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.
Two people brought enough drums and percussion instruments to allow for 4 people to participate in the drum circle. They began to play when a policeman came up to tell them that the owners of the park had forbidden drums from being brought in. I wondered if a dress code requiring a suit jacket and tie would be next. Then came the one drummer's response: "NO," the drummer replied. Actually, that was the Readers Digest version. For right before the police came, there was an announcement from the National Lawyers Guild that drums would be allowed. And so this drummer stuck to his guns. The conversation was loud enough to draw the attention of others. And as the police officer walked away, the size of the crowd listening to the drums tripled as a talented breakdancer moved to the music. Either the police didn't know what to do or they were bluffing with their orders. In either case, one of the most integral parts to the occupation, the drum circle, performed for the rest of the day to the delight of the activists who had attended.
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.
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?
The answer to these questions is unfortunate. The maintenance of abusive relationships requires three parties. Of course there is the abuser and the victim. Those who have mastered abuse know how to make the victim feel responsible and, thus, ashamed of being abused. But one more party must play their role here. That party is the enabler. Enablers take either an active or passive role in the abusive relationship. In fact, one of the concerns with the Penn State sex scandal was the role that enablers played in allowing abuse to continue.
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.