This site was started specifically to allow people to express different points of view about Occupy and Transparency, use of cameras, and live streaming.

All points of view are welcome.  Please submit your essay or video.

This is an important topic; please share your thoughts. 

photo by Aaron Kuehn.  Occupy LA treehouse.

"Purge of Live Streamers at Occupy Oakland" by Dan_ps

Purge of Live Streamers at Occupy Oakland
by Dan_ps 

To see an updated version of this essay on a different website, CLICK.

The purge of livestreamers and other transparency advocates at Occupy Oakland has been largely successful, and last weekend produced one of its predictable results. At the weekly Fuck the Police march there was a huge spike in vandalism (via) over previous ones, and there was a greatly escalated police response. The unilateral disarmament of livestreamers meant that, as Sue Basko (among others) pointed out, only the authorities were able to record the events of that night. If they choose to selectively edit or show only clips that support their side of the story, what will there be to rebut that?1 (Basko also points out that livestreaming video can be used to rebut charges made by authorities, something the accused in this case might find handy. Her Occupy Symposium has been collecting really nice essays on this topic, incidentally.)

It actually is not strictly true that there were no live streamers at Fuck the Police. There were a couple, and they were physically threatened.2 Because of that intimidation they radically trimmed their coverage. The resulting video is of some help, but not nearly as much as a full and open livestream.3 In an email exchange afterwards affinis noted that livestreamers have become afraid of covering the news, to which lambert responded: "Exactly. Since when is covering the news about respect? This is no different from the Washington Post!"

On the face of it that is just a little bit of snark, but there's a very serious subtext. Occupy has begun to develop its own media ecology, and one of the reasons many of us see Occupy as a potentially important movement is because of the ways it promises change from existing (broken) models. Not merely a reshaping, but a full break from them.

Big media outlets catering to power instead of challenging it has been a major source of dissatisfaction for nearly a generation now.4 The emerging sensibility of the new media environment is one of lightly mediated - or entirely unmediated - transmission of information. There are certainly hazards with this approach. For one, it means trying to take a drink from a firehose. A twitter stream or livestream can be hard to process; too much information, too much video to watch, too many links to click on. Consumers need to be their own quasi-editors, deciding which sources to rely on in order to be able to process what's coming in.

Another hazard is epistemic closure, the condition where one only gets information from sources one trusts. The resulting echo chamber serves only to reinforce one's prior beliefs, and causes people to retreat into rigid, sclerotic worldviews consisting exclusively of agreeable sentiments. There's an entire book that can be written about that, though, so I'll just note that it's a phenomenon that predates the Internet.

For all the potential problems, though, there is no denying that it is a very different model than legacy media's. Which is the point! I don't think most of the people who support Occupy do so because they want some new version of the Washington Post. I for one have had quite enough trembling deference towards those in power, and I'm not especially interested in seeing the same thing start to happen in this new context. As John Seal put it, "some Occupy supporters are now eagerly mimicking the high-security, everything-is-classified government they supposedly hold in such contempt." And they are attempting to impose the same atmosphere of meek compliance on those who cover them. None for me, thanks; I've seen how that movie ends.

Lack of transparency leads easily to lack of accountability, and unsurprisingly that was what happened in the Fuck the Police march. In addition to the absence of livestreamers, those engaged in violence concealed their faces. This is a preferred tactic among violence advocates, but it has some obvious drawbacks that Jasper Gregory pointed out: One, a child could figure out how to infiltrate such a group, and two, the choice of that tactic made it irrelevant who did the actual violence. If you choose in advance to use anonymity, then anyone who uses it is one of your fellows - whether you want them to be or not.5

Some violence advocates tried to distance themselves by saying it wasn't the real black bloc that did it, but a heretofore unknown imposter black bloc that is merely comprised of an immature group of transient kids who are only in it for the adrenaline rush of violent confrontation. Unlike the actual black bloc, of course! It's hard to know where to even start with unconquerable ignorance like this, though Jasper captured its essential absurdity nicely. (Bonus stupidity: "if pigs want to smash capitalism by my side, i say let em." Yes, capitalism was certainly dealt a death blow while you - and the pigs of course - engaged in petty vandalism against a Quizno's and a local credit union. Well done.)

