Tag Archives: police brutality

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.



Occupy Bias

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  To me, the Occupy movement is all about stereotypes based on bias.

Occupiers are considered to be radical socialists and anarchists, criminals, racist (this too), lazy and homeless, except when members of this diverse group are none of these things.  The police are overly violent and are under the control of the big bad government, except when they are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability (llaurenfrank, asulkin, kjonach, ivazuka).  Corporations are always evil, unless they fund Occupy, and everyone in the 1% are trying to keep the 99% down, unless they use their power and influence in favor of Occupy.

People are quick to judge the movement and place labels on it, just as Occupiers are quick to judge and label those who oppose them.  But when those labels are laid out so simply, and the incongruities are able to surface, does it still make any sense?  No?  My thoughts exactly.


“Don’t tase me, bro!” ~ “I wasn’t planning on it, sir. I’m just trying to do my job.”

Police brutality is nothing to be overlooked or downplayed. It is a serious offense. However, it is not the all-encompassing defining action of the police against Occupy. Mostly they are just trying to do their job.

As mentioned in my previous post, there has been an increase in criminal activity in and around Occupy protest sites. As a result of that activity, the police force has to be ever more vigilant at those sites to continue to protect their cities. But as the numbers of police officers increase to survey the areas of protest, tensions between the protesters and the police force rise.

Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, explains this tension. In a Fox News article, he states, “paralysis is occurring across law enforcement. It’s becoming a Catch 22 […] To go in there to clear the [Zuccotti] park is going to cause confrontation. To not do so is detrimental.” Regarding the specific pepper spray incident in Kara Jonach’s post, Mullins told the Staten Island Advance to “remember who created the atmosphere,” referring to the rowdy protesters that caused many well-mannered, professional police officers to respond on-scene. He goes on to say that Bologna, the man responsible for pepper spraying the girls, “made a decision to use the pepper spray and it wasn’t popular,” essentially saying that it was one man’s decision and his actions should not be reflected on the police force as a whole.

Since this event, the way the police interact with protesters at Zuccotti park has changed greatly. A New York Times article reports that “most uniformed officers have remained on the perimeter of the park since the third week of the protest, rarely venturing in,” and the only officers within the park dress in plainclothes and are just there to keep the department privy to planned marches and the like. This new hands-off policing has “pleased the protesters, who have had numerous run-ins with law enforcement officers and tend to view them negatively.”

Based on what happened with the pepper spraying incident, there is good reason for protesters to be weary of a heavy police presence. However, I do not see why Bologna’s unlawful actions should somehow equate the entire police force. An anonymous police official at Zuccotti Park stated, “We try to maintain a low profile and not antagonize the crowd […] and once you go in there, there’s a sense of hostility.” Is it important for protesters to watch out for the police that act out? Sure, absolutely. But does that mean that every boy in blue is a threat? Not at all.


Protesters and Police

(via Peter Harris )


Far from Kent State: The UC Davis Pepper Sprayings through a Lens of Technological and Cultural History

One of many videos from the scene: this one shows Lt. John Pike stepping over the protesters and includes a second cop deploying pepper spray.

On the afternoon of November 18, 2011, a group of peacefully-assembled Occupy student protesters were pepper-sprayed directly in their faces. Onlookers recorded this police action with their cell phones, uploading image and text updates to the internet. As the images spread, commentators both in and out of the mainstream media began comparing the event to the Kent State shootings of 1970 (Kennicott). This is in part because “protest images that become iconic show us faces in anguish” (Judkis), and arguably in part because of how the images and news were disseminated.

A sample news report on the Kent State shootings.

While the Kent State shootings did see coverage as soon as the night of and the day after, both on television and in the newspapers (which is where John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph was disseminated), those mediums are still not as immediate and personal as the internet. After Louise Macabitas’s photograph of Lt. Pike using the spray was posted on Reddit, meme versions of the image arose and quickly proliferated (Jardin). The institution of UC Davis faced protests in response to the incident, which is where most of the backlash seems to have been concentrated outside of the internet, and various already-existing Occupy sites expressed solidarity; after the Kent State shootings, not only were there student protests across the United States but there was a large protest in Washington, DC less than a week later (Doyle).

The Kent State/Cambodia Incursion protest in DC – around 100,000 attended.

The comparative lack of nationwide, in-person turnout after the UC Davis incident would seem to support Gladwell’s position that the “weak ties” of the internet do not often lead to “high risk” activism. However, it could be argued that the lack is due in part to there being no fatality and, by extension, less emotional impact. Either way, because there is no period so remote as the recent past, it is still difficult to accurately gauge whether the UC Davis incident has had an outsize cultural impact. Creating imagery that is then made indelible through both common media and memes is one thing; being a catalyst for significant change is something else entirely.

(Food for thought, or for the “arts in the movement” bloggers among our colleagues: had the photograph of Dorli Rainey, discussed by Jardin, not been superseded by the UC Davis imagery, could the discourse around OWS be different today? Why was it superseded in the first place?)