EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!!! For-profit, self-appointed “Independent Voice of South Louisiana” apparently has area monopoly on [censored]ing

April 22, 2012 in The People's [Censored]

 

The People's [Censored]

The People’s [Censored] is in no way affiliated with the [Censored] or their corporate overlords Capital City Press.

 

BY BEN VITELLI
Occupy Baton Rouge

 

On January 23, only one day after the release of the first issue of Occupy Baton Rouge’s monthly newsletter “The People’s [Censored],” the OBR email account received a message from the head editor of the [Censored]–the Baton Rouge daily newspaper, not the gay rights magazine (just so you’re not confused). An excerpt of his email:

“While I am flattered that you have copied The [Censored]’s banner and, to an extent, our standard front page design, I must ask you to come up with a new format for your newsletter. As currently presented, your newsletter could cause confusion among your readers that The [Censored] newspaper and the Occupy Baton Rouge movement are somehow connected. I believe it infringes on our copyright and trademark. While we support free speech and free press, we also must maintain our position as a publication that is not aligned with any particular group or movement.”

While it seemed almost impossible that anyone would confuse our online monthly newsletter with the Baton Rouge daily, one of our editors replied to their request, stating that though our independent paper was largely protected as parody, we would add a disclaimer to our front page. To be perfectly frank, we were a bit surprised the people at the [Censored] were still aware of our existence, let alone regularly checking our website and Facebook page for updates. Since our attempted “Move-In Day” last Black Friday, when half the Baton Rouge Police Department decided to use their holiday weekend and LSU-Arkansas game day to monitor the couple dozen protestors hanging out at Arsenal Park, there had been a considerable absence of coverage of our many actions in the [Censored].

This is sadly the way the goldfish-attention spanned mainstream media works, folks. Something is “In” for awhile—it’s fresh and exciting and new, and then suddenly The Next Big Thing comes along and whatever was so important three weeks ago is forgotten about and left by the wayside, continuity be damned. It’s a travesty, and it’s a phenomenon that unfortunately stretches far beyond the reaches of our friends at the [Censored].

While we were initially somewhat thrown off by the [Censored]’s complaints against our paper, we found being back on their radar for such a trivial technicality slightly flattering. Our newsletter, which hadn’t been up for more than a week, was already receiving threats from high places. The common consensus amongst our members was that we must be doing something right if our modest efforts were still pissing off the Old Guard.

Then, the following week, the [Censored] attacked again. Our email account received a letter from someone introducing himself as a lawyer for Capital City Press, the owners of the [Censored], and was accompanied by a formal demand letter. The three page letter was a threat addressed to one of our members specifically by name. The lawyers spent a lot of time defining “parody” (as well as condescendingly referring us to the Onion which, apparently, is the pinnacle of parody) and ended with the demand under legal threat that we do the following:

“(i) immediately and permanently terminating any further marketing, promotion and/or use of the term ‘The [Censored],’ including any and all confusingly similar or related derivations of the mark;

“(ii) immediately and permanently removing any and all references and/or use of the ‘The [Censored]’ trade name/trademark on your website located at http://occupybr.com/, including all associated webpages, and/or elsewhere on the Internet;

“(iii) immediately and permanently terminating any and all further use, display, circulation or distribution of any promotions, advertisements, publications, content and/or marketing that includes any reference to ‘The [Censored]’;

“(iv) signifying your binding acceptance of these terms by signing and returning this consent agreement to undersigned counsel by no later than February 14, 2012

“And (v) agreeing to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees to Capital City Press if a court should subsequently find that you have breached your obligations and/or commitments to Capital City Press hereunder.”

One of the main ideas behind the “Occupy Movement” is to reclaim the public sphere. For longer than many of us have been alive, a war has been waged by the 1% on public property and public services. Private influences poison everything with money and the mainstream media has actively taken on the role of the hired nurse administering the toxins into the arms of our so-called democracy. As a people, we’ve been robbed of our future, and the media—the supposed watchdog for our democracy—has been a willing accomplice for this massive historical graft. A true democracy cannot function without a functioning media, and our media, which is driven by a will to power and profit, has thus made a mockery of us and our democracy.

