Sunday, November 20, 2011


 "I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere." -- Barack Obama, Jan. 28, 2011.

Q: On another domestic matter, does the president have any reaction to the way the Occupy Wall Street protesters were removed, how that was handled? 
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: He’s aware of it, obviously, from the reports. And our position and the president’s position is that obviously every municipality has to make its own decisions about how to handle these issues, and we would hope and want, as these decisions are made, that it balances between a long tradition of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in this country and obviously of demonstrating and protesting, and also the very important need to maintain law and order and health and safety standards, which was obviously a concern in this case. -- Pool report from Aboard Air Force One, President's Australia trip, Nov. 16, 2011.
From Bloomberg's mouth to Carney's lips... or from Homeland Security/Justice Dept. to America's mayors  to Carney's lips to conventional wisdom as practiced by the stenographers of the corporate media.
Whatever happened to the American practice of sanctimoniously "condemning" or "deploring" violent government crackdowns on peaceful citizens? I Googled "Hillary Clinton deplores" and got a quarter-million hits. A sampling of the headlines:
Clinton Deplores Syrian Crackdown, Urges Govt Reforms.... Sec. Clinton Says U.S. Deplores Violence in Equador.... Clinton Deplores Iran's Actions....  Clinton Deplores Bahrain Violence, Wants Reform.
And when it comes to the United States going whole hog and actually condemning another country's undemocratic actions, I hit the jackpot: more than 9 million Google hits.  We've condemned the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador, Sudan's attacks on refugee camps and the violent crackdowns in Bahrain, to name just a few. We have even condemned UNESCO's pro-Palestine vote.
But so far, not one federal official has deplored, condemned, expressed chagrin, outrage, regret or shock over the epidemic outbreak of police brutality against Occupy protesters this week. If nothing else, the apparently orchestrated attacks have shown how much cop couture has changed in recent years. Blue shirts and badges have been replaced by the Darth Vader collection. The police have morphed from protectors and public servants to a paramilitary force replete with high tech weaponry left over from the forever wars.

 The coldly sadistic pepper-spraying by a campus cop against students in California on Friday is only the latest example. These were the school police, for crying out loud, whose job description used to be making sure the dorms were locked up at night and students didn't jaywalk or park illegally. Regarding this latest incident, the most common phrases popping up via Google are "UC-Davis Calls for Investigation" and "Chancellor Refuses to Resign". The verb of choice is "probe", and the noun du jour is "task force." The best description of the attack the school's chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, could come up with was a cold one -- "chilling." No disgust, no outrage --or, heaven forbid, condemnation. The chancellor is giving herself 90 days to come up with a whitewash, and the cop and his complicit pals still have their jobs.
James Fallows of The Atlantic has a good rundown and more photos here.

Photo by Wayne Tilcock, The Davis Enterprise

It has now gotten so bad that a former poet laureate of the United States has been beaten up by police for merely showing up at a Berkeley Occupy rally. Read his account in The New York Times. These uniformed thugs have obviously received more training than your run-of-the-mill police academy could ever have provided.


Anne Lavoie said...

I noticed that the cop with the pepper spray looked around at the cameras, nodded, then proudly blasted away. He knew he was being videotaped and played to the cameras.

In their Neanderthal way of thinking, they thought it would be helpful to them to try to make an example of those kids in order to have a chilling effect on the exercise our rights.

Hard to believe they would be so stupid as to not realize the effect of having those images go viral, showing their deliberate, unwarranted cruelty. Chilling? Maybe for a few, but more are motivated by it.

Brain vs. Brawn. It will be a rough go, but we will definitely win. It's a no-brainer!

Anne Lavoie said...

After reading the linked article about the poet being beaten, it reminded me that police are already well known for engaging in domestic violence. Beatings are also a fairly common practice among the military from whom the police get their recruits.

It's so common in the military that every branch has its own domestic violence program. The Air Force's was called the Family Advocacy Program when I worked for them as a civilian nurse.

