I’ll have more to say later about the Occupy St. Vincents event I attended last evening, but this is just too important. While there, I received an email from MoveOn.org reporting on the brutal police crackdowns on the Occupy Oakland encampment, leading off with this:
Last night, Scott Olsen, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, was struck in the head by a “nonlethal” projectile fired by the Oakland police. The round fractured his skull, leaving him in critical condition.
Olsen had joined with other members of Occupy Oakland to peacefully protest the group’s eviction that morning. When a group gathered to help Olsen after he was hit, a police officer threw a flash bang grenade into the group from a few feet away.
Occupy Wall St. posted this video:
Scott is one of an increasing number of war veterans who are participating in America’s growing Occupy movement. Said Keith Shannon, who deployed with Scott to Iraq, “Scott was marching with the 99% because he felt corporations and banks had too much control over our government, and that they weren’t being held accountable for their role in the economic downturn, which caused so many people to lose their jobs and their homes.”
Scott is currently sedated at a local hospital awaiting examination by a neurosurgeon. Iraq Veterans Against the Wars sends their deepest condolences to Scott, his family, and his friends. IVAW also sends their thanks to the brave folks who risked bodily harm to provide care to Scott immediately following the incident.
Word about Scott Olsen quickly spread among the crowd at St. Vincent’s last night as we stood inside metal barricades in front of the shuttered hospital, surrounded by a phalanx of police officers. I saw nothing but total professionalism from the NYPD on site: some officers were even friendly. Police have an important and legitimate role at the occupations and protests in ensuring public safety. But when I see what’s happening in Oakland and at other Occupy movements across the country, it is difficult not to regard them warily. This distrust that is necessarily engendered by violent policing does not bode well for police/community relations, to say the least. And as the occupiers often chant, “The whole world is watching.”
The job of the police is to serve and protect us. They are the 99%. Nothing good can come of escalating police brutality aimed at nonviolent protesters exercising core First Amendment rights. Sooner or later, the nonviolent will fight back with everything they’ve got.
There will be no winners.