‘Go. Leave. You Can’t Be Here’: What Happened When I Tried to Investigate the Connection Between the NYPD and Brookfield Properties, Zuccotti’s Owners
Why did a police officer declare my reporting “illegal” just days before the pre-dawn raid on the OWS encampment?
November 13, 2011 |
Photo Credit: Nick Turse
For the past several weeks, a Ford F550 truck has been parked near the corner of Liberty Street and Broadway, on the outskirts of Zuccotti Park. As activists across the street worked to build a new society, it sat like an unblinking sentinel. Even after the park was raided, the protesters scattered and the plaza cleared, the large rig remained. In this new, post-encampment era for the Occupy Wall Street protests, it sits there still.
The truck in question is white with no markings. Its windows are blacked out, preventing bystanders from peering in. But there’s little question what the vehicle is there for. A 40-foot pole, with a single helix of heavy-gauge electrical cable coiled around it, topped by a video camera, rises from the back of the truck. All day long, that camera is pointed at Zuccotti Park.
That much is no secret. What is less apparent is who is running the truck – literally – and why.
The New York City Police Department license plate and the fact that TARU (Technical Assistance Response Unit) policemen — the unit that monitors and videotapes protests – move in and out of the vehicle tell part of the story. But not all of it. Evidence suggests that Brookfield Properties, the commercial real estate firm that also owns Zuccotti Park, is providing the power for the spy wagon and other perks to police. When I tried to investigate, Brookfield’s security personnel enlisted the NYPD to declare my reporting “illegal” and try to run me off the site.
Power Cords and Power Trips
This story begins weeks ago when I noticed a loose extension cord snaking from the side of the big white truck to an outlet at the base of a tree in front of One Liberty Plaza, the massive office tower that looms over Zuccotti Park and is owned, like the park, by Brookfield Properties. The extension cord is still there, but is now taped in place. It has become a more or less permanent fixture on Liberty Street.
Weeks back, when I first noticed the power cord, I walked to the main entrance of One Liberty Plaza in order to inquire about the electrical power situation. I was stopped cold by security. No one gets in without a building ID badge, I was told.
Now, I knew this wasn’t true. Another badge gets you in the door, too. Without proper building credentials, NYPD officers walk in and out of the One Liberty Plaza all day long, assumedly to use the restroom facilities. I had seen it happen again and again, but I kept this observation to myself and explained that I was a reporter and had some questions. The guard said I could ask him, so I did. Were the outlets in front of the building open to use by the public? No. Did they belong to the building? Yes.
When I asked Melissa Coley, Brookfield’s media contact and a vice president with the firm, if the real estate giant had any agreements to share resources with the NYPD or had issued instructions about aiding the police at One Liberty Plaza, she wouldn’t say. “We politely decline to comment,” Coley wrote in an email. The NYPD also refused to respond to repeated questions about its involvement with Brookfield Properties or One Liberty Plaza.
The evidence, however, suggests that Brookfield is offering the NYPD perks — power for their surveillance efforts and aid and comfort for their officers — that it does not extend to the general public, much less the protesters in Zuccotti Park who repeatedly ran into difficulties in regard to access to electrical power andbathroom facilities, which Brookfield Properties, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, andthe NYPD ultimately used as part of the justification for raiding the park and ending the occupation.
But what, if anything, Brookfield Properties or One Liberty Plaza received for its courtesies to the police — at least prior to the NYPD’s pre-dawn raid to clear their privately owned public park — was far from clear, until I came face to face with one possible benefit. I learned firsthand that the NYPD would act as Brookfield’s private, armed security force, trying to restrict press freedom on the say-so of staff at One Liberty Plaza.
‘Yeah, it’s illegal’
After I found the arrangement between the police department and One Liberty Plaza still seemed to be going strong after many weeks — police were entering the 54-story building sans credentials, the surveillance truck was plugged in — I decided to look into things further. The security staff at One Liberty Plaza took exception to this.
