Rightist Sparks DC Police Reprisal at Museum Protest

Reporters from the progressive websites OpEd News and FireDogLake have taken a lead in documenting how a right-wing agent provocateur created a violent police reaction Oct. 8 against peaceful Occupy Occupy DCWashington antiwar protesters. This shut down a Smithsonian museum and led to arrests. Furthermore, the role of the disrupter from The American Spectator was ignored by most mainstream news coverage until the next day. Instead, establishment reporters initially relied on police and museum spokespeople for spin-filled, dubious accounts of a demonstration that occurred in plain view near the center of the historic Mall.

Rob Kall, publisher of OpEd News, and his colleague Cheryl Biren have shocking photos of the event to illustrate their account. She was pepper-sprayed three times despite her credentials as a journalist and such important work as her photo at left. They and other journalists below have helped piece together an account of how the confrontation escalated because of a pre-planned stunt by an American Spectator editor identified as Patrick Howley, left. Howley is partly obscured in Biren's photo just behind another and larger unidentified demonstrator in the black tee-shirt. Biren says she compared her photos of the unidentified, heavyset man carefully with the mug shot of a New Jersey rightist reputed on some websites to be him, but believes they are not the same person. Over the past week, FireDogLake's Charlie Grapski did most of the detective work, and published an updated report on Oct. 10 called, Anatomy of a Deception: How a Conservative Magazine Attempted to Discredit the Occupy Movement, Read his coverage and that at OpEd News in such columns as, "Occupy" Participants Beware: Agents Provocateur Like The One at Air Space Museum Are Threat. Then help report the news widely through your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts.

Update: Park Police offers 4-month extension to Freedom Plaza permit: Organizer. The Park Police offered protest organizers a four-month extension to their permit at Freedom Plaza, according to an Occupy DC organizer.

Regarding the Oct. 8 disruption:  As described below in his own words, Howley apparently pretended to be an antiwar protester and then helped created a confrontation with museum security guards before scampering away to describe the havoc. Kall writes, "The people who planned the protest against killer drones at the National Air and Space museum wanted to make a statement and send a message. They did not want to scare families and children or shut down the museum." As an update, Occupy DC organizer David Swanson, who was pepper-sprayed Saturday, published a column Oct. 10 describing a decision by those at the rally to continue the protest even though their permit is expiring. FireDogLake reporter Charlie Grapski amplified as follows on the confrontation Oct. 8 at the museum:

Howley refers to the Museum as "the scene of my crime." In light of his detailed description of his activities today the fact that they clearly document the commission of the crime of trespassing on federal property, if not the intent to incite a riot there, these admissions should not be taken lightly or ignored. As a result of Howley's activities a large number of people were subjected to pepper-spray attacks including journalists and tourists who had nothing to do with the protest. Given the negative light that the press is attempting to spin this incident with regard to the ongoing occupations, from Wall Street and D.C. and now spreading to Main Streets across the country, the presence and admitted activities of this self-proclaimed agent provacateur should be brought to the attention of federal law enforcement officials.

Some of the events -- including a parade by Occupy Washington demonstrators on Seventh Street in the city leading to the museum -- were within eyesight of our Justice Integrity Project Eric Cantoroffice on that street. I visit daily the main rally site, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 13th Street. A related demonstration is in a park several blocks away. On one such trip, I encountered one of the nation's most prominent Republican senators of his era, a Southerner now retired. I asked if he were going to the demonstration, He said no, but added, "I think it's healthy" and described for several minutes how protest is an important part of democracy. I asked if I could identify him, but he preferred not. Then he resumed his reflections on the importance of protest to a vibrant democracy. I'll defer to his wish and not mention his name or too much identifying information. But his perspective, especially in contrast to the demogogic denunciation of "mobs" by such successors in Congress as GOP House leader Eric Cantor (VA), right, provides useful context to the accounts below of how the major "mob" action yesterday appears to have been fomented by a rightest seeking to bring bad publicity to the protest.

Protesters planned to visit the museum in part because it featured a drone exhibit. Several members lawfully admitted unfurled a banner inside the museum. Howley and a rightist accomplice are reported to have provoked a more direct confrontation with guards before scampering away as guards unleashed a pepper spray attack on demonstators outside the building and evicting all tourists and about a dozen protesters who had entered the museum.