For as much as conformity, opacity and lack of accountability have become characteristics of elites that Occupy is rebelling against, it may be that their violence is the most objectionable - and therefore the most important not to reproduce. A country exhausted by endless wars (including of the death-from-above covert drone variety), militarized police forces, executive assassination programs and a brutally punitive criminal justice system is not going to rally around a movement that promises more of the same. Those who are rising up against the wholesale theft of ordinary citizens' houses (a truly great act of violence) will not generally see justice in wild acts of retribution.

"Retribution" is the most charitable way to describe the rioting that violence advocates are so enthusiastic about. And yes, it is wild. While there are occasional lazy stabs at trying to circumscribe their vandalism, violence is a fundamentally chaotic act. It can veer out of control with little warning, and the destruction at the Fuck the Police march is just the latest example. Small wonder there has been so little discussion about it. People did not flock to Occupy to shift the locus of antisocial behavior in society from middle aged bankers in suits to twentysomething punks in black.

In order to have a chance at substantial and lasting change there has to be more to it than some crude idea getting even. There has to be something that calls the overwhelming majority of people to something better. Part of that call is strategic. There is already a great deal written on the ultimate advantages to a nonviolent approach, with this being a great example. Lambert is an enthusiastic proponent of it, and recently made the case in an email: "Rhetorically, I think we need to frame over and over again that [nonviolence advocates'] strategy has the greatest chance of success. That's what we want, success. We want to look to successful movements."

While that is certainly important (winning counts!), I believe the greater part of that call is moral (or ethical if you prefer). In an extended exchange here, Hugh wrote:"Change does not come from winning arguments but by changing hearts."6 If you turn people off the way violence advocates do, then the only way to produce change is through the barrel of a gun. This would be the "neither hearts nor minds" approach. It is oppressive, and those under it will throw it off at the first opportunity. If you seek to persuade people to your cause, it is possible to win them over. You can then make more durable changes, though it can be reversed by a shift in the politcal winds or effective sophistry. This would be the "minds but not hearts" approach.

But if you change people's hearts as well, they are liable to do more than simply accede to your wishes; they might just join in the effort as well. It the case of Occupy is also allows for the greatest contrast with the ruling class. Convincing most that our bellicose foreign policy is making us more enemies than friends, or that rampant lawlessness by the people running our biggest financial institutions will prevent the housing market from finally bottoming out; saying that such things are bad policy for America and ultimately against our long term interests might get lots of head nodding in agreement. But convince those same people that these things are grave injustices and deeply immoral? That's the stuff revolutions are made of.


1. "Marchers wearing black clothing and backpacks were captured on video committing acts of vandalism and retreating into the marching crowd, police said." Also: "Several of these acts of vandalism and suspects were captured on video surveillance." Way to go, dumbasses.


2. See here for how violence advocates have intimidated livestreamers. In particular, jeffkloy, codeframeosf and worthoftheworld were all present. Jeffkloy avoided recording violence to "show respect" to those engaged in it (not that it won him any good will). Meanwhile, worthoftheworld - who appears at least somewhat sympathetic to those engaged in violence - announced a livestream, but as far as we know has not posted it. Interestingly, she had this to say about the suppression in a series of Tweets (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

every1 is so quick to confront the streamers for their accountability in capturing sensitive evidence... we should put same energy on holding ourselves accountable to our actions, helping comrades make wiser decisions in the heat of moments & ultimately, we need to put serious energy in holding the system (#SFPD, #OPD, #DEA, etc..) accountable!!! every1 attacks a streamer for their footage, who actually makes a physical effort to hold the System accountable? Beyond #Ftp marches? streamers are not the key element of arrest. an action of wrong doing has to happen first. this is The System failing,or comrade mistake. so on the topic of streaming, 3 elements of accountability. let's spend equal time on all of them. and be fair 
3. Affinis: "The basic chronology is pretty clear. Watching what actually happened (or at least, what Kloy was able to capture) is very different from you'd infer if the OO twitter stream was your only source of info."