We not only have institutionalized violence to contend with, but a pattern of personal violence from our so-called protectors.

So who will protect us from the police? Obama won't risk alienating his troops, in whatever uniform they wear, pinstripe suit or otherwise.

Looks like we are on our own. Let's keep the channels of communication open with the UN!

Valerie said...

I am starting to think that the protesters should look up at these people and yell out their names and their badge numbers while other protesters man the computers and yell out their addresses and phone numbers.

I think it was quite effective with Anthony Bologna. Brutal cowards are willing to do terrible things if they think they can get away with it under the cloak of anonymity - but expose them and where they live and that is a different story.

As far as I am concerned, that creep's face should be all over the internet with his personal details. Let him get a taste of what it feels like to be exposed and vulnerable - like the people he maced.

Valerie said...

What kind of guns are these police carrying? I think it is telling that so far, no protesters - other than struggling or yelling as they are being arrested - have been violent enough to warrant bullets; yet the police carry guns as if the other side had guns too.

Thanks, Karen, for the links. I like the really long video which shows just how peaceful the protesters were contrasted with how brutal the police were. These are just campus police? As the video continued, the "security" looked frightened as they backed away altogether in a huddled mass.

The only thing that the protesters could have done better is they all should have sat down - once the "security" started to cower - and taken the place of those students who had been sprayed; giving the message that the protesters can't be beaten - that there will always be more to take their place.

And you are so right, Anne. The power of these images going viral is actually good for the movement. It shows that this is above all a peaceful protest.

I found some video on the Sydney Morning Herald of an interview with an American academic who said most Americans agree with the Occupy Message (so apparently only George R hasn't cottoned on) but they don't like their techniques. He is full of crap of course, there is nothing wrong with the protesters' technique. I am sure every remotely "violent" video has been spliced and diced and shown endlessly on conservative TV to give the impression that the protesters are ne'er do wells. However, I think THAT argument will be less and less valid the longer the protesters remain peaceful and the more of these kinds of videos hit the blogosphere.

Neil said...

What kind of guns are these police carrying?

Some of those look like paint-ball guns, but they actually hold pepperballs filled with OC (Oleoresin Capsicum pepper spray) and are designed for prison riots. Thanks to Political Gates for the information.

Anne Lavoie said...

Isn't it interesting that Obama made a public statement that police "acted stupidly" when his Harvard buddy Skip Gates was arrested by police, but he can't manage a single word about the outrageous police cruelty towards Occupiers.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Jay Carney. "Carney", in its similarity to "carny", is indeed an appropriate name for a White House Press Secretary in these times.

Step right up, sir or madam. Come see the thousand international threats that'll leave you trembling, and glad to cede your civil liberties to government... . Or play this game... Of course you can win, you're almost there. (Keep believing, sucker)...

It's all carnival barkerdom, and about as believable as the hustling that occurs there.


With regard to the pepper spray incident and others, good posts by Karen here, by James Fallows at The Atlantic, and by Robert Hass at the NYT. And good comments here. I like Valerie's suggestion to read the cops' names out loud.

Elsewhere, I've read some (probably unintentionally-) revealing words by a Charles J. Kelly, former police lieutenant:

Note particularly, (from the online transcript):

[Kelly] "said pepper spray is a 'compliance tool' that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

'When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,' Kelly said. 'Bodies don't have handles on them.'

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of 'active resistance' from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

'What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure,' Kelly said."

The arrogance of these cops is unbelievable. And that is a measure of how dangerous to civil liberties are the contemporary attitudes of police. As I've seen mentioned somewhere (I don't remember where, or if it even was with regard to this incident), someone in the less affluent part of town would probably simply shrug their shoulders and say "welcome to my world, Mr. or Ms. well-off white person". Abuse of power has long occurred in poverty-afflicted or minority areas. And there would be considerable justification for disdain by their residents of the new-found consciousness among the better-off.

