Occupy violence must cease
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 20:11
Now in its eighth week, the Occupy Wall Street and solidarity protests are seeing an escalation of reported violence by both protesters and police.
Claims of violence by police have been surfacing since the early days of the movement, but so have claims of vandalism and abuse of safety officials by protesters.
Actions and reactions are spiraling into a childish game of finger-pointing where there is only one solution—it's got to stop.
There are no winners when peaceful protests end in violence. Every side involved loses—the protesters, city officials, police and other safety professionals as well as the general public.
The First Amendment protects our rights to peaceably assemble and to protest. The police and city officials are charged with protecting the public interest.
These two ideals have collided with explosive results in many cities around the world. Police and protesters have reported injuries in New York, Los Angeles, Denver and even Rome, Italy but possibly nowhere has been as polarizing as recent events in Oakland where high profile skirmishes have become a black eye to both the protesters and to area police.
Both sides have spoken out against the violence.
The Oakland Police Officers' Association (OPOA) issued an open letter on their website one week after Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a skull fracture as a result of non-lethal crowd control. In the letter, OPOA cited "mixed messages" from city administrators and "confusing" directives.
In an expression of solidarity, OPOA stated, "We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families."
The following evening, a second war veteran, Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan suffered a ruptured spleen, which his family asserts happened after a beating by police.
Also that evening, after hours of peaceful assembly, a group of protesters began vandalizing area buildings, starting fires and spray painting the area with graffiti.
The events led to a statement from Laura Long of the Occupy Oakland media committee.
"Occupy Oakland does not advocate violence and has no interest in supporting actions that endanger the community and possibilities that it has worked to build," Long said.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."
Let's face it—violence makes police look like bullies and protesters look like thugs.
What is easy to forget is that on both sides, the actions of a few become the stereotype of the many.
Occupy supporters need to enact zero-tolerance policies where violence, vandalism and destruction of property are concerned. Otherwise, they risk losing both momentum and credibility.
Police and city officials, likewise, need to ensure whatever force they use, even for legitimate reasons is the least force necessary. Then maybe the two groups who claim to be on the same side in the push to fix a broken system can peacefully get along.
For the purpose of this article, I am making no distinction/judgment between police brutality and necessary force. Instead, the term "violence" is being applied to all parties in a manner as it is defined on dictionary.com to mean "rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment."
Jenny is a junior majoring in environmental engineering. She loves the Boston Red Sox, riding roller coasters, writing poetry and watching science fiction programs.