4. That's provided you date your disillusionment with the start of the Clinton impeachment circus and the way the big outlets uncritically catapulted right wing propaganda during the entire affair. There are lots of different places one could put that marker down, though.


5. Those fellows could include modern day Pinkertons, among others (emph. added):

Approaches more often used by intelligence agencies are needed to confront this threat. The creative use of intelligence officers, either developed internally or borrowed from the private sector, can afford police agencies the speed, knowledge and agility needed to counter these emerging threats and the chaos that they promote. 
6. Original exchange here. Here is a lightly edited (for readability) version:

By Hugh on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 10:42pm

Also I think people need to go back and study social movements in the past. I would suggest in particular Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. King and the movement were effective because they were willing to confront authority in the pursuit of justice and they infused their movement and actions with a moral purpose. This not only served to unify those involved and keep them moving together in the same direction but the morality of what they were doing and what they were willing to risk and sacrifice won over millions to their cause.

It wasn't that they were intellectually right on the issues that swayed the country. That in itself was insufficient. Nor was it the justice of their cause. That might have won them a few converts. It was the moral purpose with which they imbued their struggle and which they were able to communicate to the general public that gave them their power. They did it in their words, their actions, and their sacrifices. They made millions care. They put their opponents on the defensive. They did this by focusing on the moralness of their purpose. People can dance around an issue for an age and still remain uncommitted. But by their example and sacrifice, those in the civil rights movement forced Americans to respond to them on a moral level. And on that level they were irresistible because a moral response is about who and what we are as human beings. It is the one place, if only for a little while, that we can cut through all the bullshit.

John Jay Chapman who belonged to a different era and another struggle said that reform movements to be effective must be religious in character. At the time when I read him, I wasn't sure I agreed. But with time, I have come to see the wisdom in what he was saying. Change does not come from winning arguments but by changing hearts. Change someone's mind, they may acknowledge the justice of your arguments, and do nothing. Change their hearts, and your struggle becomes their struggle. It is on the moral level that all this plays out. Words must fit actions and both must fit the moral purpose being invoked. If there is a dishonesty in any of that, then the battle is lost because people will be repelled by the falsity. They don't need to know all the facts and arguments. They only need to see the flaw. But if these are true, suffused with a moral purpose, and tempered by real sacrifice, most people will respond to that truth and act according to its demands.

This is what I see missing from Occupy. Certainly you can see bits and pieces of this in particular actions but overall the movement remains strangely morally empty.
By RanDomino on Sat, 03/31/2012 - 9:26pm
I think I agree with the sentiment if not the terminology. "Morality" to anarchists means the morality of religion and society - personal restriction even when it would harm no one, for no other purpose than control of individuals by institutions such as the church and State.

If you mean something more along the lines of 'vision' that we certainly have.
By Hugh on Sun, 04/01/2012 - 12:24am

Yes, "vision" will win you 3 or 4 new converts at the least. Sorry for the snark, but it really looks like you have no interest in making common cause with the 99% because you reject right off the bat speaking to them in any way they are likely to respond to. Not only will you be unsuccessful but you will deserve to be because you are being incredibly disrespectful of those you want as allies. You can not expect them to set aside their prejudices for even a little while if you are not willing to do the same.

Most people are focused on their everyday lives. They have their plans and their schemes. It is a lot to ask them to set that all aside, but there are moments in life such as before a great cause when they will if addressed precisely on that moral level which you discount. And that is where the disrespect comes in. The moral level is inherently respectful because, as King understood and what he counted on, was that millions of Americans could be reached at that level because he did not just believe in his own morality but he also believed in theirs. That's respect. He did not necessarily believe in their plans and schemes nor ask them to believe in his. This was not about doing away with difference. It was about finding the underlying similarity, and for that you have to go deep into a person. At that level if you ask them to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, you better damn well be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. And if you are not even willing to go to that level, well the game is over before it is even begun. You are left on the level of everyday plans and schemes. And why really should they sacrifice theirs for yours?


