On August 9, 2013 a member of Occupy the Stage and a member of Occupy Austin met with one of Senator Landrieu's staff members at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans. The staff member had reached out to them at the July 26th rally (see below), and two of them were able to present their concerns about PRISM and open a dialogue.
Upon arriving at the Federal Building an hour before the rally was supposed to start, they noted the lack of DHS presence, which was quite different than the surveillance and security they had been met with on July 26th.
After discussing the fact that the NSA PRISM program is unconstitutional for about twenty minutes, they left the building to attend the rally. They had not told anyone except one member of Occupy The Stage and one member of Occupy Austin that they had gone early. While leaving, Tara Jill asked a staff member at the Federal Building which office she should file a FOIA request with to learn why there had been such a heavy DHS presence on July 26th. She was informed that someone participating in the rally on the 26th had emailed the staff of the Federal Building to alert them of the demonstration in advance, and the surveillance and heavy police and DHS presence had been a response to the email sent. The email she was shown had been sent by Michael DiBari.
This information was, of course, alarming, as the individual who chose to alert the staff of the rally put activists at risk. His presence at the August 9th Rally was even more disturbing. He arrived at the time posted on the flyer, 11am, and began making commotion to attract security.
"Are you just going to do what you did two weeks ago?" a security officer asked the group when he approached.
Here are the two responses given simultaneously:
Tara Jill: You mean exercise our First Amendment right to assemble by demonstrating?
Michael DiBari: I'm [note: this writer believes the man used the first person singular pronoun, but at no point did he choose to distinguish himself from the organizers of the rally] here to go inside and arrest the senator.
Tara Jill then explained that she had already been in the building and was aware that the senator was not there and had not tried to arrest anyone and had no intention of going back in. Security acknowledge that they were aware of this.
What followed was a rally to spread information about the 4th Amendment. The fact that copies of Info Wars were sold by Michael DiBari was beyond the control of the organizers.
Occupy The Stage would like to make it very clear that anyone who is threatening security culture by informing authorities of protests in advance and/or threatening to take risky action that the organizers of a rally have not agreed upon is not welcome at events we organize. From this point forward, we will act as a small group and we will not be sharing our plans with the general public until issues involving provocateurs have been resolved.
The rally itself was interesting, as some in attendance attempted to conduct outreach by engaging those passing in conversation about the NSA and PRISM. A few people attended with wonderful signs displayed below. Unfortunately, many who passed by the rally were unconcerned that the NSA is spying on them, despite the information we distributed. Several people were receptive to the outreach and asked for more information about the NSA, and the organizers referred them to stopprism.org and restorethefourth.net. At no time did Occupy The Stage distribute flyers with the web address for Info Wars or try to sell T-Shirts to people walking by. We are very grateful to Ronny from Occupy Austin for helping us organize this and bringing so much energy to the event.
Here is the info published in advance of the August 9th Rally. It was sent to a list-serve and obviously forwarded to someone who attended the rally and informed security that his intention was to arrest the senator. He did this without reaching out to the organizers first.
STOP SPYING ON US! RALLY TO HALT NSA SURVEILLANCE FRIDAY AUGUST 9 @ 11AM
500 POYDRAS Hale Boggs Federal Building, New Orleans
“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
— George Orwell, 1984
print a flyer here WE THE PEOPLE will ask Senator Landrieu to:
- Restore The Fourth Amendment
- Support legislation to revoke the NSA’s authorization to conduct mass surveillance of US and foreign citizens.
- Support The Amash-Conyers Amendment that limits NSA surveillance.
- Halt NSA Surveillance! – Defund the NSA
- Demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.
- As a member of The Senate Appropriations Committee, Mary Landrieu must refuse to support the sanctions that committee proposed imposing on countries that support Snowden.
Bring water, umbrellas, whistles, signs, banners, cameras, instruments, flyers about the NSA, copies of the fourth amendment! Follow this hashtag for live updates: #StopSpyingNOLA #RestoreThe4thNOLA
This rally is a join effort of many different groups who are standing in solidarity to Stop NSA Surveillance. Occupy NOLA hopes that those attending will be eager focus on NSA Surveillance at the rally itself. It will be helpful to bring copies of the 4th Amendment or other informative materials relating to NSA surveillance to give to people walking by and to take photographs.
