Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

OWS: Throwing rocks and losing relevance

Post by Brian O'Neill on Oct. 29, 2011 at 11:12 am with 40 Comments »
October 29, 2011 3:00 pm

On September 17, 2011, Americans first occupied Wall St. and nobody cared.

But in the days and weeks since then the protest has fanned out through the U.S., capturing headline news as well as the innately rebellious imagination of this country. Despite the knee jerk “outrage” against this movement by some right-leaning media (okay, I”m talking about Fox), Occupy Wall Street has distilled the sentiments of those leaning left, right and, most importantly, those of us in the middle.

The Occupy movement is a powerful representation of the collective frustration many people now harbor for the political process which places the interests of corporate contributors ahead of citizens. That shared sense has catapulted the movement to the front page.

Now it appears that the Occupy movement may have reached critical mass. Many news agency’s have been calling for representatives to point out a leader or to clarify its message. Their failure to do so, and the protesters unwillingness to abandon their city hall campsites in favor of a place at the table where decisions are made, may lead to further loss of popular opinion. Let’s face it, six weeks of unwashed human is not a good marketing plan.

So the question is, how did this:

John Minchillo, AP Photo (Sacramento Bee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Become this:

Injured protester in Oakland (Sacramento Bee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer is that the protesters threw rocks.

There is a great concern that the timely and righteous message that has drawn so many people to such a variety of protest locations will be lost in violent confrontation. The visceral cries against injustice should be targeting the politicians, corporations and policies that have placed in such dire economic straits. This was, after all, the reason people arrived en masse to protest.

Now the message is shifting and the police are the new target. Leaving aside the volatile question of police response to this issue for another day, let’s focus on the result of this shift in focus.

Many middle-class Americans, those making up much of the 99% that toil for low pay or hunger for a job, will melt away from the picket lines as the street protests turn violent. Taking their place will be groups of individuals, such as anarchists, whose sole purpose is to create mayhem.

Without oversimplifying the issue, the protesters on Wall St and their representatives in other cities have spent too long on the picket line and not enough time coalescing their message into meaningful political clout. The end result is that this phenomenon is morphing from a righteous protest against unfair government to a battle against the cops.

There is a positive endgame if the Occupy movement moves off the street and takes a seat at the table. The Tea Party movement–their political equals in spirit, if not in message–were able to synthesize their message, formulate a political strategy, and take an immediate and powerful role in our government.

But for the Occupy protesters, who similarly have a long “To Do” list for the future, the time needed to transition to a seat at the table of power is dwindling. Meanwhile, protesters are throwing rocks at cops.

So here’s the question: Will the Occupy Wall Street movement, this quintessentially American exercise in civil disobedience, dissolve into a mob?

For the sake of our country and for the heroic and timely message brought by the protesters, I hope that the answer is: No.

Leave a comment Comments → 40
  1. rivitman says:

    Here’s how that happened Brian:

    A rock(s) got thrown. The armored, helmeted, and shielded riot police took offense. Then, certainly ignoring their training, and probably their own polices and guidelines, fired bean bag rounds at protestors heads, and or used batons on those same heads. They used lethal force when the situation did not call for it.

    And there in no guarantee that it was not some common hood, or infiltrating anarchists that started the the party, but the police, dressed for the party, decided to dive in. Why waste a perfectly good flash bang?

    This is nothing new. For as long as their have been protests, their has been lack of restraint once the riot gear comes out of the locker.

    As for the protestors, yes, their message has yet to coalesce. But then again, I think very few understand the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, the derivatives market, the Federal Reserve, tarp, the world bank etc. But we all know something is terribly wrong right? Just because they have yet to condense it into a one paragraph mission statement to suit the critics doesn’t make them incorrect.

  2. smokey984 says:

    All the live streams you need to form an unbiased opinion regardless of your biased views.

    http://www.collapsenet.com/free-resources/collapsenet-public-access/item/4494-occupy-wall-street-coverage

  3. Earth_watch says:

    Ugh. I’ve tried three times to read through this column. Once again, Brian has given us an insulting, twisted, justification-for-police-violence growing to the point of the ridiculous.

