The crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City early Tuesday morning appears to be part of a coordinated national crackdown.
If the Department of Homeland Security is involved in coordinating the crackdown, that is disturbing on a number of counts. It shows that President Obama is on the side of Wall Street, and it shows that an agency purportedly set up to protect the American people from a foreign aggressor is being used against the people instead.
Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.
The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.
Related to this is the growing militarization of American police. The jobs of the military and the police are entirely different. The job of the military is to fight an enemy. The job of the police is to uphold public safety and take people into custody when there is reasonable cause to think they have committed a crime. For a police officer, the use of force, especially deadly force, should be a last resort. For soldiers, Marines and other troops, the use of force is their whole purpose.
This trend accelerated after 9/11, when local police departments were given machine guns and tanks, but it goes back at least to the Clinton administration and the Waco and Ruby Ridge killings.
When the police conduct raids in the dark of night, with reporters excluded from the scene, they are acting like an occupying army in enemy territory.
1. When your actions are lawful, honorable and just, you perform them in the light of day. You have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. You don’t need to seek out publicity and the camera’s eye, but you have no cause to avoid them because you can be proud of your actions, knowing them to be lawful, honorable and just.
If your actions are such that you perform them in the dark of night, avoiding cameras and witnesses or even employing the threat of force to ensure secrecy, then it is obvious to all — to you and to everyone else — that your actions are not lawful, not honorable and not just.
3. The only exception I can think of to the previous statement is the tactical secrecy sometimes necessary for a military assault against a powerful enemy.
4. Police are not soldiers and citizens are not their enemy. When police come to imagine otherwise, they become, by their own declaration, the enemies of the public they were commissioned to serve. This is the opposite of what police are supposed to be, the opposite of why police are commissioned as police. Police who regard the public they are commissioned to serve as “the enemy” have forfeited any legitimate claim to their arms and badges.
Click on Occupy Wall Street crackdowns coordinated with top federal officials for the Minneapolis Examiner article.
Click on A Decade After 9/11, Police Departments Are Increasingly Militarized for an article by Radley Balko in the Huffington Post.
Click on Militarizing the Police from Oakland to NYC for an article by Heather Digby Parton for Al Jazeera English.
Click on The NYPD Didn’t Want You to See Occupy Wall Street Get Evicted from The Gothamist, a New York City news site.
Click on Occupy | Threat Level for Wired magazine’s continuing coverage of the Occupy confrontations.
Click on 6 Burning Questions About the Violent Crackdowns on Occupations Around the Country for comment by Lynn Parramore on Alternet. [Added 11/17/11].