Upon approaching the park, I got the impression that NYC and the owners of the park made every effort to make the park look like a prison. A perimeter consisting of double barricades surrounded the park except for 2 small entrances on opposite sides. There were plenty of police along with Zuccotti Park's own security guards some of who sympathized with us. The rules for entering the park went well beyond judicial orders. Guitarists were being told that they could bring their guitars in the park but not their guitar cases. Skateboarders were forbidden to bring in their skateboards because, as the police would tell these kids, times and circumstances have changed. And then came the confrontation with the police over the drums.
But the shortened version of that one drummer's response to the police concealed the other issue of the day. This issue is the physical abuse practiced by the police. While saying no to the police officer who challenged him, the drummer angrily complained that he had already been beaten up by the them. Later on, I ran into a young woman whose arm was in a sling. She had suffered a dislocated elbow because the police unnecessarily manhandled her to the ground earlier in the week. Others had been beaten by police either at the park during the eviction or during the November 17th protest.
Of course, New York is not the only place to be if you want to experience police brutality. I read one report where a protester, who was already lying on the ground, was beaten and kicked by police officers and suffered a broken back. There was the baton beating of Cal Berkley students and the pepper spraying of UC Davis students. Of course this does not include the military Veteran who, while at Occupy Oakland, was struck in the head with some kind of police projectile and was placed in critical condition in the hospital. You can see other examples of police abuse on Youtube.
And here is the second issue. Why are we tolerating the physical abuse practiced by the police? Why don't we categorize their violence as being as abuse and thus as criminal as other forms of abuse such as wife beating, child beating, or sexual abuse? Why do so many passively defer to the police's use of force on peaceful protesters?
This is where the public comes in. Those who either witness or know about police abuse but don't speak up are, by default, siding with the abuser. They are telling the abused that the suffering is their fault and that if they had been good little boys and girls, they would not have been attacked. To such people, there is no such thing as a disproportionate response. To these enablers, a lawbreaker is a lawbreaker and, since order must be maintained at all costs, the police have the right, if not the obligation, to use any measure to stop the lawbreaker in his/her tracks. In essence, the enabling public is telling those who suffer abuse that it is their fault, so don't complain. The enabling public is thus attempting to shovel shame on to the victim rather than on to the abuser.
The police, those who are practicing the abuse, have perfect excuses. First, they have been hardened by being exposed to inhumane violence practiced by some criminals. Some have lost some sensitivity to what it means to be human. But that is not their trump card. Their main excuse is that they are just following orders and, of course, everybody knows that orders must be carried out. Thus, it is obvious that these same police officers would jump of the Brooklyn Bridge if so ordered.
Though following orders relieve the abusive officers from feeling guilt for for their actions, those in the military know that some orders are illegal and thus cannot be followed. In addition, the Nuremberg trials did not excuse German officers from committing far more serious forms of abuse because they were following orders. And though the abuse that the protesters have experienced pales in comparison to what the victims of the Nazis suffered through, the principle is the same. Just because one is ordered to do something wrong doesn't mean that those who follow such orders can maintain their innocence.
We must hasten to say that most police officers are not abusive. In addition, being a police officer is a very tough job to perform. But the difficulty of the job does not excuse officers for being abusive. And though most officers are not abusive, many of them are enablers of abuse. They are enablers when they do not effectively speak out against the abuse. We should note that this lack of speaking effectively is what many fault Joe Paterno for doing after he was told about Sandusky's actions.
As a result of experiencing direct action or timidity of others, some have come to see their neighborhood's police force as a center for abuse. That is right, the people who were entrusted with the heavy responsibility of protecting the people are now seen, by too many, as the primary obstacle to peace in a neighborhood.
This enabling of police abuse of citizens is simply a compounding of abuse when it comes to OWS. For the police are ultimately protecting those who financially abuse most of the 99%. One way in which they abuse us is by paying for laws that create an abusive system, a system whose faults and oppression are partially listed in the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.
But something more must be said. The accepted abuse practiced by authority figures, whether those people come from the private or public sector, shows an authoritarian mentality that can lead to Fascism. The signs of Fascism can be found at this link: http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm. We will list some of those signs below as they apply to what is being reported by this article.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
9. Corporate Power is Protected
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws.
So it is up to both the public and the police to curb the abuse practiced by some police officers. This is what the drummers at Zuccotti Park did by insisting on their right to drum over the police orders not to bring drums into the park.