Thomas Dean Millar – writer
Pregnant woman miscarries after being pepper sprayed at Occupy Seattle.
“Beat Poets, not beat poets.” That was a sign held by English students at the University of California after former poet laureate Robert Hass was assaulted by riot police.
Students participating in a peaceful sit-in were pepper sprayed by officers at UC Davis in front of crowds of reporters, students, and other protesters.
Elizabeth Nichols, an Occupy Portland protester got pepper sprayed in the face on the frontlines. The iconic image is quickly circulating the Internet and becoming a poster image for the movement worldwide.
Over 200 arrests were made in New York City alone.
These news stories from Occupy movements across North America should be enough to shock even the most vehement antagonists to the cause.
The escalating violence that the police force is exerting on Occupy protesters is cause for concern.
I, like a lot of my peers, thought the Occupy movement was just a group of angry poor people tired of the economic inequality capitalism creates. I found it difficult to empathize with them, seeing them as a listen-to-me-whine-and-give-me-handouts grassroots movement.
But now the attention is shifting from the legalities of the “squatting” and the lack of direction of protesters to the brutal serving and protecting. And that flicked a switch for me.
If you search the hashtag #OWS on Twitter, you’ll find countless outraged people calling for lawsuits against officers who have used what many are calling excessive force.
A new Internet meme spawned from these assaults: “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop,” which depicts the officer from the UC Davis protests in famous movie scenes, paintings, album covers and so on, casually pepper spraying everything.
It seems like in light of this violence, a lot of the focus is being shifted from a corrupt economic system to an aggressive police force.
Is this a tactic to divert protesters’ anger from their original target? When the police agree to stop using pepper spray will the protesters feel like they’ve emerged victorious and forget their original plight?
Whatever it is, it’s not right. These people aren’t rioting. These people aren’t looting. These people are playing in drum circles. These people are holding signs. These people are occupying space.