"Opaqupy" by CrossXBones

by CrossXBones

The medium of a fully participatory, live video stream is a fairly new technique, enabled by the advent of smart phones and has been both a blessing and a curse to Occupy. In the early days of the Occupy movement, it was a welcomed since the Mainstream Media (MSM) was largely silent on Occupy.

Many curious people, myself included, watched as first wave streamers such as PunkBoyInSF, OakFoSho, Iskander, and Tim Pool brought the underreported events to light. It is a marvelous thing to not only observe the news, but to participate in the news!

I, as a second wave streamer, began covering OccupyLA when the media team packed up in anticipation of the eviction from the lawn around City Hall, often called “Solidarity Park” by Occupiers. This vacancy left a vacuum in information which many of the Internet observers wanted to be filled. I said to them, “I have the equipment, do you want me to go down there?” Their answer was an overwhelming, “Yes!” This is where I met long time Occupier and, at the time, new streamer known as Freedom. The day we met we were literally tethered together, since I had a battery big enough for two to share. But aside from this new partner, I was met with suspicion by Occupiers, who thought that any new face was a potential 'infiltrator' or 'agent-provocateur'. While I had come down to share what was happening with the Interwebz, who was largely uninformed about events in LA, I was an outsider and a potential informant to the authorities.

This infiltration was real, as Occupiers found out the night of the “Real Eviction” on November 29/30 as 12 'Occupiers' gave high-fives to some of the 1400 police officers that stormed the park. But it is the fear of this infiltration along with the fear of co-option by unions and political parties, and fear of evidential video by Streamers, which has planted a destructive seed.

With the sundering of the camp, OccupyLA was granted the so-called 'Free Speech Zone' of the west steps of City Hall. What had at times been a group of thousands participating at the General Assembly began to dwindle to a few hundred, then sub-hundred, to where it is now: floating between ten to fifty active participants. This is when I had been most active, in the post-eviction period. I spent many nights down at the General Assembly watching ridiculous fights over things such as whether orange was the right color for solidarity bracelets and whether previous proposals actually passed.

With more arguing occurring, the language of oppressiveness and dominance continued. While other actions were happening, the bulk became a stagnating series of marches against or for different things that meandered between City Hall and Pershing Square. A schism then appeared in the non-violence arena, often referred to 'Diversity of Tactics'. Along this same fault-line a difference in opinion regarding how much of the current government system could be reformed emerged. One group claiming it can be 'fixed', the other group claiming that it has to be 'smashed'.

This rift led to an effective alienation of the so-called Liberal-reformists, very few of whom still exist with OccupyLA. And most of the ones still there have been convinced of the more Anarchist-syndicalist view by a series of brutal responses by authorities.

And then began the attacks on the Streamers – the very group of people who first made Occupy visible, began being attacked. There are several instances of this, but the two most well know are the theft of Freedom's camera during the Move-In Day March in Oakland, and  an assault on Tim Pool in New York. I, myself, have been threatened in Oakland and Los Angeles on several occasions, and most particularly, on February 29th at the Walmart action. By threatened, I mean a combination of threats of physical violence and implied threats of physical violence. Other Streamers have received similar threats if they do not provide purely propagandist footage of Occupy. The same people advocating for an Open, Transparent, Non-Violent approach to change are becoming more and more Closed, Opaque, and Violent.

As more Streamers become threatened by both authorities and Occupiers, and as more become fiscally and physically fatigued, many experienced Streamers are ceasing coverage.

When the last Streamer has left, will Occupy be relevant anymore? If they are, will anyone know anything they are doing?

Bio: CrossXBones is an Independent Journalist and Hacktivist who has been covering OccupyLA as well as other Occupies since the end of November.
Twitter: Cross_X_Bones

Top photo by Erik Fisher, Occupy Los Angeles. 