Email email@example.com for details! There is a Facebook event you can RSVP to if you’d like to make sure the NSA knows you support this action!
Demand the dismantling of the U.S. led international spy network.
Demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.
In August, Our Fight Against Unconstitutional Surveillance Follows Congress Home
PRISM MATTERS: Privacy Is Security
Materials we brought and encouraged people to print and bring:
Letter delivered to Senator Landrieu on August 9
Dear Senator Landrieu,
We have gathered from New Orleans and across the United States to denounce the unconstitutional (via the 4th Amendment) surveillance methods employed by the National Security Agency in its leaked PRISM program. As a member of The Senate, you have a direct impact on the laws that affect us all. The majority of your constituents and the American people do not condone the secret, invasive, and unconstitutional activities of the NSA. Therefore, we would like for you to take action to...
1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
4. Support H.R. 2818: To repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and for other purposes.
5. As a member of The Senate Appropriations Committee, you can refuse to support the sanctions that committee proposed imposing on countries that support Edward Snowden.
6. Introduce the Amash Amendment to the Senate and support it.
7. Reform HR 347 and stop the war on activists. NOTE: This was added while speaking with the Senator's staff member.
Please show your constituents your understanding and willingness to hear their concerns. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you so much for your time.
Email sent to Senator Landrieu's Office after July 26 Rally.
Thank you so much for taking the time talk with me and my friend on Friday, July 26 when we were demonstrating in New Orleans regarding the NSA. I appreciate your willingness to listen to our concerns and relay our requests to Senator Landrieu.
My friend and I would love the opportunity to follow up with you about meeting Senator Landrieu regarding her position on Edward Snowden and NSA surveillance.
I understand that the list of demands you received included some information about causes that were not related to Snowden, causes that Senator Landrieu may not be in a position to address. I’d like to continue our discussion and focus on NSA surveillance and Senator Landrieu’s stance on Edward Snowden. It is the hope of many that he be considered a whistle-blower and allowed asylum and that countries that support his asylum do not have sanctions imposed upon them.
It is also our hope that Senator Landrieu will support the Amash amendment to defund the NSA’s domestic surveillance program.
I would appreciate an opportunity to schedule an appointment with Senator Landrieu (or with one of her staff members). Could you let me know the steps I need to take to schedule such an appointment?
I sincerely appreciate your time.
July 26th Rally and Surveillance State
NOTE: This rally was organized by one of our members who chose to work with Elizabeth Cook, who made a Facebook event in her name and included her phone number and email address on related flyers. The individual did this autonomously because some members of Occupy The Stage were unwilling to work with Elizabeth Cook. After reviewing her choices to invite Michael DiBari, call the senator's staff member a "traitor," not even bring a sign to the rally and also refuse to go into the building herself after she had suggested going into the building and posted this intention on Facebook, all members of Occupy The Stage have agreed to not organize with this member of the Ecosocialists.
On July 26, 2013, we knew we were being spied on by a man photographing us with a telephoto lens across the street from the Whistle-blower Support Rally in New Orleans.
Occupy The Stage members gave out copies of the fourth amendment while dressed as spies. “Hi, I’m the NSA and I stole your fourth amendment. Do you want it back?” one demonstrator asked repeatedly.
Occupy the Stage also created stencils, banners, flyers, flags, and signs for this rally but are in no way responsible for the propaganda cart that advertises Info Wars. We are happy to share ourTeam Edward Stencil with anyone who would like to use it.
Two individuals chose to follow up where the staff member, which resulted in the second rally held on August 9th.
small affair's response
The attendance at the rally was troubling. I was less troubled by the lack of people who showed up than I was by the behavior of some who did show up. There is a difference between a focused protest and "movement building." A protest about whistle-blowers could benefit from talking points about whistle-blowers and related topics; however, there are some who attend protests about the new "hot topic" and then focus on an in issue they cannot get many people to rally behind - often an issue unrelated to the protest. This makes it hard for those organizing the protest, hard for those attending, and hard for those who might actually be interested in the message behind the protest. Attending a protest and spending almost the entire time distributing flyers about a political group you belong to and urging people to come to your meetings is distracting and insulting to people who have come prepared to protest and need people to help give out copies of the 4th Amendment or educational materials related at the rally.
