Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Movement, and the Police

Photo via Flickr and probably from these folks. (Still trying to find out who took it.)

I don't troll the internet looking for video of police beating, shooting or otherwise harming protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. You don't have to, it's starting to get common enough that it's everywhere. I'm beginning to think that US policy makers, mayors and police chiefs don't think this will spiral out of control; that something like the LA Riots can't happen again in the United States.

As more people drop below the poverty line and European countries continue to engage in the same financial brinksmanship we have, the situation gets even more dire. People are getting desperate, and they are tired of not being heard. I don't even agree with half of what the Occupy Wall Street movement espouses, but I 100% sympathize with them now that police departments are acting outside the confines of the law to suppress these people.

Full disclosure: My father's been a member of Law Enforcement virtually my whole life, so I'm not making these comments out of any bias for or against the Police. I've seen what the average police officer is capable of... the same thing any other human being. The problem is that they don't have room to make mistakes in a world where one in five people have a smart phone capable of shooting high definition video and sending it to the internet in two taps of the touch screen.

I doubt the police officers responsible will ever be held accountable. Right now, something like that would make the national news, and that's something no town or police department wants. The Police have already put the movement into the mainstream and are threatening to give it a sort of legitimacy that get's attention without solving any of the larger problems.

While people are looking at disgruntled college kids getting kicked around by the police, kids that might be their own, focus shifts from the real problem. I believe that many people that bought a house without putting 20% down, bought things they didn't need on credit, and took out student loans instead of looking for work outside their home town, are just as much to blame as the banking industry for what's happening in the US. That said, I believe that the Americans who engaged in these unwise financial decisions have suffered, and dearly, for those choices.

The Banking Industry hasn't paid the price for their participation, suffered crippling regulation, or been seriously investigated by any government entity responsible for protecting the public from those actions. On the contrary, they've been rewarded and given a pass by our government and allowed to continue on using the same tactics they used before. The US Government has passed new legislation, but none of it has any teeth or means of enforcement.

The banks can pretty much just ignore it.

I feel badly that the Police are left to bear the brunt of the people's anger over this. Protecting a populace from themselves and a criminal element is at least a noble pursuit most of the time. Getting paid overtime to protect the interests of soulless corporations and policy makers too blinded by the money flowing into their reelection campaign funds? Yeah, that would make me question what my oath and my badge stood for if I were a member of Law Enforcement.

As a citizen I don't know what I'd do if our own tiny Occupy movement came under attack in this way. It'd get pretty personal, and I don't think I'd sit by and watch the police take those kinds of actions in my town. I can only imagine how the people in Oakland must feel, and that's really the crux of the problem with the police taking violent action against the protesters.

The flip side is that the protesters need to make sure what they are doing is as legal as possible and that any laws they disobey be done in a civil manner. Using the cause as a front to traffic illegal substances, provoking the police needlessly, or causing local businesses to suffer will hurt the Occupy movement. So far, this has been a battle for public opinion, and if the Occupy folks continue to be merely civilly disobedient, they might have a chance.

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