Monday, December 5, 2011

WaPo Columnist as Apologist for the Police State

WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak is hailing the "professionalism" of the police (U.S. Park Police) who arrested protesters at Occupy DC, who refused to leave a structure they assembled at the occupation site.

Under the headline: Police maintain professionalism in Occupy D.C. confrontation, Dvorak tells us:
All day and into the night, the police were being taunted. Insults and sometimes water bottles were hurled their way. Cameras were pointed at them from every direction.

Yet, as they have done throughout the downtown drama known as Occupy D.C., the U.S. Park Police and D.C. officers displayed remarkable discipline and restraint Sunday during their confrontation with protesters in McPherson Square.
I was there. This simply did not happen. Although at times the occupiers chanted to the police that they (the police) were "part of the 99%, no insults were hurled at the police. And it is a complete outright lie to report that "water bottles were hurled their way".

The distance between the occupiers in the structure and the crowd on the other side of the police line was only 20 to 30 feet. Occupy sympathizers through out the standoff hurled food and water to those in the structure, but these flew many feet over the heads of the officers in the police line. It is completely misleading for Dvorak to imply that something else was going on.

Let's take a look at another piece of Dvorak's column. Notice this quick twist in her column:
For any structure in the square to be legal, it has to be temporary. But there was nothing temporary about the sturdy two-by-fours that made up the new building’s bones.
But then she writes:
Police asked them to take the barn down. They said no. Instead, some of them climbed up to the top, where they prostrated themselves, crucifixion style, on the rafters or straddled them like jungle gym bars and occasionally fist-pumped to the crowd below.

So authorities called in a building inspector to check it for safety.

Within minutes of arriving, the inspector slapped orange “Danger” stickers on the building and police closed in to take it down. The protesters got a few more warnings to leave.
Notice how she begins by calling it constructed with "sturdy two-by-fours", but then jumps to the the building inspector who condemned the building as a "Danger", without a comment that the building was in fact a very solid structure and that the police simply used the building inspector as cover to remove the occupiers. How's that for professionalism?

I will let Dvorak explain what eventually went down at the structure:
Like a game of wills between parent and toddler, the police counted — one, two, three. And they began arresting the ones who remained inside the barn.

Then there was the challenge of safely arresting the ones who remained clinging to the rafters while dozens of cameras recorded their every move. The police pulled up a tactical vehicle and stood on the roof, hoping to get them off that way. No dice. The Occupiers scrambled to the other side.

They had a giant inflatable mattress that two guys eventually jumped into (that would’ve been my choice, it looked fun). Finally, there was a huge cherry picker, which maneuvered around the structure cornering each protester. The two cops inside it harnessed, roped and very precariously hauled each remaining Occupier into the bucket.

It was sort of like rodeo meets Cirque du Soleil.

The cost of this little passion play had to be staggering, though no one has put a dollar figure on it yet. I counted dozens of officers, a tiny herd of horses, at least two tactical vehicles, a forklift, a cherry picker, plus that moonbounce thing.
It's interesting Dvorak writes that the police pulled up a "tactical vehicle". That it was. It was an armored truck. And although WaPo runs 40 pictures of the occupation event, somehow they managed to leave out a picture of the armored vehicle (I believe the vehicle was only there so that the police could get close to the roof and so the vehicle was used as a platform).

Taken with my cell phone camera, the armored vehicle can be seen in the background.
She also failed to report that the inflatable air mattress was put on the outside of the structure which meant it would not have protected any occupiers who might fall from the roof. The mattress was thus used as a surrender tool only. (Such a mattress could have easily been placed inside the structure.)

Dvorak also failed to mention that some police were carrying imposing guns, that I believe would have shot rubber bullets, again no pictures of these. Nor did she mention some SWAT members were in the general area.

Here's more Dvorak distortion:
Young protesters hopped up on empowerment and anything else that could be found in those tents randomly spit insults at officers who were standing nearby, simply doing their jobs. Park Police officers, who make starting salaries of $52,000 a year, are firmly part of that 99 percent the movement keeps talking about.
As I reported above, the occupiers several times chanted to the police that they were part of the 99%, for Dvorak to phrase her comment, as she does, is completely misleading. The occupiers full well held the position that the police were part of the 99%. The protesters weren't confused by this point

Finally, Dvorak mentions the huge expense this circus must have cost. But if so, why did the police bring in a cherry picker, an armored vehicle and other materials to go after the occupiers, right then and there? Did Dvorak or the police think the occupiers were going to stay there for ever? The night was getting cold, one protester had already shouted out he needed to go to the bathroom. I gave the protesters, perhaps, three hours before the cold and the bathroom needs kicked in and resulted in them coming down. Professional? It was a circus that Donald Trump would have been proud of.  Cops carrying guns with rubber bullets, armored vehicles, a huge cherry picking machine, SWAT members in the background, was this all needed?

If the Park police wanted to arrest them for trespassing, you surround the damn building and wait for them to get cold and tired.

The real problem here is WaPo and Dvork being apologists for the police and not reporting the story the way it went down. And what about that building inspector who condemned the building? That's a clear police abuse, using a building inspector they new would condemn Fort Knox, if it was required.

Bottom line: Long time EPJ readers know that I have many problems and suspicions about the Occupation movement, but I also have problems with WaPo columnists distorting the the facts of a situation. And, I have a big problem with abuse of power, at any level, by the police. The building inspector brought in was a stooge for the police and the police knew it. And that's the way it went down, not Petula's fairy tale.


  1. I spent last week in Hong Kong and while I was there I saw the Occupy Hong Kong camp beneath the HSBC building in Central. My Cantonese isn't great (read: nonexistent)so it was tough to converse with some of the occupiers but their message was pretty clear to me after having a look at the library they kept at the camp. The shelves were stocked with Marxist literature and other anti-capitalist writings. In this regard, OHK has very much in common with the US counterparts.

    Where they differ glaringly is in the police response. I see the OWS protesters on a daily basis as part of my commute. On any given day, and especially at the beginning of the protest, the police (and their full on riot gear and cans of bear mace) outnumbered protesters 2:1 and that's an understatement on most days. Throw in the armored vehicles, the barricades and the buses for mass arrests and you have an example of what a full-on police state looks like albeit on a small scale.

    In contrast, I didn't even see so much as a building security guard at the OHK site.

  2. If you are a dissident then the state terrorists can murder you...It's the law now. If you disagree with their broadcast media propaganda scumbags, can the state murder you for that? Yes they can now!

    State terrorism is now full throttle.

  3. The pat on the back this WaPo column gives to cops is suspiciously gratuitous to my eyes.

    Young protesters hopped up on empowerment and anything else that could be found in those tents randomly spit insults at officers who were standing nearby, simply doing their jobs. Park Police officers, who make starting salaries of $52,000 a year, are firmly part of that 99 percent the movement keeps talking about.

    Wasn't there, and I have never even spoken to a OWS protester, but I get the impression the cops who cover these events are the world's most over paid babysitters. Why would they be antagonistic to a time and a half meal ticket? As long as the protest continue there is a gravy train involved where you are assigned to a mostly non-violent, easy peasy detail, and not to rougher elements of the populace, so it is in the cops interest to be as easy on the protestors as circumstance will allow.