By Andrew Kreig
The progressive websites OpEd News and FireDogLake have taken a lead in documenting how a right-wing agent provocateurcreated a violent police reaction Oct. 8 against peaceful Occupy Washington antiwar protesters. This shut down a Smithsonian museum and led to arrests and bloodshed. Furthermore, the role of the disrupter from The American Spectator was ignored by most mainstream news coverage so far. Instead, establishment reporters relied on pollice and museum spokespeople for spin-filled, highly dubious accounts of a demonstration that occurred in plain view near the center of the historic Mall.
My friend and editor Rob Kall, publisher of OpEd News and his colleague Cheryl Biren have shocking photos of the event to illustrate their account. She was arrested despite her clear credentials as a journalist and such important work as a the photo at left. They and other journalists below have helped piece together an account of how the confrontation escalated because of a pre-planned stunt by an American Spectator editor identified as Patrick Howley, left.
Read their coverage at OpEd News in such columns as this, “Occupy” Participants Beware: Agents Provocateur Like The One at Air Space Museum Are Threat. Then help us spread the word widely through your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts. As described below in his own words, Howley apparently pretended to be an antiwar protester and then created a confrontation with a smaller museum security guard before scampering away to describe the havoc he helped create. Kall writes, “The people who planned the protest against killer drones at the National Air and Space museum wanted to make a statement and send a message. They did not want to scare families and children or shut down the museum.”
Some of the events — including a parade by Occupy Washington demonstrators on Seventh Street in the city leading to the museum — were within eyesight of our Justice Integrity Project office on that street. I visit daily the main rally site, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 13th Street. A related demonstration is in a park several blocks away. On one such trip, I encountered one of the nation’s most prominent Republican senators of his era, a Southerner now retired. I asked if he were going to the demonstration, He said no, but added, “I think it’s healthy” and described for several minutes how protest is an important part of democracy. I asked if I could identify him, but he preferred not. Then he resumed his reflections on the importance of protest to a vibrant democracy. I’ll defer to his wish and not mention his name or too much identifying information. But his perspective, especially in contrast to the demogogic denunciation of “mobs” by such successors in Congress as GOP House leader Eric Cantor (VA), right, provides useful context to the accounts below of how the major “mob” action yesterday appears to have been fomented by a rightest seeking to bring bad publicity to the protest.
Protesters planned to visit the museum in part because it featured a drone exhibit. One splinter group unfurled a banner inside the msueum. Howley is reported to have provoked a more direct confrontation with guards before scampering away as guards unleashed a pepper spray attack on demonstators outside the building and evicting all tourists and about a dozen protesters who had entered the museum.
Important also is how such protests, now reported in nearly 1,000 communities through the country after their start on Wall Street, are portrayed by the mainstream media. See the accounts below for further detail. More generally, this illustrates one of two twin fears of protest organizers: 1) That rightists would secretly infiltrate to create disruption that discredits the goals; and 2) that the protests would be co-opted by establishment figures to advance their own short-term election strategies. Of course, there’s always the possibility of silly leftists too. Well, item one above already appears to have happened, but it remains to be seen if it’s visible enough for the corporate controlled news media. From my perspective, it’s hiding in fairly plain sight. See articles below for further detail:
OpEd News, “Occupy” Participants Beware: Agents Provocateur Like The One at Air Space Museum Are Threat, Rob Kall, Oct. 9, 2011. The people who planned the protest against killer drones at the National Air and Space Museum wanted to make a statement and send a message. They did not want to scare families and children or shut down the museum.
FireDogLake, American Spectator Editor Admits to Being Agent Provocateur at D.C. Museum, Charlie Grapski, Oct. 9, 2011. Immediately after the incident began hitting the newswires Howley published a “Breaking News” story with The American Spectator online in which he reveals that he had consciously infiltrated the group on Friday with the intent to discredit the movement. He states that “as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator — and I wasn’t giving up before I had my story.”
OpEd News, Pepper-Sprayed for Peace, David Swanson, Oct. 8, 2011. I’ve been coughing and vomiting, and my head aches from pepper spray. I’ll post videos and photos of why. We intended to hold signs and sing inside the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, protesting its promotion of unmanned drones, missiles, and bombs, including its sponsorship by and promotion of weapons corporations. We don’t have any museums promoting health coverage or education or retirement security. We had marched from the Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square occupations, taking over the streets of DC. The museum knew we were coming. Some of our group got in and dropped a banner. Hundreds of us did not. Instead, we were greeted at the door with cans of pepper spray.
OpEd News, Reporter and Occupy Wash DC Protesters Pepper Sprayed at National Air and Space Museum, Rob Kall, Oct. 8, 2011. When participants in a peaceful, non-violent march which departed from the Freedom Square Occupy Washington DC staging area attempted to enter the National Air and Space Museum, guards and police responded violently, throwing people to the ground, pepper-spraying a journalist and protesters so the doors outside were surrounded by people choking, wheezing, prostrated on the ground, eyes blinded or tearing from direct and indirect exposure to pepper spray. I had gone ahead of the group of 700-1500 protesters, carrying signs opposing the use of drones to indiscriminately kill. The National Air and Space Museum had been targeted because it is celebrating the use of drones. MSNBC has used the second of my two videos on their website. They’re quoting a guard saying there were 100-200 people. I say there were 700-1500. And they quote a spokesperson reporting that one person was pepper sprayed– I saw at least ten people suffering the effects of pepper-spray, and the guards did not just spray one aggressive protester. They chased after people and sprayed outside.
American Spectator, Standoff in D.C., Patrick Howley, Oct. 8, 2011. Anti-capitalist protests engulf the nation’s capital — and one American Spectator reporter gets pepper-sprayed. The fastest-running protesters charged up the steps of Washington’s National Air and Space Museum Saturday afternoon to infiltrate the building and hang banners on the “shameful” exhibits promoting American imperialism. As the white-uniformed security guards hurried to physically block the entrances, only a select few — myself, for journalistic purposes, included — kept charging forward.
Associated Press / Washington Post, Air & Space Museum in DC closed after demonstrators try to enter with signs; 1 pepper-sprayed, Oct. 8, 2011. Washington’s National Air and Space Museum is closed after demonstrators tried to enter the building with signs and at least one person was pepper-sprayed. Smithsonian spokesman John Gibbons says a group of demonstrators, estimated between 100 and 200 people, arrived at about 3 p.m. Saturday and tried to enter the free museum. Gibbons says when a security guard tried to stop them, saying they could not enter with the signs, he was apparently held by demonstrators. A second guard used pepper spray on at least one person and the crowd dispersed. One woman was arrested.
Occupy Wall Street Coverage
Huffington Post, Eric Cantor Condemns Occupy Wall Street ‘Mobs’, Oct. 7, 2011. Amanda Terkel, Oct. 7, 2011. Top House GOP leaders assured attendees at the 2011 Values Voter Summit Friday morning that despite all the attention on fixing the nation’s economy, they remain committed to pushing the priorities of social conservatives, including defunding Planned Parenthood and defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Reason TV, What We Saw at the Occupy Wall Street Protest, Oct 7, 2011 (Video). On October 4, 2011, Reason.tv visited the Occupy Wall Street protests at Liberty Square in Lower Manhattan, on Day 18 of the ongoing demonstration. The crowd was relatively small at about 300, and included educated but unemployed workers, college students and recent graduates, homeless drifters, performance artists, 9/11 truthers, and a not-insignificant number of journalists.