But my point is that the willingness of "law enforcement" to behave as they have behaved even against upper-middle-class protestors, and even, as Anne Lavoie points out, in full view of dozens of cameras, really is a strong indicator of the degree to which some very dangerous attitudes have become established in these enforcers. The foundation for totalitarianism is already present. And as Karen points out, our police already have the correct outfits for that.

Marina said...

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong--but I don't recall seeing any photo or any mention of the pepper spraying in the Times News section.

Valerie said...

OK the Times finally coughed up a story on its lede blog by Brian Stelter

The two campus policemen who arrogantly sprayed the students (I refuse to give them the respect the title officer implies.) have been put on administrative leave and lots of people calling for the Chancellor Linda Katehi's resignation. And the best part is the Katehi had to walk out of a media meeting to her car Saturday night. The students lined the road, looked at her and said absolutely nothing - dead silence. Katehi is clearly VERY uncomfortable (and hopefully worried and embarrassed).

Yet another brilliant call on the part of the protesters. Yelling and violence couldn't have possibly accomplished what their peaceful response engendered.

Valerie said...

I asked @Zee, a Conservative and regular commenter on RealityChex if I could copy his comment (from RC - OTS) about the Davis pepper spray incident here on Sardonicky. I do so because Zee is the kind of person we want to win over to our side. He is a thinking, reasonable, compassionate person who also leans to the conservative side in his politics. This is what he had to say.

Re: The UC Davis pepper spraying of peaceful protestors

At the risk of revealing yet more about myself than I should, let me say that I received both of my degrees from UC Davis—though I also commuted to Cal for certain courses that were not available at Davis at that time. I have fond memories of what was then an isolated, almost bucolic campus (and town) that gave me great friends, a great education, and a rewarding career.

Remembering the entirely peaceful protests against the Viet Nam war that were so abundant in those days, I am utterly horrified by what the police have done in response to the peaceful Occupy Wall Street protestors at Davis.

As most of you might suspect, I am pretty much a “support your local police” kind of guy. It’s an incredibly difficult job, wherein responsible police officers walk an incredibly thin tightrope on a daily basis, often under serious stress.

Occasionally even a responsible officer can cross the line when provoked, and I try to judge such instances by balancing the magnitude of the officer’s response against the degree of provocation. I suspect that I might be rather more forgiving in some such instances than most of the participants in this forum.

But the casual “hosing down” of peaceful, passive protestors with massive doses of pepper spray is a GIANT step across the line, and is, indeed, willful torture. I know, having accidentally given myself a SMALL dose of civilian-grade pepper spray once upon a time--but that’s a story for another day.

It was miserable, and it took me hours to recover. I can’t begin to imagine how much those sprayed students suffered. The police who did this—and whoever issued them their orders—should be held accountable to the point of firing.

And so should those who provided these police with such “dumb-ass training,” as Peter Moskos so aptly described it.

(Valerie again) I point out - I am sure ad nauseum to some - that someone like Zee wouldn't have been as (at all?) supportive and sympathetic to the protesters had they been violent.

OK - I will shut up now! Lecture about the merits of peaceful protesting is over!

Valerie said...

OK - I promised to report on how the Davis pepper spray incident is going down in Australia. It was on the most popular evening news show tonight (a strange combination of news and Entertainment Tonight) and has hit all the major newspapers. This from a popular Australian blog.

"It’s the casualness of it, the apparent insouciance of the act, that catches attention the most. University of California policeman John Pike strolls in front of a group of seated Occupy protestors and bombards them with pepper spray like he’s using insecticide. The casualness, and the contrast — between the heavily-equipped, helmeted officer and his passive targets.

In a few seconds, Pike earned himself the sort of international notoriety reserved for southern sheriffs from the 1960s . . ." Bernard Keane writing on Crikey.

And this comment from a reader named Stevo the Working Twistie, "The only way these images could be more demonstrative of authority’s attitude towards the ordinary person is if he’d undone his fly and urinated on the protesters. If a picture paints a thousand words, then some of those words in this case might be “you are nothing but cockroaches”, “this is what we in authority think of you scum” and “this is how we treat anyone who dares express a contrary opinion in the land of the free”. Nice one Officer Pike. Every cop who ever gets spat on and called a pig from now on can thank you."

