Blog Archive

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mother Jones: Key Components of the Climate Change Denial Machine



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PLEASE KEEP CONTRIBUTING! We don't have billions like FOX News nor are we bankrolled by the Koch brothers. We only have YOU! You have our tremendous gratitude, but this money will only pay for two issues. The more money we get, the more newspapers, posters, stickers and flyers we can print to get out the voice of the 99%! Please keep contributing and encouraging all your friends, family and colleagues to do likewise!
Occupy Wall Street is the beginning of a whole new kind of democracy: a bottom-up people's democracy led by the 99%. It is a bold vision for the future that is beginning to inspire the nation. However, to pull it off, we're going to need a robust people's media unbeholden to corporate money. If we want people's democracy then we've got to build a people's media -- the two are inseparable.

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We are the 99%. The people who work, study and play, who want to live in a humane society and peaceful world.

Elizabeth Warren: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own"

Elizabeth Warren: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own"

by Lucy Madison, CBS News, September 22, 2011

[Readers, this is so weird because I was thinking exactly the same thing just the other day, and am happy to have found this put into words so clearly by candidate Elizabeth Warren.]

An August video of Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail is heating up on the internet, and some commentators are pointing to the clip - in which Warren makes a case for progressive economic policies - as evidence that the newly minted Democratic candidate could give incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown a run for his money. 

In the video (at left), which was filmed at an event in Andover, Mass., Warren rebuts the GOP-touted notion that raising taxes on the wealthy amounts to "class warfare," contending that "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody."

Warren rejects the concept that it is possible for Americans to become wealthy in isolation.

"You built a factory out there? Good for you," she says. "But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did."

She continues: "Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

Warren's entrance into the Massachusetts Senate race marks her first-ever political bid - and while the longtime consumer advocate is beloved by a number of liberals, some wondered if her lack of political experience would prove crippling in the contest.

The Washington Monthly's Steven Benen, however, points to the video as an explanation as to "why Warren has a strong base of supporters who adore her." 

"If there are lingering concerns about whether Warren could be an effective speaker on the stump, I think those questions are being answered," Benen writes. "If more Democrats were able to make the case for the underlying social contract as effectively, our discourse would be vastly less mind-numbing."


Fearing 'Titanic' disaster, groups sue to stop Shell Oil from Arctic offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea

Fearing 'Titanic' disaster, groups sue to stop Arctic offshore drilling

by Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, September 29, 2011

A large group comprised of Alaskan and Outside environmentalists took the U.S. government to court on Thursday over its recent decision to allow Shell Oil to drill next summer in the Beaufort Sea.

“After the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration wisely delayed plans by Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic Ocean. But this August, the administration reversed course and approved the first part of the most aggressive Arctic drilling proposal in the history of the country by approving Shell’s plans to start drilling in the Beaufort Sea as early as the summer of 2012,” The Wilderness Society said in a press release about the lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. 

The groups don’t believe Shell is adequately prepared to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic, which would threaten to harm polar bears, whales, other sea life and the local hunters that rely on the ocean for sources of food.

"Our culture can never be bought or repaired with money. It is priceless,” Caroline Cannon, President of the Native Village of Point Hope, said in a prepared statement.

Shell Oil spokesperson Curtis Smith offered a brief response from New Orleans.

“We believe BOEMRE was thorough in its analysis of our Revised Camden Bay (Beaufort Sea) Exploration Plan and we remain confident the conditional approval our Plan will be upheld in Court, as it was in May of 2010,” he said.

In addition to Earthjustice, which filed the suit, the coalition of plaintiffs includes the Native Village of Point Hope, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, REDOIL, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. 

Legal challenges are not uncommon to Shell or to emerging oil-industry projects. The company has faced opposition from drilling opponents at many phases of its path to new, exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean, including in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. It hopes to begin drilling – which was nearly launched but delayed last year following regulatory fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – in summer 2012. 

This summer, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp told Congress that the federal government has “zero” spill response capability in the Arctic. 

An array of environmental groups lined up to criticize the risk of drilling offshore in the Arctic. 

“Any oil company that wants to drill in the Arctic Ocean must demonstrate an ability to clean up oil spilled in these icy waters with proven technology,” said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “Shell’s current oil spill plan is full of inadequacies and falsehoods.