Important also is how such protests, now reported in some 1,400 communities through the country after their start on Wall Street, are portrayed by the mainstream media. See the accounts below for further detail. More generally, this illustrates one of two twin fears of protest organizers: 1) That rightists would secretly infiltrate to create disruption that discredits the goals; and 2) that the protests would be co-opted by establishment figures to advance their own short-term election strategies. Of course, there’s always the possibility of silly leftists too. Well, item one above already appears to have happened, but it remains to be seen if it’s visible enough for the corporate-controlled news media. From my perspective, it’s hiding in fairly plain sight. See articles below for further detail.

Who Was Mystery Museum Provocateur?

The heavyset man confronting the museum guard in the photo above remains unidentified. Based on photo anlaysis, Biren and Kall believe he is not the man identified by The Smoking Gun in a story last June, The Dark Past Of The "Weinergate" Co-Pilot: Twitter avenger Mike Stack not your typical conservative agitator.

Occupy DC Events and Coverage

Business Insider, Protesters Are So Angry About..., Henry Blodget, Oct. 11, 2011. So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right. But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don't know what they stand for or want. (An early list of "grievances" included some legitimate beefs, but was otherwise just a vague attack on "corporations." Given that these are the same corporations that employ more than 100 million Americans and make the products we all use every day, this broadside did not resonate with most Americans). Do they have legitimate gripes? Yes, they have very legitimate gripes. The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation's history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

Huffington Post, Business Insider Uses Charts To Elucidate Precisely Why There Is An 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement, Jason Linkins, Oct. 12, 2011. The Editors Of The New Republic Find These Wall Street Protests To Be Oh-So-Terribly Gauche! In a move that's not going to take anyone who's currently a member of America's working class by surprise, the editors of the New Republic have come out against the Occupy Wall Street movement. There's just something about ordinary people that rubs the well-heeled minds of America's premiere catalog of bourgeois thoughts the wrong way!

FireDogLake, Anatomy of a Deception: How a Conservative Magazine Attempted to Discredit the Occupy Movement, Charlie Grapski, Oct. 10, 2011. On Saturday October 8, 2011, video was released onto the Internet showing a frenzied group of protesters outside of the National Air and Space Museum dodging a pair of Smithsonian security guards indiscriminately pepper-spraying the crowd.  Something inside the Museum, moments before, caused this chaos which led to the Museum being shut down for the rest of the day. The events have since been used, by their portrayal in the media, to tarnish the image of the #Occupy protests emerging across the nation. What happened inside the Museum to cause the police action has not been reported.  Only today, Monday, are reports starting to hit the major media that there is evidence of the involvement of an editor from the conservative magazine The American Spectator at the center of what took place this weekend in Washington D.C.  Saturday afternoon when I discovered an article published by Patrick Howley on the Spectator’s website entitled “Standoff in D.C.” I immediately began to analyze the evidence in light of the events portrayed in Howley’s piece. An analysis of the original unedited piece and the focus of the revisions reveals clearly the recognition of guilt, perhaps even legal culpability or liability for the actions of their employee, by The American Spectator. What becomes obvious upon reading the two related pieces side-by-side is that alterations were made to eliminate Howley’s original braggadocio-filled portrayal of his roles. He was both infiltrator of the protest and initiator of the conflict.  This is the story of an immature individual being placed in a position of responsibility by those who feign journalism to hide their own political and self-interested agenda – and are willing to do anything to shape public opinion to their advantage.

Think Progress, Journalists Funded By ‘Vulture Capitalist’ Paul Singer Campaign To Smear Wall Street Protests, Lee Fang, Oct 10, 2011. The campaign to marginalize and destroy the growing 99 Percent Movement is in full swing, with many in the media attempting to smear the people participating in the “occupation” protests across the country. However, several of the so-called journalists deriding, and in some cases sabotaging the movement, have paychecks thanks to a billionaire whose business practices have been scorned as among the worst of the financial elite. As the New York Times has documented, Paul Singer, a Republican activist and hedge fund manager worth over $900 million, has emerged as one of the most important power brokers within the GOP. Now, it appears that the reporters financed by Singer are at the forefront of efforts to tarnish the reputation of 99 Percent Movement demonstrators.

Washington Post, Park Police offers 4-month extension to Freedom Plaza permit: Organizer, Teresa Tomassoni and Annie Gowen, Oct. 10, 2011. UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.:The Park Police has offered protest organizers a four-month extension to their permit at Freedom Plaza, according to Flowers. A Park Police spokesman did not return a call seeking comment. UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.:Nobody has been arrested. When Park Police officers asked the protest organizers whose names were on the permit to speak privately, Flowers and Kevin Zeese originally refused. Eventually, after the protesters met as a group, they agreed to let a meeting take place — but said they would prefer a public meeting or, failing that, a meeting Flowers can record.

