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2011 October 18 | Activist News
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Daily Archives: October 18, 2011

Wall Street Firms Spy on Protestors In Tax-Funded Center

CounterPunch
Oct. 18, 2011
By PAM MARTENS

Wall Street’s audacity to corrupt knows no bounds and the cooptation of government by the 1 per cent knows no limits.  How else to explain $150 million of taxpayer money going to equip a government facility in lower Manhattan where Wall Street firms, serially charged with corruption, get to sit alongside the New York Police Department and spy on law abiding citizens.

According to newly unearthed documents, the planning for this high tech facility on lower Broadway dates back six years.   In correspondence from   2005 that rests quietly in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s archives, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly promised Edward Forst, a  Goldman Sachs’ Executive Vice President at the time, that the NYPD “is committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive security plan for Lower Manhattan…One component of the plan will be a centralized coordination center that will provide space for full-time, on site representation from Goldman Sachs and other stakeholders.”


At the time, Goldman Sachs was in the process of extracting concessions from New York City just short of the Mayor’s first born in exchange for constructing its new headquarters building at 200 West Street, adjacent to the World Financial Center and in the general area of where the new World Trade Center complex would be built. According to the 2005 documents,  Goldman’s deal included $1.65 billion in Liberty Bonds, up to $160 million in sales tax abatements for construction materials and tenant furnishings, and the deal-breaker requirement that a security plan that gave it a seat at the NYPD’s Coordination Center would be in place by no later than December 31, 2009.

The surveillance plan became known as the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the facility was eventually dubbed the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. It operates round-the-clock. 
Under the imprimatur of the largest police department in the United States,  2,000 private spy cameras owned by Wall Street firms, together with approximately 1,000 more owned by the NYPD, are relaying live video feeds of people on the streets in lower Manhattan to the center.  Once at the center, they can be integrated for analysis.  At least 700 cameras scour the midtown area and also relay their live feeds into the downtown center where low-wage NYPD, MTA and Port Authority crime stoppers sit alongside  high-wage personnel from Wall Street firms that are currently under at least 51 Federal and state corruption probes for mortgage securitization fraud and other matters.

In addition to video analytics which can, for example, track a person based on the color of their hat or jacket, insiders say the NYPD either has or is working on face recognition software which could track individuals based on facial features.  The center is also equipped with live feeds from license plate readers.

According to one person who has toured the center, there are three rows of computer workstations, with approximately two-thirds operated by non-NYPD personnel.  The Chief-Leader, the weekly civil service newspaper,  identified some of the outside entities that share the space: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the Federal Reserve, the New York Stock Exchange.  Others say most of the major Wall Street firms have an on-site representative.   Two calls and an email to Paul Browne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, seeking the names of the other Wall Street firms at the center were not returned.  An email seeking the same information to City Council Member, Peter Vallone, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, was not returned.

In a press release dated October 4, 2009 announcing the expansion of the surveillance territory, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly had this to say:

“The Midtown Manhattan Security Initiative will add additional cameras and license plate readers installed at key locations between 30th and 60th Streets from river to river. It will also identify additional private organizations who will work alongside NYPD personnel in the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, where corporate and other security representatives from Lower Manhattan have been co-located with police since June 2009. The Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center is the central hub for both initiatives, where all the collected data are analyzed.”  [Italic emphasis added.]

The project has been funded by New York City taxpayers as well as all U.S. taxpayers through grants from the Federal Department of Homeland Security.  On March 26, 2009, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) wrote a letter to Commissioner Kelly, noting that even though the system involves “massive expenditures of public money, there have been no public hearings about any aspect of the system…we reject the Department’s assertion of ‘plenary power’ over all matters touching on public safety…the Department is of course subject to the laws and Constitution of the United States and of the State of New York as well as to regulation by the New York City Council.”

The NYCLU also noted in its letter that it rejected the privacy guidelines  for the surveillance operation that the NYPD had posted on its web site for public comment, since there had been no public hearings to formulate these guidelines.  It noted further that “the guidelines do not limit police surveillance and databases to suspicious activity…there is no independent oversight or monitoring of compliance with the guidelines.”

According to Commissioner Kelly in public remarks, the privacy guidelines were written by Jessica Tisch, the Director of Counterterrorism Policy and Planning for the NYPD who has played a significant role in   developing the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center.  In 2006, Tisch was 25 years old and still working on her law degree and MBA at Harvard, according to a wedding announcement in the New York Times.   Tisch is a friend to the Mayor’s daughter, Emma; her mother, Meryl, is a family friend to the Mayor.

Full Article Here – http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/10/18/wall-street-firms-spy-on-protestors-in-tax-funded-center/ 

Occupy Atlanta gets to stay — for now

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Oct. 18, 2011
By Craig Schneider and Jeremiah McWilliams

Occupy Atlanta protesters camped in Woodruff Park readied themselves Monday to go to jail — but the city wasn’t ready to put them there.

A late-afternoon deadline set by Mayor Kasim Reed last week came and went with nothing more than a belated statement from the mayor extending the protesters’ permission to camp in the park until Nov. 7.

Chants of “Our park! Our park!” spread along with high fives as word of the mayor’s action made its way through the ranks of protesters.


A few minutes later, more than 100 people gathered in a big circle for the official announcement. It was led by protester Malcolm McKenzie, who paused every few words to let those close to him repeat his words in unison so those farther away could hear.

“We have … We have … some great …  some great … news … news! We’re staying … We’re staying.
McKenzie also announced that protesters had made a concession — to keep the noise down at night in consideration of nearby residents.

Group members welcomed the city’s action but continued to stress their demands for sweeping financial and economic change.