Inspired by the Occupy movement, then, many individuals across the world took the initiative to create their own newspapers based on the idea of spreading free knowledge. Papers such as “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” popped up all across the nation, parodying their local newspaper and reporting on the news and stories that they saw as most important. Independent journalists from all over came together to report on what they saw was wrong in the world and to help [censored] for the change they want to see.

While we live in a country based on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, many of the parodied papers did not take kindly to being called out as the bloated protectors of the 1% that they are. The Occupied Chicago Tribune and the Occupied Oakland Tribune were the first to be threatened by their local “non-occupied” paper. Later came the Occupied Wisconsin State Journal, followed by us.

As an interesting side-note, Rupert Murdoch has yet to threaten the Occupied Wall Street Journal, which shows that though he doesn’t have enough sense to not hack into a dead girl’s phone, he’s at least smart enough to sniff out some bad PR moves in advance.

While Trademark Laws are written in such a way that some businesses are legally required to protect their Trademark lest they lose it, the odds that any reader of these publications would confuse the ad-soaked drivel of the 1% found in the mainstream news with our independently voiced not-for-profit paper is so minimal it’s beyond comprehension.

What is most likely happening here, at least in our case, is that the [Censored], a long established fixture of the Baton Rouge community, is flexing its muscles against any paper that threatens its status as expert on all matters Baton Rouge. While they would certainly not take steps to outright attack or censor our paper, the ambiguity of Trademark Law as well as the for-profit [Censored]’s significantly larger budget compared to ours, allowed for the perfect set-up for some good old fashioned bullying.

So, as a way of demonstrating how the mainstream media works–and how it doesn’t work–we at the People’s [Censored] have made several noticeable changes to our newsletter. Hopefully, this will both free us up to continue with our independent journalism, as well as free up the lawyers of the [Censored] to work on cases that are hopefully a bit more important. And while the name of our paper may be different, we see this as an excellent opportunity to continue on with the same mission as when we started out–giving voice to The People and not the 1%, unlike those [censored]ers who run the [Censored].

Originally published in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].

The People’s [Censored], Issue 2

April 19, 2012 in The People's [Censored]

Disclaimer

The People’s [Censored] is a publication produced by participants in Occupy Baton Rouge. The People’s [Censored] does not—and could not—represent any-one except its participants. We are in no way affiliated with the [Censored] or their corporate overlords Capitol City Press. The views of the authors are their own.

Uploaded Articles:

David comes clean: Why I oppose the 1% of the 1%

Louisiana’s Hidden State Budget

Don’t let lil’ Bobby scare you: State employees’ rights

What we’re watching: Freakonomics: The movie

EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!!! For-profit, self-appointed “Independent Voice of South Louisiana” apparently has area monopoly on [censored]ing

Bobby’s World

More to come. Check the newsletter above for the rest of the articles.

Baton Rouge Press Club Presentation

November 28, 2011 in General Assembly

Today, Monday, November 28, 2011, representatives from Occupy Baton Rouge spoke at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

There was a camera from LPB, a second news camera, and several reporters in attendance. I am still searching for the LPB Press Club schedule, but I think their website should have the video up after they air it.

Below is a transcript of the statement:

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting us.

My name is Sophie Kunen. This is Bryan Perkins. We were chosen by the Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly to speak at this event.

As autonomous individuals—unless we explicitly state that what we are saying has been brought before the General Assembly—we can only speak for ourselves—not the movement as a whole. In the same vein, Occupy Baton Rouge cannot speak for Occupy Wall Street or any other solidarity group around the world.

Occupy Baton Rouge defines itself as a leaderless, non-violent resistance movement. We see that money, not voting, shapes public policy; that the extremely rich are bailed out while the lower and middle classes are forced to bear the brunt of a failing economy; and that the needs of society are placed behind the profiteering of corporations.

The first Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly was held on October 22nd. Since then, we’ve held General Assemblies twice a week: Saturdays at noon and Wednesdays at 6. Minutes for the General Assemblies are posted on OccupyBR.com to ensure complete transparency.