As I watched police officers enter the building without IDs and get buzzed through interior security gates that offer access to the building beyond the lobby, the man in charge of those key-card control gates eyed me intently. The more notes I took, while standing in the public plaza, about 25 feet from the building’s windows, the more agitated he seemed to get.
He soon become so upset that he left a female officer waiting to get buzzed in because he was too busy looking at me looking at him. In the midst of his mini-meltdown, the security chief directed a man behind the counter in the lobby to take pictures of me with a digital camera. I waved at him, as if to say hello, and then moved slightly to make certain that I had interpreted the goings on within the building accurately. When the security subordinate aimed the camera at me again, I was sure.
Perhaps it was because I smiled for the picture, or because I didn’t run away or that I was taking notes throughout the whole episode, but whatever the reason, the security chief appeared almost enraged. With a determined stride, he headed for the door, out onto the street and made a beeline for the nearest cop.
I had a pretty good idea of what was coming as I watched him complain to the officer, so I walked closer to meet them as they made their way toward me. “That’s him, right here,” the One Liberty Plaza security commander said. That’s when Officer Cristiano took over. Officer Cristiano isn’t much taller than me, and I’m no giant, but he’s certainly a whole lot beefier and his hard stare and no-nonsense demeanor told me he meant business.
It’s a security issue…especially at a sensitive location, you can’t be walking around looking at cameras and what we’re doing here and writing it down.
You’re saying it’s illegal to do that?
Why are you taking notes on security cameras?
I told you. I’m writing a series.
Alright, you got everything then? Everything you need?
Go somewhere else and do it.
“Is it illegal for me to do this, Officer… Cristiano?” I asked, reading his last name off the identification plate on his shirt. As I started to read out his shield number, 3-7-6-6 , he chimed in to say it in unison with me.
“Yeah, you write it down,” he told me as I scrawled his name down in my notebook. “I will. I want to make sure I spell it right,” I replied, before restarting my questioning about the legality of my reporting.
Cristiano changed the subject again, asking if I was part of the protest across the street. “No,” I said. “I told you. I’m a reporter.” That’s when he started in about credentials, a standard line among New York cops. If I was a member of the media, then where were my press credentials? So I set him straight. The NYPD doesn’t decree who is or isn’t a reporter. The NYPD grants credentials to some journalists allowing them cross police lines to do crime or other spot reporting. I, on the other hand, am a reporter by virtue of having worked as a reporter, in the U.S. and overseas, for years. And I was reporting in a public space, so I didn’t need any identification card, certainly not one from the police.
I could tell he was getting angrier, so I wasn’t surprised when Cristiano shifted back to bully tactics.
Go. Leave. You can’t be here.
Is it illegal for me to be here?
Yeah, it’s illegal.
When I challenged him again, asking if it was reallyillegal, Cristiano pulled back and tried cajoling again.
He said I’d been reporting long enough and now my time was up: “You’ve been here for while, right?” I replied that it was all relative and asked how long he’d been standing in roughly the same area as me. He wasn’t amused.
Listen, you can leave. Leave. Okay, I’m asking you to leave.
Is there a statute I’m violating? I’m just asking. Will you just tell me the statute that I’m violating?
Officer Cristiano wouldn’t name a law and wanted to know, again, what it was that I was doing. I was getting so exasperated that my response came out as half-laugh and half-whine: “I told you, I’m a reporter.” I then proceeded to explain, again, that I was writing a series on the security response to the protests in the park. Officer Cristiano in turn replied, “It’s none of your business. Leave!”
I half thought about just walking away — for about a split second — but I just couldn’t let it drop. “Will you tell me why I’m not allowed to do this?” I inquired again. “Security reasons. For our security reasons,” he responded.
For police security? I’m a threat? Do you think I’m a threat?
I certainly don’t think so… writing isn’t much of a threat. I mean, you’ve got… a sidearm, pepper spray. I’ve got a pen and paper. I don’t know how I can threaten you.
Cristiano shifted gears again.
Alright, you got everything you need?
No, I keep telling you, I don’t.
