, he said -- but that's a mistake.

"Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there's no need to use public force to silence that dissension," he said.

"One of the principles is proportionality," La Rue said. "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."

And history suggests that harsh tactics against social movements don't work anyway, he said. In Occupy's case, he said, "disbanding them by force won't change that attitude of indignation."

Occupy encampments across the country have been forcibly removed by police in full riot gear, and some protesters have been badly injured as a result of aggressive police tactics.

New York police staged a night raid on the original Occupy Wall Street encampment in mid-November, evicting sleeping demonstrators and confiscating vast amounts of property.

The Oakland Police Department fired tear gas, smoke grenades and bean-bag rounds at demonstrators there in late October, seriously injuring one Iraq War veteran at the Occupy site.

Earlier this week, Philadelphia and Los Angeles police stormed the encampments in their cities in the middle of the night, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters.

Protesters at University of California, Davis were pepper sprayed by a campus police officer in November while participating in a sit-in, and in September an officer in New York pepper sprayed protesters who were legally standing on the sidewalk.

"We're seeing widespread violations of fundamental First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-chair of a National Lawyers Guild committee, which has sent hundreds of volunteers to provide legal representation to Occupations across the nation.

"The demonstrations are treated as if they're presumptively criminal," she said. "Instead of looking at free speech activity as an honored and cherished right that should be supported and facilitated, the reaction of local authorities and police is very frequently to look at it as a crime scene."

What they should do, Verheyden-Hilliard said, is make it their mission to allow the activity to continue.

Using the same lens placed on the Occupy movement to look at, say, the protest in Egypt, Verheyden-Hilliard said, observers would have focused on such issues as "Did the people in Tahrir Square have a permit?"

La Rue said the protesters are raising and addressing a fundamental issue. "There is legitimate reason to be indignant and angry about a crisis that was originated by greed and the personal interests of certain sectors," he said. That's especially the case when the bankers "still earn very hefty salaries and common folks are losing their homes."

"In this case, the demonstrations are going to the center of the issue," he said. "These demonstrations are exactly challenging the basis of the debate."

Indeed, commentators such as Robert Scheer have argued that the Occupy movement's citizen action has a particular justification, based on the government's abject failure to hold banks accountable.

La Rue said he sees parallels between Occupy and the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests. In both cases, for instance, "you have high level of education for young people, but no opportunities."

La Rue said he is in the process of writing what he called "an official communication" to the U.S. 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."

Although the letter will not carry any legal authority, it reflects how the violent suppression of dissent threatens to damage the U.S.'s international reputation.

"I think it's a dangerous spot in the sense of a precedent," La Rue said, expressing concern that the United States risks losing its credibility as a model democracy, particularly if the excessive use of force against peaceful protests continues.

New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman welcomed the international scrutiny.

"We live in a much smaller, connected world than we ever did before, and just as Americans watch what goes on in Tahrir Square and in Syria, the whole world is watching us, too -- and that's a good thing," Lieberman said.

"We're kind of confident that we're living in the greatest democracy in the world, but when the international human rights world criticizes an American police officer for pepper spraying students who are sitting down, it rightly give us pause."
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TL;DR: The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators


If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

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by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM
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Replies (1-10):
mama_2_jasper
by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:16 AM

BUMP!

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:27 AM

And for the people who say they were not allowed to have tents there I would respond with.

If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights. If you think a city ordinance is more important that human rights we will have to agree to disagree.

"Using the same lens placed on the Occupy movement to look at, say, the protest in Egypt, Verheyden-Hilliard said, observers would have focused on such issues as "Did the people in Tahrir Square have a permit?"

coolmommy2x
by Ruby Member on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:35 AM

 I live just outside of Philadelphia and the sentence reported here isn't totally accurate.  The protesters were told on Day One that they could stay but the site they chose to camp was set for construtction at the end of November and they had to move by then.  They chose to make it an issue, not the city.

And before I get bashed for believing what the media is saying, I have friends who live and work in that area and have witnessed it for themselves everyday. 

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:44 AM


Quoting coolmommy2x:

 I live just outside of Philadelphia and the sentence reported here isn't totally accurate.  The protesters were told on Day One that they could stay but the site they chose to camp was set for construtction at the end of November and they had to move by then.  They chose to make it an issue, not the city.

And before I get bashed for believing what the media is saying, I have friends who live and work in that area and have witnessed it for themselves everyday. 

Which sentence were you talking about?

Unless you were referring to my comment that If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights. If you think a city ordinance is more important that human rights we will have to agree to disagree.

You are not worried about the correlation between the way the government is handling this and what has been happening around the world?

Do you think Egypt is justified in their actions because they told the protesters to disperse and go home?

I am not tyring to bash you. I am sincerely interested on how you put city ordinances above human rights.

If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Join us on the 99% Moms group!
The Ninety-Nine Percent Moms   

coolmommy2x
by Ruby Member on Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM

 This is the sentence i was referring to:

Earlier this week, Philadelphia and Los Angeles police stormed the encampments in their cities in the middle of the night, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters.

