They came from all over, tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the world, protesting the economic and moral pitfalls of globalization. Our mission as members of the Seattle Police Department? To safeguard people and property—in that order. Things went well the first day. We were praised for our friendliness and restraint—though some politicians were apoplectic at our refusal to make mass arrests for the actions of a few.
Then came day two. Early in the morning, large contingents of demonstrators began to converge at a key downtown intersection. They sat down and refused to budge. Their numbers grew. A labor march would soon add additional thousands to the mix.
“We have to clear the intersection,” said the field commander. “We have to clear the intersection,” the operations commander agreed, from his bunker in the Public Safety Building. Standing alone on the edge of the crowd, I, the chief of police, said to myself, “We have to clear the intersection.”
Because of all the what-ifs. What if a fire breaks out in the Sheraton across the street? What if a woman goes into labor on the seventeenth floor of the hotel? What if a heart patient goes into cardiac arrest in the high-rise on the corner? What if there’s a stabbing, a shooting, a serious-injury traffic accident? How would an aid car, fire engine or police cruiser get through that sea of people? The cop in me supported the decision to clear the intersection. But the chief in me should have vetoed it. And he certainly should have forbidden the indiscriminate use of tear gas to accomplish it, no matter how many warnings we barked through the bullhorn.
This article was written and published before the peeper spray dehumanizing action at UC DAVIS, and it only support this experience retired police chief take on the reality of the mindset of the authorities regarding the social, not politically associated movement for justice and peace!
- Paramilitary Policing of Occupy Wall Street: Excessive Use of Force amidst the New Military Urbanism (stevebeckow.com)
- Norm Stamper: Occupy’s Tactics (huffingtonpost.com)
- Why I Feel Bad for the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike – Alexis Madrigal – National – The Atlantic (waldina.com)
- The Single Most Dumbfounding Sentence About Occupy Wall Street Ever Published [Journalismism] (gawker.com)
- Democracy Now! : 84-Year-Old Dorli Rainey, Pepper-Sprayed at Occupy Seattle, Denounces “Worsening” Police Crackdowns (indigenist.blogspot.com)
- Finding the Humor in Occupy Wall Street (businessweek.com)
- Occupy Seattle activists to police: ‘Join us’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Police Chief Who Oversaw 1999 WTO Crackdown Says Paramilitary Policing Is a Disaster (alternet.org)
- Occupy Seattle Marches Against Police Violence at Noon (slog.thestranger.com)