Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.
The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.
The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.
But in a recent interview with the BBC, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan mentioned she was on a conference call just before the recent wave of crackdowns began.
“I was recently on a conference call of 18 cities who had the same situation, where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.”
At the time this story was updated, Mayor Quan’s office had declined to discuss her comments.
This story will continue to be updated throughout the day.
Rick Ellis, Minneapolis Top News Examiner, November 15, 2011