Mine, apparently, are in Oakland, assisting in a violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations.
See, I live in Berkeley, that lovely little liberal enclave just north of scary, ghettoized, minority-filled Oakland*. For those of you who don’t live here, believe me when I say that, in many ways, Oakland and Berkeley are completely different entities- including in the normal behavior of the police forces. Berkeley cops deal with stoners, Oakland cops deal with gangs. Berkeley cops worry about college protests, Oakland cops deal with rioters. Berkeley cops pick their battles, Oakland cops seem to like to quash the masses under a large boot. And, frankly, credit where it’s due, I’m sure that some days being a police officer in Oakland is a very, very scary job.
I’ll say it plainly here- I have absolutely no problem with law-abiding commissioned police officers performing their duties to protect the people of this city, state, or country. None whatsoever.
You know what I DO have a problem with?
Go watch it. No, really, go ahead- I’ll wait.
Do you see that? There, at the end? Yes, that bit- the one where the protesters are fleeing, and then they notice that one of them has fallen? Where they run back to help the person, and then the cops fire a tear gas canister into them from behind a barricade at a distance of FEET?
Please, explain to me in what universe that is acceptable police behavior.
Yes, if the protesters were armed, and actively threatening or running at the cops. Sure, if the protesters are actively hurting each other. Maybe even if the protesters are actively destroying a significant amount of property, though even then I’d get a bit leery. But hang on, let’s see- Oakland’s got a pretty strong history of riots, yeah? In the time I’ve lived here alone, I’ve watched at least two decent* ones. Looting, fires in the streets, the whole shebang. So, surely tonight there were people smashing glass, setting things on fire. Obviously that must have been true. Right?
No. Actually, not at all. Instead, we have this-
Golly, that’s a scary bunch of mostly white kids sitting on their butts on the pavement. No wonder the police needed to fire tear gas at them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand when public safety has to be an important concern. I heard, and can believe, that the Occupy Oakland camp had serious safety and sanitation issues that necessitated bringing it down. I would disagree with the “necessitated” part- I would imagine that there must have been ways to work with the Occupy community, since so many other cities seem to be handling their own occupations just fine, but I do get that there were public concerns theoretically involved, even if I disagree with the outcome.
I’m a sympathetic citizen. You could even call me naive (and many have). I truly want to believe that, more often than not, our elected officials are trying to do what’s right. That those in power, whether bumbling idiots or not, are still not evil people, are not out to maliciously abuse their powers.
And yet. When I see photos of rubber bullets having been shot into non-violent crowds, when I see images of bleeding people my age who were doing nothing more than marching, when I hear the helicopters flying over my house? I lose my sympathy.
All of it.
Last week, just like the week before, I went into San Francisco again to march in the OccupySF protests. This week’s theme was against police brutality, and as I marched, I have to say, I was a little uncomfortable. The main chant was “SFPD, stop police brutality”, which, ok, but having never seen any myself, and being escorted by perfectly calm SFPD officers as we marched, it seemed a little… awkward. It eventually changed to “SFPD, show us your humanity”, which seemed better. But still- it felt more than a little irrelevant to me.
It was a smaller march than the first week I went, on Oct 15, and I’ll admit to wondering, when I marched, how much longer this was going to go on, how much longer I would be making the BART commute into the city. I thought about giving this weekend a miss- it’s Halloween, I’ve got plans, I’ve got things I need to do, the BART ticket ain’t cheap. You know the song and dance. And then… tonight.
You know what? I think I’m going. I think I’ve got some rights left I’d like to exercise.
See you Saturday.
Oakland PD, stop police brutality! Oakland PD, show us your humanity!
*see dictionary entry: sarcasm