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.


namron said...

The NYPD is the ultimate Praetorian Guard. Always was, always will be.

Ref said...

The only thing you left out was that some of the federal "cops" were actually and pretty openly COLLUDING with the banksters in hopes of getting private sector jobs and a share of the profits. Otherwise, perfect. I understand one NY Times reporter pushed back hard enough to get arrested, but I'll wait patiently for the "liberal" media to make any real noise about this police state crap.

Marsupialus said...

Really? You side with the cops? They have a job to do starts to make noises in the direction of that famous statement we were just following orders. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't say it. I'm not raising the former to the level of the latter. But that's the slippery slope you're on.

Bloomberg actions aren't going to make the situation go away. If anything, it's going to spark a greater response.

Chez said...

Sorry, but what part of what I wrote wasn't clear to you? I said I generally side with the cops and that I do understand the predicament they're in when it comes to the Occupy protesters. And as you said, it was Bloomberg who gave the order; the police simply followed through on it. Some got very seriously out of hand; some responded to the situation terribly; others behaved professionally. The situation, though -- the moving in after dark, keeping the journalists away and arresting them, restricting airspace -- I have to imagine that the overall decision that put that plan into motion was far above the average street cop. But as I said, these days they are absolutely working for the power structure -- and that's deplorable.

lakelady said...

as I heard about the dismantlement of the encampments in NYC and Oakland my thought was to be cautiously optimistic that this may signal a shift from temporary encampments and towards permanent solutions. There are very few of the 99% who could/would/want to camp out, especially with the coming of winter. There are thousands more that could be willing to participate in demonstrations, meetings, problem solving, strategizing, etc.

Bob Lobaw said...

It's freedom of speech, so long as you do not say too much.

Marsupialus said...

I acknowledge that you find the situation ultimately deplorable but it was probably your remarks in the early paragraphs that I'm responding to. At some point "I'm just doing my job" or "it's above my pay grade" is an insufficient response.

On a related note, I watched some footage from Berkeley where riot-dressed police were jabbing batons into the stomachs of protesters, including the former poet laureate of the United States, Robert Hass, whose is about 75 years old and not that steady on his feet. Is that just doing their jobs because someone above their pay grade gave the order?

Chez said...

So because we've seen video of some cops behaving atrociously during a tense situation, one in which a single piece of information may not necessarily be telling the whole story, you assume it's indicative of a much larger pattern and seek to punish them all, eh? You're right. That would be like, I don't know, tearing down an entire encampment because a few people got hurt or saying that an entire protest movement doesn't deserve to be taken seriously because one or two people beat somebody up or inappropriately touched someone.

NoxiousNan said...

You know Marsupialus, you are not helping.

I could never be accused of cop worship, largely due to my own experiences and observations. I know this about myself though, so when commenting on cop activities, I generally say as much.

It's called full disclosure, and while it's not necessarily unethical to keep silent on internal agendas, it is a virtue to disclose one's prejudices on a subject before commenting on it.

Marsupialus said...

Wow. This sounds like an exchange you had with someone the other day where you complained that he was putting words in your mouth.

Where did I say punish them all? I asked when it is insufficient to say I'm just doing my job or the decision to act was made by someone above my pay grade.

And exactly how am I not helping?

Marsupialus said...


What the fuck are you talking about? Revealing internal prejudices? Maybe you can answer the questions: When it is insufficient to say I'm just following orders. Yeah, I'll make the equivalency because this whole discussion is turning ridiculous.

Tuba Terry said...

We can't spend the resources to catch a $17bn Ponzi Scheme, but we can certainly spend plenty to try and stop the people protesting that fact.

Tuba Terry said...

@Chez and your response to Marsupialus:

Didn't you know? Anecdata are just as good as real information!

That's so frustrating to me. A story is a story, no matter how indicative of a larger problem it may be. It's great for spurring responses from people, but it is not statistical nor proof of any trends.

The worst part is that I agree with his stance, but I feel delegitimized by it. Anecdotes are for getting people to listen to data, they're not data on their own. :/

Liquid said...

Seeing Tim Pool live-streaming to ustream while being followed around by a Time.com crew was...meta.

Steven D Skelton said...

The first amendment guarantees a right to peaceably assemble. It does not guarantee a right to turn a city park into a permanent squatters camp.

These camps have seen disease from the unsanitary conditions as well as crimes from the petty all the way to rape and murder.

The protests must be allowed be allowed to continue, but the camps have to go.

Steven D Skelton said...

"....or saying that an entire protest movement doesn't deserve to be taken seriously because one or two people beat somebody up or inappropriately touched someone."

Or how about dismissing an entire protest movement because a handful of people brought racist signs to the protest?

Chez said...

No, Steven. There was a racist and xenophobic element inherent in the entire rise of the Tea Party -- the movement itself was rooted not in some sudden realization that our country had gone off the rails but that it had gone off the rails because Barack Obama, a black man with a multi-cultural background, had been elected president. It wasn't simply a case of one or two assholes with racist signs; it was a revolution made up very largely of terrified white people trying to "take their country back" to the 1950s when they were in charge.

Please don't argue with me on this. We've been through it before and I don't feel like retreading a tired debate; you and I will always see things completely differently, but your point, however off-base, is duly noted. Again.