Anyone who knows me should by this point know that I care very much about whistle-blowers and have had to choose a few areas of activism to focus on lately. The past year and a half I’ve spent with Occupy has really exhausted me, and I am no longer able to bottom-line every protest under the sun someone contacts me about having. However, I have made it clear that there are a few issues/causes I will bottom-line demonstrations about. One of these is whistle-blowers. I was contacted about having a whistle-blower support rally and agreed, but then the demands of the rally were stretched to include issues so far removed from whistle-blowing that people attending the rally were confused. When I mentioned this, I was lectured about the importance of "movement building." What disturbs me is that I know the movement the distracting people are trying to build. They are trying to build an Ecosocialist Movement, and I have made it clear in the past that I have no interest in using protests to build a socialist voting block.
If someone wants to have an action about something I care about and approaches me asking me to help, I expect the following:
1. the person to come to the action and bring at least one sign or banner or something.
2. the person to stick to the original purpose of the protest we agreed upon.
3. the person to use common sense when creating a Facebook event and if the person insists upon creating a Facebook event (which I do not think is wise) include reasonable information but not all information related to direct
action. The person should also invite her friends to the event if she went to the trouble of creating it.
4. The protest should not be a clusterfuck with a list of demands that include everything under the sun.
A small group attended the Snowden Support Demonstration at the Federal Building on Friday. I was not surprised that we were met by DHS because the woman who made the Facebook event posted on Facebook that the protest would go into the building.
I was dressed as a spy and gave out copies of the 4th Amendment and did my very best to raise awareness about the need to DEFUND THE NSA.
Meanwhile, other people including the person who contacted me about initially planning this event yelled at people, and some of the other people who attended stood around and didn’t bother doing outreach to engage people walking by on their lunch break. Thankfully, someone from Occupy Austin was there and actually volunteered to go into the building after the woman, who decided the action would go into the building, refused. DHS would not him in to deliver the demands because we were "part of a demonstration" (we later learned this was because the staff at the federal building had been emailed about the protest in advance by someone in attendance).
Senator Landrieu’s aid did come down to talk to us and said she is willing to arrange a meeting with those in attendance who did not scream at her. Thanks to the man from Occupy Austin, there was someone willing to go in the building and deliver the demands and talk to the senator’s aid. I’ve been accused of being “friendly” and thinking the senator is our friend because I’m willing to have a discussion with her that doesn’t include screaming “TRAITOR” in her face. I don’t see the harm in being civil. I don’t see the harm in asking questions. I don’t see the harm in this.
Melodramatic subject lines in emails about being spied on for being at a protest you announced on Facebook don’t impress me. I and the resources of Occupy the Stage are NOT YOUR PERSONAL ARMY.
Occupy the Stage does not exist so that people can contact us and ask us to bottom-line protests and make banners and signs about specific causes so they can then come to demonstrations and give out flyers about causes completely unrelated.
Others involved in the rally had different reactions, and they have been included below.
The first reaction includes the dramatic subject line: “I was threatened with surveillance yesterday.” [Editor's note: First of all, this was an NSA protest that the person who wrote this email created a Facebook event for. Um, of course you were spied on.]
During our support Snowden event yesterday in front of the Federal building in New Orleans, an aid to Senator Mary Landrieu appeared, allegedly to hear our issues, etc. We were denied access to her office, in the federal building, as, according to this aid, the office was closed. When I attempted to bring up the right of all residents to access public buildings and the offices of elected representatives, that when things got ugly. That’s when this “friendly” aid to Landrieu showed her true colors. First of all, because I was strong in my speech and uncompromising, I earned the dis-invitation to their public office. Let me point out here that she or no one has no right to block access to the offices of politicians inhabiting office. I have never been violent or even suggested violence.
Then she proceeded to denigrate my views. I suggested that she works for us, and so does Landrieu, so by right of democratic representation, all are welcome to their “public” offices.