War Is a Crime, Dancing on Our Occupation Permit, David Swanson, Oct. 10, 2011. Sunday night, our permit expired for occupying Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. So, we threw a dance party, and when we could dance no more, we went to sleep in Freedom Plaza. We have until 2 p.m. today to remove our possessions. We do not intend to do so. We suspect that if the police want to remove us by force they will wait until evening. So we're throwing a dinner party, and 99% of the country is invited. Our permit is now the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. "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." There is no way for the vast majority of people in this enormous country to petition our government for a redress of grievances other than what we are doing. We've phoned, emailed, faxed, and mailed letters. And yet rich people are taxed less than poor people, wars rage on, 65% of discretionary spending goes into the war machine, our social safety net is being shredded, and our environment is being destroyed. So, we're here in person, but most of us cannot afford hotel rooms. We are exercising our First Amendment rights in the only possible way: by camping in Washington, D.C., and protesting our government in a manner it cannot avoid. Some of our brothers and sisters are occupying McPherson Square as well, and they can have 500 there with no permit. Join them too.

OpEd News, Those Who Say Occupy Wall Street Movement Should Go To Washington Don't Get It, Rob Kall, Oct. 10, 2011. The other day, the Occupy group in Atlanta Georgia turned away local congressman John Lewis. This was a good thing, with no-one intending disrespect for congressman Lewis. The mainstream media don't seem to get what the Occupy Wallstreet movement is all about. Frankly, each person who shows up has his or her own idea of what it's about. That's part of the beauty and also a major challenge for the movement. I spent four days covering the Occupy Washington DC phenomenon at Freedom Plaza and Occupy DC at McPherson Square. Part of the challenge of getting the Occupy Wall Street movement, action, phenomenon is that it is a movement or phenomenon that is just being born and, as such, has the characteristics of something new that is just being born-- characteristics, policies, ways of communicating, of deciding are emerging. Emergent process is a good phrase for describing what's going on at urban parks and squares where Occupy communities are forming. "Communities-- that's clearly a key part of what's emerging -- a new kind of community that in each of the 1200 plus towns and cities where Occupy Wall Street phenomena are manifesting is starting from scratch defining who they are, how they make decisions, how leaders are or are not determined -- usually going without leaders.

OpEd News, "Occupy" Participants Beware: Agents Provocateur Like The One at Air Space Museum Are Threat, Rob Kall, Oct. 9, 2011. The people who planned the protest against killer drones at the National Air and Space Museum wanted to make a statement and send a message. They did not want to scare families and children or shut down the museum.

FireDogLake, American Spectator Editor Admits to Being Agent Provocateur at D.C. Museum, Charlie Grapski, Oct. 9, 2011. Immediately after the incident began hitting the newswires Howley published a “Breaking News” story with The American Spectator online in which he reveals that he had consciously infiltrated the group on Friday with the intent to discredit the movement. He states that “as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator — and I wasn’t giving up before I had my story.”

OpEd News, Pepper-Sprayed for Peace, David Swanson, Oct. 8, 2011. I've been coughing and vomiting, and my head aches from pepper spray. I'll post videos and photos of why. We intended to hold signs and sing inside the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, protesting its promotion of unmanned drones, missiles, and bombs, including its sponsorship by and promotion of weapons corporations. We don't have any museums promoting health coverage or education or retirement security. We had marched from the Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square occupations, taking over the streets of DC. The museum knew we were coming. Some of our group got in and dropped a banner. Hundreds of us did not. Instead, we were greeted at the door with cans of pepper spray.

OpEd News, Reporter and Occupy Wash DC Protesters Pepper Sprayed at National Air and Space Museum, Rob Kall, Oct. 8, 2011. When participants in a peaceful, non-violent march which departed from the Freedom Square Occupy Washington DC staging area attempted to enter the National Air and Space Museum, guards and police responded violently, throwing people to the ground, pepper-spraying a journalist and protesters so the doors outside were surrounded by people choking, wheezing, prostrated on the ground, eyes blinded or tearing from direct and indirect exposure to pepper spray.  I had gone ahead of the group of 700-1500 protesters, carrying signs opposing the use of drones to indiscriminately kill. The National Air and Space Museum had been targeted because it is celebrating the use of drones. MSNBC has used the second of my two videos on their website. They're quoting a guard saying there were 100-200 people. I say there were 700-1500.  And they quote a spokesperson reporting that one person was pepper sprayed-- I saw at least ten people suffering the effects of pepper-spray, and the guards did not just spray one aggressive protester. They chased after people and sprayed outside.

