Friday, 21 October 2011

Zucotti Park: The Police and the Occupation

This is the text of an e-mail message from a friend of a friend, giving his thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Zucotti Park, near Ground Zero in New York City, and especially the role of the police.  He was one of the first responders after 9-11 and worked there for several months. 

He compares the behaviour of the people and the behaviour of the police in Zucotti Park now and after 9-11, and as you might expect the police come up pretty short, but in ways that you may not expect.

I found what he wrote both moving and politcally important.  I hope he will write more.

Downloaded from Flickr.  Photo by EmilyRides

Here is what he said: 

Zucotti Park Ten Years Later.

I went down to Zuccotti Park a few times. To donate some time and money.  A few friends asked me my thoughts. Here they are - in case you care to read/share.

I went to Zuccotti Park to see, for myself, what's going on and if what the City says about these folks is true. I must confess that I had a predisposition to support the “Occupiers”. Given that I've been saying (for a few years now) that something like this had to happen. But those that know me will tell you that I am also honest enough to admit to my faults and mistakes or those of anyone else that I may support.

What I saw was nothing like the squalor, filth and chaos that the City has painted. I saw thousands of people (mostly young) working together and in harmony. Being respectful of everyone and of their surroundings. Making the best of the situation and what they had to deal with. You have to keep in mind that the Administration of this city and the corporations, are doing nothing to help these folks. In fact they (the Administration and corporations) are doing everything they can to hinder and cause confrontation with these people. Take, for instance, the $4.6 million that Chase “donated” to the Police a few weeks ago.

Mr. Bloomberg speaks of lost tourism revenues caused by this “Occupation”. A lie. The tourist are flocking to see what these folks are doing and to hear what they have to say. The local businesses are making a killing on it as well. So much so, that I watched as hand truck after hand truck (God forbid the police should allow a real delivery truck to come in – more on that later) of goods (food, cleaning materials, etc) were being walked into the park. Donations from the “Local Businesses”. The very same people who Bloomberg claims to be loosing business and complaining about this “Occupation”.

Speaking of donations – I saw dozens of tourists who walked into the park (I guess it wasn't dirty enough to scare them off). Many asking to donate money to the cause. One woman said: “I'm here on vacation and have to leave in the morning but I would like to contribute” as she handed a one hundred dollar bill to another woman who was serving food. Now here is an interesting interaction. Not knowing each other, the tourist had no sense of distrust for the woman serving the food and in return the woman serving the food, promptly walked over and put the money in a donation basket on the other end of the park. Again - more on this later.

The other claim made by His Eminence is that this is costing the city millions in police OT. Well – who asked for all of those cops to be standing around doing nothing but instigating trouble? I didn't. Neither did any one else that I know. And what exactly are the police doing there? What are they doing for me and the other 8 million people who live in this City? The people who pay their salaries.

This is what I saw them doing:

Hundred's of expensive vehicles lined all around, with even more Cops standing around the park. Constantly moving barricades closer to the crowd, in a never ending attempt to instigate a riot. Yelling at tourist and anyone else walking in the street to “Keep moving”. Laughing and making derogatory remarks about those in the park. One tourist asked an officer “what's going on?”. He answered: “Stay away from them, there just a bunch of idiots looking to make trouble”.

We are all hard-working tax-paying citizens of this city, and none of us asked for those cops to be sent there. To stand around doing nothing more that collect lots of money (OT) and instigate trouble with tourists and people who are exercising their constitutional rights. I could think of many more useful things to have our police doing. In fact, and to show the hypocrisy in what is being said, it is the police presence that is hurting business and tourism. The Police are herding people like cattle and pushing them along. Telling them to “keep moving”, when that's not what they want to do.

After spending a few hours “in the thick of it” I began to remember the last time I was there and surrounded by an army of police.
I was a first responder. I was there on the night of 9-11 and for a few months after. What I saw on the first few nights after 9-11 was very similar to what I experienced inside Zuccotti Park now. Being in the middle of many different people. People of every age and from all walks of life. All working together for the good of all. Trying to help each other. To be there for each other, and to support each other.

Then I took a walk around the outside of the park and was reminded of what I saw there 10 years ago. Not on the first few nights, but after the first week. The dichotomy of what Zuccotti park and all of Ground Zero was on the first few nights (When we were all one. Working for the same cause) to what it became as time went by, is very much the same as what I saw at the park now.

On the first few nights after the towers collapsed no one cared about anyone else's political belief's. What uniforms were worn or titles where held. Zuccotti Park was a place full of people who had come to help. To work together. Cops, Firemen, Construction workers, Women, Men, Young and Old.

I remember standing at the edge of the park. I was trying to catch my breath and absorb the hell that I was looking at, when I heard a soft angelic voice ask: “do you want a kiss?” I turned around and there was this young girl (She couldn't have been more than 25) standing there with a box of chocolate Kiss's. I laughed and took one. Then she walked away. I often wonder what happened to that girl. Is she OK or is she just another of the many forgotten and unappreciated people who went down there to help. To bring about something good from all the bad.

The people in Zuccotti park, today, are very much like that girl and others like her.

I've mentioned (a few times) “The first few nights”. The reason I say this is because the dichotomy of what I saw on the first few nights and what I saw after the first week is very much like what I am seeing now when I walk from inside the park to just outside of it.

After the initial “we are one” feeling that overwhelmed us all on 9-11, things started to change. And in fast order. Especially from people at the top and their protectors - the Police.

Zuccotti Park was a perfect example. It was initially used (or should I say “occupied”) by everyone who was there for the good of all. It later became “Controlled” by the police. Any deliveries or “donations for ALL the responders” had to be given to the police. Who would take what they wanted and then choose who to give the rest too. I remember a truck full of Carhart work cloths that was donated. The Police took them all. They gave them to their own first and then the Firemen. When my partner (at the time) asked for a pair of Cover All's, he was told to “get're not a hero”, even though he (like me) had been crawling through that hell for much longer than many of the “hero's”. I won't mention them all (for now) but there were many more similar incidents. What I will say, something that really hit home when I walked through the park the other day, is this. A short time after 9-11 the Police had taken control of Zucotti park, and despite all the money and allotments that were lavished on them, it was turned into a cesspool of waste and abuse. Nothing like the organized resourcefulness that I see today.

It's all indicative of a certain mind set. The have's and the have nots. The entitled and everyone else. Those, now, surrounding Zuccotti park and those inside of it. It's all very much the same and ironic.

It's kind of ironic because this “Occupation” is about the have-nots asking for more from the have's. The have-nots are surrounded by Cops, sent there to protect the haves. The Cops want us to believe that they are hero's and just working class people. Just like the rest of us. The reality is that they are much more like those they protect. They “have” job security. They “have” very exorbitant pensions (that are huge contributing factors in our finacial condition). They “have” health care and lots of the things that those in the park don't have. And the best part of it all – The police, like the HAVE'S, have it all at the expense of the have nots. In an odd way and in this “upside down” world, it all makes total sense.

There is so much more to happen and be told, but for now I want to end this with what was told to me by two police officers, 10 years apart.

A few weeks after 9-11, I asked a police officer (who was standing around) what she was doing there, her response was exactly the same as the response that I got from an officer that I spoke to the other day. They both said: “I'm just doing what I'm told and padding my pension”.

How true and indicative of the difference between those in the park and those outside of it.

We'd all be better off if only the ones outside the park would realize that they are as disposable as the ones inside, to the ones who pull the strings.

Downloaded from Flickr.  Photo by EmilyRides

1 comment:

  1. It's about time somebody told the truth about those hero's. The real "hero's" have been forgotten.