Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tahrir or Tienanmen? "White Shirts" or Brown? Occupy Wall St and the NYC Police

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This is a guest post by Herbert Freeman.

This week has suddenly exploded with opinions from various establishment figures across the political spectrum about a homogenous encampment in the financial district that has existed for about a month and has been an object of scorn and ridicule and physical abuse until now.

NYC Police Commissioner Kelly, instead of evasive defense of the abuses of his “white shirt” police commanders, in the face of the multiple videos, that throw the lie back to his face is now whining about the cost to the department.  Perhaps we should thank him for increasing the pay to his patrolmen and using them to increase the size of the participants four and five-fold.

Mayor Bloomberg, in his normal arrogant deviousness, first deliberately misconstrued the protest as an attack on the ordinary wage earners in the financial sector, rather than the institutions that employ them.  His new attack is that his tax base is being damaged, though the protesters are trying to increase his tax income by having the privileged pay a fair share.  This, at a time when he not only has enlarged the unemployment rolls, but the callous immorality in high places, that the protesters deplore, the concept of “Get Mine First, To Hell With the Rest,” has slopped over into several areas of his own city administrations.

Now the pundits are starting to devaluate the movement, by analyses which tend to show that “they don’t really know what they want.”  This, of course, is most common among those sharp observers, who never saw a housing bubble coming, and denied the possibility of a recession, while it was in full swing, as ordinary market fluctuations.

On the other end of the pendulum, are the psychics, who ponder is this like a left-wing Tea Party reaction?  Are these the same people (or their grandchildren), who protested the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Afghanistan War, celebrating its 10th birthday with no end in sight?

Perhaps, they say, it’s like the youth and student protests in Tianenem Square, that Occupation there was good because it was a protest in China or like the street protests, also in a square, in Bahrain, that was bad because it jeopardized our oil interests. Maybe like the ones in Syria (that was good, they aren’t our ally), or Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard
(that was bad because they are our ally in destroying Middle East peace).

How about the Arab Spring in Tunisia (good), Cairo (the jury is out), Yemen (bad, we control the oil).  But the real question should be how do we handle peaceful (but sometimes disruptive) dissent in the most advanced democratic nation in the world, with strong constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly?

These demonstrations, which are showing signs of growth in other areas of the United States and Canada,  gave birth in the heart of New York City, the largest and most advanced city in terms of this country’s economy.  We also happen to have the largest police army and prison system.

Is it possible to conceive that in this forward-looking metropolis, the port of call for millions of immigrants from hundreds of ethnicities, seeking liberty, the right to express their opinions, and economic security and even advancement, that the security forces responsible for public safety, would respond, not unlike they did in Syria and Bahrain, though to a lesser extent?  In terms of constitutional violations, and illegal conduct on the part of the government structure, the principle is exactly the same.

There is an additional psychological factor that disturbs me greatly, although I have no training in this field.  The reversal of roles between the foot soldiers and the “white shirt” commanders in handling these confrontations should alert us to many other possible problems for our citizenry.  The deliberate entrapment of demonstators on the bridge to Brooklyn, engineered so as to arrest as many people as possible on insignificant and very possibly false charges, in an effort to stifle the growth of the protest, is disturbing. Disturbing not only for the political content of the decision by our police force, but by the ignorance it shows of their understanding of what its effect would be.

The decision (and it was certainly a decision) to have the “white shirt” commanders be the first to attack the cornered marchers, was an apparent attempt to justify the actions of the original stupid commander who first sprayed four women behind the police nets.  Even if the demonstrators shouted derogatory remarks (possible but not certain) that is still free speech, not a criminal behavior and less still an attack.

But more frightening, was the psychotic attack by the “white shirt” commander swinging his baton with both hands as hard as he could against American young men and women, who may or may not have knocked over a barrier. Just consider that this man has access to .50 caliber machine guns, according to recent conflicting press releases from our mayor and police commissioner.

Would you trust this man, or the other “white shirt” commander who dragged a woman over the police netting to knock her to the ground, and kneel on her while cuffing her in an unnecessarily violent position? Or the one videotaped beating a young man's head against a car bumper? A young man whose "crime" was apparently possession of a professional-grade video camera. Stopping videotaping of their abuses is apparently a very high priority of the police (although in this case, someone else caught it on their camera).

Would you want to trust them in a real civil disobedience event, or a terrorist attack, or even to even to be responsible for raising children? I certainly wouldn’t!  If some of you are thinking that I use the term “white shirt,” very often to imply that there is a similarity between their mind-set and that of other military-style groups in European history, let me make it clear. You are absolutely right!

I attended the rally in Foley Square last Wednesday, and was impressed by a woman who carried a sign saying, “I’m 87 years old, and I’m mad as hell.”  I was so proud of her, and then realized that next month I will be 87 years old and I can be justified in being “as mad as hell.”  I physically cannot camp in “Liberty Park,’ but I intend to visit often, bring food, money, and hope to sit with them, and perhaps learn something.
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