In solidarity with other cities in the Occupy movement, we are organizing an encampment. A permit was applied for, but it was denied on the grounds that, and I quote:

“The area being requested (and all Capitol Park grounds) are not equipped for overnight camping of any type” and “this activity would require a security presence that our Department of Public Safety is not staffed or equipped to provide the necessary manpower.”

In addition to the permit being denied, our legal advisors were out of town, there was an obvious police presence, the courts were on holiday, and all of the media attention was directed at LSU’s campus, so the General Assembly decided that the announced date of Black Friday was not the best day to start the encampment.

Our next direct action event is scheduled for December 10th: The Alternative Day of Action in celebration of International Human Rights Day.

Some detractors of the movement claim that we do not have a unified goal, but that is only because they refuse to listen. In general, the Occupy Movement feels as though the government and the corporate world have failed us—both morally and economically. However, this only touches on some of the reform we are demanding. The following are 15 points of unity that have been agreed upon by the Occupy Baton Rouge General Assembly. Keep in mind that these points are not in order of importance.

1. The Collusion Between Government and Corporations Must End: In order to move towards reducing money’s influence on politics, the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. the FEC must be overturned. Money is not speech and corporations are not people.

2. The Government Must be Transparent and Accountable to the People: Every person should have the right to participate in the decisions which affect their life. All processes of the three branches of government should be accountable to the people, should be transparent, and should follow the rule of law.

3. Elections Must be Fair and Equitable: We call for massive election reform. The influence of money must be taken out of the election process. All candidates should be mandated equal media time, by law. Voting should shape public policy, not money.

4. The Financial System Must be Reformed: We must end policies that foster a wealth divide. Speculation and irresponsible banking practices were big contributors to the financial collapse. Much of this stems from a lack of corporate accountability and the erosion of proper financial regulation, such as the Glass-Steagall act.

5. Labor Rights Must be Protected: All working-age people must have the right to unionize. Workers must be guaranteed the right to safe working conditions, paid leave, and fair, sustainable wages.

6. Environmental Sustainability Must be a Priority: We must adopt policies which effectively move toward a carbon-free and radioactive-free energy economy. In order to conserve the natural ecosystem and to protect the rights of future generations, we must reduce pollution and deforestation. Those who violate environmental regulations must be held accountable.

7. The Military-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: We must prevent the privatization of our military. We must reduce the national security state, end the weapons export industry, and reduce military spending. War crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace must be addressed, and those responsible must be held accountable under international law.

8. Human Rights Must be Protected: To ensure equal rights for all people, exploitation and discrimination of all forms must be eliminated.

9. The Prison-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: Everyone deserves the right to effective representation and due process of the law. And all prisoners deserve the right to humane and just conditions. The focus of the prison system should be on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. We must put an end to private, for-profit prisons.

10. The Education System Must be Reformed: Financing of education should be a priority. The paltry funding of education is a disservice to our citizens, and it hurts the poorest and most underprivileged members of our society the most. We must prevent the privatization of the public school system. All people deserve the right to a high quality, comprehensive, and publicly-funded education.

11. Access to Healthcare Must be a Civil Right: Everyone, despite their income or employment status, deserves access to healthcare. Accessible, quality healthcare should be a basic human right.

12. The Right to Food and Water Must be Ensured: We must end food deserts and advocate for the millions facing famine, thirst, and malnutrition worldwide. We must protect the land and water from pollution and privatization, and create local, sustainable food networks.

13. Safe and Affordable Housing Must be a Priority: Everyone should have the right to a residence. Homelessness and urban blight should not exist.

14. Public Transportation Must be Made Available: There should exist safe spaces for pedestrians and non-automobile travel, and we must provide a clean, convenient, and affordable public transit system.

15. The Airwaves Must be Protected: Freedom of the press should extend to all persons, from corporate media to citizen journalists. The airwaves and the internet are public goods and should be protected from censorship.

In the simplest of terms, we want to end corporate bribery of our elected politicians and return our democracy back to the people.

We bring these points of unity before the Baton Rouge Press Club today not only to be heard, but to issue a challenge to local politicians, to the local media, and to the people of Louisiana.