It's not exactly accurate in what it's portraying.  I defintely support human rights.  But I don't think that just because you have a right, you can do whatever what you want in the name of that right.  Not saying you personally, general you.  Just because you have the right to bear arms doesn't mean I support people running in the streets killing each other just because they can.  KWIM? 

Again, just speaking for Philadelphia because it's what I know, the people were told on Day One that the area was scheduled for construction at the end of November and they were told to move.  Not go home, just move.  The city provided them with alternate locations.  The unions (Philly is a HUGE union city) offered to help them move.  At that point, the movement broke into 2 sanctions...those who wanted to keep the peace and agreed to move to the new location and those who chose to stay and dig their heels in and then scream that their rights were being denied when they really weren't.  I don't support that. 

Quoting brookiecookie87:

 

Quoting coolmommy2x:

 I live just outside of Philadelphia and the sentence reported here isn't totally accurate.  The protesters were told on Day One that they could stay but the site they chose to camp was set for construtction at the end of November and they had to move by then.  They chose to make it an issue, not the city.

And before I get bashed for believing what the media is saying, I have friends who live and work in that area and have witnessed it for themselves everyday. 

Which sentence were you talking about?

Unless you were referring to my comment that If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights. If you think a city ordinance is more important that human rights we will have to agree to disagree.

You are not worried about the correlation between the way the government is handling this and what has been happening around the world?

Do you think Egypt is justified in their actions because they told the protesters to disperse and go home?

I am not tyring to bash you. I am sincerely interested on how you put city ordinances above human rights.

 

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Aww. I see what you were referring to and I understand what you meant.

Even if they were warned they were still evicted and arrested (Some of them). The focus here is that these are happening at night time and on a country wide sweep. This is not about a construction site. It's not about tents. It's not about sanitation. It's not about park rules.

If it was any of these things it would of happened sooner and it definitely would not have all happened so close together with the Mayors having conference calls with Federal government employee's.

And the statement still is true. The people were evicted and arrested. It's called Civil Disobedience and is an accepted practice to perform. The only time you should ever commit a crime is when you accept the consequence that comes with it.

It didn't have to happen at midnight under cover of darkness. I doubt they are still doing media black outs with the backlash that happened in new york for it but when they do it at midnight I doubt there were many cameras anyways.

Quoting coolmommy2x:

 This is the sentence i was referring to:

Earlier this week, Philadelphia and Los Angeles police stormed the encampments in their cities in the middle of the night, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters.

It's not exactly accurate in what it's portraying.  I defintely support human rights.  But I don't think that just because you have a right, you can do whatever what you want in the name of that right.  Not saying you personally, general you.  Just because you have the right to bear arms doesn't mean I support people running in the streets killing each other just because they can.  KWIM? 

Again, just speaking for Philadelphia because it's what I know, the people were told on Day One that the area was scheduled for construction at the end of November and they were told to move.  Not go home, just move.  The city provided them with alternate locations.  The unions (Philly is a HUGE union city) offered to help them move.  At that point, the movement broke into 2 sanctions...those who wanted to keep the peace and agreed to move to the new location and those who chose to stay and dig their heels in and then scream that their rights were being denied when they really weren't.  I don't support that. 


If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Join us on the 99% Moms group!
The Ninety-Nine Percent Moms   

coolmommy2x
by Ruby Member on Dec. 3, 2011 at 12:30 PM

 As I understood it, the Occupiers provoked it though I'm unclear as to what the "it" was.  When the police came in to the picture, the Occupiers scattered through the streets and caused problems (which potentially threatened the safety of innocent bystanders).  Were the police wrong?  Maybe.  Did the Occupiers have to run and cause more trouble?  Probably not.  It took over 4 hours to settle and the media was there (I woke up to it on the news).   

As for the time of night, Philadelphia is a busy city.  There are always people out and about on the streets.  For the safety of all, it makes more sense to go in (or be prepared for it) when there are the fewest amount of people on the streets).  My parents' best friend lives 4 blocks from the camp area...I know she wouldn't have wanted it to happen when she was walking on the street.  But that's not here nor there.

From my perspective, it seems as if some of the Occupiers are getting militant (for lack of a better word) and are looking to cause trouble when it started as a peaceful movement.  I can appreciate people's passions for their beliefs but when you cross that line, I can't support it.  I think people are crossing that line and are looking forward to trouble instead of solutions.  If that makes sense.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

Aww. I see what you were referring to and I understand what you meant.

Even if they were warned they were still evicted and arrested (Some of them). The focus here is that these are happening at night time and on a country wide sweep. This is not about a construction site. It's not about tents. It's not about sanitation. It's not about park rules.

If it was any of these things it would of happened sooner and it definitely would not have all happened so close together with the Mayors having conference calls with Federal government employee's.

And the statement still is true. The people were evicted and arrested. It's called Civil Disobedience and is an accepted practice to perform. The only time you should ever commit a crime is when you accept the consequence that comes with it.

It didn't have to happen at midnight under cover of darkness. I doubt they are still doing media black outs with the backlash that happened in new york for it but when they do it at midnight I doubt there were many cameras anyways.

Quoting coolmommy2x:

 This is the sentence i was referring to:

Earlier this week, Philadelphia and Los Angeles police stormed the encampments in their cities in the middle of the night, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters.

