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.
New research from Berkeley shows that police are often the agitators of violence
Aug. 22 2014
New research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that police are often the provocateurs of violence during demonstrations.
The Deciding Force project, who has been studying clashes between law enforcement and protestors in 192 cities during Occupy demonstrations in 2011, said that attacks by police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., are part of a disturbing trend of law enforcement playing the role of agitator.
“Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he’s carrying an AR-15,” said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science who has been heading the research at the Deciding Force Project. “It just upsets the crowd.”
During the Occupy protests, some of the most violent scenes occurred in Oakland, California, the research finds. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,
In one October 2011 protest over the clearing of an Occupy encampment outside Oakland City Hall, officers fired tear gas and projectiles into crowds, injuring several activists. One of them, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was critically hurt and settled a lawsuit against the city in March for $4.5 million.
“We’re finding police have a lot of capacity to set a tone,” Adams said during a recent radio interview with Sacramento’s KFBK. “When police show up in riot gear you get a different kind of interaction than when they show up in their regular uniforms.”
In Ferguson, police in full tactical gear have shot tear gas at protestors, pelted them with rubber bullets, and utilized smoke bombs to clear crowds. Numerous arrests have been made, including more than a dozen journalists covering the demonstrations.
Police say looting, violence, and armed “instigators” have provoked these actions, though accounts of such incidents vary.
President Barack Obama has held two press conferences to quell tensions, condemning police for attacking peaceful protestors and arresting journalists:
“Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these. There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully,” the president said, adding that violence and looting from protestors was unacceptable.
“Giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” Mr. Obama said. “It undermines rather than advancing justice.”
Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. An autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family, released earlier this week, concluded that Brown was shot at least six times, twice in the head.
Wilson, whose name was not released for nearly a week by Ferguson police, has not been charged with any crime.
The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency tasked with policing bad behavior by employers, is targeting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over the retail behemoth’s alleged crackdown on its protesting workers.
The complaint, the largest ever against Walmart, refers to charges made in November 2012 during the Black Friday actions by associates speaking out for respect on the job, regular hours and a living wage of $25,000 a year. The complaint alleges Walmart illegally fired and disciplined nearly 70 workers in 34 stores in 14 states for rallying over workplace conditions.
The rallies spread to 100 cities. Nineteen employees were discharged from the company, allegedly as a reprimand for their involvement in the rallies, according to the NLRB.
Wal-Mart is accused of warning its employees of punishment in two news broadcasts televised nationally as well as in statements to Texas and California store employees.
The agency, echoing its November findings, also said that the retailer preemptively threatened, surveilled or lashed out at employees before expected labor activities in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas.
The case is set to go before an administrative law judge on an undetermined hearing date. Wal-Mart has until Jan. 28 to respond.
Making Change at Walmart reported in a press release:
If Walmart is found liable, workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights. While historic, the complaint alone is not enough to stop Walmart from violating the law. Since the start of the year, Walmart has continued to retaliate against workers who speak out for better jobs.
McMillan, who was earlier this month released from Rikers Island – one of the country’s most notoriously violent jails – explained that although she was free, she no longer felt safe in New York “because I was sexually assaulted and then put in jail for it,” according to the Voice. McMillan has alleged from the start that the officer involved in her assault case forcibly grabbed her breast from behind during the protest; after elbowing him, she was promptly arrested and put in jail.
The interactions resulted in a blatantly sexist portrayal of McMillan sprinkled with mocking details about her fashion choices – all of which fail to mention that she was asked such questions by the press.
McMillan has been using her newfound freedom to speak out against the treatment of inmates at Rikers – a cause that is essentially being buried for more important notes on her outfit choices. Well done, New York media!
It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).
As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”