“Given the risk of a catastrophic oil spill, the Obama administration should not allow Shell to play Russian roulette with the future of polar bears, Pacific walrus and the entire Arctic ecosystem,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska Director for Center for Biological Diversity. 

“If you liked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, you will love Shell’s plan for Alaska,” said Mike Daulton, Vice President of Government Relations at the National Audubon Society. "A major oil spill in Alaska would be Deepwater Horizon meets the Titanic.” 

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)

AP: The American "allergy" to global warming

The American 'allergy' to global warming: Why?

In this July 15, 2011 photo, atop roughly two miles of ice, technician Marie McLane launches a data-transmitting weather balloon at Summit Station, a remote research site operated by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and situated 10,500 feet above sea level, on top of the Greenland ice sheet. Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that manmade greenhouse gases are warming the planet, accelerating the melt of Greenland's ice, and yet resistance to the idea appears to have hardened among many Americans. Why?
In this July 15, 2011, photo, atop roughly two miles of ice, technician Marie McLane launches a data-transmitting weather balloon at Summit Station, a remote research site operated by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and situated 10,500 feet above sea level on top of the Greenland ice sheet. Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that man-made greenhouse gases are warming the planet, accelerating the melt of Greenland's ice, and yet resistance to the idea appears to have hardened among many Americans. Why? "The desire to disbelieve deepens as the scale of the threat grows," concludes one scholar who has studied the phenomenon. Analysts now see climate as another battleground in America's left-right "culture wars." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) (Brennan Linsley)

September 25, 2011 (AP)  NEW YORK — Tucked between treatises on algae and prehistoric turquoise beads, the study on page 460 of a long-ago issue of the U.S. journal Science drew little attention.

"I don't think there were any newspaper articles about it or anything like that," the author recalls.

But the headline on the 1975 report was bold: "Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" And this article that coined the term may have marked the last time a mention of "global warming" didn't set off an instant outcry of angry denial. ___

EDITOR'S NOTE: Climate change has already provoked debate in a U.S. presidential campaign barely begun. An Associated Press journalist draws on decades of climate reporting to offer a retrospective and analysis on global warming and the undying urge to deny.


In the paper, Columbia University geoscientist Wally Broecker calculated how much carbon dioxide would accumulate in the atmosphere in the coming 35 years, and how temperatures consequently would rise. His numbers have proven almost dead-on correct. Meanwhile, other powerful evidence poured in over those decades, showing the "greenhouse effect" is real and is happening. And yet resistance to the idea among many in the U.S. appears to have hardened.

What's going on?

"The desire to disbelieve deepens as the scale of the threat grows," concludes economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton.

He and others who track what they call "denialism" find that its nature is changing in America, last redoubt of climate naysayers. It has taken on a more partisan, ideological tone. Polls find a widening Republican-Democrat gap on climate. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry even accuses climate scientists of lying for money. Global warming looms as a debatable question in yet another U.S. election campaign.

From his big-windowed office overlooking the wooded campus of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., Broecker has observed this deepening of the desire to disbelieve.

"The opposition by the Republicans has gotten stronger and stronger," the 79-year-old "grandfather of climate science" said in an interview. "But, of course, the push by the Democrats has become stronger and stronger, and as it has become a more important issue, it has become more polarized."

The solution: "Eventually it'll become damned clear that the Earth is warming and the warming is beyond anything we have experienced in millions of years, and people will have to admit..." He stopped and laughed.

"Well, I suppose they could say God is burning us up."

The basic physics of anthropogenic — manmade — global warming has been clear for more than a century, since researchers proved that carbon dioxide traps heat. Others later showed CO2 was building up in the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. Weather stations then filled in the rest: Temperatures were rising.

"As a physicist, putting CO2 into the air is good enough for me. It's the physics that convinces me," said veteran Cambridge University researcher Liz Morris. But she said work must go on to refine climate data and computer climate models, "to convince the deeply reluctant organizers of this world."

The reluctance to rein in carbon emissions revealed itself early on.

In the 1980s, as scientists studied Greenland's buried ice for clues to past climate, upgraded their computer models peering into the future, and improved global temperature analyses, the fossil-fuel industries were mobilizing for a campaign to question the science.