"Livestreaming: Lovely Weapon of Mass Information" by Marshall Getto

Livestreaming: Lovely Weapon of Mass Information
by Marshall Getto

The first live stream that I ever watched was on October 1st of last year. A friend of mine who lives in NYC, and knows of my political and social justice junkie status, instant messaged me with THE link.

I was already feeling excited that day, as preparations were well under way for our first kickoff event at Occupy Santa Barbara during the upcoming Monday, October 3rd. I had been tweeting, Facebook page-bombing, and performing some stunted blogging in anticipation, but here was a whole new window of inspiration opening up to me.

Suddenly, I was in the livestream with the march, watching everyone make their way onto the beginning of the Brooklyn Bridge, being guided in by NYPD with no apparent issues. As an automatic response I checked all the main stream news feeds. MSNBC, CNN, NYTimes, HuffPo...there was zero information out there! “I'm sure they'll start covering it as they cross the bridge...” I naively told myself. But there was no coverage, with the exception of an arrested NYT freelance reporter who was in the march. Immediately I thought, “What the f*&k!?”

Well, we all know how that day ended. My temperature went through the roof as I watched people led by the police to the center of the bridge where the NYPD collectively made the mistake of equipping one officer with a bullhorn to communicate to over a thousand chanting marchers. I think I got a total of 6 hours of sleep that entire weekend, fueled into a near-manic online activist state by the images that so offended my sense of justice.

Since then I've had personal experience with assisting livestreaming here in our little neck of the Occupy woods. I was thrilled to show up for the first day to see we had live stream rolling. Admittedly it was intermittent, but then, aren't they all? It captured some of our most endearing and threatening early moments, including our eviction night, when one of our livestreamers was detained for a couple hours for filming from a supporting local business' rooftop.

There were several times that I've witnessed what the real power of streaming video can be when dealing with establishment authority figures. During our piece of the West Coast Port Shutdown at Port Hueneme, one of the more comical moments was our media team livestreaming the police, who had somehow commandeered  a local 2nd story apartment overseeing our community picket line. The video of our folks asking how the view was while filming them while they filmed us was just one of those priceless ironic moments that only video, or being there in person, can provide.

When  Occupy the Courts occurred, and we dutifully showed up to our local federal courthouse, (which, in Santa Barbara, is a federal bankruptcy court) I began to understand more about how the authorities see livestreaming. As we were demonstrating, (fairly passively, to be honest) our liverstreamer started up his rig. One of the federal agents that had turned out to guard the courthouse, (our threat level apparently only rated to have two federal agents and one DHS agent assigned to us on that day), waved me over. As one of the law liaisons for OSB I'm used to dealing with the police. I had already made contact with this federal agent when we got there, and he actually seemed to be in very good humor about the whole event. That quickly changed when we started livestreaming.

I walked over and he said, in a very hushed voice, “You know we don't mind what you guy's are doing, but can you tell your buddy to cut it out?” I wasn't sure what he meant, so I tried to clarify, “Do you mean because he is in the street?”, which is where Alex, (one of our citizen-media gurus) was standing while streaming. The officer sort of shook his head and said, “No, that is a city police issue.” leaving me more puzzled than prior to asking my question.

I reinforced an earlier mental note-to-self at this point: Law enforcement officials are not always hired for their great communication skill sets.

I leaned in closer and, in my best serious-person voice, asked, “Is it because it's a Federal building?”, thinking that he might try to invoke the Constitution-stomping Patriot Act. I basically gave the guy a softball at this point. He could have just punted and said that this was indeed the reason. Of course, I knew that we were allowed to film here, since I had read this article in 2010, not to mention that our legal team had also advised us to the same conclusion. At any rate, he provided another odd head shake, seeming to indicate that this also wasn't the reason.

“Oh, you just don't want him to be livestreaming that it?” I asked, still trying to keep my voice low enough so that he might actually answer me, and not be embarrassed by other folks' attention. This time the head shake had a faint vertical motion to it, indicating that this was actually the issue for him. I smiled my largest s*&t-eating grin and said, “Well, sorry about that, but it is our right to film.” He uttered something approaching a “hurrumph!” and went back across the property line to join his fellow officer in glaring at us uselessly.

