The incident involving a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer unloading a canister of pepper spray on a few female protesters at the Occupy Wall Street protest on Saturday has garnered much attention. It is responsible for the huge uptick in media coverage and renewed interest in the occupation in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.
The officer that unleashed the spray on protesters has had his personal details posted on the Internet. His name is Antony Bologna. The Guardian’s Karen McVeigh reports he was accused of “civil rights violations at the time of the 2004 Republican national convention protests.”
The Guardian has learned that the officer, named by activists as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, stands accused of false arrest and civil rights violations in a claim brought by a protester involved in the 2004 demonstrations at the Republican national convention.
Then, 1,800 people were arrested during protests against the Iraq war and the policies of president George W Bush.
Alan Levine, a civil rights lawyer representing Post A Posr, a protester at the 2004 event, told the Guardian that he filed an action against Bologna and another officer, Tulio Camejo, in 2007. The case, filed at the New York Southern District Court, is expected to be heard next year.
First, establishment media like the NYT ridiculously write, “Video appears to show Wall Street protesters being pepper-sprayed.” The protesters are quite clearly being sprayed. There is no “appears.” The NYT report cites the annotated version so casting doubt as to whether the protesters were sprayed with some chemical substance is ridiculous.
The NYT reports NYPD chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, contends the officer used the pepper spray “appropriately.” It is not surprising that the spokesman would reflexively defend the action. What is absurd is that Browne continues and says the spray was used after “individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier — something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.”
The video shows the moving cage or “mesh barrier” is already deployed. The female protesters are penned. In the screenshot above, one protester has her hand on her face and is freaking out at the conduct of the police. Others about to be sprayed have cameras outstretched or are close to the barrier trying to get a good look at people being thrown around by police. The police can be heard telling people to get back, but the videographer asks him if he wants them to go into the parking garage because there really isn’t much space for them to go anywhere.
The NYPD is depending on the fact that they are the NYPD and can make up whatever story they want. They are counting on the reality that whatever they say will have some credibility because the media would not disregard it even if reporters can look at video evidence and call bullshit.
In suggesting protesters have “edited” video, the NYPD is doing what any security force would do. Recall, the Israel Defense Forces said this about those massacred on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The protesters were not killed like those on the flotilla. That is not why this comparison is being made. The comparison is made to show that this force believes they can get away with the act that took place by discrediting the video, which is not edited at all. It runs continuously and clearly shows an officer walking up to target the protesters. The females are not pushing and making it difficult for the NYPD to contain the protesters at all.
It is reported, “Police made arrests in the area on charges not only of disorderly conduct and impeding traffic, but also of inciting to riot and assaulting a police officer.” The issue of blocking traffic is not disputed in the report, which is problematic.
The police have escorted all the marches since the occupation began. The police let the Saturday march step off and allowed it to reach the street area, where the harassment and violence by police took place. They were in charge of crowd control. Their inability to keep the protest moving and then their decision to roll out moving cages and corral protesters because they were “obstructing” traffic is in effect why traffic stopped moving. If protesters are allowed to keep walking the sidewalks or street, all is well. They move out of the area onward to another part of the city and the traffic can get through. And pedestrians who are not part of the protest do not end up detained or in a few cases arrested.
Additionally, the NYT spoke to a retired deputy chief about the pepper spraying:
“We don’t use it indiscriminately like other cities do,” said Thomas Graham, a retired deputy chief who until last year commanded the department’s Disorder Control Unit. “You’re not just spraying indiscriminately into a crowd.”
Police officers, he said, “have the choice between spraying the guy or struggling with the guy with the night stick,” he said, adding, “Get poked with a nightstick good and hard and you might have a cracked rib from that.”
Two problems arise here. Posing the idea that it’s better to be pepper-sprayed than hit with a police baton is a conceited excuse for setting off a chemical weapon on protesters. And, whether it is used more in New York or not doesn’t justify the use of the spray either.
Occupy Wall Street has called for Officer Bologna to be charged with committing a crime and do jail time. They also “demand Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly resigns” asserting Kelly is sheltering officers from punishment. They demand Mayor Michael Bloomberg “address our General Assembly and apologize for the police brutality and the cover-up that followed.” And, add:
This was an attempt to make us weak, this was an attempt to destroy or derail our message, our conversation. It has not succeeded. We have grown, we will grow. Today we received unconfirmed reports that over one hundred blue collar police refused to come into work in solidarity with our movement. These numbers will grow. We are the 99 percent. You will not silence us.
The organizers are very bold in their belief that the NYPD should pay. The movement should fight against the measures taken, which implicitly if not explicitly make people afraid of exercising their right to peaceably assemble.
It is easy to suggest the organizers will never see a single NYPD officer punished. But, then, that is cynical. The movement is boldly taking on the financial system and along with challenging Wall Street they must also call out and make demands of the security state, which has transformed Wall Street into a Green Zone shielding corporate criminals from having to face angry and passionate Americans fed up with economic injustice in America.
Here’s video of the pepper-spraying incident, if you haven’t seen it already (in addition to the spraying, one woman is pulled over the barrier and tugged by her hair across the pavement):