By 1988, NASA climatologist James Hansen could appear before a U.S. Senate committee and warn that global warming had begun, a dramatic announcement later confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a new, U.N.-sponsored network of hundreds of international scientists.

But when Hansen was called back to testify in 1989, the White House of President George H.W. Bush edited this government scientist's remarks to water down his conclusions, and Hansen declined to appear.

That was the year U.S. oil and coal interests formed the Global Climate Coalition to combat efforts to shift economies away from their products. Britain's Royal Society and other researchers later determined that oil giant Exxon disbursed millions of dollars annually to think tanks and a handful of supposed experts to sow doubt about the facts.

In 1997, two years after the IPCC declared the "balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate," the world's nations gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to try to do something about it. The naysayers were there as well.

"The statement that we'll have continued warming with an increase in CO2 is opinion, not fact," oil executive William F. O'Keefe of the Global Climate Coalition insisted to reporters in Kyoto.

The late Bert Bolin, then IPCC chief, despaired.

"I'm not really surprised at the political reaction," the Swedish climatologist told The Associated Press. "I am surprised at the way some of the scientific findings have been rejected in an unscientific manner."

In fact, a document emerged years later showing that the industry coalition's own scientific team had quietly advised it that the basic science of global warming was indisputable.

Kyoto's final agreement called for limited rollbacks in greenhouse emissions. The United States didn't even join in that. And by 2000, the CO2 built up in the atmosphere to 369 parts per million — just 4 ppm less than Broecker predicted — compared with 280 ppm before the industrial revolution.

Global temperatures rose as well, by 0.6 degrees C (1.1 degrees F) in the 20th century. And the mercury just kept rising. The decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record, and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.

Satellite and other monitoring, meanwhile, found nights were warming faster than days, and winters more than summers, and the upper atmosphere was cooling while the lower atmosphere warmed — all clear signals greenhouse warming was at work, not some other factor.

The impact has been widespread.

An authoritative study this August reported that hundreds of species are retreating toward the poles, egrets showing up in southern England, American robins in Eskimo villages. Some, such as polar bears, have nowhere to go. Eventual large-scale extinctions are feared.

The heat is cutting into wheat yields, nurturing beetles that are destroying northern forests, attracting malarial mosquitoes to higher altitudes.

From the Rockies to the Himalayas, glaciers are shrinking, sending ever more water into the world's seas. Because of accelerated melt in Greenland and elsewhere, the eight-nation Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program projects ocean levels will rise 90 to 160 centimeters (35 to 63 inches) by 2100, threatening coastlines everywhere.

"We are scared, really and truly," diplomat Laurence Edwards, from the Pacific's Marshall Islands, told the AP before the 1997 Kyoto meeting.

Today in his low-lying home islands, rising seas have washed away shoreline graveyards, saltwater has invaded wells, and islanders desperately seek aid to build a seawall to shield their capital.

The oceans are turning more acidic, too, from absorbing excess carbon dioxide. Acidifying seas will harm plankton, shellfish and other marine life up the food chain. Biologists fear the world's coral reefs, home to much ocean life and already damaged from warmer waters, will largely disappear in this century.

The greatest fears may focus on "feedbacks" in the Arctic, warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.

The Arctic Ocean's summer ice cap has shrunk by half and is expected to essentially vanish by 2030 or 2040, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Sept. 15. Ashore, meanwhile, the Arctic tundra's permafrost is thawing and releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

These changes will feed on themselves: Released methane leads to warmer skies, which will release more methane. Ice-free Arctic waters absorb more of the sun's heat than do reflective ice and snow, and so melt will beget melt. The frozen Arctic is a controller of Northern Hemisphere climate; an unfrozen one could upend age-old weather patterns across continents.

In the face of years of scientific findings and growing impacts, the doubters persist. They ignore long-term trends and seize on insignificant year-to-year blips in data to claim all is well. They focus on minor mistakes in thousands of pages of peer-reviewed studies to claim all is wrong. And they carom from one explanation to another for today's warming Earth: jet contrails, sunspots, cosmic rays, natural cycles.

"Ninety-eight percent of the world's climate scientists say it's for real, and yet you still have deniers," observed former U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who chaired the House's science committee.

Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican head of the U.N.'s post-Kyoto climate negotiations, finds it "very, very perplexing, this apparent allergy that there is in the United States. Why?"

The Australian scholar Hamilton sought to explain why in his 2010 book, "Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change."

In an interview, he said he found a "transformation" from the 1990s and its industry-financed campaign, to an America where climate denial "has now become a marker of cultural identity in the 'angry' parts of the United States."

"Climate denial has been incorporated in the broader movement of right-wing populism," he said, a movement that has "a visceral loathing of environmentalism."

An in-depth study of a decade of Gallup polling finds statistical backing for that analysis.

On the question of whether they believed the effects of global warming were already happening, the percentage of self-identified Republicans or conservatives answering "yes" plummeted from almost 50 percent in 2007-2008 to 30 percent or less in 2010, while liberals and Democrats remained at 70 percent or more, according to the study in this spring's Sociological Quarterly.

A Pew Research Center poll last October found a similar left-right gap.

The drop-off coincided with the election of Democrat Barack Obama as president and the Democratic effort in Congress, ultimately futile, to impose government caps on industrial greenhouse emissions.

Boehlert, the veteran GOP congressman, noted that "high-profile people with an 'R' after their name, like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, are saying it's all fiction. Pooh-poohing the science of climate change feeds into their basic narrative that all government is bad."

The quarterly study's authors, Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State University and Riley E. Dunlap of Oklahoma State, suggested climate had joined abortion and other explosive, intractable issues as a mainstay of America's hardening left-right gap.

"The culture wars have thus taken on a new dimension," they wrote.

Al Gore, for one, remains upbeat. The former vice president and Nobel Prize-winning climate campaigner says "ferocity" in defense of false beliefs often increases "as the evidence proving them false builds."

In an AP interview, he pointed to tipping points in recent history — the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of U.S. racial segregation — when the potential for change built slowly in the background, until a critical mass was reached.

"This is building toward a point where the falsehoods of climate denial will be unacceptable as a basis for policy much longer," Gore said. "As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'How long? Not long.'"

Even Wally Broecker's jest — that deniers could blame God — may not be an option for long.

Last May the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, arm of an institution that once persecuted Galileo for his scientific findings, pronounced on manmade global warming: It's happening.

Said the pope's scientific advisers, "We must protect the habitat that sustains us."

NPR: Alaska Town Leaves U.S. Chamber, Citing Politics

Alaska Town Leaves U.S. Chamber, Citing Politics

The Homer, Alaska, Chamber of Commerce has withdrawn its membership from the National Chamber of Commerce. Businesses in the small fishing village say the national Chamber does not represent their concerns about taxes or climate change. Only a handful of cities, such as San Francisco and Chapel Hill, N.C., have done likewise. [hmm, I don't think "handful" is quite the correct term -- there are plenty leaving, and more all the time.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chris Hedges' Wall Street Protest interview, Part 6, on climate change

Chris Hedges, Part VI


Decline of the Empire nails it again!!! "The Dumb Get Dumber" [NPR shills for Big Oil]

Chris Hedges: Occupy Wall Street interview, September 26, 2011

Chris Hedges Occupies Wall Street

truthdig, posted on Sep 26, 2011

The Truthdig columnist sits in with protesters and says the power elite are “very, very frightened,” adding, “They do not want movements like this to grow.”

Occupy Chicago: Join The Movement

Breaking (updated)

The fed is trying to force us off the sidewalk. Contact the ACLU, zoning commissions, lawyers, or anyone else that can help. This is public property don’t let them take it from us. Stand strong Chicago.
Update we got ahold of chi Zoning. Feds cannot kick us out. Call 311 if they try
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New Comment System

The site has switched to Disqus for the comment system. This gives us the ability to no longer have such an active role in moderation as well as allows others in your social network to see what you think of posts. Thank you for the feedback and Stand Strong Chicago.
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Great Perspective

Our Brother Vince has some great perspective on why we are non violent.  Please read.
Continue reading
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Media Update

As we gain traction, the media has come out to find out what we are all about. Thank you to the media for covering this historic event!
Great mini-doc on growing from 4-50

Continue reading
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Late Night Pizza

