Posted by: Donna
You may remember (I do since I blogged about it) back in late 2011, when ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, held a big conference right here in the Valley of the Sun. Some folks from the Occupy movement wanted to welcome them with signs and In These Times reporter Beau Hodai tried to talk to some of the attendees of the event. The ALEC organizers did not take kindly to that. They enlisted the hotel and local police to eject Mr. Hodai from the premises.
Making my way to the door, Lowe in tow, I was approached by two women with resort security.
“Hi … you’re the one on the motorcycle, right? You’re with ALEC? You’re a guest at the resort? Just so you know, this is a private function, so we just ask that all our regular guests stay in the main area… Okay?”
No problem. I left.
So, when Black accosted me at the bar the following night and claimed I had been asked to leave numerous ALEC events at the hotel, I explained that this was the extent of my one and only ‘incident’ and nodded to Sgt. Lowe over my left shoulder. “Ask him,” I said.
“Nevertheless,” said Black. “The ALEC people don’t want you here … and we understand that your reservations were made under false pretenses.”
I asked Black why–given the fact that I had not been accused of any crime–I was surrounded by armed, uniformed cops. Were Phoenix police usually engaged in evicting hotel guests who were suspected of having made hotel reservations under supposedly “false pretenses?” Must be a slow night…
And, how could a person even make a hotel reservation under false pretenses, I asked. I had given the front desk my valid photo driver’s license and my credit card for incidental expenses. I was planning to stay in the resort for two days and those two days had been paid for by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) … “False pretenses?”
Black would not elaborate further, limiting his conversation only to statements emphasizing the resort’s urgent need for me to vacate the premises immediately.
Black said that he would–with the help of these nice police officers–escort me up to my room and help me pack.
I was, as Sgt. Lowe explained, being “trespassed”–which meant that I was being formally advised that I was not welcome on Kierland property. If I returned, or refused to leave following this advisory, I would be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
It turns out that the Occupy folks in Phoenix got a good bit more than the stink-eye of hotel security and local cops. Beau Hodai is back with a report for the Center for Media and Democracy about how ALEC coordinated with federal, state, and local authorities to monitor and infiltrate Occupy protest groups at the behest of corporations. The title of the report – Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s ‘Counter Terrorism’ Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street – illustrates the difference in how political activism is treated, depending upon whom and what the activism is directed toward.
On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy released the results of a year-long investigation: “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.” The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.
The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private intelligence sharing partnerships. While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the “Arizona fusion center”) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity.
While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.
At this time much of the mainstream media’s attention is focused on a “scandal” involving IRS agents inconveniencing Tea Party groups trying to attain nonprofit status by scrutinizing their applications, which delayed their tax-exemptitude for some of them. We are supposed to understand this as a hideous attack upon the civil rights of Tea Party groups, which we are supposed to believe were totally not involved in electioneering!
Here are the not-so-known facts of a few of those cases:
• The First Coast Tea Party Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, for example, which applied for 501(c)(4) status in 2009 and received it in 2011. Commenting about the recent IRS controversy on Facebook, the group declared “We file a tax return, account for every penny.. We do not endorse candidates that is a no no.” Yet the group’s activities included public bragging about directly helping Republican campaigns. In an August 30, 2012 Facebook post, for instance, the group advertised a Jacksonville rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, adding, “bring your chairs and your signs, make sure they know that the First Coast Tea Party is and has been helping their campaign.”
It must be noted here that three weeks after receiving 501(C)(4) status the group declared a “state of emergency” on their Facebook page, pleading with supporters to campaign for Romney.
THIS is just one example of why the IRS wanted all their Facebook postings.
“FLORIDA FRIENDS, IF YOU LIVE IN ANY OF THESE 3 COUNTIES GET OFF THE COUCH NOW, GET YOUR FRIENDS OFF THE COUCH. GET TO THE REPUBLICAN HEADQUARTERS AND OFFER AND THEN DO SOME WORK. PHONES, (YOU CAN EVEN DO THESE CALLS FROM HOME) AND WALK AND KNOCK. NOW. WE CANNOT LOSE FLORIDA TO OBAMA.. NOW. THIS IS MOST CRITICAL.”
[Emphasis in Original]
That plea came from the official Face book account of the organization as opposed to coming from random supporters.
• Similarly, the Louisville Tea Party was granted 501(c)(4) status in 2009. Nevertheless, it published a list of “officially tea party endorsed candidates for the 2011 Kentucky primary.” They also published an article “The Rationale for Romney-Ryan,” arguing for Tea Partiers to vote for the Republican candidate.
Okay, for all the pundits and establishment-types out there wringing their hands over “polarization” and “extremism on both sides!” – let me explain the crucial difference: One side fights for the interests of people with money and power. Those would be right wing groups. Therefore they get members of Congress demanding inquiries and even talk of impeachment of the President because the tax exempt status of their “grassroots” bullcrap outfits were delayed.
Left wing groups represent people without money and power. So they get destroyed. Or they get people trying like hell to discredit them with lies. Or they get the government colluding with corporations to silence them. See the disparity? It’s why the “both sides!” canard is simply absurd.
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