    Brian, clearly you do not understand the Occupy demonstration. I suppose you really don’t want to. You just see a crowd of people and immediately start prepping your readers for the baton beatings to come. Occupy is an evolving movement, encompassing complaints so many and so deep it cannot be condensed into your desired soundbite… however, I can pretty certainly say that it is NOT and never was about making police the “target”… and you so clearly know nothing about true anarchists (and clearly don’t want to know beyond what you repeat from FOX News) but they’re sole purpose is NOT to create mayhem (and your stating that as if it’s a fact is flat out slander) no matter how much you appear to wish it. Police should be protecting our citizens in their right to protest, not donning their stormtrooper gear, giddy for a fight.

    You constantly tell your readers they can’t possibly know what’s going on in a cops head before he pulls a trigger, but you repeatedly declare what you believe is in other individual’s and the public’s mind. You say, “the protesters threw rocks”… no, one or two people did, not ALL protesters. I don’t understand how the TNT continues to print whatever you dream up, unchecked.

    Just because one or two people threw a rock (like police can’t protect themselves from that, with all the riot gear they dress up in?) instead of locating the person/few people who may have done it (and I’ve seen no proof of it to begin with, yet there has been proof of police infiltration and instigation) the police use that as an excuse to attack and severely injure innocent people. Look, if people are to the point of being so frustrated that they are willing camp in a park so their message gets some attention, the police should show a tiny bit of training and show they have the ability to handle such situations differently than some trained gorilla with no capability for reason. Actually, that was in insult to the gorilla, an animal I actually admire. Camping in a park wasn’t hurting anyone, and absolutely did not justify the police attack. It seems you’re far too happy, itching for that one “rock” so the beat down can begin, and then you can write it off with a shrug, “Well, what could we do? We were just standing there, threatening them with our riot gear and weapons, but they threw the first rock.”

    For the last several weeks you’ve had comment after comment from readers, stating that you’re missing the point, that the public is growing afraid of unjustified, unexplainable police action… yet you do nothing to acknowledge that or ease the public’s mind. To the contrary you continue publishing this kind of garbage, clearly suggesting you seem to expect that every demonstration will become “mobs” for police to approach as a “riot”.

    Your comments here appear to be pushing for and provoking the riot. You seem to be concocting a motive for violence and cunningly suggesting that anyone who doesn’t want to get hurt should leave the demonstrations. Dude, I know you think you’re laying the ground work for justification of over-force, but it’s so obvious you’re gleefully giving over more and more evidence to be used against the police when the lawsuits come.

    TNT, please pull this blog and please don’t let Brian be published again. It’s getting to the point of despicable beyond what many readers can or should tolerate.

  4. Earth_watch says:

    And, by the way, it’s spelled “mayhem” not “mayham”. Clearly no one at the TNT reviews what you submit, but obviously it’s time for them to start. Good cops should be ashamed of you.

  5. Brian O'Neill says:

    Earthwatch- If there were an award for “intentional misinterpretation of the written word” you would be my first choice. Where do I start.

    Why don’t I start with my own words “Leaving aside the volatile question of police response to this issue for another day…” I truly meant that statement. This column had nothing–I repeat, nothing–to do with the police response to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, whether in NYC or Oakland. If you choose to read into this your own clearly one-sided opinion on the issue, well…you’re going in alone.

    My point was, and remains, that this movement is losing traction because of its descent into criminal behavior. I have strongly agreed with many of the statements of citizens in New York, Oakland, Seattle and elsewhere. I also respect the individual freedoms that allow us to gather, the courage that it takes to stand one’s ground, whether it is in the face of media ridicule or police handcuffs. I swore to uphold the Constitution as an officer in the military, and I stand by that now as a police officer.

    I would truly like to see the Occupy movement get a place at the decision-making table, because its views appear to represent our common good far better than our current government policy. But if the protesters choose to remain
    on a long-term campout, forgoing the opportunity to step forward and onto the podium with some solutions, then I believe they risk losing this brief moment of opportunity.

    As for your invitation to see the beauty in anarchy, I think I saw all I needed to in Vancouver, B.C. last year. Thanks, but no thanks. Lastly, thank you for the spell-check on my column. which I fixed. I’ll take the high ground and not point out the errors in your rant.

