Occupy is different in each city. It’s turned violent in Oakland, California, a city with a history of police violence. In 2009, an officer shot and killed unarmed 22-year old Oscar Grant in the back. Yesterday on TV, Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, read a statement, eerily bland, as though reporting on school district management or bus routes.
At most Occupy locations the police were restrained, which I attribute to the pervasive presence of video. Anything can go quickly onto the Internet and then viral, like the sadistic mace attack by NYPD’s Anthony Bologna on defenseless women in NYC’s Zuccotti Park. It seemed as if nothing had changed since Herbert Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to boot the World War I Bonus Army vets put of Anacostia Flats, which he did with brutal efficiency, then burned their tents and pitiful possessions. But Bologna’s mace attack was caught on video, went viral, and spurred an investigation. He was punished by losing 10 vacation days. That’ll larn him.
When I was five, I was taught to say my address, “710 Meridian Avenue,” and if I ever got lost, walk up to the first policeman I saw and say it. My mother said, “Policemen are kind, like daddy, and will take you home.” It left me with a lifelong feeling that the police are my friends, and despite the ugly side, much has confirmed that. I know a professional entertainer who was genuinely drawn to police work, became an officer, and I know that I’ll never hear of Mike attacking kids in a park.
Yet not all can resist the obvious stresses of a job that puts them in close daily contact with criminals and crime. Is that what makes it so easy for an Anthony Bologna to fire mace into the face of a young woman, for a policman in Oakland to shoot a tear-gas cannister at a retreating crowd instead of up into the air, hitting and seriously injuring ex-marine and Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, in the head with a gas cannister? Police behavior outraged another war vet, Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas, who confronted police in Time Square: "This is not war! This is America! How do you sleep at night? There is no honor in this! There is no honor in this! None!"
To see Sgt. Thomas on video, click the link. Sgt. Shamar Thomas