Melanie Butler, CODEPINK's Truth Set Free campaign coordinator, shares why CODEPINK is Occupying Wall Street
September 21st, 2011
"Hundreds of American protestors have gathered in lower Manhattan area since September 17, vigorously voicing opposition to political connections between corporations and US lawmakers.
They have challenged the US President Barack Obama's management of the financial sector, asking him to put an end to what they denounce as corruption and the corporate greed.
Press TV has spoken with Melanie Butler, the New York Campaign manager for CODEPINK, to discuss the issue further.
What follows is the transcript of the interview:
Press TV: Could you remind us of the protesters' main demands and do you think that they will continue this movement despite the crackdown that has occurred?
Butler: Well, it is very important to remember that this is a popular movement; this is a grassroots movement that is coming from the ground up. So there is no one main demand that unites everyone in the square who have been protesting.
The initial call did come from the Canadian magazine Adbusters and initially it was said that we would unite to insist on one clear and unified demand. However, the people that have been organizing on the ground are very clear that we are all there for our own reasons. We are representing the 99 percent who do not control the wealth which is owned by the one percent and we are fed up.
Personally I am there as the representative of CODEPINK, a women led and women-initiated peace organization, and we thought that it was very important to stand with the protesters occupying Wall Street to demonstrate our solidarity and to express our dissatisfaction with that how the economy is being run and I think that it is a popular sentiment within the square that people are fed up; they are upset that we are living in a situation where our government is putting the needs of corporations before the needs of the people and specifically that we have spent trillions of dollars on wars abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan and giving money and giving tax dollars to Israel and there are crackdowns on Palestinians.
When we do not have money to spend on basic needs of our own people here at home, we are constantly being told that we need to cut back on social services like healthcare and education and housing. We want to flip that. Why do we need to cut down on those basic needs instead of cutting down on our military spending which right now makes up about 50 percent of our Federal Budget?
It is a travesty and our priorities are completely in the wrong order and we need to bring those war dollars home to invest them in our communities; to build strong communities and to build strong social services that are desperately lacking in this country.
Press TV: I want to talk about this police crackdown that we have seen in New York. Do you not think that this police crackdown on these protests in Wall Street has violated any US laws?
Speaking further about this crackdown and its implications, the United States has allowed this crackdown to happen despite its widespread criticism of other crackdowns across other parts of the world in other protests.
Butler: Well, to answer to your first question that does the crackdowns violate US laws, I am of the understanding that we have we have freedom of movement and freedom of speech in this country and those rights are in the constitution. So [the answer is] yes; it does violate US laws.
I arrived on Wall Street on Saturday and I was told by police who had blocked off the entire city block radius surrounding Wall Street that the area was frozen. Well, when I asked why it was frozen and what that meant, they replied because there is a protest planned. Freedom of movement and freedom of speech means that you should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully.
When I asked the police officers why they were preventing peaceful protests and what reasons they had, they were unable to tell me; they just kept repeating that the area was frozen. I was there yesterday when two people were arrested for drawing with colored chalk on the sidewalk. That was not against the law.
The one woman who I spoke to who is arrested for this, Andrea Osborne, told me that no one told her not to draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk and that in fact when they had asked the police if it was ok to draw on the sidewalk, they said yes.
She said that when they arrested her she laughed because she could not understand why she was being arrested for doing street art. Furthermore, she was not read her rights; her hands were zip-tied; they declined to give their badge numbers when she asked for them and the police officers who detained her threatened her and told her that she was going to be put in a cell with criminals, drug dealers and prostitutes.
This is all for doing something that children are encouraged to do from a young age trying on sidewalks with colored chalks, expressing yourself artistically."
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CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. The name CODEPINK satirized the Bush Administration's color-coded, fear-mongering "security" alert system that has since been phased out. CODEPINK is a lively call for the people of the world to "wage peace." More...