At the outset of this article, let me make two things abundantly clear:
1. YOU are members of the 99% who have been harmed like the rest of us by the recent excesses in Washington and the board rooms.
2. A majority of the police officers at the occupations are good people who are simply trying to keep the peace and follow orders; these officers should not be tarred with the same brush as those who have brutalized the protesters.
Police officers, like teachers and firefighters, are public sector workers vital to the safety and prosperity of any society. You are here to protect the public from the more violent and antisocial of our society; a job which unfortunately is stressful, underpaid and often dangerous. You chose to be a police officer out of a desire to “protect and serve” the members of society, only asking to be paid a fair wage for your hard work.
Unfortunately, in recent months police officers, such as yourselves, have been used against the occupy protesters and with us, your own interests. The occupations are fighting for the rights of the 99%, which includes you, to have a basic standard of living and job security. We support unions, public sector workers, and the social safety net, creating a nexus of issues that we likely agree upon with you. Do you support your right to unionize? Do you want to have your salary and benefits protected in the face of austerity cuts? Do you want social security and Medicare to be there for you when you retire? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you have common ground with us. Neither the occupiers nor the police gain anything from conflict between our groups, rather we would both be stronger if we stood unified.
Austerity cuts are targeted upon the middle class because that is where the easy money is; unlike the poor, we have money that can be taken but unlike the rich, we cannot buy lobbyists. Your situation as public sector workers is particularly precipitous due to the recent attacks on public sector unions, salaries and benefits. I fear that, unless people stand up and protest, the public sector will continue to decline: You, like teachers, will be expected to do more with fewer resources, and accept less in compensation for your hard work. Look no further than the recent action of the state legislatures in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida to see the beginnings of the trend I have outlined. I, as many other protesters, think that it is unfair that some of the hardest working and most vital workers in society will suffer as the rich continue to rake in the profits.
While there have been numerous cases of police overreaction and brutality against the occupations, we can all agree that this has been due to a small number of bad people. Pepper spraying or beating peaceful protesters (Oakland, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, etc.) should not be tolerated regardless of the protest’s ideology because that protester may one day be you or your child off at college. Violence by the protesters should not be tolerated either, and we will publicly repudiate any violence perpetrated by our side; I hope that the police would be willing to do the same.
I do not ask for you to pick up signs and join us, although you would find yourselves welcome and appreciated, but I do ask you to consider the following 5 things:
1. Please, regardless of what you are ordered, use your own judgment as to the level of force that is necessary to keep yourselves safe and upholding the law. Follow the good example of the numerous police officers who have arrested the protesters that break the law with minimum force. Police/protester violence only serves to causes physical injury to one side and public image injury to the other.
2. Regardless of your beliefs on WHAT we are saying and doing, do we not have the right to protest our government under the first amendment?
3. Consider which political group is more in line with your interests: The occupations or the 1% and the politicians who they have bought?
4. By suppressing the protests because of “orders”, who are the police “protecting and serving”: The citizens who you interact with every day, or a small cabal of elites who have gained control of our political processes.
5. Before you act violently against these protests, think about what people will say in several decades. Consider the past protest movements that have been violently suppressed by the police and imagine yourself to be one of those police; 40 years later, would you rather be one of the police known for standing against brutality, or one of the police officers using the batons?
I hope people see the irony of this sign at a POLICE BRUTALITY MARCH at Occupy Boston