Over the past two months, the Occupations across the country have faced an extreme response by the police relative the threat they represent. Police have attacked the occupations as though they were domestic terrorists; utilizing LRAD sound cannons, flashbang/concussion grenades, nonlethal chemical weapons, rubber bullets, beanbag cannons, and simple batons in order to break up peaceful protests.
Don't get me wrong, there are times and places where such actions are justifiable (Look at the recent Penn State riot). Violent protests are a danger to the public welfare and might very well require physical force to suppress, but nonviolent protests should not encounter such a push back. The "Occupy" movement is entirely peaceful, utilizing a type of long term sit in (Essentially a "Live In") and marches in order to make their point. There is minimal graffiti, and no rioting associated with the occupations, but rather a concern for the public safety. At the Occupy Boston site, we have voted to not only attempt to minimize the negative effects of our occupation on our neighbors, but to re-sod the area where we live after we finish using it (the grass has been destroyed by the tents) and to act as an impromptu homeless shelter (we provide clothes, food and shelter to all who come). Police cite violence and crime in the camp, which is arguably true because we do have occasional problems; we have a zero tolerance policy for violence, drugs, and alcohol, enforced by removal from camp. The Occupations are not a threat to the public, nor are they guilty of anything other than challenging the rich, a crime that is apparently punishable by violence and incarceration.
I was under the impression that we are living in America, a country where we have constitutionally protected rights, not a repressive police state. The entire purpose of the first amendment is that the government may not always like what the citizens are saying, but they must not attempt to prevent the citizen from speaking. From a purely rhetorical standpoint, have we not sanctioned other governments for suppressing speech in similar ways in the recent future (Ex. China, Iran, Libya, Egypt, etc..)?
I am personally biased towards the Occupations due to my heavy involvement with the Boston occupation, so look at these videos and come to your own conclusions: Excessive force, or justifiable riot control.
This video is possibly the most egregious of a long series of egregious police brutality videos; in it, Kayvan Sabeghi, an Iraq war veteran is beaten by the police; to add insult to injury, Sabeghi was charged with resisting arrest. The police beat Sabeghi so badly that his spleen ruptures and then he is refused medical attention for hours in jail. A ruptured spleen only occurs when EXTREME force is exerted on the organ and is unbelievably painful. I seriously doubt that the police failed to notice that Sabeghi was in agony and unable to walk while incustody, thus the only conclusion is that they didn't care. Sabeghi was very close to the police before the incident, but he was not obstructing them, merely walking in step with them; his actions don't even get to the standard of obstructing traffic, never mind interfering with police business. When the officer begins to beat Sabeghi, he doesn't simply let him run, but follows him and continues the assault. The actions of the police officer go so far beyond misconduct that they enter the realm of criminal assault. Police officers are not allowed to indiscriminately beat protesters until they suffer severe injury (never mind chasing after and beating a man fleeing for his life).
In this video, notice how the police officer not only hits the legal observer (designated by the green cap) with the scooter, but parks it ON his leg. Once the scooter is parked on the guy's leg, the officer calmly walks away until he manages to kick the scooter over. After the observer manages to dislodge the scooter, the police beat him with batons until he loses consciousness and then arrest him, bringing him to the hospital in cuffs; the charges are resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. I don't even think that I need to comment on how wrong this is and if you require explanation as to why this is wrong, please seek professional help.
Who hasn't seen this video, shot on Wall street, of women being corralled and pepper sprayed? The women are clearly boxed in and not a threat to anybody, but Anthony Bologna still comes by and assaults them with pepper spray. Bologna lost ten vacation days and received a transfer to Staten Island (closer to his home), where he was promoted to a special projects coordinator(with a raise). Sadly, the only lingering consequences of his reprehensible actions is the social stigma he will receive as being know as "That guy who pepper sprayed those women" and the grief that Anonymous can throw his way.
While this video does not contain the same level of violence contained in the rest, it is arguably one of the most disturbing. What makes this video disturbing is a combination of two factors: First, the police shoot a rubber bullet at an unarmed man who is at the time asking them whether he is far enough from them for them to be comfortable. Police are simply not allowed to shoot at people who are not a threat; that is both against police procedure and illegal. Secondly, the police shot at a man who was filming them and very well could have been a member of the press. Unfortunately, police have recently begun to target journalist intentionally so as to prevent them from covering the raids on the occupations. Several dozen press agents have been either assaulted or arrested at "Occupy" sites, even while they are holding their credentials. I see this event as just part of the pattern of press suppression that is intended to silence the coverage of the response to the occupations. HOW CAN WE TOLERATE THIS PRESS SUPPRESSION IN AMERICA WHEN WE HAVE FOUGHT WARS TO "PROMOTE FREEDOM" ABROAD?
"She was coming right at us!" (Homage to South Park)
Baghdad or Oakland?
I would like to conclude with a question and a statement:
What the hell has happened in this country, where corporations are considered people and given the right to speak, while people are treated without humanity while their right to speak is taken away?
I don't care whether or not you support the Occupations, these actions cannot be tolerated by anybody; I a pro-choice but if pro-life activists were attacked like this at their protests, I would defend them; I think that the Tea Partiers are ignorant, bigoted and wrong but if their rallies were broken up with such force, I would see it as the same affront to freedom that I see with the occupiers. Freedoms must be universal, or someday you will find yourself under the boot of a government that disagrees with you and is willing to silence you with violence.
Josh Sager -- The Sarcastic Liberal