small affair's Letter to Judge Loretta Presksa
Honorable Judge Loretta Preska
Southern District of New York
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007
October 10, 2013
Dear Honorable Judge Preska:
Greetings. My name is XXXXXXXXX, and I'm writing to you today in regards to the upcoming sentencing of Jeremy Hammond. I am a professor of writing at the university level and grew interested in learning more about Jeremy Hammond’s case when I was designing curriculum for a writing course tailored to Criminal Justice students. As a writer, educator, and researcher, I grew and remain concerned that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is mired in vagaries and does not reflect the internet as we know it today. I understand that Jeremy Hammond had pled guilty to a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This particular legislation is vulnerable to being manipulated to serve those with power and privilege. I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, the state that houses more criminals per capita than any other in the United States, and have seen the devastating effects maximum prison sentences can have on social justice advocates, their loved ones, and communities as a whole. It is in the spirit of justice that I respectfully request that Jeremy Hammond be sentenced with the utmost leniency because of the inadequacies of the CFAA, the moral context of the scenario of the crime itself, and the defendant’s character and non-violent nature of the crime.
First, the CFAA itself is dangerous, vague, and unconstitutional. One merely has to examine the short sentences of co-defendants in Ireland and the U.K. (not more than sixteen months) to note the unreasonable criminalization Hammond faces because of a law that is in desperate need of reform. As I am sure you are aware, the CFAA was written in 1984 and enacted by Congress in 1986. In 1984, I was attending the fourth grade in public school and did not even know what a computer was, and Jeremy Hammond had not yet been born. One does not need a comprehensive background in information technology to recognize the dramatic changes the internet has undergone and the definition of what is and is not a "protected computer." Whatever was considered a "protected computer" in 1984 does not resemble the computers and internet used in the twenty-first century. In 1984, a vague law was created that is now applied to an information highway that has organically grown into what some argue is a living entity. The undeniable need to reform the CFAA alone is a case for leniency.
Second, the moral context of the crime Mr. Hammond pled guilty to must be examined. Recent revelations about the NSA's PRISM surveillance program have brought the surveillance state and its violation of civil liberties to the forefront of current debate. Long before that, however, the information leaked from Stratfor revealed a frightening surveillance culture of corporate and government spying on social advocacy groups. As you know, the First Amendment grants us the right to petition our government with grievances. Many activists spied on by Stratfor were only trying to hold corporations accountable for their unethical practices. Included were the actions of many ordinary citizens who were only trying to improve their lives by demanding a living wage. These actions, which are protected under the First Amendment, apparently warranted unconstitutional spying. Surveillance directed at social advocacy groups interferes with the right to peaceably assemble and petition for a governmental redress of grievances. Surveillance systems like Trapwire exist to monitor and intimidate Americans, creating a cultural obedience with the ultimate goal of infringing upon and by proxy prohibiting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble.
Surveillance networks may appear benign when examined from afar, and it was not until I personally experienced surveillance that I could comprehend the extent to which they function as tools of repression. In January of 2013, I was the First Amendment plaintiff in a winning ACLU lawsuit against the City of New Orleans. What I won was the right to hold a sign and flag that did not contain 60% NFL branding during the week of the Super Bowl. Had I not won that lawsuit, holding the American flag would have technically been illegal. Because of my participation in this lawsuit, I was monitored by the FBI while holding a sign about the economic hardships the Super Bowl inflicted upon members of the local community. I felt like my civil liberties had been stripped over reasons that had nothing to do with National Security. The fear and distress I experienced when learning that I was under surveillance surprised me even while the knowledge did not. Surveillance did not surprise me because at that time, I had already been aware of corporate-government spying because Jeremy Hammond helped the public learn about this network.
As a citizen of the United States, I am personally grateful that this surveillance network detailed in the Stratfor documents was exposed. The American public deserve to know that their Fourth Amendment right to privacy has been violated by private companies. That the Constitution of the United States has been violated by corporate clients is alarming, as is the nefarious corporate and government spying on activists. As an advocate for social justice, I believe the citizens of the United States want to trust their government. That Americans know more about private and government surveillance because of the information related to Mr. Hammond's offense is a benefit because it allows them to make more educated decisions. These decisions can now be guided by a moral compass calibrated by truth.
