Thursday, November 17, 2011

Comment: Whose Police? : The New Yorker:

The Occupy movement has become a worldwide phenomenon, but it began in New York, and is deeply rooted here; and, sadly, the ham-fisted practice of responding to it with excesses of police force are now also identified with New York. In particular, it was the white-shirted brass of the N.Y.P.D.—to whom the people of the city have extended extraordinary trust and sympathy and power in the decade since the September 11th attacks—who led the charge, punching, kicking, and batoning protesters with gusto in their early confrontations. At times, in September and October, it seemed as if the police violence was intended to provoke the protesters to respond in kind, and it was remarkable how few took the bait. At other times, it seemed as if the police must secretly be on the side of the protesters, because whenever cops would have at them public sympathy for O.W.S. flourished, the encampments grew, and the leaderless movement’s broad complaints—above all, America’s gross and growing economic inequality—got established more firmly as defining themes of our national debate.

Since O.W.S. took over Zuccotti Park in mid-September, there have been well over a thousand arrests of protesters. But only one police officer has been disciplined for the chronic misconduct (a mild world for thuggery) that we’ve seen in confrontation after confrontation: Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, who was caught on video blasting pepper-spray into the faces of captive women in September. From the start, many of the protesters have attempted to appeal to the cops as fellow members of the ninety-nine per cent, urging them to serve the public that employs them rather than the Bloomberg oligarchy that O.W.S. portrays (all too often convincingly) as a protection racket for the one-per-centers. But the overkill of this week’s crackdown left many protesters chanting “Fuck the police”—and it should be noted that on the level of verbal violence, too, police often struck first, charging into the park, yelling at everyone to “Move the fuck out.”