Mayor Apologizes After Oakland California Police Attack Peaceful Protesters – Marine Veteran In Intensive Care Unit With Fractured Skull

October 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – As “Occupy” demonstrations continue largely unabated, officials in cities across the country appear to be pressing for more strict control of the loosely defined group, raising the stakes for the movement as it stretches into its second month.

“These police actions only serve to galvanize the movement,” said Michael Heaney, a University of Michigan professor who studies social movements. “It actually makes a lot more sense (for police) to just wait.”

On Friday, authorities in lower Manhattan removed propane tanks and generators in Zuccotti Park — an Occupy Wall Street home base in the city’s financial district — leaving demonstrators to battle the cold seeping through their blankets and sleeping bags.

“These are fire hazards (and) against the law,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during his weekly WOR-AM radio show, adding “our first concern is safety.”

Bloomberg said that up to 40 firefighters had removed six generators and several gasoline cans.

Demonstrators described the removal as an attempt to restrict Internet use and make their lives more difficult as a cold front moves into the region.

The action in New York comes one day after a California mayor apologized for violence against demonstrators that saw them tear gassed and resulted in the hospitalization of an Iraq war veteran.

Marine veteran Scott Olsen suffered a skull fracture Tuesday night after allegedly being struck by a tear gas canister in Oakland, according to witnesses.

“There is this new dynamic that goes on,” said Susan Olzak, a Stanford University professor of sociology professor. “Both sides are losing patience and both sides can become entrenched.”

Olsen, meanwhile, has become another rallying cry for the “Occupy” movement spreading across the country.

He has been listed in fair condition in the intensive care unit at Highland Hospital, according to a hospital spokesman.

Also Friday, hundreds of demonstrators in New York marched on the offices of five major banks and financial services firms, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

They railed against what the group describes as corporate greed, arrogance and power, as well as their assertion that the nation’s wealthiest 1% hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

iReport: Meet the 99%

“In one sense (the demonstrators) are right, the system is broken,” Heaney said. “On the other hand, if you want to affect change, you can’t be completely beyond the traditional institutions of American democracy. “

He said that large percentages of protesters appear averse to such staples of the government as congressional lobbying and the use of the courts.

“If you look at the civil rights movement — how much more could the system be broken against African-Americans?” Heaney said. “But they engaged a whole repertoire to change the system.

“You have to have some sort of inside-outside strategy,” he said.

Earlier Friday, police said 51 demonstrators in San Diego, California, were arrested for various charges of encroachment, unlawful assembly, illegal lodging and/or some form of obstruction of officers.

Three others were arrested on similar charges in Tampa, Florida, according to a police statement.

In Nashville, Tennessee, meanwhile, authorities said Occupy Nashville participants are now required to have permits. They also restricted the times they are allowed to gather.

In Atlanta, police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park overnight Tuesday. The arrests came after Mayor Kasim Reed said he sent ministers to the park “to see if we can find a way to resolve this amicably.”

Reed told CNN affiliate WSB that concerns were increased when a man in the park was seen with an assault rifle. “We could not determine whether the weapon was loaded and could not get additional information on the weapon,” he said.

Authorities ordered people to leave the park about midnight Tuesday, WSB said, going from tent to tent with flashlights. Arrests began taking place about 12:45 a.m.

Civil rights leader Joe Beasley later spoke to the demonstrators, telling them that he fears the work of Martin Luther King Jr. is being threatened.

“We see now a world that is more polarized than ever,” Beasley said in a video posted online. “The rich is getting richer, and the poor is getting poorer.”

Despite the crackdown, the movement does not appear to be losing steam.

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Disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder To Testify About His Department’s Efforts That Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee regarding “Fast and Furious.” The hearing will take place Dec. 8th.

Judiciary Committee member and head of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had requested that Holder appear, in part to dig deeper into when-he-knew-what about ATF’s so-called “gunwalking” operation Fast and Furious.