More recently we were at Vandenberg Air Force Base, joining the likes of Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, and others as we protested the launching of another incredibly wasteful, stupid, and dangerous Minuteman missile. In this instance, one of our media team was actually chased by base military police while filming those who walked in to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. They had decided that his press pass was invalid. However, when they chased him back into the crowd gathered at the border of the base I saw one of their coordinators eye the cameras we had on her team, and draw them back to base. Livestreaming and citizen media, (as well as our media team member not accepting illegal arrest and detainment), literally stopped his arrest.

Livestreaming is one of those special human technologies, equatable to so many others that have changed our society over the millennium. Even the companies who invested in this technology’s development and design never foresaw what use people would have for it. Livestreaming has allowed me to witness the illegal use of military grade pepper spray, illegal suppression of peoples' First Amendment rights, and has helped opened my eyes to the very oppression that is happening in my country. The real boon, however, is that livestreams have helped me to understand that, when I am appalled by the direction our country and world is heading, that I am not alone.

Viva la Livestream!

Bio: Marshall Getto lives in Santa Barbara, is an activist, a Database Systems Analyst, a Unitarian Universalist, and writes on The Daily Kos

"Transparency Essay" by John Seal

Transparency Essay 
by John Seal

"For the record, I don't hate livestreamers. I just don't trust transparency."
--Comrade Kalamity on Twitter, March 27th 2012.

This could just as easily have been an off the record statement attributed to an anonymous Obama administration flunky, but this is where we are now: some Occupy supporters are now eagerly mimicking the high-security, everything-is-classified government they supposedly hold in such contempt. Remember when the future President promised his would be "the most transparent administration ever"? Well, welcome to Occupy Oakland 2012: the populist movement so terrified of its own shadow that everything must be negotiated in a windowless room with the lights off.

How did we get to the point where someone filming a picnic can be threatened with bodily harm? It's been a slow, but inexorable process set in motion, I believe, when the Occupy Oakland GA failed to endorse non-violence back in November, thus setting the stage for the entire movement to serve as a shield for the tiny sub-set of black bloc practitioners and fuck-shit-uppers now in control. I've written before about how this presented a massive challenge for OO, but I was naive and optimistic at the time and thought that cooler heads would prevail. As the disastrous March 31st FTP walkabout proved, however, the seeds planted on that November night have now come into full bloom.

Quite simply and obviously, it is transparency and livestreaming that gave birth to Occupy in 2011, and it is opacity and embedded journalism that will be its death in 2012. Many livestreamers have already accepted the narrative and will no longer film revolutionary actions that could be misconstrued as vandalism. Others have been neutered to the point of ineffectiveness by filming only those who give consent--an impossible standard that results in endless shots of marching feet and little else. (A blessed few have been anointed as the chosen ones by the OO hierarchy, but quite how such decisions are made is another deep mystery. I’m sure smoke-filled rooms must be involved.)

Before Occupy, I had never supported any political movement or party in my life; it was the livestreaming of October 25th that convinced me, and many others, that this was a movement worthy of support. To discover that this movement has now forsaken two of the attributes that made it so attractive in the first place--transparency and non-violence--has been deeply disappointing.

Let me conclude with a personal statement for the sake of both clarity and transparency. I plead guilty to the following charges: I am a 49-year old white middle-class male with a full-time job, three writing gigs, three cats, a blog, a spouse highly skeptical of Occupy, and a son in high school. I am a pacifist. I am also a socialist who believes that one of government's greatest responsibilities and duties is the redistribution of wealth. I am not opposed to direct actions; I supported the General Strike, the Port shutdowns, and Move-In Day (I marched to the Kaiser Center and beyond). I am not opposed to flag burning, as long as you're burning a flag you bought or made yourself. I still consider myself a community ally of Occupy Oakland and I will be out on the street on May 1st. Keep the faith, baby, and Occupy Everything—but keep the cameras turned on!

Bio: John Seal is an official at a consortium of religious colleges.  

photo by Aaron Kuehn, Occupy LA raid night.

