Sunday, October 16, 2011

Radio moment of the week

Attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) are the co-hosts of Law and Disorder Radio (which begins airing Mondays on WBAI and around the country on various radio stations throughout the week). Michael Ratner is also co-author with Margaret Ratner Kunstler of the forthcoming Hell No, Your Right To Dissent.

Law and Disorder Radio

Last week found Heidi and program producer Geoff Brady going to the site of the NYC Occupy Wall Street camp for a ground view report which included activists, watchers, and people who worked in the area as well as songs and speeches. Excerpt.

Heidi Boghosian: We just ran into Michael Leonard, a member of the National Lawyers Guild. He's not wearing a legal observer outfit today rather he's in a suit. Michael, why are you here on your lunchbreak?
Michael Leonard: I have been coming down here for the last week and a half or so, on and off, and I sometimes have the opportunity to work in downtown Brooklyn and there was a mix up on a case so I came here during my lunch break.
Heidi Boghosian: So you're headed off to court after a stop here?
Michael Leonard: That's right. Headed back to the ring.
Heidi Boghosian: And what does the sign you're carrying say?
Michael Leonard: This was a sign that I picked up on the steps and it says: "The crisis is capitalism." And I thought that was-was-did the trick.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you been talking to a lot of people here over the last two weeks?
Michael Leonard: Well I've had the opportunity to talk to some people today standing on the steps -- just getting into some positive dialogue with those people who were asking the protesters why they were here and what is it exactly they-they want.
Heidi Boghosian: What kind of answers are you getting to those questions, Michael?
Michael Leonard: Well those have been questions that have been posed to me. I think that the-the protestors as a group -- and I realize I can't really speak for them -- but have been slow to articulate actual demands. And I think that in part is due to a real respect and reverance for the process and for gaining consensus among the -- among the group. I've been involved with this work for a number of years now and I think that what we are seeing is a lot of grassroots, bottom-up decision making and I think that's really, really wonderful.
[. . .]
Heidi Boghosian: Good morning. What have you seen over the last two weeks?
Man 1: Pandemonium from all these people, just crowding up the block, getting in our way, they aren't really proving a point but we understand that they're mad about maybe not having jobs but I personally think none of these people would work if they had a job opportunity. I just don't think they're here for a purpose, they're here for a party.
Do you agree with that?
Man 2: Yeah, for the most part. I don't see them making any progress about anything. I don't hear about all I hear is they're holding up the crowd. They're holding up signs and nobody's listening.
Heidi Boghosian: Some people are saying their demands aren't clear enough that --
Man 2: Who are they really bothering except pedestrians? Everyday pedestrians? They're not really getting a clear message to Wall Street when Wall Street is down a couple of blocks. They should be over there and blocking doorways and stuff. Not --
Man 1: Not crowding the park.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you seen deliveries coming in in the early morning hours? Food and water?
Man 2: Well they're definitely getting deliveries. I don't know what time though.
Man 1: Yeah. I haven't seen it yet but this place has been growing rapidly daily. And it's in the morning when you see it. I come out here for lunch and we used to sit down at the benches here which was a nice, clean, beautiful park --
Man 2: It should be all construction workers just for the time being --
Man 1: It's just -- it's like a shanty town.
Heidi Boghosian: What do you think should be done though to protest what's happening with the economy?
Man 2: Uhm. Well, for our sake, we're in the union so we do our own rallies and we go -- We make a message across, we're talking and we're getting chants going so it's pretty obvious what we're getting across. These people are playing drums and it's like -- It's just like a hippie convention for the most part. It really doesn't seem like these people are trying to get a clear message across to anyone in Wall Street or
Man 1: I have a feeling if you talk to half of them, they don't even know why they're here.
Heidi Boghosian: But a lot of the unions are supporting this effort, aren't they?
Man 2: There are, don't get me wrong.
Man 1: I support that they're standing for a cause and that cause would be jobs. I just think they're going about it the wrong way. All I see is that they're crowding the park. And go to the powers that be. They're not talking to anybody over here. Go stand on [NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg's steps or something. Go set up a tent in front of his house and I guarantee more would get done. All they're doing is crowding the park here.
[. . .]
Woman: I'm from western New York. I have been here on-and-off for about ten days.
Heidi Boghosian: And were you on the Brooklyn Bridge?
Woman: Yes, I was. I was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Heidi Boghosian: Did you feel that the police were literally leading you onto the bridge?
Woman: Yes. There's been like -- There's been questions whether or not they made an actual announcement of you go on the Brooklyn Bridge that you would get arrested. I heard no such announcement; however, I did talk to people who said the announcement was made on a very, very muffled bullhorn so that they could have it on film that they said it but that it was not audible to the people standing right in front of them.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you been in other arrest situations and how did this compare in terms of police treatment of protestors?
Woman: I've been arrested for other protest-related things. Not in New York City. As I said, I'm from western New York. But this -- this was not good but not bad. I feel that being cuffed on an MTA bus for six hours with no food and no water isn't the best treatment but I was in no way physically harmed directly by the cops. I do feel like I have a little bone bruising on my wrists from the flexi-cuffs but, you know, I know it could be a lot worse. There were other arrests in this occupation where people had concussions and were not treated well and left on buses and were not able to get medical treatment. So, in that way, I feel very lucky that I was not treated the way other occupiers were treated but at the same time not being able to eat, not having access to water, except for whatever was in our backpacks is still not very acceptable in my opinion. We're humans too. Whether or not the state or the government agrees with us, we deserve to be treated like humans.
Heidi Boghosian: Are you surprised by how this movement is catching on all around the country?
Woman: Yes and no because I'm -- I am surprised because of the diversity of the people that have been coming out and saying -- I'm very particularly far left personally and was concerned that it would be a group of far leftists that would be construed as another anarchist, militant, violent group of people; however, it has been pleasantly surprising to me the number of people that have come out that are liberal, that are Libetarian and maybe even conservative. But we all share the same view. We are all the 99% and we all have very common goals. What separates the extreme right and the extreme left, I think, is mostly tactics and the dispute comes not from the end goal but how do we get to that goal.
Heidi Boghosian: Process.

Woman: Yeah, process. Definitely.
Heidi Boghosian: Any final words for people who might be thinking of coming here from around the country?
Woman: You know, come out and see what we're all about. Give it a shot. I came out here intending only to spend a week and I am back indefinitely because this is a beautiful movement.
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