Waterboarding - Buffalo Style
October 6, 2012
By Charlie Bowman
Last night's (Oct 5) Occupy Buffalo's all night celebration in Niagara Square was a wet one. The event honored the action by of a lone individual, Joe "Food" Fitzerald. On this date last year he pitched the first tent in Niagara Square. In doing so he acted against the decision of Occupy Buffalo's General Assembly. Joe's action unleashed the absolutely wonderful -- well supported -- many-tent occupation of that public space.
Sometimes the majority gets it wrong.
Last night between 10:30 PM and 12:30 AM -- during a lull in the rain -- I was in Niagara Square at Occupy Buffalo's Joe "Food" Fitzerald vigil. About 20 people were standing on the sidewalk and grass - some holding signs - some groups of people engaged in conversation. An occasionalfriendly honk from a passing car, and a less frequent display of the index finger from an uneducated person -- and Occupy Buffalo's wonderful response: "We're Number One!".
It was then we got waterboarded.
The underground sprinkler system suddenly popped up spraying those who happened to standing on the grass. It wasn't as if the plants and grass needed it: he ground was already super-saturated with water from the day's stormy weather -- the grass and plants seemed very happy and hardly in need of any watering. Nonetheless, the sprinkler system activated. Having no place to go, the added water simply ran off the grass onto the sidewalk, thence onto the streets. And yes, the coats of many Occupy Buffaloeians were already saturated with rain water prior to sprinkling.
No one could remember the sprinkler system being activated last year during Occupy Buffalo's Occupation of Niagara Square. Indeed, Occupy Buffalo did not know there was a sprinkling system at Niagara Square.
Meanwhile, across the street, an official City of Buffalo vehicle was parked with lights on and engine running with a lone occupant keeping on eagle eye on Occupy Buffalo. That individual was later identified by Occupy Buffalo to be Buffalo City Hall Buildings Superintendent, Bill McGuire.
Vicki Ross, who appeared on the scene after the sprinkler system shut off, heard about the soaking and headed across the street to speak with Bill McGuire. A very long conversation -- perhaps an hour -- ensued, with Vicki continually standing in the street. The conversation was so long that Bill eventually turned off the engine and lights.
Vicki returned and Bill McGuire drove up and stopped. He apologized to Occupy Buffalo for the sprinkling, saying it was unintended.
In response, Occupy Buffalo thanked Bill McGuire....Obviously Vicki did some excellent work.
Bill left, but his well-intentioned and well-received apology did not stop the theorizing.
The rain began in earnest and I went home...leaving 12 Occupy Buffalonians to endure a rained-on-all-niter at Niagara Square (which is really a
circle, but that's another story). I checked the weather radar and it was indeed going to rain all night.
Puzzled about the sprinkling, the WNY Peace Center's Governmental Affairs Research Department did some basic research and unearthed the real reason
why the City of Buffalo turned on the sprinkling system. We should all be thankful.
First some background.
Way back on August 26, 2011, the [BN] published an article about weekend boaters complaining about the Coast Guard stopping them while enjoying the
Niagara River (Increased Water Patrols Makes Waves, by Dan Herbeck, 8/26/2011). There are so many police boats out on the river that one recreational boater complained he "...was in the middle of a police convention". There's the Coast Guard, the Sheriff, Customs, Border Patrol, State Police, State Parks Police. All have very expensive boats ($250,000 each) and they are all out there simultaneously. Boaters are frequently stopped 3 or 4 times in an afternoon. Each of those $250,000 boats burn gasoline to the tune of $750 per fill-up. Running a high speed they can burn $200 worth of gasoline in one hour. Better to spend $1.5 million for the boats (not including fuel) and harass many boaters on Niagara River than to hire 30 school teachers or fund libraries in Buffalo.
Indeed, the Coast Guard boats can run at high speed. Last summer I was driving at 60 MPH on the Niagara section of the thruway, a Coast Guard boat passed me.
Thankfully, the Coast Guard did not attempt to pull me over. And frankly, I never thought they would. Their job location is on the water. So I was greatly surprised when I read that the Coast Guard is spying on Occupy Buffalo, whose environs are some distance from any water ways, navigable or not (Coast Guard Monitored Occupy Buffalo Movement, by Jill Terreri, [BN], Sept 17, 2012). The Coast Guard spying was unearthed by Attorney Mike Kuzma, acting on behalf of Occupy Buffalo. Lt. David Connor, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard's Ninth District, said of Occupy Buffalo... "its presence in a city such as Buffalo, a major access point to the Great Lakes, caught the agency's attention".
But the Coast Guard investigation found Occupy Buffalo innocent. One of the Coast Guard memos concluded "I have detected no .... animosity [by Occupy Buffalo] toward the USCG".
Thank God Occupy Buffalo is not a threat to the integrity of 84% of North America's surface fresh water supply (http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/basicinfo.html), and that Great Lakes' water should remain available for use in hydrofracking at the conclusion of Gov. Cuomo's in-house study of the effects of hydrofracking on people's
health....drilling companies add 100's of toxic chemicals to potable water for use in hydrofracking and they eliminate concerns about public safety with significant campaign contributions, and significant grants to universities. Such grants are well-known to lower the IQ's of college administrators and elected officials.
So why did the City of Buffalo activate the sprinkling system while the ground was already saturated with water, while all the added water was running onto the street, while Occupy Buffalo was in the middle of a vigil honoring Joe "Food" Fitzerald's inaugural placement of a tent at Niagara Square?
There's probably some debate, but most people know that the water level in the streets surrounding Niagara Square is extremely low which prevents marine navigation around City Hall. And most people know the high-speed Coast Guard boats need water to float. We also know from Building Superintendent Bill McGuire the city did not intentional activate the sprinkling system just to harass Occupy Buffalo....
Hence, the only logical reason why the City of Buffalo activated the sprinkling system was for reasons of public safety: to ensure enough water for the Coast Guard to motor its boats from the Niagara River to Niagara Square enabling the them to spy on Occupy Buffalo's all-night vigil and closely monitor their activities.
When the rains returned at 12:30 AM, I left leaving 12 Occupy Buffalo people to endure the rainstorm. When I returned for the birthday party at 6 PM Saturday, no one reported seeing a Coast Guard vessel docked at Niagara Square, but one individual said the sprinkling system periodically activated up until 3 AM. The City of Buffalo tried very hard to help out the Coast Guard.
We hope the Department of Homeland Security paid for the City of Buffalo's water bill evoked by the evenings' much repeated sprinkling, saving Buffalo's taxpayers a soaking....
Thank God the Coast Guard did not think of using drones to spy on Occupy Buffalo, and until drones arrive in Buffalo, the Coast Guard will have to rely on the help of the city to enable their spying on Occupy Buffalo.
Happy Birthday, Occupy Buffalo! and thank you Joe "Food" Fitzerald...