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Obama bypasses protests, raises $1 million at S.F. fundraiser
SAN FRANCISCO — President Barack Obama barnstormed the Bay Area on Tuesday, on the ground here for only about two and a half hours but collecting at least $1 million at a luncheon fundraiser.
More than a thousand protesters thronged the area around Third and Howard Streets hoping to catch the president’s eye, but the motorcade came and went from the W Hotel from the east side, offering only a glimpse at best.
Though many causes were represented, the vast majority of protesters were there either to decry the Keystone XL pipeline — planned to carry oil from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands to refineries as far south as Texas — or to urge the president to halt federal prosecutors’ recent crackdown on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
Occupy Wall Street Gets A Drone To Keep Tabs On Police
New York police have been notorious in their attempt to keep out cameras and journalists from covering their crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Now, The Guardian reports that protesters have their own surveillance drone.
Tim Pool, an Occupy Wall Street protester, has acquired a Parrot AR drone he amusingly calls the “occucopter”. It is a lightweight four-rotor helicopter that you can buy cheaply on Amazon and control with your iPhone. It has an onboard camera so that you can view everything on your phone that it points at. Pool has modified the software to stream live video to the internet so that we can watch the action as it unfolds. You can see video clips of his first experiments here. He told us that the reason he is doing this “comes back to giving ordinary people the same tools that these multimillion-dollar news corporations have. It provides a clever loophole around certain restrictions such as when the police block press from taking shots of an incident.”
Pool is attempting to police-proof the device: “We are trying to get a stable live feed so you can have 50 people controlling it in series. If the cops see you controlling it from a computer they can shut you down, but then control could automatically switch to someone else.”
Full story here.
Occupy Protesters' Rights Must Be Protected, U.N. Says; U.S. Says Nothing
In November 2011, a University of California, Davis, police officer used pepper spray up-close on protesters.
WASHINGTON — Federal officials have yet to respond to two United Nations human rights envoys who formally requested that the U.S. government protect Occupy protesters against excessive force by law enforcement officials.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the two envoys called on U.S. officials to “explain the behavior of police departments that violently disbanded some Occupy protests last fall” and expressed concern that excessive use of force “could have been related to [the protesters’] dissenting views, criticisms of economic policies, and their legitimate work in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The envoys also reminded the U.S. government of its international obligations to “take all necessary measures to guarantee that the rights and freedoms of all peaceful protesters be respected.”
The letter, from Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. special rapporteur for the protection of free expression, and Maina Kiai, the special rapporteur for freedom of peaceful assembly, was sent in December 2011.
It was publicly released last week in connection with the 20th annual U.N. Human Rights Council meeting, which started Monday and at which both rapporteurs — independent experts sent out to investigate human rights problems around the world — will make their annual reports.
The U.S. government has not answered the letter. A State Department spokeswoman told HuffPost that “the U.S. will be replying,” but she couldn’t say when or how. “We do not comment on the substance of diplomatic correspondence,” she said.
“The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is the lead agency for violations of human rights or civil rights in the United States” and therefore will have input into the response, the spokeswoman noted.
U.N. officials could not be reached for comment.
“Lack of an answer does not make the U.S. look good in the international community,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program.
“The U.S. should at a very minimum respond to a letter like this,” he said. “And if they believe that law enforcement agencies operated under legal, constitutional authority and there were no problems, then they should explain that and present that” before the Human Rights Council.
The rapporteurs’ letter described how groups of peaceful Occupy protesters were forcibly removed from their encampments in various U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Denver and Oakland, Calif., last fall.
- New York police staged a night raid on the original Occupy Wall Street encampment.
- The Oakland Police Department fired tear gas, smoke grenades and beanbag rounds at demonstrators.
- Philadelphia and Los Angeles police stormed the encampments in their cities in the middle of the night, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters.
- Police officers pepper-sprayed protesters at the University of California, Davis, and on a New York City sidewalk.
“In the conduct of such operations, law enforcement officials in these cities allegedly used violence as a means to forcibly remove unwilling protesters from the public areas in which they were located,” the letter said. “In some instances, police allegedly used force unnecessarily and disproportionately,” including “pepper spray and tear gas … used deliberately on protesters at a very close distance.”
The letter asked the State Department to respond to several questions about what happened and what sort of follow-up there was. It inquired, “What was the legal basis for these actions that limit the exercise of the legitimate rights of the protesters?”
The letter was written shortly after La Rue told HuffPost that he would contact the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials were not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators. La Rue’s view was that the federal government’s role was to ensure that local governments respected protesters’ human and constitutional rights.
In reality, the Department of Homeland Security helped coordinate the crackdowns,sharing information gathered by its nationwide monitoring and surveillance network with local governments.
In the letter, the envoys raised a particular concern that the “crowd control techniques used to manage and disperse these assemblies might have been intended to insert fear and intimidation on protesters throughout the country.”