As you are aware, Your Honor, freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This clause is generally understood as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information or opinions. I recognize Mr. Hammond as a source, via WikiLeaks publications on the US intelligence contractor Stratfor, for numerous media organizations in a time when our right to a free media is being stripped away. Actions against Bradley Manning, Barrett Brown, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, James Risen, WikiLeaks, and the Associated Press undermine basic political and journalistic freedoms. A lenient sentence for Mr. Hammond will demonstrate that the United States is not unjustly punishing whistle-blowers unilaterally.
Moreover, it is my belief that Mr. Hammond's crime was morally motivated. He has stated that “people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors.” Mr. Hammond did not capitalize off of the information and did not do this for his own benefit but because he was driven by the higher ideal - the pursuit of justice. His actions exemplify Civil Disobedience and reflect the values of advocates for social justice like Rosa Parks and the values of our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Equally troubling in the moral context of this case is the involvement of the United States government in making the Stratfor documents available. The documented role of a confidential informant in the case orchestrated by the FBI begs the question as to why the U.S. government allowed the Stratfor documents to be uploaded to FBI servers. While the FBI had no problem allowing the Stratfor emails to be turned over to WikiLeaks, their use of an informant and nature of the “discovery” (the 3.5 million lines of text with possibly up to 45000 chat participants/co-conspirators) indicates that the United States does not want more of its secrets uncovered. It's rather troubling to not know why the FBI allowed the Stratfor documents to be released. The 14th Amendment grants all U.S. people equal protection, yet only one person is being charged with hacking Stratfor. The fact that Mr. Hammond committed a crime while ignorant of the assistance the FBI provided should be grounds for leniency in sentencing because Mr. Hammond was not fully aware of the nature of the Stratfor documents from the beginning. The FBI, however, was. It's troubling to think that one man could be sentenced to prison for ten years over a crime the United States government participated in. Since the U.S. government and FBI are receiving leniency in the way they are not being held accountable for a "hack" they orchestrated, it seems only fair that Mr. Hammond receive leniency in the form of a sentence of time served.
Also, I respectfully request that you consider a lenient sentence for Mr. Hammond because of the defendant's outstanding character. Jeremy Hammond is well-liked among people of various ages, genders, and backgrounds. Since growing interested in this case, I have been able to write many letters to Jeremy Hammond, and have enjoyed my communications with him. The sheer number of postcards and letters sent to Mr. Hammond demonstrate a love for him that cannot even be assigned to a specific community. One could argue that Mr. Hammond's supporters are a secret group of "computer hackers," but this is far from the case. Mr. Hammond is admired by educators, doctors, nurses, students, activists, prison reform advocates, and citizens of all demographics. He has been repeatedly described as a kind, bright young man by those who know him.
The emotional toll Mr. Hammond's incarceration is taking on those who love him must be considered. I have come to understand that Mr. Hammond is loved by many, and that his incarceration breaks the hearts of those closest to him. Many of Mr. Hammond's supporters have worked tirelessly to ensure that he will not be forgotten, that he has money in his commissary for basic needs, that he has stamps to send letters to people. He is a man who has been separated from his loved ones for well over a year already.
It was a sincere pleasure to be present in your courtroom on April 10th and see Mr. Hammond's eyes light up when he was granted ten minutes time to spend with his mother and brother. After the courtroom emptied, Jeremy Hammond was able to turn around in his chair and face his family from his chair across and talk. Jeremy Hammond was granted his first meeting with his mother and brother since his arrest, and it was ten minutes long. This ten minutes seemed like a precious gift and not what citizens should be able to expect from the Criminal Justice system. It is with sincere gratitude for your decision that day that I again ask you to humanely grant Mr. Hammond a lenient sentence (a sentence of time served would be ideal), so his family and friends can experience a lifetime of similar moments.
Your Honor, Jeremy Hammond is twenty-eight years old. He is obviously bright and thoughtful, and his supporters have relentlessly written to him and campaigned for his release. He has been using his time in prison to teach fellow inmates and educate himself by reading and playing chess.
I do not see how a prison sentence that is less than lenient will benefit Mr. Hammond or the state. Mr. Hammond’s crime was inherently non-violent; while some may disagree with his morally motivated decisions, he is not a threat to a society in which offenders convicted of crimes like rape, child abuse, and manslaughter receive shorter sentences.
