Police brutality has occurred in both the OWS movement and in response to each Arab Spring Revolution. Though the response to the Arab Spring Revolutions has generally been more brutal than the response to OWS demonstrations, the brutality indicates a similar state attitude toward these revolutionary demonstrations: that they will not be tolerated. If the actions of police are any indication, it seems that democracies (as evidenced by the US) are no more thrilled with such revolutionary demonstrations than were the dictatorships which responded to protests in Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya.
One protester described the actions of the police as reminiscent of what one might expect in a fascist state, saying, “I’m here because I’m incredibly sad and incredibly angry; I’m hoping our city government comes to their senses and stops dealing with us like a fascist state” (The Guardian). That particular protestor was referring to the brutal force used by police to break up protests in Oakland. The methods employed included teargas, stun grenades, and blows with batons.
In contrast, police in Egypt have shown considerably less regard for the lives of those protesting. Reports of just exactly what police are doing vary widely, but reported death tolls are staggering. One March in protest of the government consisted of the relatives of approximately 850 people who had been killed while participating in sit-ins (The Daily Beast). Similar to protesters in the US, those marching were met with teargas and blows from police, but the damage done was far more extensive. Nearly 1,000 people were reported to have been injured, due to police action in that one incident alone. Police also employed verbal assaults and threatening family members of protesters.
It is remarkable to realize that the so-called democracy of the US seems to have no more interest in promoting the rights of its citizens to protest than do dictatorships. Police reponse to the OWS movement certainly raises the question of just exactly what revolutionaries in the Arab Spring are fighting for. What good is democracy when the police continue merely to protect the rights of the so-called one percent? And this is exactly what OWS protesters are charging them with. There has been a shift in the movement from seeing the police as members of the 99%, people who work hard and deserve more for it, to seeing them as merely one more line of defense against the justice demonstrators seek.
An article in Forbes Magazine deftly described the shift that has occurred in the OWS movement due to the police’s overly forceful response to peaceful protests. “What was meant to be a protest against economic [in]equality quickly morphs into a protest against the police state” (Forbes). This description of events makes the parallels between the brutality in the Arab Spring and in the US even more poignant. Some actually see the Occupy Movement as becoming a protest with a message much more similar to the Arab Spring Revolutions than it began with. When Egyptian citizens began to revolt it was out of a desire to live in a state not ruled by tyrannical dictators. They wanted freedom and democracy, and primarily, to live in a state where the government did not rule by abuse and fear.
In contrast the Occupy movement began as a protest against, as Forbes pointed out, economic inequality, but the movement has, in part, it seems, adapted to become a protest against the police, and the state’s role in creating that inequality. OWS, if nothing else, seems to have made many aware of the state’s position on the rights of the many, and it does not seem interested in protecting them. Instead, police in the US have shown themselves to react to the movements by protecting a sort of tyranny itself—the economic domination of the few. It seems then, partly by design, and partly by coincidence, both OWS demonstrators, and Arab Spring Revolutionaries are really fighting for the same thing—their democracy.