In May, Holder testified that he only first heard about Fast and Furious a few weeks before. However, as CBS News reported, documents and memos indicate he had been sent multiple briefings mentioning Fast and Furious in 2010.

Holder later explained in a letter to Congress that he didn’t read those memos, and that in any event, nobody at the Justice Department who knew of Fast and Furious was aware of the specific “gunwalking” tactics used.

More Fast and Furious coverage
Memos contradict Holder on Fast and Furious
Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico
Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

Also today, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested a public hearing with the former Director of ATF: Kenneth Melson.

“A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again,” wrote Cummings in a letter today to Rep. Issa.

Rep. Cummings says Melson’s attorney has indicated Melson would be “pleased to cooperate.”

Below is a copy of the Cummings letter.

October 28, 2011

The Honorable Darrell E. Issa

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As I have stated repeatedly, I believe Operation Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences. As I have also stated, I support a fair and responsible investigation that follows the facts where they lead, rather than drawing conclusions before evidence is gathered or ignoring information that does not fit into a preconceived narrative.

On several occasions over the past month, you have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about when he first became aware of the controversial tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. The Attorney General has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8, 2011, when you will have another opportunity to question him directly.

With respect to our own Committee’s investigation, I do not believe it will be viewed as legitimate or credible-and I do not believe the public record will be complete-without public testimony from Kenneth Melson, who served as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again.

Our staffs have already conducted transcribed interviews with Mr. Melson and the former Deputy Director of ATF, William Hoover. During those interviews, these officials expressed serious concerns about the controversial tactics employed by the Phoenix Field Division of ATF as part of this operation. They also raised concerns about the manner in which the Department of Justice responded to congressional inquiries. Both officials also stated that they had not been aware of the controversial tactics being used in Operation Fast and Furious, had not authorized those tactics, and had not informed anyone at the Department of Justice headquarters about them. They stated that Operation Fast and Furious originated within the Phoenix Field Division, and that ATF headquarters failed to properly supervise it.

Since the Attorney General has now agreed to appear before Congress in December, I believe Members also deserve an opportunity to question Mr. Melson directly, especially since he headed the agency responsible for

Operation Fast and Furious. My staff has been in touch with Mr. Melson’s attorney, who reports that Mr. Melson would be pleased to cooperate with the Committee.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Elijah E. Cummings

Ranking Member

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Department Of Homeland Security Not Helping Alabama Enforce Immigration Law

October 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The government hasn’t offered to help Alabama put in place a strict immigration law that the Obama administration is challenging in court, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

The administration has sued to block the law, which is considered the toughest state immigration measure in the country.

“We have been working with the Department of Justice in its challenge to that law,” Napolitano told the House Judiciary Committee.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta this month temporarily blocked a part of the law that required public schools to check the immigration status of students. But the court did not bar law enforcement officials from detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

A final ruling in the case is not expected for several months.

Alabama Republicans have argued that the law, passed this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, was necessary to protect the jobs of legal residents.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he’s not surprised by Napolitano’s comments.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government won’t help us enforce our laws considering it hasn’t been enforcing its own law for years. That’s why we’re in this mess to begin with. In Alabama, we’re trying to turn off the magnet drawing illegal aliens across the border. The Obama Administration is trying to make the magnet stronger,” said Hubbard.

The Obama administration, which also is challenging a similar law in Arizona, has argued that enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.

Advocates against the strict state law have argued that giving immigration enforcement power to local authorities will lead to racial profiling of immigrants, both legal and illegal.

“Common sense law enforcement is about prioritizing resources,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The Department of Homeland Security should work with the Department of Justice to hold Alabama accountable, and prioritize valuable enforcement resources carefully to make sure the most dangerous individuals are detained and deported.”

Napolitano said that while it is too soon to know what impact the new law will have, such worries “should be a real a real concern.”

Similar laws have been passed in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana. Civil rights groups have sued to block them.

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Newark New Jersey TSA Agent Removed – Left Lewd Message In Woman’s Luggage After Finding Sex Toy

October 26, 2011

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior” TSA said.

