Police gather across from Zuccotti Park by Michael Stedman
I will begin by clarifying that in no way do I condone or support the behavior of pepper spraying, snatch-and-grab arrests, non-lethal ammunition, tear gas, etc" I find these actions inhumane and inexcusable, but that is not what I am here to speak about today.
While preparing for my trip to New York City for the 1 year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, I was warned by people about the police there, and reminded of all the police brutality videos I had seen over the past several months. I was also reminded, however, of a quote: " All that we are is the result of what we have thought" -- Buddha
By automatically presuming that all police are out to get you, and immediately assuming the worst, we manifest those thoughts and make them our reality. Additionally we not only do a disservice to those police that do not fall into that negative stereotype, it is also a disservice to ourselves in the long run. We mustn't forget that we are not just fighting for our own rights and liberties, but for theirs as well. The police are not a part of the infamous 1 percent. They are merely pawns being used to implement the oppression of those who are in control.
I made a conscious decision to approach the situation in New York with optimism and an open mind. What I experienced during my time there, was in many ways a direct reflection of the attitude I approached it with. This does not mean that I did not observe any negativity during the events of the weekend. It does mean, however, that instead of focusing on those negative events, I am able to appreciate the positive experiences such as the following story.
After marching around much of downtown Manhattan during the early part of the day on Monday, I found myself denied entry into Zuccotti Park due to having an "oversized" backpack as well as having a sleeping bag inside the pack (since they were obviously adverse to anyone camping or sleeping there again). The park security refused to budge on this decision (despite the fact that I was able to point out several contradictory exceptions). After demanding to speak with their supervisor to gain some clarity regarding their discriminatory actions of favoritism, the security officers requested the supervisor's presence.
The supervisor, however, made an obvious attempt to avoid speaking with me and instead spoke with his officers out of my range of hearing. The officers promptly returned to inform me that their supervisor was supporting their decision and reiterated the policy. At that same time, another of the security personnel arrived with a very large police officer, who explained he wanted a word with me. I courteously agreed and stepped aside with him. He continued by stating what the security had divulged to him regarding my situation. I replied by explaining the contradictions, discrimination, and favoritism I mentioned before, to which he gave me a look that conveyed understanding mixed with a slight disgust toward the security personnel's actions.
NYPD officer who mediated for me by Michael Stedman
Seeing that he was open to hearing what I had to say, I decided to propose a compromise. If I left my sleeping bag with someone outside the park, would I then be allowed to enter? The officer called the supervisor over again, and very politely informed the supervisor of my proposal. The supervisor had an expression of a cornered animal, angry and ready to strike, but after a few moments reluctantly agreed to my proposal. I kindly thanked the police officer for his help, shook his hand, and set out to find a place for my sleeping bag.
After handing off my sleeping bag to a homeless man on the street, I returned to the entrance where the aforementioned security officers were posted. As I approached they instantly blocked my path again, at which point I explained the compromise reached earlier, and they reluctantly hung their heads and waved me through.
I crossed paths with the police officer several more times during the day, and he was consistently polite and friendly toward me. In fact, there were several police officers that were cordial to me, or complacent at the very least. Although I did observe an amassing of officers that went far beyond overkill, I did not observe the level of militarized police I had become accustomed to seeing at other demonstrations. Many of those present seemed about as disinterested as they could be, appearing to have come to work just to make some overtime.
Officers relax outside the park by Michael Stedman
We must keep in mind that they are as much a part of the 99 percent as you and I, and that one day they will be marching along-side us as was the case this past May in the UK. 30,000 Police in the UK marched in protest of proposed cuts, and were supported and joined along the way by the same Occupiers they were policing only weeks before. One of the UK Officers explained that being joined by the Occupiers was for him the "highlight" of the march. We are all in this together and we need all the allies we can get in the times to come.