Go somewhere else.
We were at an impasse, so I eventually I did move along. But when I crossed the street and looked back to see Officer Cristiano talking to the security official from One Liberty Plaza, it got me thinking. Were NYPD officers now taking orders from Brookfield Properties? For some free electricity and use of a toilet, could the NYPD be bought?
Or, I wondered, could it be even simpler than that? Maybe New York’s finest would do the bidding of the representative of a big-money real estate firm without any kickbacks at all.
The fact that I was the only person who was chased away from the area, among many others standing around, smoking, talking and even, in one case, eating on a set of stairs next to the building, made it abundantly clear that I was being singled out. It was equally obvious that my reporting was the point of contention and raised questions in my mind about the NYPD’s respect for the Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of the press.
Days later, the NYPD’s raid on Brookfield’s behalf raised further question marks about its respect for another right enshrined in that same amendment: peaceable assembly.
The NYPD refused multiple requests for information on the legality of reporting from outside Liberty Plaza or any exchange of resources with, special considerations for or relationship with One Liberty Plaza or Brookfield Properties. After the eviction of the occupiers, Brookfield issued a statement avowing support for “all citizens’ rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech,” but has yet to explain why actions from its representatives suggest otherwise.
With the NYPD and Brookfield Properties refusing to comment further, it’s impossible for me to know if quid pro quo is at play or if there is some other explanation for the apparent cooperation between the police and the commercial real estate giant. But the opportunity is always there for the New York City Police Department to explain itself. The same goes for Brookfield Properties. Both have my contact information and know how to get in touch.
Dr. Edgar Schoen has devoted his life to defending male infant circumcision. He often speaks out supporting the outdated practice. Even though he is a doctor, he does not rely upon medical evidence to support his position, but often resorts to ad hominem attacks and hyperbole. He fails to address the ethical issues of doctors performing surgery to remove healthy tissue when the patient does not need such surgery.
“Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.
That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.
The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.”
Many advocate circumcision for baby boys because they say that the baby will not remember it. Huh? So, it is ok to hurt babies, as long as they will not remember it? Do people even think before they say such things?
We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
I’m not a political writer, and this is not a political blog. I don’t intend this to become a political blog, but since I believe that it is our duty, as citizens, to defend our essential rights and liberties, and restore the United States to its proper place and function as a Democratic Republic, it’s time for, as the Pythons would say, something completely different…
Over the past few weeks things have gone horribly wrong. Police assauts against, mainly peaceful, Occupy Protests have been launched almost simultaneously against various Occupy Camps and protest rallies. Some journalists, including Naomi Wolf of The Guardian, are now suggesting that local law enforcement agencies are being coached, coordinated, and provided with intel on Occupiers activities by agents of the Federal Government.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
While there is a great deal of debate as to how much of this is fact, the corporate-megaconglomerated-media has been doing a great a great job at misdirection, and sleight-of-hand, in order to make it look like the Occupiers are a bunch of radicals with no clear goals or agenda or, worse, in the case of Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, mysterious “anarchist groups” just looking to stir up trouble.
That just ain’t so …
Those who say the Occupiers don’t have clear goals are misleading or mislead. This gentleman has a firm grasp of the key point behind the Occupy Movement.
At the center of the Occupy movement is a concern about the concentration of extreme wealth into very few hands in this country, and how that wealth is used to co-opt and corrupt our political process. Essentially, causing our Democratic Republic to be turned into a Fascist State, where the rights of the individual are subordinated to the dictates of a government working in tight cooperation with, and for the benefit of, the extremely weathy and/or corporate interests.
Brutality and force are the tools of the Fascist State, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve been seeing with respect to the Occupy raids.
The Guardian article polled a number of Occupiers, and found that they were focused on a particular set of issues:
No 1: agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process.
No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3: was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
So why the violent put down of these protests? That’s easy: Money.
The so-called 1% realize that, in the United States, as has been happening across the World, these demonstrations have the potential to rock the foundations of our system to the core, and initiate a process of change that could threaten their power-base, both at home and in a Geo-Political sense.