Thank you @creamblog for the Pizza!
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Day 4 Itinerary

flagTomorrow is another busy day for #occupychi. Below is the Itinerary for the day. Stand Strong Chicago.
10am General Assembly @ Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
12pm March
3pm General Assembly @ Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
7pm  Millennium  park – Join us for free education and general discussions
10pm general assembly- Location TBA
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Day 3 Summary

Day 3 of our occupation was another success. Breaking up into small groups we engaged people and challenged their preconceptions of the movement as well as think critically about a system that is set up to keep them down and keep them sleeping. We had people of all walks of life come by to chat with us. Of memorable note was a Chinese national who is studying economics here in Chicago. After hearing about us through twitter, he came down to find out what we are all about. When asked why he stopped by, he responded “I came here to find out if what I was learning in economics is right.” Our message is spreading across the world and our numbers are growing.
Tonights General Assembly had to do with logistics. Our numbers are gaining at such a rate that we took time to come to an agreement about how to handle our community kitchen, dealing with police, and effective ways to spread the message. Other topics included ramping up the Social media exposure and effectively conveying the message of hope and equality to the masses. Continue reading
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Night 2. #OccupyChi

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General assembly

General assembly will be at 5 PM today. We invite you speak your mind and come together as one. Stand strong Chicago.
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Thank You Lenny For The Great Graphics Work

Occupy Chicago: Dozens protest in the rain outside the Federal Reserve Bank

Police to Occupy Chicago Protestors: Keep Moving or Move On

Chicago police told Occupy Chicago protesters last night that the group’s ongoing “occupation” of the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve Bank was unlawful. Around 9 p.m., six police vehicles arrived to inform the protesters, who have been camping on the street downtown since Friday, that they could not sleep on the sidewalk.

“We’re not telling them they have to leave,” said Sergeant Luke McKee, who added the group was among the most civil of the hundreds of protest crowds he had dealt with over the years.

But to remain in front of the Federal Reserve, McKee said, they would have to keep moving. Tensions were high upon the arrival of the police, in light of arrests and police clashes that turned violent over the weekend for Occupy Wall Street — the demonstration that has inspired protests in more than 30 cities across the country.

By design, Occupy Chicago has no formal leader or representative. The protesters convened several “general assemblies” to discuss and vote on how to react to the police orders.

“What we want is democracy, and it’s interesting because in the process we have to work out democracy for ourselves,” said Joseph DiCola, 21, a Loyola student.

At the request of the protesters, the non-profit National Lawyers Guild appointed an attorney, Jerry Boyle, to the group to act as a legal observer and provide advice.

By midnight the protesters compromised with police: Officers promised protection from parking tickets for those who spent the night in their cars. Most, however, did not sleep for more than half an hour, DiCola said.

The loosely affiliated group of demonstrators has been active in Chicago since Friday, protesting a mélange of issues from the legal doctrine of corporate personhood to corruption in the financial sector. But one common thread is a distaste for apathy, whatever the cause.

“The only change that we can believe in is the change we make ourselves,” said Sarah Whitford, 26, a legal secretary.

Despite rain nearly every day since the protests began, the group has grown to a few dozen overnight campers, with many more appearing during the day.

They have garnered almost 3,000 Twitter followers.

Thank You Lenny For The Great Graphics Work

"Why I Was Maced at the Wall Street Protests" by Jeanne Mansfield

Why I Was Maced at the Wall Street Protests

Video by Jeanne Mansfield

My boyfriend Frank and I are heading toward Liberty Square to check out what’s going on at the Occupy Wall Street protest, when we stumble upon the afternoon march toward Union Square. So we join up and walk along behind. The crowd looks like maybe 300 people, mostly punk-styled kids and folks carrying their computers (for live streaming, we found out later) and some aging-hippie types. People are beating drums, blowing whistles, carrying signs, and chanting: “Banks got bailed out, you got sold out!” and “We are the 99 percent!” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!” and of course the classic “This is what democracy looks like!”

All in all, it starts out as a pretty good time. There are police, but for the most part they are walking behind the group casually, just beat cops bantering and laughing, keeping an eye on things. There are around 30 of them. We reach Union Square, circle it a couple times, and join the human microphone. The human microphone consists of one person speaking or shouting, and then everyone within earshot repeating, thus, a human amplifier, albeit with some delay. After about fifteen minutes, we are on the move again, the crowd spurred toward the United Nations by the messages transmitted from the human microphone.

