Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Against the Wall
So chances are by now you've heard that the NYPD went in under cover of darkness last night and forcibly removed the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. It was part of a coordinated move by law enforcement against the various protesters nationwide.
My default position is to side with the police in a lot of the incidents involving them; it probably stems from the fact that my father is an ex-cop. For the most part, even the police taking part in the crackdown on the Occupy protests are decent people forced into a tough situation by their jobs. No, they're not out to bust heads or punch hippies; they're for the most part just doing the job they were unfortunately ordered to do. That's not to say that there aren't some sadistic assholes who enjoy getting rough, but I truly believe that doesn't aptly describe most cops throughout the country.
But back to those giving the orders. That's the real problem. And when I woke up this morning and saw what had happened, the very first thing I thought of was a segment of Matt Taibbi's latest piece for Rolling Stone on Occupy Wall Street. This sums up almost perfectly my issue with what the police are doing in regard to the protests. It's not even so much that they're making life difficult for those peaceably rallying against the current condition of the global economy and the government -- it's that they're not making life the least bit difficult for those who actually collapsed the global economy and bought the government in the first place.
"I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.
But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government 'committed' to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.
This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country. What happened on Wall Street over the past decade was an unparalleled crime wave. Yet at most, maybe 1,500 federal agents were policing that beat – and that little group of financial cops barely made any cases at all. Yet when thousands of ordinary people hit the streets with the express purpose of obeying the law and demonstrating their patriotism through peaceful protest, the police response is immediate and massive. There have already been hundreds of arrests, which is hundreds more than we ever saw during the years when Wall Street bankers were stealing billions of dollars from retirees and mutual-fund holders and carpenters unions through the mass sales of fraudulent mortgage-backed securities.
It's not that the cops outside the protests are doing wrong, per se, by patrolling the parks and sidewalks. It's that they should be somewhere else. They should be heading up into those skyscrapers and going through the file cabinets to figure out who stole what, and from whom. They should be helping people get their money back. Instead, they're out on the street, helping the Blankfeins of the world avoid having to answer to the people they ripped off."
By the way, a judge has apparently already ordered that the Occupy Wall Street protesters -- minus their encampments -- be allowed back into Zuccotti Park. So in the end all last night's raid did was strengthen the movement and its resolve. It served no other purpose.
Adding: If you're not bothered by the treatment of the OWS protesters in Zuccotti Park, the way the raid went down -- not simply under cover of darkness but with reporters cordoned off and air-space over the park restricted to prevent news chopper coverage -- is not only questionable but fucking unconscionable.