After a difficult week on Occupy movements across the United States, members of the public have been wondering whether violent crackdowns have been coordinated, given the nature of the crackdowns and their proximity in time.
Civil rights activists, journalists and the public began accusing the US Federal Government of coordinating crackdowns. However, after an article appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (SFBG) saying that a little known non-governmental organization, called the Police Executives’ Research Forum, or PERF, had been advising mayors across the United States on how to deal with Occupy, suggesting even that a coordinated crackdown had taken place, the fury of the public turned.
Since then Anonymous conducted a two fold attack, including a DDoS on the PERF website and a comprehensive “d0x” of PERF’s missions along with the names of the organisations Board of Directors and members. Since, PERF’s Executive Director, Chuck Wexler, has been on a campaign to attempt to clear the name of PERF of any such conspiracy insisting that PERF’s objectives are not the sinister ones Anonymous and many others concerned with the Occupy movement have accused them of.
The latest attempt to clear the PERF name was Khadijah Britton’s interview of Wexler in the Boston Phoenix. In it Wexler reassured, “our last conference call was November 4. If we were involved in tactics, we’d be having conference calls every day. It wouldn’t be two and a half weeks ago. Anyone that knows us knows we don’t tell people what to do. We don’t have that kind of authority, nor do we want that kind of authority. We don’t actively tell police departments what to do.”
The Phoenix article appeared to raise eyebrows of many who had rushed to research PERF after the publication of the SFBG article, noting not only its lack of research, but the one sided nature of the piece that asserts itself as “THE TRUTH”.
Shortly after I tweeted about the piece saying that I too was skeptical of the piece, I received a tweet from Britton asking me to provide evidence of malicious or intentional role in coordinated role on the shutting down of Occupy.
Here is my response to Britton:
There is no evidence of a coordinated effort. If the effort was coordinated, whether by the Federal Government, by PERF or any other such organisation, that is not a truth that members of the public will likely become privy to.
Furthermore, the coordinated style of the crackdowns is not my primary concern. My concern is with the heavy handed, counter-terrorism policing styles we have been seeing since the inception of Occupy that are entirely inappropriate for Americans who are merely exercising their first amendment rights. Wexler’s attempts to clear the name of PERF are entirely sullied by the sheer fact that as he attempts to emphasise the “progressive” nature of PERF, he has failed to provide any statement of outrage over the heavy handed tactics in policing occupy. Surely a police “think tank” that lauds itself as “progressive” would have done so before trying to clean their organisations image.
There is no proof of malicious intent by any of PERF’s members or Board of Directors. However, had Britton linked the Anonymous “d0x” in her article, readers would have had the opportunity to see for themselves the very questionable histories of many of PERF’s members. Most notable are Miami Police Chief John Timoney and Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan. Anyone who has researched anything about shifting police tactics in the United States since 1999 would have come across these names without digging too deep. Both are responsible for coordinating notoriously heavy handed abusive policing in their respective cities; Dolan for the 2008 Republican National Convention, and Timoney for the 2003 FTAA protests that saw the genesis for the “Miami Model” of policing protests. The “Miami Model” has since become the model to emulate for subsequent protest policing, as stated by both the Miami Mayor and the Miami-Dade State Attorney.
Another notable name would be Thomas C Frazier who not only currently sits as the special advisor of the city of Oakland’s police department, but also sat on the Department of Justice’s “Less Lethals Working Group” that researches less lethal weapons such as different types of chemical agents, such as pepper spray and tear gas, projectiles, such as rubber bullets, bean bags, and pepper balls, and conducted energy devices (CEDs) such as tasers and LRADs. The 2009 DoJ review states that the use of less lethal weapons was expanding in several different law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and recommends that the DoJ “coordinate and ensure that its components develop appropriate and consistent policies to specifically address the use of less-lethal weapons, including conducted energy devices, by Department personnel and state and local law enforcement officers serving on Department task forces.”
Finally, an alarming question comes up as we search through the names of PERF’s members bearing in mind PERF’s international reach. In a search for how CEDs, specifically the LRAD, has been tried, tested and used around the world in civilian uprisings, before making its debut in the United States in 2009 at the Pittsburgh G-20 protests, one comes across a video of RT News covering the uprising in Tbilisi, Georgia in November of 2007 in which local police conduct a heavy crackdown on peaceful civilians using the most up-to-date in modern protest policing technologies, including rubber bullets, tear gas, and the LRAD. Commentators note that this display of power, specifically the use of the LRAD was the first time that such technology, despite its use in Iraq, had been seen there to disperse crowds. Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies Leonid Ivashov, charges that such violence resulted from a US training programme.
Worthy of noting is that a superficial search for PERF member Colonel Fred Lorenz reveals that “He is a also a Senior Fellow for the Public International Law and Policy Group, working in the Republic of Georgia, assisting the Georgian Government in peace negotiations with the Republic of Abkhazia. In the Summer of 2007 he was an election monitor in another self-proclaimed and disputed territory, the Republic of Nagorny Karabakh.”
Additionally, another superficial search finds Colonel Fred Lorenz also cited in multiple documents pertaining to less lethal weaponry such as one titled “A PRIMER ON THE EMPLOYMENT OF NON-LETHAL WEAPONS” by Lieutenant Colonel James C. Duncan, for his work in this field.
While these are only superficial searches, and the bits of evidence do not outwardly prove anything against a single person named here, the signals alone are certainly cause for concern and warrant a deeper analytical research into PERF’s objectives.
While there is no doubt that Wexler was telling the truth in his interview that only two conference calls took place between city mayors across the United States, the emphasis should not be on the probable coordinated nature of the crackdown, but the very nature of the crackdowns themselves. Members linked to PERF certainly raise an eyebrow, or two, especially in light of the fact Chuck Wexler informed on 1st November through his revealing tweet “PERF’s new report on “Managing Major Events” is being used as a guide to handling Occupy protests”.