Furthermore, keeping Mr. Hammond incarcerated is a waste of tax payer money. Attorney General Eric Holder himself has acknowledged that “Too many Americans go to prisons for far too long” and has unveiled reforms to reduce the number of people sent to America’s overcrowded federal prisons. Currently, PSEA-HR 2656: The Public Safety Enhancement Act of 2013, has earned bipartisan support for its potential to reduce recidivism, lower crime rates, and reduce the amount of money spent on the federal prison system. Prison reform advocates argue that "The United States Criminal Justice System is flawed, broken, yet fixable; Prison Reform and Sentencing Reform should be major agenda's for each state- we need to stop warehousing prisoners and ready those who are going to parole. Inmate rehabilitation improves public safety and lowers prison costs" (Prison Reform Movement). A lenient sentence for Jeremy Hammond will release non-violent man; a maximum sentence will only provide another example of a flawed Criminal Justice System.
In recent years, the US legal system has been used more and more to target political dissidents, especially information activists. The prosecution of information activists like the late Aaron Swartz under the CFAA has made many Americans fear that the United States courts have “become part of a rigged system that favors corporations and those politically connected to them” and that “checks and balance will only come from the people” (Counterpunch). Your Honor, Mr. Hammond’s sentencing awards you the opportunity to reassure the world that the United States justice system is not constantly suffering from unchecked authoritarian power. I beg you to not allow Hammond’s sentencing to compound the problem that the CFAA has permitted prosecutors to exploit the law by engaging in significant over-charging.
A wise person once said, “We should reserve prison for those we are afraid of, not for those we are just mad at.” I trust that, as a judge who has been nominated for The Supreme Court and who honors the Constitution, you will demonstrate that a non-violent man - a man the American public has no reason to fear - is sentenced leniently because he poses no threat to society. In your civilian court that follows the Constitution, you have the opportunity to restore some of my faith in the justice system by issuing Hammond a light sentencing.
The state gains nothing from keeping this non-violent man incarcerated for a moment longer. Giving Mr. Hammond a sentence that is anything less than lenient will only illustrate that the rule of law is irreparably broken.
I hope this letter finds you well, and again urge you to consider sentencing Mr. Jeremy Hammond with utmost leniency.
(Personal info redacted for obvious reasons)
Some noteworthy links:
Free Jeremy Hammond Dot Net: Letters Urgently Needed! Join Us in Asking for Leniency in Jeremy’s Sentencing!Jay Leiderman: Letters Desperately Needed For Jeremy Hammond's Sentencing by 10/15
FreeAnons Dot Org
Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network on Facebook
Jeremy Hammond Indictment
Jeremy Hammond and the Broken Rule of Law – The Other Bradley ManningFree Jeremy Hammond and The Obama Administration’s Attack on WhistleblowersWIKILEAKS STATEMENT ON JEREMY HAMMOND LulzSec, the FBI Asset, the Stratfor Files and the Operation to Entrap WikiLeaks
April 10, 2013. Jeremy Hammond’s Discovery Hearing
Was the FBI complicit in Anonymous hacking Stratfor and leaking its emails to WikiLeaks?
Democracy Now, The Other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond
The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State
Occupy The Stage Letter Writing Video
This video was made by Occupy The Stage in support of The Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network and Free Anons.
Here is the link to donate to Jeremy Hammond's defense: https://www.wepay.com/donations/jeremy-hammond-defense
The poem was written by @ots_nola and the song playing in the background is "Brand New Key" by Melanie. Choreography and set built by @ots_nola.
"Fuck Sabu" was written by @small_affair, but that in no way implies that she would actually send something like that to a judge because she wouldn't.
The Chihuahua was enthusiastic about participating in this production.
Please write to Judge Preska asking for leniency and help Bring Jeremy Home!!!
I live in a box
I have no sox
And my drawers they smell of cheese
My freedom at rest
I have a request
A small favor if you please
My sentence is near
And I gravely fear
That my concerns have not been met
A letter to my judge
With hope she will budge
I am told is my safest bet
If you're in good health
With a little extra wealth
Perhaps a nod to my commissary
I gave up my rights
To further the fight
Otherwise I would get my own damned tuna and crackers
Please write to the law office of
Susan G Kellman
25 Eighth Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
NOTE: This is TAKE 2 because the first video had writing that was hard to read, so we made it bigger.