  6. gogoDawgs says:

    There is no such thing as the “99%”, the 99% do not have a cohesive message. Fundamentally, there can be no 99%. Brian, sometimes I believe you write about things you lack understanding of…

  7. Earth_watch says:

    Brian, you are a skilled mouthpiece, but even you can’t deny that your own column brings up that:

    * “protesters threw rocks”
    * “protest locations will be lost in violent confrontation”
    * “police are the new target”
    * “as the street protests turn violent”
    * “a battle against the cops”
    * “protesters are throwing rocks at cops”
    * “civil disobedience, dissolve into a mob”

    Contrary to your view, the Occupy movement is NOT shifting into anti-copy violence, although you certainly seem to want us to think so. I wonder why…

    … and then you coyly say you intend to leave aside the topic of police response for another day?!? How about, instead, we all work together to make sure there’s nothing to talk about regarding the next bad police response… let’s all work to make sure what happened in Oakland doesn’t happen again.

    Your posts are not doing our police any favors. Please stop.

    PS ~ It’s nice you have the ability to change your post, after-the-fact… the rest of us cannot but since I use spell-check I don’t know what “errors” of mine you’re referring to.

  8. smcelhiney says:

    Hi Brian, Something to consider… you are in Tacoma, the TPD have not been confrontational with the Occupy Tacoma Movement. No violence between the police and protestors after 2 weeks and several marches… although I just got a call that about 20 TPD members are congregating right now a block away from the park at this moment. I’ll be down there in a few documenting who is doing what…

    Consider this in closing, there is plenty of video of people being attacked by various police, and plenty of accusations of violent protestors… but where are the videos of them? Where are the videos of people throwing rocks? Where are the videos of people attacking the police? You know that anyone taking video of anything posts it nowadays… making accusations doesn’t make it true due to the source being those in authority. I’ve noticed that almost all protesters end up having charges dropped because there is no way they would stick. All it will take is a valid claim against the city of civil rights violations and there won’t be any funding for the TPD. I recommend the TPD maintain the peace and leave the peaceful alone. I support the polce doing their jobs, not enforcing bogus regulations because someone in power is getting annoyed. There is ZERO reason to show up in riot gear with tear gas and rubber bullets to a peaceful encampment. You could walk up one by one and arrest people if that was the intent. I’ve thought of availing myself of my right to carry, and do have a concealed carry permit, but don’t see it as needed in a camp of peaceful people discussing the future of this country.

    We are needed… see you at the park.

  9. I’ve been in Occupation Park many times and have found them to be very peaceful. If the TPD go in to remove them, the TPD will find it difficult to reconsile the act in my eye’s. The land is not Tacoma’s, the protesters are peaceful and clean and no problem to the public.

  10. LuckyCharm says:

    Brian. Here is exactly why OWS should NOT give in to demands to “come up with a central message” or, worse yet, solutions as you suggest: http://www.thenation.com/print/article/164207/why-occupy-wall-street-has-left-washington-behind

    Like the article says, “Everyone knows what OWS is for. And its essential demand is powerful precisely because of its startling simplicity: ‘You know what you did. You have our stuff. Give it back.'” Everything beyond that is window dressing.

  11. rivitman says:

    Your attempt to re-cast the protesters as violent is a huge fail Brian.

    It’s another slug from the right that wants to portray them by one of several negative connotations:

    Lazy, stupid, spoiled, filthy, and now violent.

    None of these are true on the whole, no matter how much the opposition would like it to be so, nor can disruptive elements be kept out of the mix, including outside agitators acting with the goal of discrediting OWS.

    The real danger occurs when protestors simply refuse to bend a knee to heavily armed riot police, and the police start busting heads for their perceived intransigence. The presentation of potential of such brute force puts police not only on the wrong side of the issue, but the wrong side of history. It’s not ‘Keeping order’ nor is it justice. It’s a heavy handed show of local government politics.

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

  12. smokey984 says:

    smcelhiney sais:

    I support the polce doing their jobs, not enforcing bogus regulations because someone in power is getting annoyed. There is ZERO reason to show up in riot gear with tear gas and rubber bullets to a peaceful encampment.

    Amen brother!

    Good points rivitman!

    earth_watch ur a genius!

  13. smcelhiney says:

    An interesting evening… Police were not gathering related to the Occupation, apparently just a normal rallying point for Saturday evening patrols.

    We did have a strange evening where the excellent services of the TFD came into play when someone fainted and hit their head on the concrete. I helped provide first aid with several others until their arrival. Thanks to the Tacoma Fire Department for the care you provided.

