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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/20/11

I've Had It with These Masked Thugs

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Message Gar Smith

I don't know about you, but I'm getting fed up with self-important gangs of masked, black-clad agitators running roughshod over our cities streets. They've occupied parks, shut down roadways, vandalized private property, assaulted law-abiding citizens and left entire communities afraid to venture into financially struggling downtown business districts. They've wielded spray cans and left behind eyesores that have incensed the community. 

I am speaking, of course, about the police. 

It's one thing if a group of political anarchists walks into a bank and spray-paints slogans on vaults and filing cabinets. It's another thing when police march into a peaceful tent encampment brandishing batons and pepper-spray.  

Question: What's the difference between a cop and an anarchist?

Answer: An anarchist defaces files. A cop defiles faces. 

During a single Oakland night in early November, the violent misdeeds of these anarchists-with-badges shredded Constitutional rights, amassed a growing body count of innocent victims (including several combat veterans hospitalized with crippling injuries), and turned downtown Oakland into an urban No-Buy Zone.  

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a flurry of in-your-face police assaults left an 84-year-old woman blinded by a blast of pepper-spray. At the same time, a 19-year-old woman who screamed at police, "Don't hurt me! I'm pregnant!" was singled out for another blast of pepper-spray while a police officer took aim and kicked her in the stomach. She was rushed to a hospital where she subsequently suffered a miscarriage. (This appears to be the first police-related death attributable to the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement -- it was, tragically, a literal "miscarriage of justice.") 

In theory, the police exist to enforce laws. Increasingly, in post-911 America, the police seem to exult in defying laws. In many cities, the police now have more power than mayors, council members and judges. In November, despite a court ruling that Zuccotti Park was to remain open to the Occupy Wall Street campers, the NYPD refused to allow the demonstrators to re-enter the public park -- an act of constabulary defiance that constituted obstruction of justice.  

In a pattern that has been seen in Occupied cities across the US -- from Manhattan to Santa Cruz -- local police have tried to stoke social tension and civil unrest by encouraging hungry, homeless, drug-addicted and violent individuals from other parts of their cities to relocate to the nearest "Occupy" site where, the police promise, they can expect free food, shelter and medical assistance. It would appear that the goal is not to improve public safety but to raise the potential for disputes and disruption that might contribute to discrediting the Occupy camps.  

Another tactic used in cities across America is for city officials to claim that encampments must be eradicated because they constitute a "health and safety hazard." This meme is then driven home by orchestrated "photo ops" featuring city workers who are ordered to don full-body hazmat suits and gas-masks before hosing down sidewalks and lawns with blasts of high-pressure steam. 

How Police Are Empowered to Violate the Constitution

Another example of the Police Establishment's imperial power: local police enjoy the unique ability to suspend the US Constitution -- on a whim! In a court of law, a judge needs to convene a hearing and weigh both sides of an argument before rendering a verdict. In the streets, a city police sergeant has the power to void the First Amendment simply by declaring a peaceful public gathering to be an "unlawful assembly." 

In the new United Police States of America (UPSA), you don't even need to commit a crime to become eligible for arrest, detention and/or physical abuse. Citizens swept up in police raids can be charged with nothing more than "resisting arrest." In a truly free country, any citizen would be perfectly within his or her rights to resist being arrested on that charge alone. Seriously, if the police can't be bothered to at least fabricate some trifling criminal pretext for an arrest, they shouldn't be allowed to bust someone for "resisting." Not only is resistance in the name of self-defense not a crime, it is recognized as a right under international law. (Resisting police-inflicted crime should not be a crime. Consider: If you thwart a pickpocket or chase away a burglar, you aren't charged with "resisting theft.") 

The Costs of Policing Occupations

As far as the charge that Occupy Wall Street activities cost cities money that could better be spent on social services, let's take a look at one preliminary estimate for the City of Oakland. In mid-November, Oakland officials announced the " costs spent on responding to Occupy Oakland events" topped $2.4 million. But most of this money was doled out to pay for police who were either (1) standing watch over nonviolent assemblies, (2) challenging people trying to exercise their First Amendment rights or (3) pushing, beating and tear-gassing crowds provoked by the police presence.  

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Gar Smith is a Project Censored Award-winning reporter and is co-founder and editor of Environmentalists Against War and the author of Nuclear Roulette.
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