What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reflections on an Ugly Night

Written 3/21/2012

The most disturbing thing about Saturday night (3/17/2012) was not the police brutality - though it is very difficult to think of anything more disturbing right now - but it was the systemic nature of the obvious strategy that the NYPD has undertaken in response to Occupy.  Firstly, they now have a special Occupy detachment.  It is the same officers and the same commanders there now.  People are starting to know officer's names and to identify the particular officers who seem to be continually "getting off" on the use of violence and absolute control of the protestors.  And the stories of things said, commands given, and the general disinterest in anything remotely professional or compassionate is so overtly obvious now as well that it is shocking only in how unapologetically blatant it is. 

The methodology seems obvious also.  The department has decided that they are going to be brutal and discriminatory in their suppression.  They know that we are going to pick up things on camera and video, and while they are doing what they can to keep camera's and mainstream media out of the area and break or take personal cameras and recorders, they really just want to minimize their exposure on video, voice, and pictures throughout the broader general public.  To minimize the sensationalism and thus largely get away with as much as they can. 

In the beginning of the night they had roughed up a few people, cuffed them, dragged them away, and then were letting them go.  It seemed given individual comments expressed to me by some of these individuals, that this must have been deliberate to keep the headlines to a minimum.  High arrests mean lots of news coverage.  While the pictures and video's on youtube tend to have a specific reach, it is limited to certain demographics and the mainstream news outlets seem reticent to disseminate these "amateur" "grainy" videos.  Where was fox news' coverage of Saturday night?

No, the NYPD seems to have a very deliberate strategy that is very savvy of both their place in society and of our society on the whole.  They know that corporate control of the media is their ally.  They know that there are going to be a relatively small number of people in the country that are going to see these things, and while perhaps those individuals will be horrified, that the images will likely not be disseminated widely, or at least to the point of TRUE repercussions - meaning tens of millions of people.  Even though they humiliate themselves on live stream and blogger posts, most of America never sees it. 

It seems to me that a lot of people involved in Occupy think they are winning these wars with each swing of the baton.  But really, the media savvy of the NYPD, Bloomberg, and all their goons seemingly outpaces us.  These messages and visuals are not getting to the American heart land, and if they are they are accompanied by narratives of Occupiers as terrorists, hoodlums, and evil anticapitalist anarchist bastards.  (ps. not case!)

Case in point:  Now maybe there are technical issues with grainy, unclear "amateur" video, but more likely they really think its news worthy.  MSNBC, which has had really good coverage in the past, started their article by saying that the batons came out after a protestor threw a bottle at the bus carrying away arrestees.  This is completely false to ANYONE that was down there (save whoever from the police was paid to give distorted, agendaed accounts).  Another part of their strategy comes in this vain, they always get asked for a comment, and it always gets printed.  As if their opinion holds more merit than anyone else's.  Its all propaganda.  We protestors are just a bunch of drunk hippies in the park right?  Fact is, batons where out long before they needed the buses to haul off all the people who had already been hit with batons while getting arrested.  And what got thrown if anything?  Did someone drop an empty Poland Spring bottle?  The horrors.  MSNBC compiled the article from news wires without doing any real journalism on the ground themselves (which evidently neither had the wire services).  I saw no obvious reporters there that night (and we've gotten to know most of them by sight), save a NY1 camera.  The NY Times covered it in its blog the next day.  Otherwise?  Occupy it seems is no longer so important at the editorial level at these big national news outlets to send reporters down there anymore.

The NYPD knows all this, they have it in a well versed strategy that puts us all in a bind.  Always at the wrong end of the sword.  We open our mouths as the constitution guarantees us able to do, only to have a sword shoved down our throats at just the right angle so the camera can't quite make out whether it went down our throats or just might have.  No unequivocal proof.  And it is that grey area that the police navigate in a very strategic and methodical way.  sigh... this system is a tough one, we must find better ways to react, or better yet - ways to act!   

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