    Later someone wanders in off the street, acts odd but harmless for a bit then goes into the middle of the camp and starts peeing on a tree, when asked to leave he blows up and pulls a knife on us. TPD was called, we tried calming him down while insisting he leave… but he eventually decided the better idea would be to attack me and another guy at which point we subdued him until the police arrived and without any pepper spray, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades (although some guns were drawn until they had control of him) took him into custody. I think the fact that the police have quickly come to realize that the Occupation people are not one of their “problems” was evident in their handling of this incident. I’m lucky in that my experiences with local police have been positive for me over the years. Partly because of stereotypes I probably have in my favor, partly because I’ve worked with many of them on community issues so I’m not freaked out by their presence like those who’ve had a bad experience with a bad cop.

    So, a big Thank You to our police and fire departments for doing what makes your jobs so important. Protecting the citizens… No riot gear was needed, let’s keep it that way.

    Now if we the people can only figure out some solutions that include getting help for people like the guy who attacked us rather than just housing him in the system for a bit and then kicking him loose without any of his problems being worked out… mental issues, addictions, shelter, no clothes but the ones on his back. What is sorely lacking is a way to help this guy with his issues so that he can have a better future than being crazy guy with a knife. Unfortunately his type are being kicked out of Western State by the hundreds and losing all the other safety nets due to budget cuts… easy if you can live with the results. Like it or not, he IS part of the 99%.

  14. S_Emerson says:

    Brian –

    I know of a number of elected and appointed officials who are openly involved in the Occupy movement. They may not be roughing life in a tent in the freezing cold, but they are openly participating in other ways, including marching alongside their constituents through the streets of Tacoma. Everyday more people join the Occupy movement, many of which are people you wouldn’t ordinarily have in your scopes. We are not your enemy. Please stop writing about us as if we are.

    Respectfully,

    Stacy Emerson
    48 year old mother
    Small-business owner
    PCSD Community Academy graduate
    Block Watch Captain
    PC Executive-appointed board commissioner
    Proud OccupyTacoma/OWS participant

  15. Earth_watch says:

    Thank you, Tacoma Police Department, for being professionals, showing restraint, and not only accepting, and assisting but even leaving the Occupy Tacoma demonstrators alone (unless they call for help) to practice free-speech.

    I have had concerns with our police department in the last years and even recently (especially due to the sentiment expressed by this column’s writer) but I am glad to say I have am very proud of our Tacoma Police for the manner they’ve displayed toward Occupy Tacoma. Oakland, Denver and other cities haven’t been as fortunate.

    So, thank you TPD, and keep up the good work.
    You are one of us and part of the 99%.

  16. Brian, it is obvious that you are developing conclusions based on insufficient evidence. Bystander and independent reports say that the police charged in with riot weapons blazing, including tear gas (some say rubber bullets and flash bangs, although police say they did not use them). The timing of the rock throwing is under dispute, but, of course, you side with the police with no hard evidence one way or another.

    There have been confessions by right-wing agitators that have admitted to creating disturbances in other locations and on other days so that it looks like protestors are using violence. Perhaps that was the case here. Perhaps not. Let’s wait and see. Either way, the response by police was totally outside the realm of necessity.

    I know individual police were working under orders by their chief to use all means to move the protestors out of the square, and I believe individual officers are innocent until proved guilty. I do blame the chief and the mayor for not showing restraint in this situation.

    I am willing to let investigations uncover real facts before I find the protestors or individual police guilty. Apparently you would react just like the out-of-control police in Oakland and make assumptions first and punish all for the possible misdeeds of a few.

  17. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thank you very much to all who drafted their viewpoint so eloquently in this comment section. I believe you all captured the sentiment of the Occupy movement fairly well, though your comments suggest you continue to misinterpret mine.

    One of the signs I observed while researching this column read, “Police in Support of Occupy Wall St Movement”. That succinctly represents my take on the OWS ideology. The point of my column (and I’m getting weary of pointing this out) was to critique the movement’s progress as the street protests descend into clashes with police. These events are to the detriment of the movement.

