The police are cracking down harder and harder on Occupy Wall Street protesters just about everywhere they are assembling. They were recently driven out out of Zuccotti Park, even though it is supposed to be open for public access. While the police were protecting the private ownership of the public access Zuccotti Park, they destroyed the protesters’ private property, with considerable malice. Moreover, there was court order (by Judge Lucy Billings) to allow the protesters back into Zuccotti Park, but NYC Mayor Bloomberg went to another judge and overturned the first ruling in favor of eviction. Bloomberg also admitted to ordering the arrest of journalists who were covering the eviction. Media blackouts while the government engages in shenanigans scares me, people. Even more terrifying, cops went into churches that were sheltering protesters after the raid, just to monitor the dangerous hippies, I guess. Government interference in churches horrifies me as mush as church interference in government.
Then there was the nightmare of police brutality during Occupy Oakland. And this weekend we had news of police assaulting peaceful, sitting protesters at UC Davis (see a video below). The police response to the nationwide protests are not quite as bad as Libya’s response was (yet?), but it looks a hell of a lot like the Egyptian and Chinese response to protests in 2011. Do we really want to look like totalitarian regimes who routinely violate human and civil rights? Does that mean we are a totalitarian regime?
I have several reasons (beyond humanitarian concerns) why the police response to protests bug me.
First there is the violation of the 1st amendment, which says that:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Call me crazy, but Bloomberg’s raid on Zuccotti Park violates a big ol’ chunk of the constitutional rights of the protesters. Police violence toward non-violent protesters also violated their right to peaceably assemble and ask for the redress of their grievances, doesn’t it? How is it different from the fire hoses and dogs used on Birmingham civil rights protesters?
Secondly, why doesn’t this shit happen to right-wing protests? Did you ever hear of the Tea Baggers getting pepper sprayed? No? Me either! Were their belongings confiscated and destroyed? No? Not even when they formed an armed mob? Or how about when the Tea Baggers were actively threatening to use armed violence to get what they wanted? Not even then? Huh. Well then, how about the anti-choice proponents that heckle and harass women entering Planned Parenthood clinics? According to their own statements, they have been the recipients of Romanesque brutality, but there are no records (photos, videos, news stories) of anti-choice protesters being dragged away by their hair like OWS protesters have been, so I am skeptical. Also, I am less sympathetic considering that the anti-choice movement has a history of violence, including bombings and murder. In contrast, the OWS protesters and their cohorts have used mainly non-violent means to get their message across, but are getting the tar beaten out of them.
So, riddle me this: How is she …
an 84 year old peaceful protester, more dangerous to society than these nutjobs?
Finally, it bugs me that the cops are assaulting the protesters they should be joining. After all, police pensions and benefits have been looted by the 1%, who convinced politicians to give them the money to gamble with, and then they lost it. Corporations are culpable for the loss of pensions, and it is a fact that “Just over a decade ago, pension plans had a quarter of a trillion dollars in surplus assets. Today, they are collectively underfunded by about 20%. Market losses and historically low interest rates erased a lot of this, but much of the damage was self-inflicted … where corporations did greedy, stupid things like Verizon did when it used “more than $3 billion of its pension assets to finance retirement incentives for thousands of managers.” So mangers steal the money from workers, and workers should suffer? This is fair, how?
But that fascist corporate/government monster that robbed the cops is the same monster that they are protecting when they pepper spray the OWS, instead of going on strike and supporting it. Maybe the question protesters should ask police is not “Which side are you on?”, but rather, “Whose been on your side?” Because the OWS protesters are a hell of a lot more interested in preserving your benefits and standards of living than the Banana Republicans and the Oligarchy are.