Special appearance by our Ninja Kitteh.
On August 31, dozens of New Orleanians opposed to U.S. Military Intervention in Syria rallied in Washington Square and marched through the French Quarter to Jackson Square. Some of the marchers continued to Bourbon Street.
This gathering was part of a Global Day of Anti War with Syria protests and is described in a Facebook event
as follows: Global & Local protest to STAY out of the war in Syria, because we are tired of killing innocent people in our names, or in their alleged good interest, and who the hell wants WW3, anyway?? MEETS 2pm @ Washington Square Park, Takes for and finishes @ 3pm for Jackson Square "We are non-violently protesting the escalation of US military involvement in Syria, as well as the complete disregard of the will of the American people in the decision to begin a new war. We in no way support the actions of the Assad regime, but are concerned that US intervention will instigate more violence and suffering. We suggest you bring banners and/or props (even food), and invite anyone and everyone you know! Organize activities beforehand on this page, or we can just wing it when we get there. This is an event for people of all political views and beliefs, just as long as you are opposed to another unnecessary war in the Middle-East!"
Rally in Washington Square
Thank you to all those who spoke at the rally and marched and spread the word! Videos from the livestream are below.
*Note: the first video of interviews before the rally for some reason recorded "audio only," which is a shame.
March Part 1
March Part 2
March Part 3 (on Bourbon Street)
Below are details relating to two rallies held in New Orleans, LA on July 26th and August 9th. Both rallies were held at the Hale Boggs Federal Building.
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
August 9, 2013
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.
On noon Friday, July 26th, Occupy the Stage members participated in a rally in solidarity with Edward Snowden and whistle-blowers. We were delighted that someone from Occupy Austin joined us.
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.
A member of Senator Landrieu’s staff came down to talk to the demonstrators and explained that the Senator was not in the building but that she would deliver the demands. Some demonstrators agreed to schedule a meeting about this. See the 24:00 minute mark in the footage below!
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 are indeed living in a surveillance state, and the United States government has disregarded the Fourth Amendment. Outreach is needed in order to inform the public about the dangerous PRISM program. In order to ever form a united front, social justice advocates must engage with one another respectfully and honestly. Occupy The Stage finds it completely inappropriate that someone would contact the staff at a building where a protest will be taking place and not tell those organizing and attending the protest. There is a difference between "freedom of speech" and violating someone's trust and putting them at risk, and unfortunately, the decision to alert the staff regarding the July 26th rally falls under the latter.
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.
Who is Bradley Manning?
On July 27, a very dedicated group held down then corner of Ursulines and Decatur Street in New Orleans to answer that very question. This group of advocates for justice and truth, many of whom had never met until the rally, joined together to participate in an International Day of Solidarity as supporters in more than 40 cities took action for Bradley Manning.
For five hours this committed group rallied in support of whistle-blower Bradley Manning.
When it became obvious that many passer-bys did not know who Bradley Manning is, Chalkupy ensued, and soon messages were visible on the sidewalk and more people joined the rally.
This rally, which was organized by two Common Ground Relief Volunteers, brought together local social justice advocates and the delightful support of a friend from Occupy Austin.
Spontaneous street theater erupted,
a megaphone was used, and information about Manning was distributed to those with questions.
Here is a Flickr set o
f Saturday's events. This was a great example of the awareness a small group of committed individuals can spread.
On Friday, July 26, Manning's defense rested with the argument that Bradley was humanist whistle-blower: The Bradley Manning support network has since announced that "Judge Lind then closed the court to deliberate, telling us that she’ll notify the defense and government when she’s reached a final verdict."
The Fourth Amendment promises “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...”
To raise awareness about this blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment by the United States government, Occupy The Stage's
Guise of Fawkes Krewe joined Krewe of Kolossos in its second annual July 4th parade on Bayou St. John in New Orleans. The "freedom" theme was perfect for a #RestoreThe4th demonstration!
In a canoe dubbed "The Lulz Boat," we gave out information about political prisoners and copies of the 4th Amendment. Spy Versus Spy puppets employed by the NSA accompanied flags about Restore The Fourth! Special thanks to Mail To The Jail
for helping with addresses of political prisoners to share!
