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Let's suppose that the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, remains spunky once he's settled in at New York University and gets some time during the summer to join an Occupy demonstration, along with his wife.
Here's what they might reasonably expect by way of treatment from the NYPD, if we are to believe — which I do — a report on new police strategies against protestors by David Graeber, anthropologist and creative force in the Occupy movement.
Graeber begins with a conversation with an old friend:
"A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I'll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast. 'What happened to you?' I asked. 'Oh, this?' she held it up. 'I was in Liberty Park on the 17th (the six month anniversary of the Occupation). When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.' 'Again?' someone said. We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks."
"Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, 'you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?' So they took me behind the lines and broke my wrists.'"
"Actually, she quickly clarified, only one wrist was literally broken. ... Police dragged her, partly by the hair, behind their lines and threw her to the ground, periodically shouting 'Stop resisting!' as she shouted back 'I'm not resisting!' At one point, though, she said, she did tell them her glasses had fallen to the sidewalk next to her and announced she was going to reach over to retrieve them. That apparently gave them all the excuse they needed. One seized her right arm and bent her wrist backwards in what she said appeared to be some kind of martial-arts move, leaving it not only broken but also seriously damaged. 'I don't know exactly what they did to my left wrist — at that point I was too busy screaming at the top of my lungs in pain. But they broke it.'"
"On March 17, several hundred members of Occupy Wall Street celebrated the six month anniversary of their first camp at Zuccotti Park by a peaceful reoccupation of the park — a reoccupation broken up within hours by police with 32 arrests. ... Many of these arrests are carried out in such a way to guarantee physical injury." Graeber's friend Eileen's wrists were broken; others suffered broken fingers, concussions and broken ribs.
Graeber says, "The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new." On March 17, there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told Graeber her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, and is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.
"Why is all this not a national story?" Graeber asks.
Back in September, the infamous New York cop Tony Bologna arbitrarily maced several young women engaged in peaceful protest.
"I suspect one reason so many shy away from confronting the obvious is because it raises extremely troubling questions about the role of police in American society."
The commander of the first precinct, successor to the disgraced Tony Bologna, is Captain Edward J. Winski, whose officers patrol the Financial District. That is, when those very same officers are not being paid directly by Wall Street firms to provide security, which they regularly do — replete with badges, uniforms and weapons. Winski often personally directs groups of police attacking protestors: Winski's superior is Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, former director of global security of the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns.
And Kelly's superior, in turn, is Mayor Michael Bloomberg — the well-known former investment banker and Wall Street magnate. The 11th richest man in America, he has referred to the New York City Police Department as his own personal army.
Graeber added an update to his story: "In comments, a reader asked why I did not go to the media. My response: 'To be honest my first impulse was to call a sympathetic Times reporter. He said he was going to see if he could spin a story out of it. Apparently, his editors told him it wasn't news.'"
It won't be long before the NYPD kills a demonstrator. It will take that to force the issue of methodical police violence back onto the news pages.
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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