A Transportation Security Administration airport security worker has been removed from checking baggage because of a note with sexual implications he left for a passenger at Newark’s Liberty International Airport.

Jill Filipovic, a New York blogger who is also a lawyer, tweeted Monday that a note was left in her bag — which contained a sex toy, according to reports — that said “get your freak on.” The note was written on a TSA notice of inspection form, leading Filipovic to believe it was written by someone at airport security.

TSA said on its blog Tuesday that it had conducted an investigation into the incident and removed the employee that was responsible from duty.

“That individual was immediately removed from screening operations and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated,” the agency wrote.

“The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

The TSA blog Tuesday also said the agency had issued an apology to Filipovic, who tweeted a picture of the note.

For her part, Filipovic joked in subsequent tweets about the notoriety the incident had brought her.

“Lesson learned: Don’t tweet anything you don’t want to appear on The View. #FML,” she wrote Monday.

“Also, this twitter feed is now reverting to its usual content of wine, cheese, bacon and feminism. Unfollow away,” she followed up in a second tweet.

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Pittsfield Massachusetts Police Charge Sex Offender With Kissing And Fondling Cardboard Cutout Of A Woman

October 26, 2011

PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS – A convicted sex offender admitted he kissed and fondled a cardboard cutout of a woman, which was part of a North Street pharmacy’s advertising display. Charlie J. Price, 57, of Pittsfield, pleaded guilty to a single count of disturbing the peace, subsequent offense, and was ordered to pay a $200 fine by Central Berkshire District Court Judge Fredric D. Rutberg.

Saturday around 5 p.m., Price, who was allegedly intoxicated, walked into the Rite Aid pharmacy, “grabbed hold of the sunglass display, hugged it tightly and then began to lick and kiss the face of the female party on the display,” according to a Pittsfield Police report.

This behavior lasted about a minute, according to police, and ended when Price fell to the floor. He eventually got back on his feet and began yelling and screaming, according to the police report. Meanwhile, Price’s behavior apparently scared customers who “actively” tried to get away from the area. Price was arrested by the Pittsfield Police.

Price is a Level 3 sex offender, and therefore is considered to be at a high risk for reoffending. In 1991, he was convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. Last year, he was convicted of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, according to the Sex Offender Registry Board.

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Former UN Weapons Inspector Convicted After Seeking Sex With 15 Year Old Girl

October 26, 2011

STROUDSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA – A former U.N. weapons inspector convicted in an online sex sting lost his bid for a new trial Wednesday and was expected to learn his sentence later in the day.

Scott Ritter, 50, of Delmar, N.Y., exchanged explicit messages with a detective posing as a 15-year-old girl, then performed a sex act on himself in front of a webcam. He testified in his own defense at his April trial that he believed the person he met in a Yahoo chat room in 2009 was an adult acting out her own fantasy.

A Monroe County jury convicted Ritter on six counts, including unlawful contact with a minor.

Ritter asked for a new trial Wednesday, basing his request on an appeals court ruling in New York that records from two previous incidents in that state in 2001 should not have been unsealed and given to prosecutors in Pennsylvania to be used at his trial. Defense attorney Gary Kohlman argued the New York ruling entitled Ritter to a new trial because prosecutors based much of their strategy on the argument that Ritter had a history of illicit online sex.

“It became, as I feared, the tail that was wagging the dog at trial,” Kohlman said in court.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski argued the New York ruling had no bearing on Ritter’s conviction and sentence in Pennsylvania.

Monroe County Judge Jennifer Sibum rejected the defense request for a new trial, saying Kohlman could bring up the New York case on appeal, and ordered Ritter’s sentencing hearing to begin.

Paula Brust, a member of the Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified for the prosecution that based on Ritter’s history, he is at risk to offend again.

“He is not able to manage his offending in the community despite sex offender treatment,” she said.

Kohlman indicated he plans to call his own expert who will testify that Ritter is doing well in treatment and presents a low risk of re-offending.

