Peaceful protests deserve a peaceful response

Last week I was deeply inspired by the Troy Davis movement — a vast number of people united to reject the murder of someone who many claimed was innocent. This week I am equally motivated by the efforts made by all participants of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a protest rejecting corporate greed, big bank profits and joblessness.

The movement has spread from New York to Boston and to Kona, Hawaii. The Occupy Los Angeles protests have especially hit me since they are here, right in my home, and so close to our campus.

Though I have been touched, I have also been disgusted at the overreaction of New York Police Department. Occupy Wall Street has naturally attracted more participants than other locations around the United States because it is literally the genesis of much of the resentment people feel. On Sept. 24 — seven days into the protest — more than 700 protestors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway. NYPD officers said the demonstrators were illegally blocking traffic, and did not have a permit to march.

The arrests were completely unnecessary, and the money spent to book 700 people — just to release them later on in the day, seems to be a manifestation of what we have all been protesting.

NYPD’s response  gives off the impression that this protest is not being taken seriously by law enforcement. It also deters people from participating in protests by showing an unnecessarily vigorous reaction to a peaceful demonstration, and most importantly, it switches attention from the issue toward questioning police honesty.

A video was recently released showing NYPD officers using pepper spray on a group of protestors from Occupy Wall Street. Protestors reported officers walked alongside them halfway into the bridge before any permits or illegalities were mentioned. In essence, protestors feel NYPD lured them into the street with malicious intent.

This police overreaction has come to define a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that overshadows the original goal of the protest.

The exertion of power overshadows the event at hand. Police force has deterred the light from the issue — corporate greed — and has instead switched focus to police reaction. In turn, it has aggravated tensions between the people and law enforcement.

Police dishonesty is similarly affecting Occupy L.A. Picturing myself trying to explain to my mother why I’m in jail because of a protest scares me. Though it didn’t stop me from attending, I assume that might be the case for some, and that’s devastating.

Protests across the nation should continue, and no other pointless arrests should be made. We must remember to exert power with purpose — not just exert power to simply remind those beneath us we have it.


Mellissa Linton is a sophomore majoring in English. Her counterpoint runs Fridays. 

Click here to read a different viewpoint. 

3 replies
  1. Ras
    Ras says:

    Would you feel the same way if a large group of people were blocking traffic, did not have a permit to demonstrate, and they were holding picket signs that read “NO MORE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION’. We have rules in society as to how we voice our discontentment. If these rules are not followed then the police have to intervene. Would you rather have a society where angry people can demonstrate causes that you find reprehensible – and there are no consequences as to how they go about doing it?

  2. Carmel
    Carmel says:

    We will only grow stronger in our solidarity and we will be heard, not just in New York, but in echoes across the world.

    police officer have no reason to use pepper spray on inocent people just because they are part of the protest. NYPD was wrong and those officers should be punish. We all saw the video . the evidence are very clear. let WALL STREET come down.

  3. m d wills
    m d wills says:

    Mellissa you are dancing around the issue and you didn’t even know it. I have been a police officer and I have been through the crowd control/riot training. Police officers are trained to understand that when you are out numbered by more than 2 to 1 you will lose. The only way to control a crowd is to move them into restricted spaces (e.g. bridges, tunnels, buildings). That was the intent of the NYPD. They moved them onto a bridge to effectively block as many of them in and virtually jail them with minimal threat to the officers. THEY DID NOT ARREST THEM TO PUNISH THEM!! They arrested them so they COULD GET THE NAMES/ADDRESSES/PHONE NUMBERS of the marchers in order to identify the organizers and members of the OWS. Simply put, they wanted information (they would have to get search warrants and a judge — to get it otherwise) and they got it. Now don’t be surprised if everyone who was arrested doesn’t have the charges dismissed (except those who had warrants). The NYPD and the NY politicians fully intended to create the situation to get the intelligence they lacked. Fortunately, OWS is a distributed group without a clear cut leader (it is based on the egyptian uprising which lacked a clear leader for the egyptian security forces to arrest and stop the uprising). If you haven’t noticed, the OWS no longer demonstrates where the police can force them into a restricted area, a point the leaders of the OWS appear to have learned.

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