Occupy Wall Street held a press conference on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve. The press conference was organized to condemn the bill, which grants the military extraordinary powers to detain US citizens indefinitely without trial.
The press conference was held in front of the New York Public Library at Bryant Park and began at noon. A female representative of the International Action Center was the first to speak.
“The only rights we have are the rights we fight for and then again and again have to fight to hold onto, because everything that’s won again and again they want to take it back and they want to intimidate us.”
She spoke about Muslims in this country and around the world being victims of intimidation, disappearances, kidnapping, detention and targeted assassinations. And, she said the right to freedom of assembly, right to know your charges and right to a trial jury are absolutely essential to being able to organize for a better economy, etc.
A CAIR representative spoke and said the “cornerstone of American justice has always been that an accused is innocent until proven guilty.” He spoke about silence in the past decade and how Arab, South Asian and Muslim citizens will be at the forefront of a movement to save liberty in this country. “It will be they who through their detention and torture will be at the forefront of defending freedom.” He thanked Occupy Wall Street for standing in defense of the people who will be the next victims of the loss of civil liberties in America.
James Owens of the New York Committee to Stop FBI Repression spoke about Obama’s campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay and how on New Year’s Eve the NDAA was signed that would allow the military to detain citizens and hold them like detainees at Guantanamo. “What does it mean to be a suspect?” he asked. He added hundreds of people who have been organizers have been charged with terror charges in recent years, and this new law could be an additional tool to detain them. He mentioned the FBI raids on antiwar activists in September 2010 and asked, “Will these activities[activism/organizing] now garner suspicion of terrorism? Will that be the reality?”
A young Latino woman declared ,”Latinos worldwide condemn the Obama Administration for the signing of the NDAA.” She suggested this is all to instill fear in the “growing movement of the 99%.” This won’t frighten the movement, she said. It will only “agitate people more” and push more people to fight. She mentioned how the NDAA is “similar to martial law” and in the Philippines in the ’70s & ’80s a US puppet declared martial law. The people of the Philippines fought and organized underground and ultimately ousted the puppet dictator.
Mark Taylor of the New York Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild said, “We have the great privilege, honor, and burden of defending our constitutional rights.” But, citizens are losing their civil liberties, rights, and battles in court “in part because of legislation like the NDAA.” Rights are endangered under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“We have seen a relentless rolling back of our civil liberties,” said Taylor. “NYPD, FBI and the federal government through its military are involved in spying on Americans.” He added we are subject to stops, searches and detentions that would not have been permissible in an earlier era. And he said domestic policing has become a “visible military presence.”
Following the press conference, Occupy Wall Street and others present for the press conference marched. They also prepared for afternoon actions at the offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer later this afternoon. Both Gillibrand and Schumer voted, along with 84 other senators, for the NDAA.