Sunday, November 20, 2011

Violent Occupations

New York cop attacks an Occupy Wall Street protestor.

Yesterday I was skimming Twitter. There was a report about rubber bullets and tear gas being fired. And at first it didn't really register, I think because there seems to be a lot going on with the Occupy movement.

But then I realized I misread the tweet; this wasn't a report on an U.S. event, but on the protests in Cairo.

Another tweet had the President calling for the police to let protestors peaceably protest.  But again, his comments were not about the United States, but about Cairo.

What is going on in our country where by and large peaceful protestors -- college students, old people, mothers -- are experiencing the same sorts of violence perpetrated by military authorities upon their people in third world countries? Why isn't it being reported more? And why isn't our President demanding an end to the outbursts of violence here?

Maybe I sound like a bleeding lefty here, blindly ignoring the provocations of the protestors. But then again, recently in the New York Times Robert Hass, the former poet laureate of the United States, described appalling violence by the police which came out of nowhere, without warning or demands to disperse, and which included his wife being shoved in the chest and pushed to the ground. He also reports another member of his faculty dragged by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.

Sometimes on Saturdays I search for #ows on Twitter, and just watch the reports from the marches around the country (which often come with photos or videos). And it's pretty crazy stuff, very very troubling for the accounts of sudden and unexplained violence, mostly by police. I've read tweets from parents terrified because they're at a protest with their kids and the cops have suddenly surrounded them and are pushing everyone in, until they're nearly walking over one another.  There's accounts almost daily of pepper spray and billy club beatings.  

We're talking about people occupying parks and calling for an end to social inequality, for God's sake.  A challenging message, but also being undertaken more or less peacefully.

Martin Luther King, Jr., believed non-violent protests helped reveal the brutality of those who opposed them. Because the civil rights protestors did not fight back, the men with their water cannons and billy clubs could not rationalize their actions as in any way justified. And as a result they were forced to see themselves in the harsh light of truth.

May our police have similar epiphanies today. And soon.

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