Who’s the criminal? Occupy Detroit protesters ask

Arrests follow speaking out at public TV taping

Nov 9, 2011 at 12:00 am

The first arrests associated with the Occupy Detroit protest occurred last week at a taping of Detroit Public Television's Leaders on Leadership program, which featured an interview with the chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange Euronext. 

Joe McGuire and Susie Reed, both 25, were arrested Nov. 2 on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges after they interrupted an interview that program host Larry Fobes attempted to conduct with Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the NYSE since 2007 and former managing director of Goldman Sachs and Co.

McGuire and Reed both attempted to ask Niederauer questions regarding the culpability of Wall Street executives in the financial crisis that began near the end of 2007. To attend the taping, guests were asked to RSVP on the show's website.

As soon as Fobes posed his first question, McGuire stood up and introduced himself to Niederauer, saying he was part of the Occupy Detroit protest that has set up camp at Grand Circus Park. 

McGuire asked Niederauer if he had any advice for Occupy Detroit on how to not get arrested because, "We don't understand how Wall Street bankers have avoided arrest for the economic meltdown." 

"The irony that I was arrested right after was not lost on me," McGuire told News Hits.

According to the television program's website, the show "explores leaders from a wide range of global organizations that share their leadership experiences and insights with a studio audience of students. The program also seeks to expose the character, drive and ambition of individuals renowned for their leadership in guiding local, national and international organizations. The program emphasizes the personal side of leadership."

"I think it's atrocious that the Wayne State University Business School and PBS invited this guy to tell us how to be a leader," McGuire said. "He's a criminal; he should be thrown in jail. These guys were corrupt and incompetent. They built an economy on sand and grift and scams, and Wayne State University thinks they should trumpet this guy as a leader we should all mimic. I think that's ridiculous."

McGuire was immediately escorted out of the room, creating a tense atmosphere in the basement studio located in the Maccabees Building. Producers decided to begin filming again from the top of the show. The interview included such topics as what a CEO's life is like, Niederauer's ascent up the corporate ranks and why policymakers should "focus on Main Street not Wall Street."

About 10 minutes after McGuire interrupted the interview, Reed stood up in similar fashion to ask Niederauer about his role as head of the NYSE in the financial meltdown.

"This is a show in leadership, and to have on someone who's been a key player in Wall Street over the past few years, I didn't think he was a good example of leadership," Reed told us. "It was a little bit frustrating because he was talking about changing the culture of the NYSE, but it's hard for me to understand what culture he's working on. When he's talking about a culture change it doesn't seem to be effective."

"At the end of the day he's a facilitator of this system that we're working on," she said. "He should assume responsibility. When it comes down to it, we've all been affected by what's going on. It's affecting my family, my neighborhood. I'm young, and I feel like I stand a lot to lose. I have to worry about the uncertainty of what's going on."

Fobes repeatedly apologized to Niederauer for the incidents while security and producers said that anyone else who considered delivering similar remarks should leave immediately. A few people heeded the request and followed Reed as she was escorted out.

Protesters associated with Occupy Detroit, who were picketing outside the building during taping, followed the arrested duo to the University Police Department. The group stood outside chanting, "Arrest the CEO! Not Susie and Joe!" until they were released. 

"As a public university, Wayne State supports the constitutional right of all to free speech," Matt Lockwood, director of communications at Wayne State, said in a statement. "Our campus is a place where diverse viewpoints on all topics are welcome, provided they are presented in a manner that is respectful of both the established guidelines and the rights of others. Unfortunately, two people were arrested when they disrupted the taping of a television program." 

After Reed disrupted the taping, the audience sat in awkward silence as the host tried to get the show back on track, and Niederauer, who appeared uncomfortable but maintained his composure, tried to ease the tension by making a few quips.

Detroit attorney Bill Goodman, an adviser to the National Lawyers Guild, which is assisting the Occupy Detroit protest, questions the legality of the arrests.

McGuire and Reed both told News Hits that they were specifically charged with disrupting a public meeting. Goodman says that creates a problem for authorities.

If, in fact, it wasn't truly a public meeting, then they were wrongly charged, explains Goodman, a noted civil liberties attorney. And, if it was in fact a public meeting, then the two have a constitutionally protected right to speak out. 

Goodman cited the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brandenburg vs. Ohio, where the court ruled that, because of First Amendment protections, the government can't punish inflammatory speech unless it is intended to incite imminent lawless action. 

"If [Wayne State] wanted to do a secure taping or recording of some sort, they shouldn't do it where the public has access," Goodman said. "I don't think they have that right. That infringes on the First Amendment. For example, if a television station is interviewing a politician and someone wants to tell him they're a crook, then they have a right to. They should've moved, re-taped it or just asked them to leave."

Adding to the irony of it all, said McGuire, is the fact that he's a Wayne State law school grad who recently passed the bar exam. The day after being arrested, he said, he appeared at Wayne County Circuit Court — for his swearing-in ceremony. 

This story was reported by editorial intern Ryan Felton. News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004, or at [email protected].