This demonstration was in response to the information recently leaked by Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the NSA surveillance program. Edward Snowden
had been working at the National Security Agency for four years when he leaked material from one of the world's most secretive organizations – the NSA
. These leaks revealed four independent programs: the bulk collection of telephone records, the Prism program, Obama's implementation of an aggressive foreign and domestic cyber-operations policy, and false claims by NSA officials to Congress.
Documents describing the (PRISM) program Snowden disclosed
were released by The Washington Post on June 6. The newly released documents provide details about how PRISM operates, as well as the supervisory control of NSA and FBI. The Washington Post
The top-secret PRISM program allows the U.S. intelligence community to gain access from nine Internet companies to a wide range of digital information, including e-mails and stored data, on foreign targets operating outside the United States. The program is court-approved but does not require individual warrants. Instead, it operates under a broader authorization from federal judges who oversee the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Some documents describing the program were first released by The Washington Post on June 6. The newly released documents below give additional details about how the program operates, including the levels of review and supervisory control at the NSA and FBI. The documents also show how the program interacts with the Internet companies." This search and seizure of data is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The United States government and NSA should abide by the Constitution. The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
has some helpful information about demanding a full accounting of America's secret spying programs—and an end to unconstitutional surveillance!
To voice your concerns about NSA spying, dial 1-STOP-323-NSA (1-786-732-3672). The automated system will connect you to your legislators. Urge them to provide public transparency about NSA spying and stop warrantless wiretapping on the communications of millions of ordinary Americans. Call now. Tell Congress to end the spying.
You can also visit Stop Watching Us
to demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.
We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's and the FBI's data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:
- 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;
- 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;
- Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
Occupy the Stage (an affinity group of Occupy NOLA
), spent July 4th holding a creative demonstration about this violation of the Fourth Amendment. We shared information about the 4th Amendment,#RestoreThe4th
, and also distributed pocket Constitutions and information about political prisoners and Obama's war on whistle-blowers.
Here is a photo-set and a few videos from our July 4th demonstration.
Preparing the Lulz Boat
In the Lulz Boat
Giving out #MailToTheJail info in The Lulz Boat
Our boat received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, and many attending the parade asked us for information to write to political prisoners and to call Congress about the NSA. We hope this will lead to more awareness of the United States government's war on whistleblowers and the number of political prisoners who need our support.
Thank you everyone who helped make this a great day! If you like the work Occupy The Stage is doing, please considering donating here to help with materials costs to make more creative demonstration materials.
We are also selling our hand-painted NSA banner. It will be posted in our Etsy shop soon.
We are asking $200 for this original one-of-a-kind piece of artwork, but we will also consider offers of $100 or more.
if you have questions or are interested. We could combine this with other artwork!
~ Occupy The Stage
On June 8, Occupy The Stage and other activists and New Orleanians marched in Solidarity with Occupy Gezi in Jackson Square and the French Quarter. It was great to march with Turkish families and friends who came out to support protesters in Istanbul.
Many local supporters of Occupy Gezi and members of the Turkish community arrived with flags and signs, and we had some markers and poster board, some flags, and made a few more signs.
They also brought copies of a printed flyer with information about Occupy Gezi and what is happening in Turkey.
They asked one of us to read their statement in the megaphone, which we were happy to do.
We marched around Jackson Square and then down Royal Street, waving flags and handing out flyers about the demands Occupy Gezi and what is happening in Istanbul
Here is a video of Occupy NOLA and supporters of Occupy Gezi marching for Gezi in Jackson Square and then French Quarter!
Finally, this video of NOLA singing in Turkish to Occupy Gezi ends with a wonderful message to the people in Turkey. "I wish I could be with them."
Speech made in Solidarity with Occupy Gezi
I am here today to show support for the Turkish resistance. I am here with Occupy New Orleans in solidarity with Occupy Gezi. I am here in solidarity with the people in Istanbul and Ankara. I am here because there is blood in the streets of Istanbul.
I am here in solidarity with every human being who has stood up against government oppression, government corruption, and police brutality.