I'll bet this is REAL embarrassing for Obama.

Anne Lavoie said...

For those who might have missed it:

'On Saturday, MSNBC reported that a Washington lobbying firm with ties to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to promote "negative narratives" about Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests.

MSNBC said it had obtained a memo in which the lobbying firm pitches the negative campaign to the American Bankers Association, saying it could help the industry avoid fallout if the protests result in a Congress that is less friendly to Wall Street.'

Fred Drumlevitch said...


Re your Nov 20 comment (at Sardonicky, but after Karen's "Twilight in America" post), describing retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis' arrest at Occupy, and the interview by Chris Hayes .

Yes, I had seen that video. Ray Lewis' actions and statements are certainly commendable. So is — to a lesser extent because it's words, not rising to the level of actual civil disobedience — Norm Stamper's (former Seattle police chief) writing "Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street":


1) These actions opposing policing methods are occurring AFTER both men have left the force.

2) They remain isolated actions, I don't see any rush on the part of other law enforcement, active OR retired, to emulate them.

Ultimately, whether among cops witnessing abuse of police power, or among soldiers in a war zone, or among the coaching staff of a legendary state college, what's needed is for decent people close to the events to 1) unambiguously — and at the time — put a stop to unacceptable acts, no matter how powerful the perpetrator may be, and 2) insure that the perpetrator will not be able to repeat his or her acts, and will, additionally, be held accountable for acts already committed. I make no claim that actions in support of basic human rights or basic human decency are easy — but they are what we should aspire to. In fact, this country would be a better place if people were unambiguously taught the need and means for such intervention throughout their schooling.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Have you ever heard about certain agencies of advanced countries that spend a lot of staff time and resources systematically enticing, facilitating and entrapping dullards into violence? If not, skip the rest of this comment, because you inhabit a different planet.

If yes, do you ever wonder how many people panting for violence on sites like this are simply romantics with short memories or a bad case of Baader-Meinhoff fever, and how many are state-sponsored provocateurs just doing their job by luring us away from a successful strategy?

OWS stalwarts locking arms in the parks, strolling in silence over bridges and projecting their message against the great walls of corporate America have been more successful at raising national awareness than any army of sharpshooters and bomb throwers.

In a matter of weeks millions of people all over the world have been won over to criticism of the 1%. So far, Occupy stands firmly on message. OWS support multiplies each time its right to peaceful protest is assaulted by night raids, tear gas and pepper spray. If OWS is enjoying unbelievable success in behalf of the 99% through nonviolence, why on earth shift gears into violence?

Just attack the 1%, we are advised by the romantics and/or the provocateurs. Well, remember that one per center Aldo Moro who was kidnapped by the Red Brigades? That operation won over a lot of adherents to the cause, didn’t it. At the G20 meeting last year in Toronto, O what a glorious job the window smashers and car burners did to obscure the message of thousands of peaceful protesters about income disparity. And didn't soccer fan hooligans do a great job for minorities recently in London.

Yes, we could jump to the last chapter – but of a different story – by plunging into violence now. Violence is so much more quick, exhilarating, satisfying and cathartic than inventing fresh forms of nonviolence. For a day. Something in us begs to pop white-collar and blue-collar bullies in the chops. And in a gotterdammerung finale fit for nihilists it's so glam to lose everything at stake by going down big time, like Bonnie and Clyde, in a hail of bullets. In such violence OWS would lose its soul, its moral authority and the following it has built through patience and forbearance.

Try to understand this: There are more cops and mayors and administrators and their underlings than we realize who are now doubled over in shame and gnawed by a troubled conscience. They are human, no matter who says they're pigs. Let them live with their history held up in their faces every day, thanks to the physical presence of a million occupiers outside their doors. That's the message from Gandhi and King.

Stick with the policy of nonviolent resistance, which is gaining ground every day.

For more on the Baader-Meinhoff Complex, see Christopher Hitchens at