November 29, 2011

More on OWS and the response

Thinking about our conversation on police brutality and the OWS movement. As I noted in my comments to Steve, my concern with police brutality predates this latest bunch of clashes. The common (or it seems) use of tasers, pepper spray, and tear gas by police, combined with what Naomi Wolf has noted as gradual eroding of first amendment rights by limiting protests and permit options. And, as I noted in my comments, it seems that the harshest tactics are reserved for those leaning left, not those leaning right.

This afternoon, I heard an excellent discussion on Talk of the Nation that included an interview with the former Seattle police chief who ordered the use of tear gas in 1999--what they termed the "Battle in Seattle." When I heard the guest, I expected a defense of strong tactics, but was pleasantly surprised to hear Norm Stamper call that decision the worst of his 3 decade career. He sees a real tendency toward paramilitary tactics across the country.

Stamper made several good points, but one that I thought was really on point was that he sees police treating protesters like enemies. As he noted, police are working class individuals who will never make big money from serving the public. But while they have more in common with the 99%, they become a tool for the 1% and lose the realization that those protesting are fellow Americans. Unfortunately, I hear that same rhetoric from the right on this--almost as a continuation of Sarah Palin's "real America" theme.

One other OWS themed post came from our friend Greg in a very thoughtful essay comparing the OWS movement (in how certain groups have responded) to the Civil Rights movement. Then, as in now, evangelicals have largely sided with the status quo and labeled those in the movement as anarchists or insurgents opposing American values. But as he notes, and as Martin Marty also argued, this is, at least in part, a movement challenging opulence and vast wealth--things hardly compatible with the Gospel.
It is indefensible for people who worship a messiah who innocently suffered violence to support police efforts to batter and pepper spray peaceful protestors into compliance with a status quo that supports no one but people with more money than they will ever need, more than their grandchildren will ever need.


steves said...

I thought I would respond to your previous post and this post here, since it is the same topic. My ire was directed at the people who seemed to be lumping all protests into a similar group and somehow saying that the police response was motivated entirely by their dislike of OWS politics. I think if the tea party people had attempted to occupy places and camp out, some would have faced brutality from the police.

While I think some aspects of the media are biased towards the left, I don't take the position that the media is "liberal." That being said, I don't remember the media having warm, fuzzy feelings for the tea party protests. I remember them reporting on the nutcases, people with scary guns, and the polling data that showed how unpopular they were/are.

I agree with your point on police using brutal tactics. This is one area where I think the Libertarians are right. They always complain about how police are using military tactics at an alarming level. It is a huge concern to me and I see it only getting worse. Though it is more than 15 years ago, there was a good documentary on raid on the Branch Davidians in the early 90's. Just hearing the banter between the ATF agents prior to going in was chilling. They were pumping themselves up to kill, not to arrest. Is this what we really want?

Streak said...

Maybe you are right about the Tea Party. I don't know. I know that the media gave them far more publicity than their numbers suggested, and didn't even want to mention the OWS movement. I heard about it from the BBC before I heard it on an American media source.