If you have family or friends in Turkey, you might be worried about them. You be angry about what is happening to the protesters in Turkey. I am angry about what is happening to the protesters Turkey. I have been following the news coming out of Taksir Square on what Erdoğan calls the worst menace to society - Twitter.
I have seen the tear gas and the bullets and the water hoses in photographs. I watched a young man filming the protest with his phone and talked to him on Twitter. He sent me a picture of the mayor smiling. He asked me to tell everyone that the government of Turkey should resign.
What is happening in Turkey is an injustice. The government should allow people to kiss on subways and in public. In April, Ankara subway officials made an announcement asking passengers “to act in accordance with moral rules” after security cameras spotted the couple kissing.
That was only the beginning. People say the current revolution in Turkey started with a peaceful protest of the government’s plan to demolish the GEZI PARKI in Taksim on Tuesday, the 28th MAY 2013. This park is one of the very few parks left in the city. The government decided to build a shopping mall in this location. The people of Turkey did not want this and stood up to their government. Turkish people protesting peacefully in the park were attacked by police who used tear gas and water hoses. I have seen photographs of gas canisters and bullets used by Turkish police. This is unacceptable.
The people of Turkey are trying very hard to get their message across. The Prime Minister controls all the media. None of the national TV channels broadcasted the country wide protests. This is unacceptable.
I understand that the demands of Occupy Gezi and the Taksim Solidarity Platform include the following:
One. Gezi Parkı must remain a park
Two. The governors, the police chiefs, and the officials who gave orders for a violent crackdown on the protests must resign
Three. The use of teargas and similar chemical weapons by the police must be outlawed
Four. Detained protesters must be released immediately
Five. Laws prohibiting demonstrations in public places must be abolished
We sincerely hope that these and other demands are met and are here in solidarity with you. Occupy New Orleans has made similar demands to our government.
Corrupt government officials and police should resign.
When the government and the police will not listen to us, we only have each other. That is what Occupy taught me. Occupy taught me that where there is anger, there is often love. When the government burns down tents and takes hundreds or thousands of people into custody, there is a reason to be angry.
Occupy has taught me that people are still willing to care about one another. I have anger in my heart about the way the Turkish Government and many other governments including the United States government have treated people.
With that anger there is also love for the people, all people, who are willing to resist. Occupy taught me that we are human beings who can stand together with a bond that is stronger than police in riot gear. Stronger than any government.
If there is nothing I can do alone except tell you that I am here in solidarity with all people fighting government oppression, then I that is what I will do. But I hope to do more. I hope to march. For Turkey. For Istanbul. For the Anonymous Solidarity Network. For Occupiers Everywhere. For everyone who has refused to sit down and allow the government to smash their human rights.
Today we march in solidarity with Turkey and with all people who believe a better world is possible.
What do we want?
When do we want it?
No Jusice. No Peace.
Regarding the event scheduled for Saturday, June 8 in solidarity with Occupy Gezi, Occupy The Stage looks forward to showing solidarity and attending a march and rally that reflects the solidarity statement
However, it should not go unnoticed that Occupy The Stage is extremely disappointed with the June 7th posts made on the original Facebook page for Occupy New Orleans
. We do not support "taking Jackson Square" and would like it to be clear that the people posting instructions to do so on that poorly managed Facebook page have never met us in real life, have never come to a general assembly, and have never attended an action with us. The page has called for a reoccupation and a taking of Jackson Square rashly and with no planning or consensus. Someone who manages a Facebook page - a page that we consider "hijacked" - has given admin privileges to people we do not even know, and they are sending messages recklessly.
We are not interested in lending our credibility to calls for action that are nothing short of attacks on the local artists.
We do not trust people who threaten the local community by announcing that they will "take Jackson Square" or "reoccupy" it.
We will be happy to march and rally with anyone who wants to show solidarity with Turkey, but we absolutely refuse to disrupt the artists, buskers, musicians, tarot card readers, or other members of the 99% whose livelihoods depend on Jackson Square. We worked hard with MACCNO to make sure Jackson Square stayed open 24/7.
Showing solidarity with Turkey does not require disrupting the local community, especially our friends the musicians and artists.
We look forward to participating by contributing to a creative demonstration and solidarity march, and we are extremely supportive of Occupy Gezi.
However, we are locals, and we have been here a long time, and we choose locations for our actions more wisely.