It's not exactly accurate in what it's portraying.  I defintely support human rights.  But I don't think that just because you have a right, you can do whatever what you want in the name of that right.  Not saying you personally, general you.  Just because you have the right to bear arms doesn't mean I support people running in the streets killing each other just because they can.  KWIM? 

Again, just speaking for Philadelphia because it's what I know, the people were told on Day One that the area was scheduled for construction at the end of November and they were told to move.  Not go home, just move.  The city provided them with alternate locations.  The unions (Philly is a HUGE union city) offered to help them move.  At that point, the movement broke into 2 sanctions...those who wanted to keep the peace and agreed to move to the new location and those who chose to stay and dig their heels in and then scream that their rights were being denied when they really weren't.  I don't support that. 

 

 

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 4, 2011 at 5:19 PM

How did the Police approach?

Because I have seen a few evictions happen without any chaos, or problems. They normally happen when officers come up commonly in normal police attire. They give people their warnings and give them the time to respond. They arrest the people who stayed.

Now if they show up in full Riot gear, carrying LRAD's, driving a tank, with army like gear on, and rushing people is when scattering tends to happen.

Did the Occupiers have to run and cause more trouble? It is very likely if they felt the desire to run they had something to run from. Most of the occupiers are not afraid of getting arrested in peaceful civil disobedience. Some of them are afraid of getting beaten.


Quoting coolmommy2x:

 As I understood it, the Occupiers provoked it though I'm unclear as to what the "it" was.  When the police came in to the picture, the Occupiers scattered through the streets and caused problems (which potentially threatened the safety of innocent bystanders).  Were the police wrong?  Maybe.  Did the Occupiers have to run and cause more trouble?  Probably not.  It took over 4 hours to settle and the media was there (I woke up to it on the news).   

As for the time of night, Philadelphia is a busy city.  There are always people out and about on the streets.  For the safety of all, it makes more sense to go in (or be prepared for it) when there are the fewest amount of people on the streets).  My parents' best friend lives 4 blocks from the camp area...I know she wouldn't have wanted it to happen when she was walking on the street.  But that's not here nor there.

From my perspective, it seems as if some of the Occupiers are getting militant (for lack of a better word) and are looking to cause trouble when it started as a peaceful movement.  I can appreciate people's passions for their beliefs but when you cross that line, I can't support it.  I think people are crossing that line and are looking forward to trouble instead of solutions.  If that makes sense.

 

You believe the Occupiers are getting militant? Do you have any proof of that?

Proof would look something like this.




1968 looks like a cop. 1995 looks like a cop. 2011? Looks extremely militarized.

And lastly.


One group does indeed look militarized in this picture. The other group looks like people who are trying to protest.


If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Join us on the 99% Moms group!
The Ninety-Nine Percent Moms   

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 4, 2011 at 5:37 PM

By Ruth Fowler

I was in the inner arrestee circle in Solidarity Park until the very last minute. I tweeted continually from 9pm until 5.30am, yet I have seven hours of tweets missing from my twitter feed. I was in the Park when the Police came in from within City Hall. They were not violent. Neither were we. They called unlawful assembly.

No bad treatment of protestors occurred while the mainstream media was watching – it was only at the end that this occurred, when the non pool reporters were separated from the pool media, and the reporters not in the pool were shoved and hit by cops.

At this point I left, but other non-pool media refused to leave and wanted to stay reporting on the scene. Jared Iorio, our photographer, stayed for fifteen minutes after me and was hit repeatedly (twice) in the chest with a baton by a policeman until he left Solidarity Park. He joined a group of about 600 people on 1st and Main. After half an hour of being pushed back, the police called an unlawful assembly over the megaphone, and asked us to move or we would be arrested.

Approximately 300 of us walked down 1st towards Los Angeles, leaving 300 left standing by the cops.  The police moved in after us, and kettled the 300 left behind. Seeing this, we ran, as a group, a couple of blocks to get away from them, losing people all along the way. Then suddenly a group of police emerged. We were blocked (kettled) in on Alameda between second and first. The police started running towards us – the group was now about 100 people by this point – and everyone ran into a parking lot to escape. The police ran after them and started beating protestors with batons repeatedly as they were running away trying to escape. I saw about ten police hit protestors. I did not get video footage nor photographs as I was running.

Jared, me and three others escaped up first street and ran to Skid Row. None of the protestors I was with had been violent, none had destroyed property, none were even tormenting the police. They were running away from the scene, trying to avoid being kettled by the police. The violence I witnessed was pretty intense. Those cops were pissed and wanted to hurt people. They were running and beating people who were simply RUNNING away, trying to escape!

~

I sent this to The Guardian and The LA Times just now. It’s not well written. But it highlights the frighteningly militant tactics enacted by LAPD tonight. The Media Pool I revealed late last night, written about in this great LA Weekly article, and on the front page of yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:



I found this and thought it was pertinent to your running comment.

brookiecookie87
by on Dec. 4, 2011 at 9:02 PM



Watch that video and tell me you wouldn't run if those people were coming after you. That video sames far scarier than all the beatings I have seen.

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