In the end, it’s not just about money, it’s about domination. Global domination. The 1%’ers believe they have a right, exercised for generations, to exert their will and dominance upon the masses, and Occupy’s goals, while likely sounding reasonable to you and I, scare the 1% witless.
, by journalist Russ Baker. Baker is a serious journalist who has elaborately documented this story about one of America’s most wealthy, powerful, and corrupt families, not some whacky “conspiracy theorist.”
BTW, have you ever stopped to thing why is it that we’ve been so conditioned by the media that we automatically associate the word “theory” with the word “conspiracy.” Once you can prove something with facts, it’s no longer a theory.
As food for thought, here’s a recent breakdown of wealth in the U.S.:
Source: Michael DeGusta, TheUnderstatement.com
So yeah, I’m not a political blogger, and don’t intend to become one … There are much better educated, and more qualified, folks out there doing that already, I’m just passing a few thoughts along, because I believe that since someone gave me a voice in the world of social media, it’s my responsibility to do my part for the greater good when the need presents itself. More importantly:
“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke, by way of Dr. King.
apparently, revolution is only okay when it’s not your country. Egypt? Libya? go ahead, revolt! occupy anything? go home.
we can spend over $1 billion to help Libyans violently overthrow their repressive government. when (mostly) peaceful protests and demonstrations in the united states begin…. well now we’re dealing with a whole different creature.
uphold american democracy before trying to tell others they’re doing it wrong.
The editor of the South African Medical Journal warned on Wednesday against a government plan to promote circumcision as part of an anti-HIV campaign. There is a real risk that pushing circumcision will undermine gains made in encouraging condom use, which are more effective than male circumcision.
A blog by a 21 year old college student who tells of his botched circumcision. He had a skin bridge from his corona to his shaft. The skin bridge is so large that it prevents him from getting fully erect without it becoming painful. His blog starts near the end because he is seeking another surgery to correct his botched circumcision. If he had been left intact, he could have avoided all these problems.
After manual tugging to restore his foreskin, John notices that he feels looser. That is a good indication that he has broken any adhesions from his circumcision scar and he is increasing his skin flexibility. He is on his way to regaining his foreskin.
Why do parents persist in doing this to their sons?
I was 20 years old when I had my son, but I was not your typical twenty-something. By that time, I had already been married for almost three years and had a two-year old. I was fairly educated about birth and considered myself pretty informed about most matters. We found out we were having a boy around the middle of the pregnancy, so we had time to discuss whether or not to circumcise him. My then-husband, L, was very adamant that his son look like him, that he not be “different” in any way. I offered studies, pictures, videos, tirades and tantrums…all to no avail. With the clarity of hindsight, I see that he probably would not have intervened had I simply not taken the initiative to get it done. At the time, though, I felt his opinion on the subject was important and that it was more his “right” than mine to decide.
We brought him to the office for the procedure, and the pediatrician asked one more time if we were sure we wanted to be in the room. He looked at L when he said this, who quickly took the opportunity to dash out the cracked door. I, however, was not about to leave… . B was very calm, unaware of what was about to come. His arms were left unbound, so that I could stroke them and hold them. The pediatrician told me he was going to start; the last thing I remember coherently is the scalpel coming towards him.
I stared into B’s eyes, willing him to understand and saying out loud that I was right there and he was okay. I watched his pupils get large, saw the tears well, heard the cry of pain….we were both crying. A million thoughts ran through my head: Why am I doing this? Where is his father? I should leave now! It’s too late, I can’t! How can I do this to my son? What kind of mother am I????
And then I saw B retreat into himself. He stopped crying, his eyes clouded over and he was gone. The vacancy in his eyes was (and still is) haunting. I kept talking to him through my tears. I told him it was almost over and I told him I was sorry I did this to him. I will never forgive myself. Will he ever forgive me? I will never forget this moment. I will remember this and I will relive it. I will kill his father for not seeing this.