American Spectator, Standoff in D.C., Patrick Howley, Oct. 8, 2011. Anti-capitalist protests engulf the nation's capital -- and one American Spectator reporter gets pepper-sprayed. The fastest-running protesters charged up the steps of Washington's National Air and Space Museum Saturday afternoon to infiltrate the building and hang banners on the "shameful" exhibits promoting American imperialism. As the white-uniformed security guards hurried to physically block the entrances, only a select few -- myself, for journalistic purposes, included -- kept charging forward.

Associated Press / Washington Post, Air & Space Museum in DC closed after demonstrators try to enter with signs; 1 pepper-sprayed, Oct. 8, 2011. Washington’s National Air and Space Museum is closed after demonstrators tried to enter the building with signs and at least one person was pepper-sprayed. Smithsonian spokesman John Gibbons says a group of demonstrators, estimated between 100 and 200 people, arrived at about 3 p.m. Saturday and tried to enter the free museum. Gibbons says when a security guard tried to stop them, saying they could not enter with the signs, he was apparently held by demonstrators. A second guard used pepper spray on at least one person and the crowd dispersed. One woman was arrested.

Occupy Wall Street Coverage

New York Times, Panic of the Plutocrats, Paul Krugman, Oct.9, 2011. It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent. Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

OpEd News, The Wall Street Occupiers and the Democratic Party, Robert Reich, Oct. 8, 2011. Will the Wall Street Occupiers morph into a movement that has as much impact on the Democratic Party as the Tea Party has had on the GOP? Maybe. But there are reasons for doubting it. If Occupy Wall Street coalesces into something like a real movement, the Democratic Party may have more difficulty digesting it than the GOP has had with the Tea Party.

Huffington Post, Eric Cantor Condemns Occupy Wall Street 'Mobs', Oct. 7, 2011. Amanda Terkel, Oct. 7, 2011. Top House GOP leaders assured attendees at the 2011 Values Voter Summit Friday morning that despite all the attention on fixing the nation's economy, they remain committed to pushing the priorities of social conservatives, including defunding Planned Parenthood and defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Reason TV, What We Saw at the Occupy Wall Street Protest, Oct 7, 2011 (Video). On October 4, 2011, Reason.tv visited the Occupy Wall Street protests at Liberty Square in Lower Manhattan, on Day 18 of the ongoing demonstration. The crowd was relatively small at about 300, and included educated but unemployed workers, college students and recent graduates, homeless drifters, performance artists, 9/11 truthers, and a not-insignificant number of journalists.

Occupy Birminggham and LA (Selected sites among nearly 1,000 reported locales)
Occupy Birmingham event: here were approximately 200 people there.This was mainly a planning meeting and they seem to be poised to grow rapidly. There is a big event planned for next Saturday, October 15. It will coincide with the National “Occupy” movement.  If you want more information, add your name to their mailing list at Occupy Birmingham or visit their Facebook page.

Los Angeles: Aboringal Media, ICUJP Civil Disobediance: Arrested for Peace, Part 1, Robert Corsini, Oct. 8, 2011. Video.

Media Critics Provide Context on National Coverage
Huffington Post, Occupy Wall Street Vs. Erin Burnett: A Primer In Media Failure, Jason Linkins, Oct. 7, 2011. Yesterday, Salon's Glenn Greenwald, left, did a fairly masterful job filleting the myopic and condescending way CNN's new hire Erin Burnett chose to cover the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Greenwald is hardly alone in his criticism. The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik did much the same, saying, "Two of the fundamental attributes of good journalism are curiosity and a respect for the people on whom you report. Burnett got an "F" on both those counts with her Occupy Wall Street piece." Yesterday, I pointed to Jay Rosen, who highlighted short-lived tweets from CNN's Alison Kosik, documenting the fact that the failings Zurawik notes appear to be systemic at CNN.

Salon / Unclaimed Territory, What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests? Glenn Greenwald, Sept. 28, 2011. It's unsurprising that establishment media outlets have been condescending, dismissive and scornful of the ongoing protests on Wall Street.  Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists….In sum, there is a sprawling apparatus of federal and local militarized police forces and private corporate security designed to send this message: if you participate in protests or other forms of dissent outside of harmless approved channels, you're going to be harmed in numerous ways.

 

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