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Uprising

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012, 9:29 am

Occupy Protesters Tasered at Rick Santorum Event

By Allison Kilkenny

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For the past five months, states across the nation have permitted law enforcement officials to abuse Occupy protesters will near-total impunity. It's true that U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson told Oakland police they really shouldn't cover up their name tags during protests because that's a blatant violation of department rules, but sadly Henderon's insistence that police abide by the law is an exception, and not the rule.

More often, state officials pardoned the behavior of police by claiming unarmed protesters presented a clear and present danger to citizens. 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rejected a proposal by three Democratic New York state senators who wanted an independent inspector to oversee the New York Police Department after what they called several abuses, including the widespread surveillance of Muslims and the abuse of Occupy Wall Street protesters. 

Bloomberg has gone on record many times defending the NYPD's most controversial tactics and insisting the city won't turn over the police department to an outside group despite overwhelming evidence of not only the presence of deep corruption, but official approval of those nefarious tactics by the highest ranks of the NYPD, including Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

One of the most famous instances of the NYPD mistreating OWS protesters, the pepper-spraying of innocent, penned women at a Union Square protest, didn't result in Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna being severely reprimanded or fired. Rather, Bologna was docked a measly 10 vacation days and transferred to Staten Island Borough Command where he works as a special projects coordinator.

Two of the Occupy Wall Street protesters have now sued Bologna, alleging they suffered permanent physical and psychological injuries during the attack. The lawsuit also contends the city failed to properly train police to handle constitutionally protected demonstrations.

Howard Jordan, who served as an interim Chief of Police for the Oakland Police Department, was recently appointed to the job on a permanent basis by Mayor Jean Quan. Jordan was offered the position even though many protesters beseeched the mayor to fire Jordan for directing the violent assault on Occupy Oakland that resulted in Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen almost being killed by a police projectile. 

The violence against Occupy isn't isolated to the razing of their camps. OWS members protesting Rick Santorum as he delivered a speech at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, Washington on Monday night were tasered and arrested by police.

Santorum tried to condemn the state’s new same-sex marriage law and the Ninth Circuit’s ruling against Proposition 8 in California, but was repeatedly interrupted by protesters yelling: “We are the 99 percent.”

Santorum told the protesters to “go out and get a job."

A scuffle soon broke out in the crowd and police shoved two men to the ground, tased and arrested them. Santorum briefly paused in his remarks and said, “Let’s give a hand to our men and women in uniform. It’s not easy.”

Santorum assumed the condescending position of gracious and benevolent adult by claiming it is Occupy that is the "intolerant" group, and not himself, even if he did suggest homosexuality is akin to beastiality. 

"I don't agree with these people," Santorum said of the OWS protesters, "but I respect their opportunity to have a different point of view and I don't think they're a hater or bigot because they disagree with me."

Powerful political figures such as Karl Rove have criticized Occupy's tactic of disrupting public speakers in the past. When he was cut off from speaking at an event in Baltimore, Rove fired back at the activists, "Do not be so arrogant and presumptive to think that you’re the only person who has a First Amendment right that needs to be heard,” adding, "Who gave you the right to occupy America? Nobody.” 

But it is precisely the fact that it is Rove and Santorum who are given a platform and a microphone with which to spout their ideologies, and not Occupy, that explains why protesters resort to disruptive tactics.

No one handed Occupy a microphone. In fact, some city ordinances explicitly banned protesters from amplifying their voices, which is why OWS developed the human mic. 

Even with the generous media coverage detailing the stages of Occupy, the movement received no where near the amount of on-air time devoted to the every waking moment of the political and cultural elite. That is why OWS protesters disrupt rallies and the normalcy of societal living spaces with their camps. It's literally the only way they'll be heard, and even then, they're usually quickly and violently crushed by police who enjoy near-total impunity from their actions.

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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