Are “Occupy” Protesters Victims of Police Brutality?

COMMENTARY | Occupy movement headlines are turning into stories of controversial violence and pictures reminiscent of a war zone, but who is behind the problems? Have Occupy protesters become unruly, or have police crossed the line with arrests and tear gas?

Many articles, photos, and Facebook threads are focused on placing the blame on police, but if you read through some of the stories, especially in Oakland, you will find evidence of extreme protesters initiating police action through fires and vandalism. On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, the Occupy Oakland protests began peacefully, but as night fell the crowd grew larger and violence broke out. People began spray painting local businesses, busting windows, lighting fires, and throwing rocks at policemen.

There have been many arrests across the country for “Occupy” protesters breaking the curfew rules of public parks. Some protesters have been arrested for assault, and many rapes have been reported. Among the most violent are the California Occupy protests that have included smashed windows in vehicles and businesses, fires, graffiti, and breaking into vacant buildings.

With serious incidents like the above list, it’s important to really look at why police are reacting the way they are and if it is appropriate.

When you have a large group of passionate people fighting for what they believe in, mayhem is almost guaranteed to follow. Although Occupy protestors want to invade public places in masses and raise awareness for change by shutting down streets and access to public buildings, it must be done within city laws. Many of the protesters are trying to camp out in local parks that have curfews. In Chicago, police did not intervene until curfew had passed and they had handed out warnings for 90 minutes. When time was up, they had no other choice but to arrest Occupy Chicago protestors. Chicago police did not use excessive force. Anywhere in the city you will get arrested for trespassing, so saying that intervention was extreme is absurd. The same happened in Oklahoma when a group of Occupy Oklahoma protesters would not leave a park after curfew so police resorted to pepper spray. Once again, if protesters would just follow the rules, action would not occur.

In the latest Oakland headlines, police did not intervene until fires, vandalism, and assaults threatened public safety, but yet blame for the violence is being centered on the police using teargas and bean bag shots. At a glance it may seem harsh, but when the full story is told, police actions were necessary.

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