Not a single banker has gone to jail for crimes that lead to the financial meltdown. But now over 1,000 protesters have been arrested in the inspiring Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City.
The occupation of Wall Street has inspired a nationwide movement in the spirit of Wisconsin.
But there has been a powerful backlash against peaceful protesters who are using both their right to public assembly and tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience to call attention to the fact that our government has bailed out the wealthiest Americans but has done little to help middle and working class Americans who have lost their jobs and had their homes foreclosed on.
The protest is building momentum with a huge solidarity march today that CREDO and Other 98% members, progressive organizations and labor are joining. However the very existence of Occupy Wall Street could be endangered by strongarm NYPD tactics aimed at intimidating protesters and ending their three week stand against the big Wall Street banks.
Many of the rank and file "blue shirts" of the NYPD have shown great poise, respect, and even moments of solidarity with the protestors. After-all they are members of the 99% of America that has been victimized by Wall St.
However, NYPD leadership has used brutal techniques to break up the protests. In an incident last week, a police officer attacked nonviolent protesters with pepper spray. There are multiple videos of the attack on four women protesters who did nothing to provoke the officer's action. The New York Times reported that the officer in question "looked as if he were spraying cockroaches."1
The officer involved in that attack was not a rank and file cop. He was a deputy inspector with supervisory responsibilities for the police action. What's more, he has a history of violating the civil rights of protesters and is currently facing legal action for accusations of wrongful arrest and civil rights violations at the 2004 Republican National Convention demonstrations.2
There have been other incidents of police abuse. But the documented attack on protesters by a high-ranking NYPD officer demonstrates that this is incident isn't simply the collateral damage of a tense and confusing situation. The police are roughing up protesters in an attempt to break up the Occupy Wall Street protest.
Today, tens of thousands will march in solidarity with the 99 percent and the Occupy Wall Street protesters. But we must ensure that after the march is over and the news cameras are out of sight that the police do not continue their campaign of violence and intimidation to stop the momentum building at the Wall Street protests.
We have heard from our friends on the ground that the most important thing people can do who cannot come down and support the protests in person is to ensure that the Mayor and the Police Commissioner do not drive them out of the park which is serving as the base for Occupy Wall Street protests.
It's important that the Mayor and Police Commissioner know that the eyes of people across the country are on them, and that we consider it an attack on democracy and not just an individual protester when the NYPD systematically uses intimidation and violence with the intent of suppressing the ongoing protests.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. "A Spray Like a Punch in the Face," Jim Dwyer, The New York Times, 09-27-2011.
2. "NYPD Pepper-Sprayer Hit Fellow Officer With Friendly Fire, Has Prior Protest Complaint,"Joe Coscarelli, New York Magazine, 05-12-2011