Commentary: What Police Brutality Can Teach the OWS Protesters

Occupy Wall Street protesters learn a brutal lesson African-Americans have known all along.


Posted: 11/18/2011 10:31 AM EST
Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Movement,protester beatings,police brutality

(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Two months ago when the Occupy Wall Street Movement first took over Zuccotti Park to protest corporate greed and political corruption, the New York City police gathered in full force, suited and booted in riot gear to maintain order. Initially protesters and the police maintained a strained respect for one another. Many of the protesters expressed their sympathy for the police as working people and stressed to them that they were protesting for them and other first responders' rights as working people. Some protesters even went so far as to offer the police coffee and doughnuts in a naive effort to connect with them on a human level, but the cops refused.

 

As the protest grew from days to weeks to months, it became clear to the cops that the OWS movement wasn’t going to blow over as quickly as they thought. That’s when the police — who receive their marching orders from the chief of police, Ray Kelly, who receives his marching orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ultimately receives his orders from the very people that the OWS Movement are opposing — removed their leather gloves and came down on the largely white middle class protesters with an iron fist.

 

In scenes reminiscent of the '60s civil rights or anti-war protests we watched as police tear gas, mace, beat and arrest peaceful law abiding citizens for nothing more than exercising their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and protest.

 

There have been reports of police in various cities beating and arresting the elderly, pregnant women, journalists, college students and skinny balding intellectuals, people who pose absolutely no physical threat to anyone. Suddenly, the largely white middle class OWS protesters are faced with a cold and brutal reality, one that African-Americans and Latinos have known and lived with all along. The police are not always your friends, they’re here to serve and protect the property and businesses of the 1 percent. These are the very same police that many middle class whites have tacitly supported through paying taxes, backing their get tough on crime agendas and through their silence and/or inaction when police brutalize Blacks and Latinos in the inner city every day.

 

What’s so shocking about how brutal the police are to the OWS protesters is par for the course for Black people. My point to OWS protesters is now that the jackboot is on your neck for this brief moment in history you have a slither of an inkling of what it feels like to be a person of color dealing with zealous cops. The question is what are you going to do about it?

 

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