The latest episode turns on the arrests of dozens of men and women who have been protesting an American economic system they deem unjust. On Saturday, they marched to Union Square from an encampment that they had set up a week earlier near Wall Street. Some of them seemed primed for confrontation with the police. But others merely voiced their grievances.
A few young women were stopped by the police just south of Union Square and corralled on a stretch of sidewalk with plastic netting held by officers. An amateur video posted on the Internet shows an officer in a white shirt — signifying fairly high rank — walking up to the women and dousing them with pepper spray. The officer then walks away, disappearing behind a wall of blue uniforms. The women fall to the sidewalk, crying in pain.
In the video, there is no sign of their having been violent or posing a threat. A police spokesman, in defending use of the spray, offered a veiled suggestion that the video might have been edited to make the officer look bad.
For a week, this protest had been peaceful, vigilant, poignant...and totally unknown outside of the social networks and liberal media of the Internet and TV.
In other words, it was completely not covered by anyone. It wasn't even in the local papers much, except for letters to the editor bemoaning the obstacles and noise, and of course, the responsible rebuttals of sympathizers.
Suddenly, Saturday, the protestors decided to make news. This is where things get a bit off-kilter for me. According to reports, in a completely non-violent manner, the protestors tried to move the protest to a location that would be more visible-- Wall Street being practically deserted on a weekend. The cops coralled them with netting like a school of sardines, and forced them to stay put.
I mean, you could have seen this coming when earlier in the week, the cops arrested people for wearing masks.
You read that correctly: wearing masks. Apparently, there's a 130 year old law on the books that prevents groups wearing masks, unless they have a permit.
Specifically, they were wearing those "V" masks. I watched that film this weekend on the TeeVee with a certain sense of urgency and renewed wonder at the courage of those people, but I digress...
And now we have macings and certainly evidence of roughing up protestors and other violent behavior on the part of the cops.
The problem I'm having is, there's always two sides to every story.
It's not that I'm claiming the cops are innocent, no way. Bloomberg and the police have been uberheavy handed ever since 2004 in dealing with protests and this is only the latest example of what careens towards totalitarian police state methods.
What I am saying is, how much provocation were the cops under? There's certainly motive on the part of demonstrators to have violence added to the protest menu. It got news coverage and plenty of it, just ahead of the Sunday talk shows and morning news programs.
I hope not. I hope this was all one-sided and the protestors have an honest beef.
But somehow, I doubt it.