To the politicians, we ask that you respond to the issues that we have highlighted and let your positions be known.

To the media, we ask that you use your platform to accurately depict our movement. You have the power to influence the masses. Use that power responsibly. We are not jealous, entitled children looking for handouts; we are a local, national, and international movement dedicated to looking beyond our own selfish needs and fighting for the rights of every human being.

To the people of Louisiana we ask that you wake up to the false dichotomy between Republican and Democrat. The problems we face are systemic and widespread, and they are not unique to a single party. We cannot expect corporations or the government to act morally on their own. It is the duty and responsibility of every person to be constantly vigilant in ensuring they do so.

Here now, across the nation, and around the world, history is being made. It only remains to be determined on which side you will stand.

Thank you for listening. We will be glad to answer any questions.

Baton Rouge Press Club Meeting – OccupyBR

Recap of the General Assembly on Saturday, 11-26-11

November 26, 2011 in General Assembly

On Saturday, November 26, 2011 Occupy Baton Rouge held our eleventh General Assembly.

The entire General Assembly was dedicated to going over our fifteen points of unity and preparing for the upcoming presentation at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, November 28.

The points of unity are as follows:

1. The Collusion Between Government and Corporations Must End: In order to move towards reducing money’s influence on politics, the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. the FEC must be overturned. Money is not speech and corporations are not people.

2. The Government Must be Transparent and Accountable to the People: Every person should have the right to participate in the decisions which affect their life. All processes of the three branches of government should be accountable to the people, should be transparent, and should follow the rule of law.

3. Elections Must be Fair and Equitable: We call for massive election reform. The influence of money must be taken out of the election process. All candidates should be mandated equal media time, by law. Voting should shape public policy, not money.

4. The Financial System Must be Reformed: We must end policies that foster a wealth divide. Speculation and irresponsible banking practices were big contributors to the financial collapse. Much of this stems from a lack of corporate accountability and the erosion of proper financial regulation, such as the Glass-Steagall act.

5. Labor Rights Must be Protected: All working-age people must have the right to unionize. Workers must be guaranteed the right to safe working conditions, paid leave, and fair, sustainable wages.

6. Environmental Sustainability Must be a Priority: We must adopt policies which effectively move toward a carbon-free and radioactive-free energy economy. In order to conserve the natural ecosystem and to protect the rights of future generations, we must reduce pollution and deforestation. Those who violate environmental regulations must be held accountable.

7. The Military-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: We must prevent the privatization of our military. We must reduce the national security state, end the weapons export industry, and reduce military spending. War crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace must be addressed, and those responsible must be held accountable under international law.

8. Human Rights Must be Protected: To ensure equal rights for all people, exploitation and discrimination of all forms must be eliminated.

9. The Prison-Industrial Complex Must be Dismantled: Everyone deserves the right to effective representation and due process of the law. And all prisoners deserve the right to humane and just conditions. The focus of the prison system should be on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. We must put an end to private, for-profit prisons.

10. The Education System Must be Reformed: Financing of education should be a priority. The paltry funding of education is a disservice to our citizens, and it hurts the poorest and most underprivileged members of our society the most. We must prevent the privatization of the public school system. All people deserve the right to a high quality, comprehensive, and publicly-funded education.

11. Access to Healthcare Must be a Civil Right: Everyone, despite their income or employment status, deserves access to healthcare. Accessible, quality healthcare should be a basic human right.

12. The Right to Food and Water Must be Ensured: We must end food deserts and advocate for the millions facing famine, thirst, and malnutrition worldwide. We must protect the land and water from pollution and privatization, and create local, sustainable food networks.

13. Safe and Affordable Housing Must be a Priority: Everyone should have the right to a residence. Homelessness and urban blight should not exist.

14. Public Transportation Must be Made Available: There should exist safe spaces for pedestrians and non-automobile travel, and we must provide a clean, convenient, and affordable public transit system.

15. The Airwaves Must be Protected: Freedom of the press should extend to all persons, from corporate media to citizen journalists. The airwaves and the internet are public goods and should be protected from censorship.