As we circle Union Square, about twenty NYPD officers haul out orange plastic nets (the kind used to fence off construction sites) and close off the road, diverting the crowd. But the detour, too, is closed, leaving us only one option: straight down Broadway. The lighthearted carnival air begins to get very heavy as it becomes clear that we are being corralled. The main group, about 150 protesters, keeps on down the street, but the police are running behind with the orange nets, siphoning off groups of fifteen to twenty people at a time, classic crowd control.

A new group of police officers arrives in white shirts, as opposed to dark blue. These guys are completely undiscerning in their aggression. If someone gets in their way, they shove them headfirst into the nearest parked car, at which point the officers are immediately surrounded by camera phones and shouts of “Shame! Shame!”

Up until this point, Frank and I have managed to stay ahead of the nets, but as we hit what I think is 12th Street, they’ve caught up. The blue-shirts aren’t being too forceful, so we manage to run free, but stay behind to see what happens. Then things go nuts.

The white-shirted cops are shouting at us to get off the street as they corral us onto the sidewalk. One African American man gets on the curb but refuses to be pushed up against the wall of the building; they throw him into the street, and five cops tackle him. As he’s being cuffed, a white kid with a video camera asks him “What’s your name?! What’s your name?!” One of the blue-shirted cops thinks he’s too close and gives him a little shove. A white-shirt sees this, grabs the kid and without hesitation billy-clubs him in the stomach.

One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, ‘I can’t believe he just fuckin’ maced her.’

At this point, the crowd of twenty or so caught in the orange fence is shouting “Shame! Shame! Who are you protecting?! YOU are the 99 percent! You’re fighting your own people!” A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream “No! Why are you doing that?!” The rest of us in the crowd turn away from the spray, but it’s unavoidable. My left eye burns and goes blind and tears start streaming down my face. Frank grabs my arm and shoves us through the small gap between the orange fence and the brick wall while everyone stares in shock and horror at the two girls on the ground and two more doubled over screaming as their eyes ooze. In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground, but no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, “I can’t believe he just fuckin’ maced her.” And it becomes clear that the white-shirts are a different species. We need to get out of there.

The other end of the street is also closed off, and we are trapped on this one block along with about twenty frustrated pedestrians. My eye is killing me and I’m crying, partially from the pain and partially from the shock of the violence displayed by these police. A shirtless young “medic” with ripped cargo shorts, matted brown hair, and two plastic bottles slung around his neck runs up to me and says, “Did you get pepper sprayed? Okay here, tilt your head to the side, this isn’t going to feel great,” at which point he squirts one of the plastic bottles of white liquid into my left eye, then tilts my head the other way and does the other eye, then repeats with water. Then he unties the white bandanna from his wrist and wipes my eyes with it saying, “You’ll be okay, this is my grandfather’s bandanna, he got through Korea with it, and if he got through that, then you’re going to get through this. Just keep blinking.”
Thanks to the treatment—liquid antacid, pepper-spray antidote—the burning behind my eyes subsides.

A woman with two little girls in tow walks up to a cop at the end of the block and explains that they just need to get to ballet, but he won’t let them through. The woman seems to accept this, turns to the girls, thinks for a second, then marches straight to the edge of the fence at the corner of the building. A different officer sees them coming and, understanding their situation, lets them through. So Frank and I bolt for the same opening and escape.

The farther away we get, the more normal everyone starts to look. People have no clue about what’s happening just five or six blocks down. Frank and I say maybe two words to each other the whole five-hour bus ride home.

Just for the record, I love cops. I do, my mother worked in the justice system for 30 years, and I’ve known a lot of really good cops, really good honorable people just doing their jobs. I’ve never agreed with the sentiment, “Fuck the Po-lice,” and I still don’t. But these guys are fucked up. There was an anger in those white-shirt’s eyes that said, “You don’t matter.” And whether they were just scared or irrational or looking for a target for their rage, there was no excuse for their abuse of authority. I had always thought that people who complained about police brutality must have done something to provoke it, that surely cops wouldn’t hurt people without a really good reason. But they do. We were on the curb, we were contained, we were unarmed. Pepper spray hurts like hell, and the experience only makes me wish I’d done something more to deserve it.