Maloney Meets With Occupy Astoria LIC
On April 21, a group of 15 members of Occupy Astoria LIC (OALIC) met with Congressmember Carolyn Maloney at her Queens district office. Formed in late 2011, in the aftermath of the forcible shut down of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the organization currently has 129 members according to its Facebook page. OALIC’s General Assembly, open to all interested parties, meets on a weekly basis, while working groups, formed to handle specific issues meet on an ad hoc basis.
Members represent a cross section of the community, including different age groups, income levels, vocations, political beliefs and affiliations. Since OALIC’s founding, the group has marched in the St. Pat’s for All and Greek Independence Day parades, held a public screening of the film Inside Job, which details how Wall Street’s political influence led to the financial crisis of 2007-8, and taken part in protests by teachers, students and parents against the city’s plan to close William Cullen Bryant H.S. and Long Island City H. S. In addition, more than 50 OALIC members signed a letter to Maloney commending her for voting against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included controversial provisions for the indefinite detention of American citizens without recourse to civil courts or the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus, (the requirement that someone held under arrest be brought before a court to determine the legality of the custody) and asking that she introduce legislation to repeal these provisions. The letter also included a request for the meeting to discuss this and other issues.
Long-time Astoria resident Stacey Mazurek introduced the group to Maloney as “direct, democratic and leaderless” and a reflection of her constituency. Forty-six year old writer, Nicholas Levis then read a prepared statement noting that OALIC was “formed in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement” and just one of the 100s of local occupy groups that have now sprung up across the nation. Levis further described the movement as “peaceful and democratic” and “committed to seeing democracy prevail in the U.S.” but also angered by “a long running class war in this country, Wall Street fraud rewarded with bailouts and bonuses, while the individual debtor has not seen real relief. We have many grievances, which is what we get criticized for,” Levis said, “but we have a holistic view—there is too much money in government and too much corporate control.”
Fifty-one year-old editor/proofreader, Jerry Kann thanked Maloney for her vote against the 2012 NDAA but also pressed her to introduce a bill to repeal the indefinite detention provisions. Kann noted that according to the U.S. Constitution habeas corpus cannot be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion. Kann said, “There is no invasion, there is no rebellion.”
Maloney responded by noting that Congressmember Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the Due Process and Military Detention Amendments Act in March. Maloney, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it was “a good bill” and advised that the best way to get it taken up by the House would be to increase the number of co-sponsors (the current number of co-sponsors is 49). She also said that if OALIC had suggestions for strengthening the bill she would “take it to him [Smith]”.
Thirty-three year old financial advisor, George Davis, mentioned the group’s screening of Inside Job and asked if Maloney had seen the film. The congressmember said she did and noted that she had “a starring role” in a similar film, American Casino. In response to Davis’ contention that “nothing had been done” to hold people accountable for their role in causing the financial meltdown, Maloney noted that the Dodd-Frank Act has at least banned some of the practices that led to the crisis. Dodd-Frank purportedly bans commercial banks from proprietary trading or using customer deposits to engage in securities transactions for the banks’ own accounts and also limits banks’ ability to invest with hedge funds, investment companies usually incorporated offshore and largely not subject to U.S. securities regulations. There are a number of exceptions to both rules, however, and neither goes into effect until July 21 (on February 29 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank and regulators won’t meet that deadline). Maloney said, “my strategy is to take what you can do” but she also expressed a willingness to work with OALIC on further reforms and ideas like micro-business lending that could provide alternatives for the community’s unemployed.