Ritter was one of the U.N.’s chief weapons inspectors in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He resigned after accusing the United States and the U.N. of failing to get tough with Saddam Hussein. Later, he said Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, and he became a vocal critic of the U.S. invasion.

In 2001, Ritter twice arranged to meet people who claimed online to be underage girls but who turned out to be undercover police in Colonie, N.Y. The charges were eventually dismissed and the case was sealed, but Pennsylvania prosecutors obtained the records and used them to try to show Ritter has a predilection for underage girls.

Ritter told jurors he knew he was chatting with undercover police and set up the meetings so he would be arrested. Kohlman has said Ritter used sexually explicit chats on the Internet as a way to handle his depression over being called unpatriotic for his criticism of American policy on Iraq.

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Oakland California Police Attack Peaceful Protesters With Tear Gas

October 26, 2011

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Authorities made a series of arrests at Occupy Wall Street protests in California and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday, with clashes in one city that involved tear gas being used on demonstrators.

Police said they fired the tear gas on protesters in Oakland, California, after the crowd threw paint and other objects at officers.

Plumes of smoke could be seen in the city as about 500 people defied calls to leave an area of downtown Oakland on Tuesday, according to police. Protesters had camped for weeks in several areas in the city, including near City Hall, police said.

“The city remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the city’s responsibility to protect public health and safety,” Oakland police said in a statement.

Oakland resident Andrew Johnson said he decided to leave when police threatened arrests, soon after hearing explosions as tear gas canisters were fired into the air.

“I think at first it was a pretty inspiring sight,” he said of the protesters. “It was inspiring to see people so impassioned. But when the police action began, it was a pretty unnerving sight. Just to see that energy turn into panic and anger was unsettling.”
Moore: No one will remember the tea party

In Atlanta, police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park overnight. The arrests came after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he sent ministers to the park “to see if we can find a way to resolve this amicably.”

Reed told CNN affiliate WSB that concerns were increased when a man in the park was seen with an assault rifle. “We could not determine whether the weapon was loaded and could not get additional information on the weapon,” he said.

Authorities ordered people to leave the park around midnight Tuesday, WSB said, going from tent to tent with flashlights. Arrests began taking place about 12:45 a.m.

Organizers had asked protesters to be peaceful if police took action, and most were, WSB said. Many gathered in the center of the park, locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome,” as police led them one by one to waiting buses.

A protester at the park said he was scared. “It’s very intimidating,” said Malcolm McKenzie. “I believe what we’re doing is right, but we’re going to jail. It hurts to see America do this to people who want change.”

It was unclear how many people were arrested in the two cities. CNN affiliate KGO reported that at least 85 people were arrested during an early morning raid in one part of Oakland and there were other arrests throughout the day. In Atlanta, WSB reported 53 were arrested.

In Oakland early Tuesday, police dismantled a tent camp set up by protesters in a city park.

The overnight camping had to end because of health and safety concerns, Oakland police said in a statement.

“There were a series of safety conditions, including numerous reports of fighting, assault and threatening/intimidating behavior” at the camp, police said in a statement. Medical responders could not get to the scene to provide medical care on at least two occasions, and fire and police also could not get through.

“Sanitation conditions worsened with frequent instances of public urination and defecation, as well as improper food storage,” the police statement said. “The existing rodent problem in the park was exacerbated, and authorities were unable to control it because of the campers’ presence. Graffiti, litter and vandalism also posed problems, police said.

After the camp was dispersed, the protesters reconvened for demonstrations later in the day, the affiliates said, prompting the new clashes.

Video from the Oakland clashes showed a chaotic scene, with protesters running from clouds of tear gas.

Oakland and Atlanta are two of many cities worldwide dealing with the Occupy Wall Street protests, the leaderless movement that started in New York in September.

Demonstrators have typically railed against what they describe as corporate greed, arrogance and power, as well as repeatedly stated their assertion that the nation’s wealthiest 1% hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

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