    And may I lastly point out that all police activity, including the aforementioned peaceful arrest smcelhiney described, are based on strategies put in place by officials who do not wear a badge. The decision to arrest protesters (or not arrest them), whether in Atlanta , Seattle or Oakland, were made by mayors and other city officials. The cops are simply the ones who have to get the job done.

    How they perform that task is a topic for another day.

  18. Brian, if you would take back or provide evidence for your very general statement that the Occupy movement is a “descent into criminal behavior”, you might have more credibility with your other assertions.

    You already lose credibility when you talk about “further loss of popular opinion” in the face of increasing popular support for the movement. A new survey out from Time Magazine found that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the protests, while just 23 percent have a negative impression. An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, meanwhile, found that 37 percent of respondents “tend to support” the movement, while only 18 percent “tend to oppose” it.

    If you have evidence that there is criminal behavior by protestors in the movement, at least the USA portions (unlike European, which have been much more violent) enough to make such a generalized statement, then please reference such activity.

    The cops in Oakland have just changed their tune, since no rocks were found by clean-up crews in the park. They have now charged that protestors began the riot by throwing skillets. You may want to go back and re-edit your conclusion of how innocent people got hurt to:

    “The answer is that the protesters threw skillets”.

  19. Earth_watch says:

    Thanks, Brian. You have to admit, it’s natural that people would respond as they did when your column poses the question: “How did this (insert photo of peaceful demonstration), become this (insert photo of injured protester)?” And your immediate following sentence, is: “The answer is that the protesters threw rocks.”

    No, no, no.

    The answer is more what you JUST posted: cops were told to intervene. THAT is what led to confrontation. THAT is what is a “detriment to the movement”.

    So, first off, if that’s what you were trying to say, then why didn’t you say it in your original article (instead of accusing a lack of cohesiveness among demonstrators as the reason for “clashes”)? Second, the point of the movement IS to occupy and be visible. If you still see that as a “detriment” to the movement then you’re still not understanding it. And that’s okay, you don’t ever have to understand it, but that’s why your column is getting the reaction it is.

    Like it or not, you brought up the subject of police response, and it’s unfair, illogical and wrong to then solely turn the focus onto protesters and declare we are missing your point when we want to include discussion of the police’s part of it, too. That just ain’t gonna fly.

    So, let’s please have that discussion. If you are now saying that the fault of the “clash” is because of non-badge-wearing officials who give the orders, then we should focus on and begin changing that… but despite the orders given, police have many methods available to them to carry out orders without having to resort to violence against peacefully demonstrating citizens. So, please, let’s have that discussion so unnecessary force never occurs in our town.

    Thanks for listening and thanks for the discussion to come, regarding police not needing to respond with over-force, regardless the situation, but with only enough force (and preferably none if possible) to get the job done. I believe our police are capable of that.

  20. Earth_watch says:

    Tuddo, in follow-up to your post, I agree, the entire title of this column needs to be changed.

    I know Brian really wanted to focus on the protester’s lack of focus as the reason things appear to be disintegrating in his eyes, however everything about the title of this piece is wrong: Throwing rocks (wrong) and losing relevance (wrong). Sounds like rocks were not thrown and the movement is NOT losing relevance, just because he doesn’t understand its evolution.

    Just curious, is there video of the “skillet” throwing? Somehow I doubt it, but even if so, is that reason for police to injure other non-violent people in the area? Shouldn’t they simply locate the skillet-throwers and gather eye-witness statements from others? Using a skillet toss as reason to leap into action supports why so many people are scared of the police who, in Oakland, seem to have come looking for any excuse for a fight.

    Brian, regardless if you think the Occupy Tacoma protest doesn’t have a clear message, I can guarantee the message is NOT anti-police even despite what’s happened to demonstrators in other cities.

    So Brian, how can we make sure what happened in Oakland doesn’t happen here?

  21. rivitman says:

    Did Oakland Police Intentionally Shoot Marine Vet Scott Olsen In the Head?

    A marine says that Oakland used crowd control methods that are prohibited in war zones

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/10/marine-veteran-whose-skull-was-fractured-in-oakland-protests-was-peacefully-standing-when-attacked-by-police.html

  22. rivitman says:

    At the risk of overstating my point, and having a retired police officer brother, Lionel here sums up my feelings on the issue:

    Remember When Police Were Nice?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugUNHmy1_G8&feature=player_embedded

  23. smokey984 says:

    How about the police carry out these orders from the corrupt politicians…how do we determine if these orders are unlawful to carry out? Its the blind faith in these officials from the police that bothers me…

  24. smokey984 says:

    What dont the politicians/law enforcement understand about this?:

    The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

    Wouldn’t the police if ordered, by politicians, be carrying out an unlawful order?

