Editorial Update: From the Occupy Denver.org website, some commentary from others on the scene. I’m not the only one with these concerns. Happily, the organizers are trying to find those involved in directing the violence and are ousting them from the camp and future demonstrations to keep future protests non-violent. But others saw what I did on the videos. Protesters screaming at cops, graffiti, one even punched a cop! Here’s hoping the organizers are successful in cleaning up the rallies.
Last night when I read about the reaction of the riot police to the Occupy Denver I got worked up, and rightfully so. The Occupy Denver movement had staged a nonviolent walk at noon down the 16th street mall ending at Civic Center Park (where they’ve occupied regularly) and hold a rally there. By all accounts, they had several thousand people, and the city sent out the riot police for ‘crowd control’ purposes.
Okay… Yeah let’s just assume things will go as poorly as possible, sure.
And somewhere between noon and 4:15, things went from a show of solidarity, to altercations, pepper spray, arrests, rubber bullets, and a complete lack of the non-violence creed.
Now, I wasn’t there. I can watch the video streams, the news, the tweets, the posted pictures, and try and glean what I can from the reports.
And what I’m seeing doesn’t impress me.
First, the riot police were geared for things to go south. I mean, the group was stating a strong desire via verbal chants to stay non-violent, so why have riot police in the first place? Was it simply the size of the crowd? I’m not a professional, don’t know how one decides these things, but the camera views appeared to show a good 75-100 cops just to keep two thousand civilians from being on the steps of the capital building. It was a huge show of force, and very intimidating.
Now, the Occupy Denver folks setup tents in the park, which has been reiterated as illegal by the city. This is fine in a protest, as long as you’re willing to be arrested for it. It’s a peaceable statement. (BTW, Arrests happen in protests. If you aren’t okay with this, don’t protest. You don’t have the right to be violent when you’re arrested.) Now, when the cops moved in and took the tents down and the protesters attacked them (which I saw on video feeds) they got arrested for assault. This made it a violent protest . Point one against the protesters.
The cops also removed protesters from the trees in city park using, according to Occupy Denver, rubber bullets. Now, from my research, Denver riot police aren’t standard issued those rounds, and by the marks in this next image, I’m thinking most likely this youth was hit by the pepper pod ‘bullets’, which sure hurt like hell, but aren’t the ‘less than lethal’ rubber bullets. (I’ve seen images from Oakland and the damage caused by rubber bullets there, and it’s much worse, think a raised bruise 3-4 inches in size. I could be wrong, again, I wasn’t there, I’m just comparing what I’m seeing and what I’ve heard the cops are issued.)
Now, why they chose to remove people from the trees in this way I don’t know. I know during the Obama rally, when listeners climbed into the trees to get a better view, cops approached them and threatened to arrest them if they didn’t climb back down, so it’s a standard policy, i.e. don’t sit in the trees. I’m assuming the protesters were asked to leave the trees first, and shot at second, instead of being removed by hand. I’m counting that as a point against the riot police. Again, I wasn’t there, but it seems a poor choice.
Last night, after I calmed down a bit more, I watched FOX31, mostly to see if they’d even report on the event. According to FOX31, the Occupy Denver protesters had assaulted an officer and knocked him over on his motorcycle, and it had landed on him. Funny, this wasn’t mentioned on the Occupy Denver website… They also showed ‘99%’ graffiti on a cop car. Yeah, ok, that’s ‘non-violent’, but it’s destruction of property, and a direct move to incite and escalate the riot police. And…it also wasn’t mentioned on the Occupy Denver website. So they’re doing great at pointing out the moments when the cops and city fail them, but not holding themselves to the same standard.
I’m not impressed. And I want to be supportive. I’m a social liberal, and a fiscal conservative. I want #OWS to succeed. I want our government to stop bailing out corporations and banks that fail. I want those corporations and banks held to the same fiscal standards as the rest of us. But I digress…
So then, last night I went and watched the live streams on the Occupy Denver website. And I got an education. There’s a mixed bag of protestors, and some of them I support wholeheartedly. This group was a it older, and repeatedly chanted the need for nonviolence, and how they needed to communicate their needs clearly and calmly. I liked them, because they appeared to understand how to defuse the situation.
But there was another group of protesters I didn’t like. They were younger, cocky, and in the faces of the cops, telling the cops how they (the cops) were about to attack them again, talking to the camera about how cool it was they were on a national feed and they were ‘famous’. What? How does this get OWS goals met, I ask you? I watched two different people explain, live on the streaming feed, about how important it was that the situation ‘escalate’ in order to meet their goals. Pardon me? Escalation = violence. Violence generally leads to bloodshed and all to often, death. How is this a desirable goal? Do you think the politicians won’t listen unless someone dies? Do you even care who gets hurt, just as long as it makes you famous?
This group of protesters, frankly, scare me.
I also saw a live feed of the earlier attack on the Occupy Denver website where the protestors engaged with the riot cops during some arrests. The protestors got up in the faces of the police and called them fascists and traitors, and were screaming at them. One redheaded woman wasn’t violating their personal space, but she was verbally abusive and goading them constantly through the recording. This is a big point against the Occupy Denver team. This is not nonviolent protest. Nonviolent protest includes our words. When you continually goad someone into a fight, this is an abusive act. Yes, it’s wrong when they react and escalate things, sure. But when you’re acting like a rabid dog, you’ve got to admit you present a scary picture. I wouldn’t have wanted to have those screaming people pointed at me yesterday. I would’ve felt threatened.
In summary, Occupy Denver isn’t showing the entire picture in their news reports, and only what is flattering to their movement is being posted online. They are exaggerating the actions of the cops, specifically the types of weapons used. Also, some in their camp don’t have any interest in non-violent protest, they’re in it for a newsworthy event. This is shameful, at best, and won’t further the OWS goals. Occupy Denver needs to deal with the bad eggs, or future rallies are bound to only escalate further under their driving force.