The last time we held a march in Jackson Square, it was to celebrate our role in the ACLU lawsuit that won the First Amendment for the entire city during the Super Bowl. At that time, we showed support for the local artists, tarot card readers, musicians, and buskers, much like we did with our Second Line Protest in support of live music on April 25 of 2013.
We consider those who work in Jackson Square our friends, our allies, and indeed, we know many of you.
Expect Us, but on the good friendly terms you've met us on in the past.
Jackson Square is the people's square, and we will NOT take it from the people.
~ Occupy The Stage
Military use of drones was the focus of Pax Christi NOLA's Station 6 performance at the Way of Justice
march that took place Good Friday this year.
Traditionally, many Pax Christi USA local groups plan and stage a “Way of the Cross” event on Good Friday, connecting the sufferings of Christ during his passion with the suffering of our brothers and sisters at the hands of violence, greed, poverty, sickness and war.
This procession started at 9 a.m at St Joseph's Church on Tulane Avenue near Claiborne. People marched, carrying banners, and stopped at symbolic locations. At each "station", different groups climbed aboard the flat bed truck to perform and raise awareness about a social justice issue related to the location. Creative demonstrations included:
Station 1: The Domination System, at start location Station 2: Health Care, which stopped at the destroyed Charity Hospital
Station 3: Education which stopped at the main branch of the Public Library Station 4: Crime and Punishment, which stopped near Duncan Plaza Station 5: Housing and Welfare, which stopped at City Hall
Station 6: War, which stopped at Federal Court
small affair playing Plutocrat selling drones in Station 6 performance
Station 7: Environmental Pollution, which stopped at One Shell Square
Station 8: Hunger, with a stop at the Hale Boggs Federal Building
Station 9: Homelessness, with a stop in hotel district
Station 10: Consumerism, stopped at Harrah's Casino
Station 11: In adequate work, stopped near casino and hotel industry with performance by Stand with Dignity
Station 12: Racism, behind Aquarium near white pride statue
Station 13: Sexism, at amphitheater at river.
Station 14: Hope and Transformation, also at Mississippi River
Here are the lyrics to "Get A Drone" (Sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
(Uncle Sam waving a drone or two around)
If those coffins make you queasy, GET A DRONE!!
And your infantry is wheezy, GET A DRONE!!
If everybody is uneasy
From Hawaii to Tbilisi,
Never, never, appear sleazy. GET A DRONE!!
(Plutocrat selling some drones )
If they’re occupying Wall Street, GET A DRONE!!
And you’re starting to get cold feet, GET A DRONE!!
You will always look upbeat
While opponents moan and bleat,
If you give yourself a treat, so GET A DRONE!!
(Ten star general waving his drones around and hitting folks with them)
When you haven’t got a friend, just GET A DRONE!!
And your wars are a dead-end, just GET A DRONE!!
You can always still pretend
That it’s freedom you defend,
While you spend, and spend, and spend, so GET A DRONE!!
(Uncle Sam swooping with his drones)
If you’re fearing immigration, GET A DRONE!!
And you trust no other nation, GET A DRONE!!
Put an end to your frustration,
For it beats negotiation, GET A DRONE!!
(The Voice of Reason – encouraging the audience to join in)
If you want to stop this madness, GET INVOLVED!!
Put an end to all this sadness, GET INVOLVED!!
Take a stand, right now, right here,
Let your voice ring loud and clear,
Work for Peace and Truth so dear, please, GET INVOLVED!!
This was a great way to observe Good Friday.
Occupy The Stage spent the last Saturday of Justice Fes
t sending postcards to political prisoners. We'd been encouraging people to bring an original handmade postcard or come and make a postcard at Justice Fest, and a friend was kind enough to donate vintage Jazz Fest postcards to our cause.
We had addresses and info on political prisoners so people could learn about their different circumstances, and we're grateful to Op Pen Pal
and Mail to the Jail
for providing so much information and addresses.
We showed videos and slideshows throughout Justice Fest in solidarity.
#FreeAnons #FreeHammond #RIPAaronSwartz
The March Against Monsanto will start in Duncan Plaza across from City Hall in New Orleans on May 25. Organizers are asking that those attending meet at 12:30 pm to march at 1.