  25. smokey984 says:

    Who should the police arrest? the citizen or politician?

  26. Earth_watch says:

    Sorry, Brian, I know we’re again steering the conversation to “police response” but it’s because the points you wish to discuss here (throwing rocks and losing relevance) are neither factual nor relevant.

    Here’s what is:

    1) Mike Ruppert (former LA policeman) delivers a message to all Police Officers in regard to OWS, and explaining his pride in not using unnecessary-force, even though he could have lawfully (and many would say justly) taken a human life:

    “Why didn’t I shoot? Because I didn’t have to! This is one of the most basic codes of honor any true warrior observes – – you don’t use force unless you have to and then use ONLY what is necessary to control the situation… and then… you stop! That is the honor of a true warrior.” (Brian, please ask all TPD to watch this.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sUKeZLeGTDk

    2) Oakland Police Chief quoted regarding infiltrating (with photos of the infiltrators) and stating they should “maybe direct them to do something we want them to do”… (it’s yet to be seen just who threw something that started that police riot… and, yes, it was the police who were the rioters not the protesters).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VrvMzqopHH0

    3) Endless economic growth is a lie which we should no longer let politicians tell us we must aspire to. We need to get money out of political campaigns and focus on realistic, sustainable livings, instead of 1% of the population taking our money for illegal wars and poor industrial “solutions” which are ruining our environment and our future.

    That’s what this is about and that’s what we should be talking about.

    (Thank you Occupy Tacoma for sharing these links, and thank you Tacoma PD.)

  27. S_Emerson says:

    Brian –

    Mike Ruppert posted a message for you. Please watch it to the end, then let us know what you think about it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sUKeZLeGTDk#!

    Thank you for the dialog.

    Stacy Emerson

  28. Brian O'Neill says:

    “How do we make sure that what happened in Oakland does not happen here?” Excellent question.

    The best and sometimes only tool to defuse potential violent encounters is communication. Whether you’re talking about fleeing criminals, suspects in domestic disputes or an unruly mob (and no, I’m not referring to the OWS protesters), subjects in these circumstances are likely to default to violent confrontation in the absence of an open communication with police. Though most agencies have trained negotiators, most of us in law enforcement (and many people in various walks of life) possess some degree of skill and/or experience with this.

    If I were a chief of police of a municipality and the mayor approached me with a directive to “Clear out the square!” I would first attempt to meet with protesters. My intent would be to work out a process that would allow me to achieve my goal while also respecting the desires and needs of protesters. This would include meeting with leaders in a controlled, stable and safe location.

    Putting a human face on both sides of a confrontation is a great way to nullify potential misunderstandings, tension or anger. Being respectful and polite works well, too.

    And it’s always a two-way street.

  29. Earth_watch says:

    Fair enough.

    Thanks, Brian.

  30. smcelhiney says:

    Curious Brian, as a police officer, do you feel you have an obligation to follow local politician’s orders? Is that actually in your manual somewhere? I can understand being told to monitor/investigate a situation, but how does a politician actually hold power over the police department besides demanding it… or threatening your funding? I don’t believe a Mayor can legally demand the police arrest or clear out a crowd… it is not in their legal powers. Remember that unlawful orders are unlawful and no need to follow them, one city’s police have refused the order to arrest and disperse Occupation members. Please investigate your perceived requirement to follow orders of someone that isn’t actually in charge of you… the politicians can huff and puff, but I really don’t believe you are required to follow their orders.

  31. Brian O'Neill says:

    That’s a fair question, smcelhiney. The answer is that a city official, typically the mayor, will determine that an enforcement action needs to take place. He will summon the police chief and direct him/her to take action. The police chief, who is both advisor and subordinate of the mayor or city manager, will determine how best to implement the required action. When the two are in agreement, the chief will make it happen. But if the chief decides that the enforcement action is a poor decision, legally unenforceable or tactically unsound, the chief can refuse to take action. Obviously that can be a career decision.

