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Why Are Police Attacking Peaceful Protesters? How OWS Has Exposed the Militarization of US Law Enforcement

As the number of OWS arrests nears 1,000, instances of police brutality continue to pile up. Now all of America is seeing the result of police militarization.

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After destroying the campsite, sending one activist to the hospital and arresting at least five protesters, the police departed from the scene around 1:40am. 

Days earlier, an eerily similar situation unfolded at  Occupy Denver . Just as Zuccotti Park was celebrating victory over Mayor Bloomberg's failed eviction attempt last Friday, Denver's occupation of Lincoln Park was being dismantled at the request of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. With the combined efforts of the Colorado State Patrol and Denver Police, two dozen protesters were arrested and charged with unlawful conduct on public land.


Two weeks ago, protesters at Occupy Boston in Dewey Park faced police suppression in a late-night raid that led to 129 arrests and multiple injuries involving several members of Veterans for Peace. According to the Associated Press, nine protesters occupying Sacramento's Cesar Chavez Park were arrested late Wednesday night for failing to leave the park after closing, bringing the total of Occupy Sacramento arrests to 67.

The authorities justify these late-night raids as necessary to enforce park curfews. Yet, even during the day, the mere presence of heavily armed riot police inevitably results in some police action that baffles the mind. For example, Debra Lynn Peardon was arrested for opening her umbrella while seated, a violation of a new city ban on the use of umbrellas as makeshift structures regardless of the weather.

Peaceful Arrests In Chicago

With the blessing of Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Police Department arrested 175 protesters last weekend for refusing to leave Grant Park, the site of Occupy Chicago, citing a violation of the park's curfew. As reported by Joe Macaré of In These Times, protesters showered praise on the Chicago Police Department for showing restraint by arresting them "One by one, and by all accounts as peacefully as possible," in stark contrast to the violent arrests experienced at other occupations.

But the jailing of peaceful protesters is wrong, even when carried out free of beatings and pepper spray. This was epitomized by the arrest of Princeton University professor and civil rights activist Cornel West on the steps outside the Supreme Court, where it is illegal to hold a political sign. A ban on political protest outside the halls of the highest court in the country is an ironic symbol of how little regard is given to the First Amendment of the constitution.

Inevitable Outcomes of Militarized Law Enforcement

Occupy Wall Street has revealed to the country and the world an American police state apparatus that rivals most standing armies in both weaponry and magnitude.  

Nowhere is this more clear than in New York City, where a perimeter of metal barricades surrounds and even follows protesters from Zuccotti Square on their daily marches. Nick Turse recently documented the extent of the NYPD's mini-police state for AlterNet:

I counted seven squad cars, two full-size police vans, one police minivan and one, to lapse into political incorrectness, “paddy wagon.”

Later in the morning, the total count had increased to 16 police vehicles, in addition to a number of unmarked cars, most of which proved to belong to police officers, too.

Across Broadway and up Liberty Street, the security forces maintained a reserve contingent of 11 police cars, five police vans, and one paddy wagon from precincts all over the city: the 1st, 5th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 20th, 83rd, 94th (Brooklyn!), as well as the Fleet Services Division which oversees the NYPD’s inventory of cars.

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