It felt like those moments lasted forever. As soon as they were done, I undid the straps and held him to me. I controlled my tears, stuffed my anger and listened to the instructions on post-care. B came back to me, seemingly unaffected. I wondered, Did anyone else see his retreat? But it didn’t matter, I saw it.
I write this out for me. I have carried around this guilt on my shoulders for nearly ten years. I have thought about it, worried about it, wondered about it. I have to move on, but I do not have to forget.
Judith takes to task some pro-circumcision folks on Twitter who cry ad hominem attacks when there has been no such attack. Some pro-circumcision advocates belong to Circ List and the Gilgal Society, two circumfetishist organizations.
Male infant circumcision is a medically unnecessary surgical procedure that has risks and sometimes results in complications. Studies, including a recent one, show that male circumcision often results in reduced sexual pleasure for both the man and woman.
Georganne was asked point blank if sex is better with a circumcised man or with an intact man. She answered, “All other things being equal, yes, sex is better with a man who has a normal, complete penis.” Many circumcised men have trouble accepting that circumcision removes valuable, erogenous tissue from the penis. The Lost List identifies some of the things that a man loses by being circumcised. Foreskin restoration allows men to regain some of what was lost, enough to make it worthwhile.
There is hypocrisy in being outraged at what happened at Penn State while also thinking nothing of cutting off part of a baby boy’s sex organ. Why is it that people cannot leave boys alone? Why is it that people must mess with a boy’s penis? Leave baby boys whole and intact and keep your hands off them as they grow up.
A short blog about Professor Ryan McAllister’s class on child circumcision, which includes various types of genital cutting of children. The video of his class presentation is very straight-forward as he presents the facts and science behind the harms and risks of genital cutting of boys and girls.
A blog condemning the recent vote by the AMA against bans of male infant circumcision. It appears that the doctors are voting with their wallets, not their ethics, by continuing genital cutting of healthy baby boys. Intact America points out that the doctor’s patient is the baby boy who is having part of his penis cut off.
Critics of Occupy Wall Street have a transparent objective: They want to persuade blue collar whites and ordinary middle class Americans to turn on the movement for cultural reasons — because its optics offend these voters’ cultural instincts — even if they broadly agree with its general principles and critique of what’s gone wrong.
This dovetails with a quote from John Cole I recently posted here (to much rending of garments and clutching of pearls from the very people he’s talking about):
“The greatest hoax of the last couple of decades has been the ability of the right wing to co-opt members of the struggling lower middle class and lower class and pretend they speak for them while enacting policies that enable the super-rich. They’ve used wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion and the baby Jeebus to alienate folks from their own economic interests, feeding them a steady diet of hatred of minorites, the educated, science, and, well, reality to create a voting block of people so guided by hatred of the ‘other’ that they would crawl over broken glass to cut their nose off to spite their face.”
I posted that quote from Cole on my G+, and the self-identified conservatives are livid about it. I don’t mean this as an attack on self-identified conservatives at all. I quote it because it breaks my heart.
And not that it matters, but the same thing can largely be said of Democrats since the election of 2000. I strongly believe that if Obama and the Democrats had behaved like the populists they claimed to be when they had majorities in both houses of congress, and actually done something to hold these Wall Street criminals accountable, #OWS wouldn’t be necessary.
Now we just have to hope that the #OWS protests capture enough attention for long enough to force the Democrats (because you can be damn sure it won’t be the GOP) to enact laws and policies that actually address and correct the things we’ve all been begging them to listen to for about ten years.
This is how a movement gets started, and it doesn’t end quickly or cleanly.
And it isn’t the job of the protesters to write the damn laws; that’s the job of the Congress, who need to work for The People instead of The Lobbyists.
Judith compares infant circumcision with adult circumcision. There is a big difference. Infant circumcision does more damage because the foreskin has to be forcibly separated from the glans. It is also more painful because an adult has better pain medication, both during the surgery and aftwards (and without the wound sitting in a dirty diaper).