Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cry the Beloved Country: Blood on "Wall Street"

As blood trickled down the forehead of Brendan Watts,
the integrity of the New York City Police Department collapsed in ashes. The police justified their actions by accusing the young protester of grand larceny (for knocking off an officer's cap) and assault (the basis for this charge is unclear - unless the police dreamed this one up to defend charges of excessive force and police brutality.)
There's more to this story. Photographs posted on Flickr by someone going by "Alex Bucky Arbuckle" show a protester (who the photographer says is Brendan Watts) staring at police, kicking a barricade and most bizarrely, leaving toothpaste on their gloves. These are not illegal acts, but they 1) distract attention from the point of the protest - a broken economy and corrupt political system and 2) turn the police into the focus of the protest instead of the financiers, bankers and politicians and 3) are rude.
I can't condone any of that.
However, we count on police to maintain civility and order, to protect us from violence and chaos. To react with the level of violence they did toward Watts shows a lack of self-control that could easily spiral into even greater violence. I commend officers who act with self control. I urge protesters to treat police with civility and respect - just as you would with anyone. Police lose the moral high ground when they resort to excessive force over minor pranks. Is toothpaste and a knocked off cap really worthy of a skull fracture?
Combined with the acts of Sgt. Anthony "Tony" Bologna, who pepper sprayed innocent protesters like some madman in the streets, and other officers treating protesters as criminals, the police lose credibility and authority to act.
Brendan's blood tarnished their authority.

It's over for the NYPD. It's over for Bloomberg, a mayor whose name will be remembered for what amounts to a betrayal of public trust. This mayor has no claim to acting in the public interest, no defense in acting for the public safety.
Bloomberg and his personal police department have become a threat to public safety.
They have trampled on the Bill of Rights.

Brendan Watts, 20, of Philadelphia, is a young protestor who represents American frustration with corruption in politics, crony capitalism and the heartlessness of our institutions. He was part of the Nov. 17th march and protest in New York. For doing his duty as an American citizen with much on his mind, police beat Brendan with batons, fractured his skull and arrested him and charged him with crimes he denies.

They should have arrested themselves for assault and battery. They arrested two city councilors, injuring one in the process. I wonder how their actions will be remembered those councilors deliberate on the how much the city should set aside for police pensions. Their actions will be long remembered.

There is another group that lost their honor as the blood of protestors soaked in the dirty streets of New York City. The do-nothings. As much as the lazy and the complacent may resent it, these protests have not gone away. The persistence of the protesters casts judgment on those of us who stand idly by doing nothing. Many who insult and slam these protesters are probably trying to justify their own inaction.

The attacks on the Wall Street protesters - across the country - should provoke sharp self-examination on the parts of those responsible for attacks.

No one can be considered a keeper of the peace if he or she is ordering or carrying out assaults on people for exercising political free speech.

It is time for the apathetic and disengaged to become politically active - join town councils, run for office, actively support progressive candidates running for office. The United States will not be a free country until protesters are safe to exercise their right to free speech and peaceable assembly. To those that say the protesters don't have jobs - hello - that's why they are protesting.
They carry signs that say: I will never pay off my debt, I will never own a home, I will never get a job in this economy. That's why they are at the protests.

The first photograph was taken by Andrew Burton for AFP/Getty Images, the second by Craig Warga of the New York Daily News. The third, from the Washington Post, is of Brendan Watts prior to Nov. 17.
The fourth by Karen Zraick at the New York Daily News is of New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a protestor, injured by police officers trying to stop the protest with force.

Other photos are also from the New York Daily News.
I'd like to thank the New York Daily News for its excellent presence and boots-on-the-ground coverage of the Nov. 17th protest.

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