Anderson — There was a reason cops were called pigs in the 1960s. Beginning with the civil rights movement and continuing with the Vietnam War demonstrations, the men in blue turned firehoses on people, busted some heads with nightsticks and generally arrested people for looking crossways at them.
Now the same thuggish activities are being directed toward the Occupyers across the country. In fact, it was reported that police tactics are being coordinated in different cities.
The Occupy poster face now belongs to Dorli Rainey, the 84-year-old woman who was pepper sprayed by police in Seattle. Between the pepper spray and the liquid used to treat it, Rainey’s face looked like melted wax. The Seattle cops, like others throughout the country, went after the Occupyers after dark. There were no reports of misbehavior on the part of the demonstrators, but the cops didn’t need much provocation. They learned generations ago that the mere presence of anti-establishment types is enough to bring out their best oppression techniques.
Police need to remember they are not in the crime prevention business but rather law enforcement. There is a difference.
When the Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had two priorities: guaranteeing public health and safety and guaranteeing the protester’s First Amendment rights (speech and assembly).
It didn’t take long for the mayor to begin the crackdown on Occupyers who were causing no trouble, just being a nuisance to those in power. They were ousted from Zuccotti Park and, according to Timothy Karr at the Huffington Post, journalists covering the Occupy movement have been arrested and harassed for simply reporting. Karr said 25 journalists have been arrested and others were "roughed up, tear gassed or peppery sprayed."
So Bloomberg has come down squarely on the side of public safety (though no one has ever been in danger) against free speech and assembly. Of course, the Constitution says nothing about safety. In a country embracing conservative policies, however, safety trumps speech that contradicts the awe-inspiring gospel that comes from the suits on Wall Street.
It’s one thing to have police on the scene to keep an eye on the proceedings, and quite another for them to be aggressors. They’re sworn to protect and serve, but they’re also part of the lower classes that the Occupyers are demonstrating for, whether they want to admit it or not.
In city after city, police forces are seeing budget cuts of personnel and equipment. Some cities, like Camden, N.J., are seeing an increase in low-level crime simply because the perpetrators can get away with it as laid-off cops sit at home watching TV.
In effect, then, the cops are serving and protecting the very people who are taking away their livelihood.
While the Occupyers and the journalists covering them are being arrested in record numbers, Catherine Rampel of The New York Times reports that federal financial institution fraud cases have plunged in the last few years to a projected 1,365 prosecutions for 2011, less than half of a decade ago. Are we to believe that bank fraud has really gone down while other federal criminal prosecutions have doubled in the last decade?
So Wall Street continues to get away with it. The Occupyers, in their disjointed but highly diverse way, bring attention to the continuing unholy matrimony between the government and corporations, a union that is taking this country on the road to ruin. A recent study found 45 percent of working Americans struggle to pay monthly bills and put food on the table. I’ll bet there are some cops in there.
Stephen Dick is an editor at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.