She offered to refund my contribution to her salary, as though her “pennies”, as she suggested, would settle the matter. Then she was sure to invite those who were “friendly” to her make sure I knew that because I expressed my disenchantment with denial of public access, I was not included in this invitation. I had already phoned Landrieu’s office two weeks ago to schedule an appointment to meet with Landrieu or an aid, but was brushed off by one of the aids. Obstacles to actually scheduling a meeting were put in front of me. Granted, this staff and Landrieu know me, as I have been kicked out of her federal office for disagreeing, strongly, with the viewpoint of the aids for Senator Landrieu. In truth, I never expected much, but i did expect we would be allowed to deliver our meessage. This right was denied to us by the at least 20 Homeland Security and Federal Security police that were awaiting the rally. We had 8 people show. No matter. However, during the course of my disagreement with Landrieu’s aid, she was not obtuse in stating she would report me to Landrieu, in a way that was, well. menacing. Oh well. I’m already being tapped for my opposition to expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf. I can tell by how my phone has been operating. Most of us are being tapped anyway; it’s just that they select “targets of interest” to focus on. Senators and representatives, and their aids, are not our “friends”. Sure, they toss a few crumbs now and then. The real direction must come from the people as to how to create a true democracy, but I fear our future because so many still believe there is a way of reforming our current political system.
~ Elizabeth Cook
Editor's NOTE: It is unclear why Kawana Jasper is included her as she is not in jail for being a whistle-blower. The "trumped up charges" involve throwing bleach in a minor's face. Nobody from the Jasper support network will discuss the case with us except Michael Howells, who has said the harsh sentencing Jasper received for throwing bleach in a teenager's face was politically motivated. It is troubling that there is little transparency about this case from those who claim to be involved in its support network.
On noon Friday, July 26th, a small group of freedom fighters gathered in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building to demand that the U.S. government to cease and desist from its campaign of psychological and political terror directed at NSA leaker Edwar Snowden. The participants also demanded the immediate release of longtime New Orleans housing activist and all around freedom Kawana Jasper. Kawana is currently serving a four year sentence in a hellhole, north Louisiana prison after being convicted on trumped up battery charges in the kangaroo court presided over by the Dishonorable Julian Parker. That the fate of Edward Snowden is a matter of the first importance to those who cherish the Bill of Rights in general, and the Fourth Amendment in particular is clearly understood by many, many people in this country and many others around the world. The modest turnout for the Snowden Support Action in New Orleans does not change this fact one iota.
The security apparatuses of the U.S. and New Orleans governments took the potential of the Snowden Support Action to put a spotlight on the rapid and criminal expansion of the U.S. Surveillance State very seriously. About twenty local cops and federal police converged on the scene even before the event began. Just thirty feet or so from the protest sat an NOPD SUV with “Homeland Security” marked on it. Across the street a plain clothes security agent photographed the Snowden Support Action from beginning to end. About a dozen uniformed police and federal security agents stood literally feet from the protest. Those who drove by the protest on Camp Street could not help but notice that Big Brother was definitely watching the Snowden protesters!
While the governmental security apparatus saw the Snowden Support Action as worthy of extensive attention the corporate controlled media did not. Local television stations and newspapers were invited by organizers to cover the protest. Apparently the big shots in charge of these outfits decided that covering a local event addressing one of the most pressing civil liberties developments of our day is somehow not worthy local news coverage. If this isn’t a profile in corporate media cowardice, then I don’t know what is.
That fewer than a dozen supporters of Edward Snowden turned up for this event is disappointing, but probably not surprising. To speak up for Edward Snowden today means to take a position in opposition that of the White House, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Homeland Security, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and the military/criminal industrial complex in general. Without the support of a truly mass movement to openly confront the coercive apparatus of the U.S. government many opponents of the post 9/11 Surveillance State, and they are the majority of the people in this country, are fearful of confronting it front and center. Still, Friday’s Support Edward Snowden Action sends the message that organized opposition to the Surveillance State is a reality on the streets of New Orleans.
We ask that when attending a rally, protest, or demonstration one of our members is organizing, you do not inform the authorities of the protest ahead of time and do not tell them you plan to take risky action while in attendance. We will continue to publish security breaches like the one mentioned above because we care about other activists who may be unknowingly risking arrest by interacting with certain individuals.
Before you accuse us paranoia, consider that we are not the first Occupy group to distance itself from provocateurs.
Please read the statement below, which was issued by Occupy Lego Land, and which we will adhere to.