    So, yes, the Mayor’s office can take direct action through the chief’s office, and that is exactly how things occurred in Atlanta, Seattle and Oakland.

  32. smokey984 says:

    Brian sais: The answer is that a city official, typically the mayor, will determine that an enforcement action needs to take place

    So if i have the right to peacefully assemble guaranteed to me by this country’s constitution and the mayor orders the police to clear out the area…..

    Isn’t that an unlawful order coming from the mayor?

    again that’s the point Ive been trying to make here and in your other blog posts…Its that blind faith toward elected officials that bothers me/us.

  33. rivitman says:

    No, it’s not really a lawful order, given the circumstances and the constitutional issues involved. No matter what flimsy predicate a politician may use. It’s no more lawful than the orders given by Chicago mayor Richard Daley in Chicago in 1968.

    Because you see, if you distill ows’s grievances, analyze them carefully, you will understand the this a PRO CAPITALISM movement, that just happens to be to be an anti corrupt politician, anti corrupt corporation, and pro enforcement of the existing securities trading laws. Are they against the Federal Reserve? Oh, yes. This places them in the direct company of Alexander Hamilton.

    So mayors and other local and national politicians, being fundamentally corrupt, have a vested interest in directing police chiefs to do their wet work for them. They are desperate to keep up appearances, hide their failings, take corporate money, and belly up for another course at the table of plenty, set for them by the taxpayer.

    We’ll know for certain we haven’t made any social or political steps forward when the national guard gets called out.

  34. I am no lawyer, but I have read some Supreme Court rulings on the First Amendment. There must be a reasonablness that protects competing public interests in application of the rights to free speech, the right to assemble, and in the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, etc.

    Courts, including the Supreme Court have ruled that parks and other public spaces can be closed at certain times to protect neighborhoods, reduce crime, reduce noise, allow cleaning, etc. No camping overnight rules have been specifically allowed as reasonable for these reasons. Highways, streets and bridges may be restricted to only allow car traffic, even though they are public spaces.

    I don’t think protesters will get very far arguing that they have an absolute right to camp out overnight. That argument has been played out in the courts and that reasoning has lost every time. Mayors, police and public officials have a duty to protect the health and safety of all citizens.

    That is why the discussion must center on how to allow peaceful protests that do not interfere with the rights of others. I think, Brian, you hit it squarely when you talked about communication.

    However, I think it is unreasonable to demand that there be a “leader” empowered by every protester to speak for him or her. This is not a church club or a Kiwanis club that has an elected president we are talking about. This is a a group only in the sense that they are in the same place at the same time. Many have competing disagreements with society. I do think it wise for each site to have an “organizing committee” that can negotiate and bring back information to the entire group.

    Cities and police must make an extrordinary effort to develop communication and not be impatient by demanding instant results.

    Our nation has not chosen anarchy as the path for a better society, and no side should be allowed to engage in it.

  35. Chippert says:

    Brian,
    I was a bit disappointed that you attempted to steer your article (which was very well written and articulated, by the way) away from police response to the general political question that the OWS is attempting to bring to the public eye. You see, I read your column specifically to get the “view from a cop” perspective on things, not a political analysis of whether a general societal issue is right or wrong. I WANTED to hear your views on the Oakland incident. I wanted to hear your ideas as to how the police and the public can work together in all this. Leave the discussion on whether or not it is time for the OWS to find a leader to the people who write political commentary for a living. Go back to what it is you do so well here – putting a real face on law enforcement perspectives and engaging us (the unwashed masses) in give and take discussions about those perspectives.

  36. Earth_watch says:

    I seem to be blocked from posting weblinks to relevant articles…

  37. smokey984 says:

    Imagine that!

  38. Brian O'Neill says:

    I believe the News Tribune has a limit on weblinks (I think it may be one) in the comments section.

  39. Brian O'Neill says:

    Chippert- Thanks for your comments. My intent was to write two columns on this topic, the second of which would relate to the police response. I felt I needed to follow up on the first one, however, based on some of the feedback. To be honest, I’m stalling on submitting the “police response” column because a) it will be heavily scrutinized and I want to get it right; b) my day (sometimes night) job is getting very busy; and c) I have research I need to do because I have never served in a CDU (Civil Disturbance Unit).

    I’ll get around to it as soon as I can. Thanks again for your input.

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