Caught on Camera: 10 Shockingly Violent Police Assaults on Occupy Protesters
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Occupations across the country have born the brunt of some violent police tactics, and in a world where everyone has a camera-phone, a lot of their brutish behavior has been caught in photographs and on video.
Police work is difficult and dangerous, and the majority of officers on the street behave like pros. When it comes to controlling crowds of angry protesters, they're often put into tense situations and ordered to do things they may not want to do by commanders who are far removed from the scene. I've witnessed a lot of restraint from cops, which of course doesn't make the news.
But being human, cops are also prone to fear and rage like everyone else. A minority of cops, like a minority of protesters, lose their cool in tense situations. The difference is that they aren't amateurs – they're well trained and have guidelines that they're required to follow. When a cop loses his or her cool, it can be terrifying. And when a protester exercising his or her right to assemble and speak is a victim of excessive force, it also violates the United States Constitution.
Unlike protesters, cops are also armed, and it's difficult to hold them accountable for their actions when they don't behave professionally. Most civilian review boards are toothless and ineffectual. But, as Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told AlterNet last month, “public video recording has dramatically changed the landscape of police accountability, no question about it. It's a lot harder for police to sweep allegations of abuse under the rug when it's on video and on YouTube.”
Below are some of the most stunning incidents of police officers going wild on Occupy protesters around the country. To be fair, we don't always know the context in which these violent actions occurred – what happened in the moments before the incident was captured on camera. At the same time, when you look at these images, keep in mind that the rule of thumb in use-of-force cases is that police are prohibited from applying more physical force than is necessary to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement task. When they exceed that measure, they're committing a crime.
This now-iconic image was captured by The Oregonian in Portland on November 17.
Now consider what legitimate law enforcement goal could possibly require an officer to disperse a chemical weapon directly into the face of an unarmed female protester at point-blank range? Though we don't know precisely what chemical agent was in that spray, those with allergies to capsicum can go into anaphylactic shock when exposed to pepper-spray. There's a reason these weapons are characterized as “less-lethal,” and not “non-lethal.”
2. Your Children Are in the Fray
In this video, a group of college students are huddled on the ground in a defensive position at UC Davis on November 18. An officer, later identified as UC police Lt. John Pike, then casually douses them with a chemical agent. You’ll note that a number of bystanders who were simply watching what was going on are also exposed.
Assuming the police had legal grounds to make arrests, it seems apparent from the video that little or no force was necessary to achieve that goal. The students are obviously not a threat to the officers. It appears that the heavily armored riot police could have simply grabbed them and put them in flexi-cuffs had they chosen to do so. That means that this entire assault appears to be a perfect example of excessive force.