Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NYPD... Wall Street's New Private Security Force


Over the weekend I revisited one of my favorite films from the seventies. Francis Ford Coppola's Kafkaish homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film, "Blow Up" (Antonioni's first done entirely in English, and one of my favorite movies of the sixties), "The Conversation."
"The Conversation," stars Gene Hackman as surveillance expert Harry Caul, a 32 year old Harrison Ford fresh off his big break in "American Graffiti" (and who had an uncredited part in Antonioni's second feature done entirely in English, 1970's "Zabriskie Point), an uncredited Robert Duvall as the victim of a murder plot, and sweet, little, innocent Cindy Williams ("When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin' along... along"), from "Laverne and Shirley" (and "American Graffiti" for that matter), fame, who turns out to be a desperate murderess (the flash back scene of her giving her husband (Duvall) a kiss then turning away as her lover shoves a plastic bag over his face from behind to suffocate him is quite chilling, and reminiscent of Coppola's Godfather movies (interestingly enough "The Godfather II" and "The Conversation" were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1974. "The Godfather II" won)).
The is an intense character study of Hackman's character, Harry Caul, a murder mystery switcheroo, and deals tangentially with the subject of surveillance, legal or illegal (the subject is considered more fully in what could be said the sequel to "The Conversation," 1998's "Enemy of the State," again starring Hackman, with Will Smith). Caul is hired by a private entity (Duvall) to record a conversation between two people in a public area, which he does successfully. It remains unclear to me why Caul was even needed to perform this act considering the amount of, and sophistication of the surveillance applied to Caul himself by the agents and inheritors of the said private entity after his death.
In any case I mention the above film because it does concern the issue of surveillance, which of course brings us to the New York Police Department's use of surveillance in dealing with the Occupy Wall Street Movement in Zuccotti Park before they were forcefully removed November 15th.
Articles such as these:
by the journalist Nick Turse point out succinctly the amount of scrutiny the NYPD put upon the OWS movement. It implies police resources were devoted to the demonstrations to the point that other locations in New York City suffered from a lack of police presence, it also points out that though it was apparently alright for the police to surveil the peaceful protesters it was not okay for law abiding citizens to surveil the police.
The answer is someone was very frightened, and those who were frightened are the so-called 1 per-centers, the power elite, whose power structure appeared threatened by the application of human and civil rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.
And who are these police working for anyhow? The citizens of New York City? Doesn't seem that way. The citizens of New York were the ones occupying Zuccotti Park, who again were legally pursuing their rights guaranteed to all of us (supposedly) in our Constitution. Are they working for Mayor Bloomberg? Nominally to be sure, so who is he working for? The citizens of New York City? Doesn't seem that way. The citizens of New York were the ones occupying Zuccotti Park! We must remember that billionaire Bloomberg is a product of Wall Street, the stated target of the occupiers.
So who are the police working for? It seems that a lot of them are working directly for Wall Street firms, as is suggested in the above articles.
The tax paying public foots the bill for the training of new police officers, their upkeep, uniforms, weaponry, and are given the authority to act in the name of the city and state, for private interests, who use these officers as their own security forces against the very public who subsidize them. Speaking about Kafkaish! Even some in the police themselves understand the irony involved:
"When the program was first rolled out, one insightful member of the NYPD posted the following on a forum: '… regarding the officer working for, and being paid by, some of the richest people and organizations in the City, if not the world, enforcing the mandates of the private employer, and in effect, allowing the officer to become the Praetorian Guard of the elite of the City. And now corruption is no longer a problem. Who are they kidding?'"
In a display of Wall Street's immense arrogance, the New York Stock Exchange was sued in 2004 in the Supreme Court of New York County for illegally taking over public streets with no authority to do so.
Judge Walter Tolub said in his opinion that:
“…a private entity, the New York Stock Exchange, has assumed responsibility for the patrol and maintenance of truck blockades located at seven intersections surrounding the NYSE…no formal authority appears to have been given to the NYSE to maintain these blockades and/or conduct security searches at these checkpoints…the closure of these intersections by the NYSE is tantamount to a public nuisance…The NYSE has yet to provide this court with any evidence of an agreement giving them the authority to maintain the security perimeter and/or conduct the searches that their private security force conducts daily. As such, the NYSE’s actions are unlawful and may be enjoined as they violate plaintiff’s civil rights as a private citizen.”
The case was eventually dismissed on appeal as a higher court overturned Judge Tolub's ruling. It appears the higher a case is taken in the judicial system the more the judicial system sides with the power elite all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States (Citizens United being a prominent example).
What kind of society does this kind of situation indicate?
"From what I’ve seen, it’s a society in which a somewhat surly, armed man sitting 25 feet up in a little metal box spying on people, protected by a similarly armed, perhaps slightly confused, young man in a car, would be considered odd and unnecessary. The fact that New York City is now a place where you’re not supposed to notice such things, much less question them (and, if you do, you’re questioned for it), says a lot about where the United States is as a society and why, perhaps, there are hardy souls braving the cold in Zuccotti Park to build a new one," says Turse.
But the protesters are not in Zuccotti Park anymore. They've dispersed for the time being in New York after being forcefully evicted by Wall Street's minions, the NYPD.
Which brings us to the subject of tomorrow's post, the increasing militarization of the country's police departments, a militarization whose focus are those the police are sworn to protect.
Us. The 99%. The very 99% the police are themselves a part of.

To be continued.

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