Chen Guangchen, the Chinese human rights activist, got four separate articles in the New York Times for May 5.
Jane Perlez and Michael Wines reported from Beijing on the deal that would get Chen and his family visas to the US, for him to take up a fellowship at NYU.
Andrew Jacobs weighed in with the news that “Once exiled, nettlesome prisoners of conscience, like Chen Guangcheng, almost invariably lose their ability to grab headlines in the West and to command widespread sympathy both in China and abroad.” The op-ed page carried Wang Dan reflecting that, “It's the right decision for Chen Guangcheng to study in the United States. Democracy and human rights are of great importance, but so are a family's love and affection.”
A mop-up NYT editorial declared that “What seems to have been forgotten in all the political roiling here is that this episode is first and foremost an embarrassment for China and a glaring reminder of its abysmal mistreatment of its own citizens.”
Let’s suppose that Chen remains spunky once he’s settled in at NYU, and decides some time during the summer to join an Occupy demonstration, along with his wife.
Here’s what they might reasonably expect by way of treatment from the NYPD, if we are to believe — which I do — a report on new police strategies against protestors by David Graeber, anthropologist and creative force in the Occupy movement, on the Naked Capitalism site for May 3.
Graeber begins with a conversation with an old friend:
“A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I’ll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast. ‘What happened to you?’ I asked. ‘Oh, this?’ she held it up. ‘I was in Liberty Park on the 17th [the Six Month Anniversary of the Occupation]. When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.’ ‘Again?’ someone said. We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks.
“‘Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, “you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?” So they took me behind the lines and broke my wrists.’ Actually, she quickly clarified, only one wrist was literally broken….Police dragged her, partly by the hair, behind their lines and threw her to the ground, periodically shouting ‘stop resisting!’ as she shouted back ‘I’m not resisting!’ At one point though, she said, she did tell them her glasses had fallen to the sidewalk next to her, and announced she was going to reach over to retrieve them. That apparently gave them all the excuse they needed. One seized her right arm and bent her wrist backwards in what she said appeared to be some kind of marshal-arts move, leaving it not broken, but seriously damaged. ‘I don’t know exactly what they did to my left wrist — at that point I was too busy screaming at the top of my lungs in pain. But they broke it’.”
This happened on March 17, when several hundred members of Occupy Wall Street celebrated the six month anniversary of their first camp at Zuccotti Park by a peaceful reoccupation of the park — a reoccupation broken up within hours by police with 32 arrests. … Many of these arrests are carried out in such a way to guarantee physical injury… Graeber’s friend Eileen’s wrists were broken; others suffered broken fingers, concussions, and broken ribs.
Graeber says “the apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new.” On March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told Graeber her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.
“Why is all this not a national story?” Graeber asks.
Back in September, when the infamous Tony Bologna arbitrarily maced several young women engaged in peaceful protest, the event became a national news story. Now there’s nothing. Graeber:
“I suspect one reason so many shy away from confronting the obvious is because it raises extremely troubling questions about the role of police in American society…. The commander of the First Precinct, successor to the disgraced Tony Bologna, is Captain Edward J. Winski, whose officers patrol the Financial District (that is, when those very same officers are not being paid directly by Wall Street firms to provide security, which they regularly do, replete with badges, uniforms, and weapons). Winski often personally directs groups of police attacking protestors: Winsky’s superior is Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, former director of global security of the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns:
“And Kelly’s superior, in turn, is Mayor Michael Bloomberg — the well-known former investment banker and Wall Street magnate. The 11th richest man in America, he has referred to the New York City Police Department as his own personal army.”
Graeber added an update to his story: “In comments, a reader asked why I did not go to the media. My response: “To be honest my first impulse was to call a sympathetic Times reporter. He said he was going to see if he could spin a story out of it. Apparently his editors told him it wasn’t news.”
It won’t be long before the NYPD kills a demonstrator. It will take that to force the issue of methodical police violence back onto the news pages.
Big city police chiefs are transferring their skills to the international theater. Leonard Leavitt reports on his NYPD Confidential site that if Kelly embarks on a bid to be Bloomberg’s successor in City Hall, Bloomberg could ask him to quit as police chief and then appoint as Kelly’s successor someone with national experience such as Bratton, or someone with both national and international experience such as Bratton’s First Deputy John Timoney. Timoney, who subsequently ran police departments in Philadelphia and Miami, is now advising Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior in that country’s internal religious war.
“Internal religious war” is a tactful way of describing the Khalifa dynasty’s methodical, lethal savagery against the Shi’a’s demand for elementary political rights.
Goodbye to the Great Charles Higham
Charles Higham died last week at the age of 81. He wrote many books, among them a spectacular expose of Erroll Flynn as a Nazi agent and the brilliant Trading With The Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times ran snooty obits. (Higham worked as a stringer for the NYT for many years.) Both obituarists energetically attacked his work on Erroll Flynn, but kept quiet about Trading with the Enemy, a devastating investigation of how many of the top US corporations and American super-rich collaborated with the Third Reich before and during the Second World War.
Jeffrey St Clair and I had a most entertaining lunch in Los Angeles some years ago, interviewing Higham, at that time promoting a book he had just published on the murder of Lincoln. Recollections poured forth for a couple of hours. We’ll be running some in the next CounterPunch newsletter. Here’s a few minutes he gave us on Orson Welles:
“One of my first detective successes is that I found Orson Welles’ last film, that he’d made in South America. Briefly, he’d been sent by Nelson Rockefeller of the InterAmerican Affairs committee to cement North and South American relations by making a film about the North and South American associations to prevent Nazi incursions. The result of it is that he broke North/South America relations because he drowned a national hero of Brazil. Not an inconsiderable feat.
“What happened was that he was recreating a raft voyage of the Chingaderras who were the raft fisherman who sailed to Rio from Belem to bring word of their plight to President Vargas. They became the toasts of all of Brazil. They were hailed through the streets. There were 10,000 craft in the harbor to greet them. Orson Wells thought, a cinch for North/South American relations. So 10,000 people were paid a dollar a head, or whatever it was to recreate the scene. There were planes flying over with messages ‘Welcome to the Chingaderras.’ Unfortunately for Orson Welles, a shark and an octopus came out of the water in a death struggle at the wrong moment, the raft turned over and the national hero of Brazil disappeared into the shark. Five days later the remains were washed up. It’s not exactly what he was looking for. Welles had to escape the hotel as a washer woman with a large wicker basket when an angry mob was waiting, but the disguise worked. He got away with it.”
A tumbril (n.) a dung cart used for carrying manure, now associated with the transport of prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.
Phyllis Guest writes, from Dallas: “In case you have not yet consigned these to the dung carts: Game-change and game-changer: Apparently favored by those who work in Washington; I have heard it from lobbyists, TV ‘personalities,’ NPR reporters. Back in the day: Apparently African American street lingo, now adopted as above, too far and too wide.”
Alexander Cockburn can be reached at email@example.com.