"Live Streaming, Occupy, and Omertá" by Sue Basko

Live Streaming, Occupy, and Omertá
by Sue Basko

Some Occupy camps inculcated omertá, a code of silence vis-à-vis authorities akin to that practiced by groups as far apart on the social spectrum as the Mafia, street gangs, and Ivy League fraternities.  Ironically, at the same time, the Occupy groups were videotaping and posting online or live streaming everything – their meetings, protests, special events, reports, and often simple daily living. 

Live streaming in particular made (and is making) Occupy unlike any protest movement before it.  Viewers nationwide and worldwide watch the streams.  The streaming experience is unlike any other visual medium, in that it is live, conducted by one person  (the streamer) and there is direct interaction between the viewers and the streamer, through several streams of chat emanating through Twitter, facebook or the stream site itself.  The streams have a very now-ness about them, particularly at times when the streamer faces possible danger, injury, or arrest. 

If you have seen these, you cannot forget:  Spencer Mills (@Oakfosho) at the Occupy LA raid night with an officer pointing a gun at his head point blank; Spencer repeatedly telling the man, “That isn’t necessary,” until he finally lowered the gun.  Tim Pool (@TimCast) near Zuccotti Park in New York City, being hassled and threatened by Black Bloc mischief makers letting air out of police car tires.  On another occasion, Tim Pool being followed through the crowd by a man dressed in black, who puts up his hood and attacks Tim. 

Both Tim and Spencer, and dozens of other streamers nationally, have brought countless hours of live Occupy to the internet viewers.  Things I have witnessed in these videos include:  NYPD  arresting people on New Year’s eve, in arrests that amounted to random street kidnappings of people truly doing nothing even slightly illegal.  NYPD arresting a legal observer for the act of observing a rough arrest.  Oakland Police turning “move-in day,” when the protesters planned to take over a building as a social center, into a police riot.  The Oakland move-in day  stream was witness to every conceivable error in crowd management: tear gas canisters shot directly into a crowd, kettling of mass crowds, shocking beatings of defenseless individuals.  

The Occupy LA raid night was heavily photographed, videotaped, and streamed.  Viewing these reveals no violence from the protesters, and hugely disproportionate police activity.  One video reveals what some have told about: protesters trying to leave the area, only to be lied to and tricked by police, who said they would be escorted out, and then found themselves zip-tied and sent to jail. Watching these videos, such terms come to mind: police state, doomsday, apocalypse, fascism, overkill.   

Elsewhere, Occupy streams revealed other things: Occupy Chicago had a stream of a bossy policewoman stealing away their just-donated bottled water and tossing it into a garbage compactor truck, with no reasoning other than she said so.  Then there is the Chicago video of police asking each protester if they want to be arrested, letting each make a choice, and calmly arresting those choosing to be arrested.  This video is possibly even eerier and more disturbing that videos from other cities of police rambunctiously corralling protesters.

Occupy streams from various cities also show a lot of the same: Protesters heckling the police.  Protesters disrespecting basic civility.  Protesters acting like thugs. Protesters with filthy mouths shouting at police.  Protesters trying to incite other protesters to violence.  Protesters who seem irrational, confused, mentally ill, or senseless.

 The omnipresence of cameras at Occupy events is known.  A basic assumption, or at least hypothesis, would be that people would be on their best behavior while being videotaped. Yet, some streams show a few police mercilessly attacking protesters.  And other streams have shown some protesters behaving in very unflattering ways.  There seems to be a certain percentage of people who cannot adapt their behavior, cannot control their behavior well enough to act decently, even while on camera.  "The Whole World is Watching" does not stop some people.
The presence of streams seems to have, overall, had a positive effect on the Occupy movement, in making it known, creating a “fan base” for it, finding donors among that fan base, allowing vicarious participation, and allowing inter-Occupy comparisons.  