“We are happy that Mayor Kasim Reed and the City Council can now spend the next three weeks on solving the problems that brought us to the park, instead of trying to figure out a way to get us out,” said Tim Franzen, 34, who often speaks for the group.

“We’re hoping that the city starts dealing with the wealth disparity, the joblessness, the double-digit unemployment, the home foreclosures and the homelessness.”

Franzen stressed that the protesters will not leave simply because the city asks them to. “This is an act of civil disobedience,” he said. “He [the mayor] is not giving us anything.”

For his part, Reed was careful to emphasize that the encampment must remain peaceful and orderly. If not, his statement said, “the city is prepared to act swiftly should the situation in the park so warrant.”

About a half hour before the reprieve came, organizers in the park invited protesters to go to the medic tent and fill out “jail support form” if they were willing to be arrested. Those who volunteered put down their contact information, medical needs and dietary needs.

Finally, at about 6:15, Reed issued a statement that began: “Civil disobedience is an appropriate form of expression, provided that it is peaceful, non-violent and lawful.” Because the protesters have met those requirements, the statement continued, Reed had decided to extend an executive order allowing them to camp for three more weeks.

Full Article Here – http://www.ajc.com/news/occupy-atlanta-gets-to-1204120.html 

Tibetan nun ‘dies in fire protest’ near China monastery

BBC News
Oct. 18, 2011

A Tibetan nun has set herself on fire near a restive monastery in western China, in the ninth such incident in recent months, reports say.

The Free Tibet group said the 20-year-old nun, Tenzin Wangmo, died on Monday in Sichuan province’s Aba county.

A witness told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that she called for freedom for Tibet before she set herself on fire.

Aba county is home to the Kirti monastery, the scene of repeated protests against Beijing’s rule.

Seven monks from the monastery, which lies in an ethnic Tibetan area of Sichuan province, have set themselves on fire there in recent months. An eighth monk set himself on fire in another part of Sichuan province.


China has since jailed three monks accused of assisting in one self-immolation and maintains a heavy security presence in Aba town.
 
‘Protests growing’

Reports said the young nun set fire to herself after midday.

Full Article Here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15347106 

Demonstrations, poll fuel NY millionaire tax push

Associated Press
Oct. 18, 2011
By MICHAEL GORMLEY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The push for a higher tax on New Yorkers making more than $1 million a year is getting fresh life with a new poll showing overwhelming support, a high-profile rally on Monday and the strengthening Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City.
The Siena College poll found 72 percent of New York voters support the tax to avoid further budget cuts. Just 26 percent oppose the proposal by powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Also Monday, the union-backed “99 New York” rally supported extending the current so-called “millionaire‘s tax” on New Yorkers with incomes over $200,000. It’s due to expire Dec. 31.
Standing in the way of renewing the current surcharge on the wealthy and Silver’s millionaire tax plan are Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his fiscal ally, the Republican majority of the Senate. 
Cuomo says taxing wealthier New Yorkers at higher levels would likely send the rich to Connecticut and New Jersey, taking their income tax revenue and jobs with them.

The GOP Senate promised fiscal restraint and no new or higher taxes when it regained the power and perks of the chamber’s majority in elections two years ago. Republican senators face the next challenge to their power next year in a state where Democrats hold nearly a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage.
But now, tax revenues are running behind projections, a $2 billion deficit looms, and schools and hospitals are howling after two years of flat state budgets capped by an overall cut in spending in April. And the public opinion polls and Occupy Wall Street protest are drawing attention to public unrest.
“Politicians are already starting to, grudgingly, take notice,” said Kelly Heresy from Occupy Wall Street, a demonstration started in New York City that’s drawing national and global support and attention. Protesters say they are trying to limit the power and privilege of the wealthy.
Heresy, a writer, said protesters’ concerns are “not really represented by the politicians, who are mainly working on behalf of their biggest fund raisers — the corporations and banks.”

“The world is changing and, as always, elected officials will be the last one on the train,” said Richard Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman and now a senior fellow at the Wagner School at New York University who has been at Occupy Wall Street.

Brodsky and other supporters say the Occupy movement has riveted public attention on the need to tax the rich more. In an opinion piece Monday in the New York Daily News, he proposed a state jobs and infrastructure repair program paid for by a three-year millionaire’s tax.

Support swells for Occupy Sydney protesters

Sydney Morning Herald
Oct. 18, 2011
By Glenda Kwek

From traders to the homeless, protesters at the “Occupy Sydney” campaign in Martin Place say they have received more support from the public than expected.

“It’s exceeding our expectations,” Dion Frank, 32, who is manning a makeshift information desk at the campsite, said.

Mr Frank, a small business owner, was among about 40 people outside the Reserve Bank this morning. He said about 100 people slept outdoors last night.

“Our numbers grew last night. … There’s a lot of people approaching us to tell us they support what we are doing.”

He said the campaigners were even approached by people perceived as part of the wealthy “1 per cent” they are protesting against – traders.

“We had traders walking through about 2.30am,” Mr Frank said. “I’m libertarian … we talked about the true free market.”

Peter Williams, 54, from Eastwood, stopped by at the protest site with his dog Achilles, 8, this morning. An odd job worker, he said he worked hard but had been burnt many times, “usually from other people’s greed”.

“My grandfather fought against the Japanese in World War II. Australia was built on spirit, pride and honesty. But the pride’s been crushed and the honesty’s disappeared.

“It’s time to turn back the clock and make Australia [into] Australia again.”

The global movement, which started in New York as “Occupy Wall Street” on September 17, celebrated its one-month anniversary today.