MANHATTAN (CN) – Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons drew heckling from a crowd of Occupy Wall Street activists as the mogul who has a net worth of $340 million joined protesters marking the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
“I thought Occupy Wall Street meant we are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street controlled our future,” Simmons told a crowd of about 300 on Jan. 20.
As hecklers accused him of co-opting the movement, Simmons refused to be drawn into in-fighting.
“I’m not here to occupy ‘Occupy Wall Street,'” Simmons said. “I’m just a supporter. I don’t need to answer.”
Journalist Chris Hedges got a more positive reaction as he told the crowd about his lawsuit against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which empowers the military to indefinitely detain anyone, and their “associated forces,” whom the government accuses of being or aiding terrorists. Such detention can occur anywhere in the world, without charge or trial.
“Last Friday, I filed a lawsuit against Barack Obama and [Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta for this horrendous bill, which I think is directly tied to the Occupy movement,” Hedges said, to outbursts of cheers.
A former war correspondent for The New York Times and other major papers, Hedges says that the so-called Homeland Battlefield Bill threatens journalists who report the views of people and groups that the U.S. government declares its enemies.
Protesters may also find themselves on the government’s bad side since it is angling to pull in military force if the protests grow, Hedges said.
“You scare the shit out of these people,” Hedges told Occupy activists. “They know far better than we do how gamed and corrupt and rotten the system is, and if they think they got whacked this fall, wait until spring. Because we articulated a fundamental truth about this country that will ripple and resonate outwards, and the only response they have is force.”
Hedges called the shutdowns of 18 Occupy encampments nationwide “a coordinated national effort,” and said the government should instead have responded to mass protests by declaring a moratorium on foreclosures, forgiving student debt and creating a jobs program.
“Instead, they sent in their storm troopers, and they showed to all of us how bankrupt they are,” he said. “I think the reason they passed this bill is, in the end, they’ve seen how the message that we sent out has resonated with the police and others who understand that they are not the one percent. And as this movement grows and as it expands, they want that mechanism. They want to reach for the military to save them.”
The Occupy movement will hold demonstrations against the NDAA on Feb. 3, but the Friday protest marked the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling, which the movement says “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money in elections.”
Occupy the Courts spread to more than 130 venues – including the U.S. Supreme Court – across 46 states, organizers say.
The New York group marched to Foley Square, a public space surrounded by courthouses, after meeting at Zuccotti Park, the hub of this summer’s Occupy Wall Street protests.
A federal judge had refused the group’s attempt to hold their protest outside of the courthouse for New York’s Southern District.
The setback did not dampen the spirits of protesters who opened the event with chants of “Money is not free speech” and “Citizens United is America divided.”
A performance artist who preaches against consumerism opened the show. “The only reason the corporations think that they can beat people is that, for decades, they have been stealing our personhood from us,” the self-ordained Rev. Billy Talen preached.
The next performance came from a marching band that calls itself the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, which roused the crowd with “Smash the Banks Polka.”
Retired Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis, who became an icon for law-enforcement sympathy with the Occupy movement, attended the demonstration in uniform and said more officers will join him in the spring.
“The Occupiers are getting the word around,” Lewis told Courthouse News in an interview. “Come spring, they will be joining in. I say springtime, police departments have to make a major decision, which side they’re on.”
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