QP Exclusive: The Wall Street Movement is not going away, says Yetta Kurland a civil rights activist and former city council candidate from Manhattan’s West side. Yetta is a lawyer, no not a blood sucking corporate lawyer, she’s the people’s rep, a civil right’s litigator and she’s been working pro bono for the demonstrators arrested down at Wall Street.
Yetta really knows her issues and the law. In the interest of bringing QP readers a front line perspective, we decided to interview her.
QP Interviews Yetta Kurland:
Yetta, what’s the scene like at Wall Street?
Yetta begins by saying it’s been more calm but, “You know what’s amazing? The visuals of the Times Square and Washington Square. The movement has grown so massive and very tense, riot gear and horses were out with significant arrests nearly 100 arrests but not mass arrests that folks were concerned with”.
You just can’t arrest that many people,” according to Yetta.
I understand you’ve been down at the courthouse volunteering your legal services as an attorney on behalf of demonstrators. Can you tell me more about that?
“I have been volunteering, it includes arraignment at the court house, and visiting precincts.” It’s easy to get lost in the system, said Yetta who has split her time between visiting precincts and at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street for more than 100 arrestees. “It can be extremely time consuming — keeping track of those arrested,” she said. It’s a lot of work [and] it’s unfortunate and frankly unnecessary.
“My primary concern is excessive force.”
“On one of my cases, Ari Douglass was horribly injured by police who basically ran into him knocked him over and left him pinned under a motorcycle, and in response rather than giving him care, they gave him a number of criminal charges including criminal mischief, and resisting arrest.”
“If you look at the video, he’s clearly not.”
So, what are the demonstrations being charged with?
“Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrests, Obstruction of Government administration– different charges routinely used. Ari was charged with criminal mischief. Criminal mischief depending on the degree s a felony charge.”
When Occupy Wall Street began, did you predict an end – that is for the demonstration to fizzle out?
“I don’t think this is going to fizzle out. I don’t think weve seen the full momentum of the movement.”
“971 cities across the world, Rome Los Angelas, London, Chicago. 175 arrests. Folks are willing to put themselves on the line.
Yetta continues, “When we see brutality you see more people coming out in solidarity. I don’t see any thing fizzling out. There is obviously a question about the cities want to shutdown the efforts and weather or not the folks will be able to continue there. Last week was a great victory they were supposed to shutdown the park – and they didn’t. We are moving forward and everyday is a victory… I think that these occupiers are reclaiming public space — public spaces for the public good, I mean the public interest.”
Its really resonating not just with New Yorkers. It is true the whole world is watching this…. I don’t see this coming to an end anytime soon I see this as transformative.:”
What do you think will be the outcome on a national level?
“I hope that the outcome on the national level is that we reinvest the public sector. I hope that we find ways to prioritize the collective public interest of our country and to seperate government from private interest — that we have check and balances to ensure a free democratic society.”
Are you advocating electoral reform?
“I think it has to happen on every level, electoral, corporate, financial reform in the way we do business reform in the way the NYPD tactics to deal with protesters in public space.
This is a referendum on police tactics post 9\11. Riot gear, massive arrests… It is a huge curtailment of our first amendment rights.
What’s your next step to support the movement?
“My only role is to act as an attorney to represent the folks down there.”
At the time of this interview, Yetta was traveling to the courthouse at 100 Centre Street. “There’s additional activities and well keep monitoring and helping to deal with people that have been arrested. We have to go back to work perhaps go to trial. It’s a lot of expense.”
Yetta points out that the police presence is costing an exorbitant amount of tax dollars:
“Every time a huge group of police officers there’s a lot of costs involved in that we complain about financial difficulties we shouldn’t waste tax payer dollars for that.”
What do yo think about Mayor Bloomberg extolling the virtues of free speech, but denouncing the demonstration on Bloomberg radio?
“Confusing—“I’m not sure what he means by that… and free speech is exactly that: It’s not always with something you agree, or even with the medium. He’s lost in his position.”
Curious, are you thinking of running for public office again?
Oh I don’t know— it’s years away, but if I do, I’ll let you know.”
See Politicker NY article.
What’s your message to all the naysayers out there? You know – armchair politicians?
“Come down to Liberty Park and talk to the people. Remember that its easy to step back and not want to be involved or engaged. Bob Dylan said the times they are changing and if you have to wrap your head around that,” said Yetta.
“It’s undeniable. It’s not for us to naysay it’s much bigger… it’s a social movement.”
“History is being made by brave minded making a stand and standing up to simply ask for integrity in our system and that we have a balancing of our powers a truly democratic society,” according to Yetta.
Keep up the good work – QP. If you need to contact Yetta, email firstname.lastname@example.org.