Occupy abolishes $4 million in other people’s student loan debt | CNN

After forgiving millions of dollars in medical debt, Occupy Wall Street is tackling a new beast: student loans.

Marking the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the group’s Strike Debt initiative announced Wednesday it has abolished $3.8 million worth of private student loan debt since January. It said it has been buying the debts for pennies on the dollar from debt collectors, and then simply forgiving that money rather than trying to collect it.

In total, the group spent a little more than $100,000 to purchase the $3.8 million in debt.

While the group is unable to purchase the majority of the country’s $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt because it is backed by the federal government, private student debt is fair game.

This debt Occupy bought belonged to 2,700 people who had taken out private student loans to attend Everest College, which is run byCorinthian Colleges. Occupy zeroed in on Everest because Corinthian Colleges is one of the country’s largest for-profit education companies and has been in serious legal hot water lately.

Following a number of federal investigations, the college told investors this summer that it plans to sell or close its 107 campuses due to financial problems — potentially leaving its 74,000 students in a lurch.

(Read Full Text) (Photo Credit: US Uncut)

Occupy activists abolish $3.85m in Corinthian Colleges students’ loan debt

Over the last few days, over 2,700 Everest College students woke up to find that someone had paid off their private student debt.

This was no act of goodwill by the government, which is currently suing Everest parent Corinthian Colleges for its predatory lending practices. Nor is it a gift from Everest itself, which is expected to shutter its doors and possibly leave 72,000 students out of their time and tuition.

Instead, the disappearing student loan debt is the second major piece of financial activism by a group of Occupy Wall street activists.

To inspire Americans with student debt to unionize, the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a project of Strike Debt, has purchased and abolished a portfolio of private student loans issued to Everest students.

Strike Debt is also launching a new initiative – The Debt Collective, which will “create a platform for organization, advocacy and resistance by debtors”.

“Solutions are not going to happen if we just wait for Congress to do it,” says Thomas Gokey, one of the organizers. “We need a social movement. We need debtors to unite to exert collective power.”

The portfolio was valued at – to be exact – $3,856,866.11 in student debt.

The Guardian

Government files reveal official campaign of spying against Occupy Wall Street

May 27 2014

A group of lawyers recently released over 4,000 pages of government communications obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that reveal the extent to which law enforcement and intelligence officers went to surveil the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and 2012. A network of “fusion centers,” organized by counterterrorism offices, coordinated mass surveillance on Occupy groups all over the United States. These activities illustrated the fear within the ruling establishment that the protest campaign could ignite a social explosion.

A selection of the communications documents, available online, shows that local law enforcement agencies were required to share information with their colleagues across the country, providing details on everything from “tactics and strategies” used by the protesters to efficient ways of suppressing the movement. They were instructed to submit all such information through the fusion center network every Monday.

Some of the tactics and strategies to watch out for, according to a newsletter created by counterterrorism agencies labeled “LAW ENFORCEMENT ONLY,” include “sit-ins” with members of Congress to discuss political issues, attempts to obtain city ordinances for the establishment of “free-speech zones,” and “rowdy” protests outside vacation resorts. Local police officers were encouraged to respond to these “tactics” with arrests and evictions from public places.

Other “significant” activities closely monitored by law enforcement officials in the name of national security included food drives, yoga classes, and spirituality forums.

The same newsletter gave examples of behavior that could potentially jeopardize the safety of police officers. These included the setting of fires and the throwing of parking cones into a street in Denver, and the discovery of “Punji” (sharpened) sticks near an Occupy site in San Francisco.

Some of the emails included in the released communications documents include military intelligence information coming from the Pentagon, instructing local officers on how to keep “intel tabs” and how to recognize “gang signs.” Also included in the Pentagon material was a document entitled, “A Legal Guide to Dispelling the Myths of Use of Force,” providing legal justification for the use of deadly force in potential encounters with Occupy protesters.

