The First Amendment or private police
By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times
Occupy Wall Street is moving into its second month. From the outset, the police in New York City took a decidedly unfriendly posture to the demonstrators: pepper spray, billy clubs pushing and shoving, trying to restrain the movements of the demonstrators and lots of arrests.
The mayor of New York swung into action and accused the Wall Street demonstrators of trying to cripple the city’s economy.
“What they’re trying to do is take the jobs away from people working in this city.”
This is of course a ludicrous claim. If anything, as people travel into the city to participate and the media begin to focus, vendors, hotels, restaurants and many other merchants are selling more of their goods and services.
But this is not the kind of convention his honor wants to host.
Of course, the mayor may not have been thinking of the jobs of hot dog vendors, deli owners and local merchants. He may have been thinking about the jobs of bankers. But if so, his worry is unfounded.
The protesters don’t want mass layoffs of bank clerks. They just want to see some of their bosses go to jail.
In Philadelphia, where Occupy Philadelphia was launched only a week ago, city leaders took a different approach. A spokesman for the mayor set the tone, telling the media, “They (the protesters) have been law-abiding; there have been no arrests or citations; they’ve controlled their site very well; they have cooperated with police.”
He continued, “They’re exercising their right to free speech, and they’re going about it in a very mature way.”
Philly Mayor Michael Nutter visited the die-hards who slept out in the open the first night — at 1:30 a.m.
Philadelphia newspapers reported that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey “has directed his officers to work with demonstrators and assist with marches. He emphasized that officers are bound to protect the demonstrators’ right to protest peacefully.”
Ramsey has also had the First Amendment read at roll calls and periodically over the police radio system as a reminder.
How to explain the difference in the two cities?
One reason may be that Philadelphia is the place where the “inalienable” rights of the people were first declared, and then protected in the Constitution, and it appears are still taught in the schools.
Another may be that the police in both New York and Philly report to the mayor, and they are very different men. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is a billionaire who made his billions — and goes on making them — providing business services to Wall Street. He has a major Wall Street firm as business partner.
But in a recent article in the journal Counterpunch, 20-year Wall Street veteran Pan Martens reported a more troubling explanation for the aggressive behavior of the New York City police: they’ve been bought.
Oh, I don’t mean New York cops are taking illegal bribes to beat up demonstrators. This is America. The bribes have been legalized. The cops have been hired by Wall Street, in a program started by former NYC Mayor Rudi Giuliani.
Martens reports, “It’s called the Paid Detail Unit and it allows the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street corporations, including those repeatedly charged with crimes, to order up a flank of New York’s finest with the ease of dialing the deli for a pastrami on rye.”
According to Martens, for $37 an hour, the New York Stock Exchange, Goldman Sachs and other undisclosed firms will have paid out more than $11 million by the end of the year to hire cops with uniforms, badges, guns and the power to arrest.
Not every member of the force is happy with the arrangement. One officer described it on a website as officers “... 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.”
One hopes that is what most of the officers think, but $11 million in hard times is bound to win friends and influence people.
So it appears that the “White Shirt” NYC cops who have been all over the demonstrators, as opposed to the familiar Blue Shirts, may not be “supervisors” as has been claimed, but are part of a private gang.
And they are being used by Wall Street today exactly as Wall Street used paid thugs at the turn of the past century to break up striking miners and steel workers.
So, hats off to the Honorable Michael Nutter, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, his commissioner of police, Charles H. Ramsey, the men and women of the force and, above all, the people of the City of Philadelphia and the Occupiers for providing the nation with a much needed civics lesson.
Fed up with a government that serves, protects and defends only established wealth and privilege, they have taken matters in their own hands; but unlike the barons on Wall Street and their allies, they have not taken the law into their own hands.
Mike Krauss is chairman of The Pennsylvania Project, a former officer of Bucks County and Pennsylvania government and an international logistics executive. Reach him at www.papublicbankproject.org.