By Ritt Goldstein
With nationwide US protests celebrating Occupy's two month anniversary, condemning the 'war against dissent' that the recent wave of Occupy evictions bespeak, America is quickly coming to a crossroads. Over 250 were arrested last week in New York City alone, the arrests often accompanied by police violence, with even members of the press -- including Russia's RT -- being reportedly abused. And recalling the 1970 shooting deaths of four student protesters by the US National Guard, the Kent State Massacre, many today wonder how far their government's violence will go.
Appearing on Occupy Seattle's website, part of an essay by the Reverend Rich Lang of Seattle's Trinity United Methodist Church described the Reverend's own experiences at a 15 November Occupy Seattle protest, noting: "The police were once conceived to be a citizen force created to serve and protect the public. Today however, the police have been militarized and view the populace as enemy combatants... alone in full alb, stole and cross --- six officers turned their (pepper) spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face."
At the protest, it's been widely reported that Seattle police have been accused of indiscriminately attacking peaceful protesters with pepper spray. Among those reported sprayed was Reverend Lang, a pregnant woman, and 84 year old Dorli Rainey, a retired schoolteacher.
A Seattle PI photographer captured Ms. Rainey moments after the police had pepper sprayed her, leaving her face coated with the powerful but non-lethal weapon. One glance at this work in the Seattle PI photo gallery explains why overnight it has come to define the effective war now being waged upon Occupy and its supporters, the war Ms. Rainey was courageously protesting against.
Within the last week, US police swept through the majority of America's key Occupy encampments, cities laying others under effective siege.
Notably, it's reported that the Occupy evictions were 'coordinated' through conference calls by city mayors, questions of who organized these calls remaining. The role of the US Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security, are the subjects of considerable speculation.
What's also known is that 'the troubled' were encouraged by at least some local US authorities to join Occupy's protesters, this beginning a significant influx of those with questionable motives, and the profoundly disadvantaged, to Occupy's encampments.
With the 'homeless and troubled' having come to Occupy, bringing the kinds of issues they sadly too often mean, an 'excuse' for police action to evict Occupy developed, one that's been readily pounced upon. Of course, with the reports that 'the troubled' were sent to Occupy by police and other authorities, questions are indeed raised as to whether Occupy was 'set-up' for both the ongoing evictions and the derailing of their original objective - the Banks and Wall Street.
Notably, Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of those cities that recently moved against an Occupy encampment, the stated reason being a suspected drug overdose death there. While 19 SLC Occupiers were arrested, local KSL.com news reported that the deceased was a "homeless man identified only as 'Mike'".
There is a difference between those which are 'troubled and homeless' and those which have left their homes to struggle for justice.
What is of paramount importance to recall is that at first it was 'sanitation' issues that led the cities' efforts, though now that the 'troubled' have been 'seeded' within Occupy's camps, we have a new rationale that supposedly demanded action. But as the Acting Legal Director of the Utah ACLU, Joe Cohn, told KSL, "We must ask, if someone died of an overdose at the homeless shelter, would they be closing the homeless shelter?"
I won't here raise the questions surrounding the coordination of the Occupy sweeps by the cities, but the fact of such a coordinated strike against Occupy speaks for itself.
Are the latest actions against Occupy, actions in New York City, Oakland, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City and far more, motivated by a sincere desire to ensure public safety, or rather to strike another blow against Occupy, against 'we, the people', while using 'public safety' as a manufactured pretext? Dirty tricks against popular social justice movements are an old story, but what's relatively new are the dimensions of the wrongdoing that spawned the Occupy movement, the fact that America has so many of the 'best politicians that money can buy', and the courageous determination of so many everyday people in the struggle to reclaim what is theirs.
If any need reminder of how much America's police often care about the public's safety, this video of the graphic, November 9th police violence against students at Occupy Berkeley says more than I can. I will note that the video appears to show that valiant young women seem a favorite target for such police action.
VIDEO Unprovoked assault by police on students #OccupyCal #OccupyBerkley #Solidarity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVkC7kRFV8c
I won't again mention the pepper spraying of 84 year old Dorli Rainey at Occupy Seattle, but will note that the pregnant woman pepper sprayed there was hospitalized, according to the Associated Press. Highlighting the basis for growing outrage, this just posted, three minute video documents Seattle police 'broadly' spraying chemical weapons into the peaceful protesters...
Seattle Police Joke About Macing Occupy Seattle
Another excerpt from Reverend Lang's writing upon his own experience that day observed, "the only tool in their (the police's) bag is brutality and like a drunken raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves".
The meaning of 'public safety' in the US does seem to have taken on some decidedly 'Orwellian' connotations of late, as has the US police credo of 'to protect and serve'. Of course, one must examine anything in its context, and the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement is no exception.
In 2009 I wrote an article in The Christian Science Monitor about alternative banking, "Banking, the Swedish model". At the end I quoted a dire warning.
"Jakob von Uexküll, founder of both the British-based World Future Council and Sweden's Right Livelihood Award (also known as the 'alternative' Nobel Prize), argues that banking interests have become so powerful that they have been effectively able to 'take over governments to get the kind of legislation they needed.'
Referring to the megabanks, Mr. von Uexküll adds, 'They need to be dismantled.... If an economic entity is too big that it threatens the state, it threatens democracy.'"
Occupy Wall Street is right, corporate power and greed are a problem, and that's why the dirty tricks will continue, and why support for Occupy's selfless valor must as well. The only things that remain are for people to finish waking up to what's actually happened, then join Occupy in acting upon it.
Copyright November 2011