In addition to all of this information, local law enforcement agencies were instructed to monitor Facebook and Twitter posts by regularly refreshing Google searches, implying that public resources and funds should be expended on sustained surveillance of the protesters and their movements at regular intervals.

The US government currently maintains 78 of these fusion centers, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from the Department of Homeland Security, state governments and other federal agencies. The fusion centers were initially created following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack to share information about potential national security threats. Today they are widely used, including by police and fire departments, with a focus on “routine” criminal activity.

Although Homeland Security officials openly acknowledged that Occupy Wall Street was “mostly peaceful,” this did not stop several levels of government officials from devoting huge resources to surveillance and repression.

Peter Swire, a law and ethics professor at Georgia Tech who served on President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, told reporters that this is simply a byproduct of the war on terror. He stated that privacy guidelines that would have restricted such monitoring in the past have slackened. According to Swire, minor offenses like trespassing “can be enough to trigger surveillance of political groups.”

Marsha Catron, a spokesperson for Homeland Security, explained that the fusion centers receiving funds from the DHS are required to follow identical guidelines regarding privacy and civil liberties. Accordingly, the collection of information “solely for the monitoring of activities protected by the US Constitution” is forbidden. These protections, we can assume, include freedom of speech and assembly, two of the “tactics” most frequently exercised by the Occupy protesters.

The slide above is part of a new trove of documents leaked Friday by the New York Times detailing the tracking and ultimate crackdown of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The documents don’t provide any startling new information, but they demonstrate once again the way the public-private partnerships— consisting of large corporations, the Pentagon, regional counter-terrorism fusion centers, and local police departments— successfully undermine the basic right of a free citizenry to assemble and articulate dissenting views.

The documents shared on nytimes.com include daily updates from regional fusion centers based on information gathered from social media, “tips on keeping tabs” from the Pentagon, and collections of citizens’ tweets attempting to share information about fusion center involvement in the crackdown on Occupy.

My favorite newly leaked document is a collection of powerpoint slides (of which the image above is one) entitled “OCCUPY and Black Friday” prepared by the International Council of Shopping Centers and distributed to federal and local law enforcement agencies.  The presentation details the mall lobbying group’s concern about protesters’ attitudes towards retail, including the “major move to try to persuade people to ‘buy local’ and support ‘small business Saturday.’”  It also discusses “Specific Known Threats,” including “free, non-commercial street parties.”  Call in the reinforcements!

I wear my heart on my sleeve,
I seek peace, and say please. 
I share my gratitude and appreciation,
see beyond my own self-destructive nation,
and try not to argue over the semantics of creation. 
I’m of an intelligent mind,
gifted with imagination in kind,
and yet my poverty
keeps me in a permanent bind.
Many hours of my day,
just wasted away,
working for a corporation.

It’s priority is to profit,
humanity becomes retrofit,
and somehow we’ve all been convinced of it:
that bigger pockets on-high
means bigger pockets for the bottom line.
So, I walk for miles,
wait for sometimes-up-to sixty minutes,
just to ride the public buses to work.
Rain, Sleet, Snow, and Shine,
it’s imperative that I get to work on-time.
Waking in the dead-hour
to leave before the butt-crack of dawn,
just to work a day for the corporation
and play the part of “pawn.”
By the time I get home
I find my mind weary,
my heart hanging heavy,
and my soul’s hopes bleary.
For there is no escaping the notion,
tomorrow I will do it all again
and keep this profit-machine in motion.
One day off at a time,
no real chance to unwind,
and when I finally get paid,
it’s gone before the end of the day;
to take care of my bills just as I was afraid…
I’ll be lucky if I can buy food,
let alone new socks;
mentally dividing the hours in a day,
getting stuck staring at clocks…
Just more work
to take me from my destiny,
of creating art and poetry,
to promote a world
that is truly free
and full of peace.

How many are out there,
just like me?

- solushospes