Has the presence of live streamers had an ameliorating effect on potential violence from police and/or protesters?  This is hard to judge, whether there would have been more violence if live cameras had not been present.  However, this seems inarguable: that the presence of video or streaming cameras has made the most violent or abusive acts known quickly, indisputably, and widespread.  If there had not been video cameras present when John Pike pepper-sprayed the seated students, this incident would have been a rumor, or known only to those who cared to read through lengthy and possibly contradictory descriptions.  Because video cameras were present, we were able to watch the action from multiple angles, to see how blithely callously the students were treated.  The same is true with many other scenes of appalling police violence over the past few months.   

Now we come to the question that has been raised of whether live streamers cause Occupiers to be arrested for crimes.  Each element of this seems to be false. 

First, there would have to be Occupiers committing crimes.  Occupy is a peaceful movement, with no actual membership, but with the criteria that to be an Occupier is to be peaceful.  Therefore, committing any acts of violent criminality means one is not truly an Occupier.

Second, there is talk of protecting one's “comrades.”  This assumes that an Occupier, a protester, or a streamer views those committing crimes as their “comrades.”  That assumes something very insulting – that protesters associated with Occupy are accepting of crime.  Why should they or would they be?  Why would or should Occupiers working toward a better world accept and protect criminal behavior? 

Third, the assumption is made that crimes committed at Occupy events, in locations being live streamed, are common or likely. In fact, there appears to be a very few such incidents nationwide.  There is a great deal of video evidence of what might be considered annoying or discourteous behavior by protesters, but very little of anything that might even remotely be considered criminal.

In fact, I do not know of a single case nationwide where a live streamer’s video has been used to bring criminal charges.  There is rumor of such in one case, known as the  Oakland Ice Cream Trio, but this has not been verified and seems highly unlikely.  In fact, in that case, there was probably plentiful surveillance video from cameras mounted on a bank and other buildings.  In that instance, it is likely that streamers’ video could eventually be used to show the charges are highly trumped-up. In other words, steamers' video is not likely to help put these “comrades” in prison, but to save them from it.  Some protesters are not exactly angels, and it is common practice for very exaggerated criminal charges to be lodged against them.  The existence of the streamers’ videos gives these defendants a solid chance at combating what would otherwise be their word against that of a police officer or victim.   

Fourth, the assumption is being made by those calling for a banning of live streams that the presence of a live stream video is more likely to lead to criminal charges than it is to lead to charges never being brought, or to charges being dropped, or to video possibly being used as a defense.  It appears that the presence of live streamers presenting unedited, live, nearly irrefutable evidence, must have been a factor in the decision of prosecutors to file almost no criminal charges against the hundreds of people who were arrested at Occupy Oakland Move-In Day.  Hundreds of arrests at the Occupy LA raid have netted very few criminal charges, and of those, many were done away with by attending a free class.  Video from Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, and many other cities has served to protect and defend protesters.  Most likely there will be civil lawsuits against Cities and police where the streamers’ videos will be evidence of illegal tactics or brutality.               

Fifth, attempts to control the known live streamers in no way removes cameras. The police always have cameras; protesters should also have cameras.  Also, in any large crowd, there are other streamers, others shooting non-streamed video, and many taking photos.  Today, cameras are prevalent and pervasive, especially in large crowd gatherings. In addition, there are public and private surveillance cameras mounted all over.  A few years ago, the City of Chicago mounted cameras on street poles, so that the entire city is now on camera.  Other cities have cameras, but perhaps not such a comprehensive system of them.  Many businesses and homes have cameras.  Newer surveillance cameras are so small and match décor, they are not noticeable.  Therefore, the argument against live streamers at Occupy protests is a specious argument, for one cannot control the presence of cameras in any public location. 

In conclusion, live streaming cameras have added an excitement and home participation to Occupy, the streams have brought Occupy to national and international prominence, and the video of protests has acted overall to protect protesters from false criminal charges, as well as to provide evidence in future civil lawsuits.

Viva la streama.

Bio: Sue Basko is a lawyer, writer, filmmaker.  She is founder of this site and welcomes your essay. Read more at  and   

Top Photo credit: Photo by Aaron Kuehn, Occupy LA raid.