Occupy Seattle vs. Seattle PD 11/15/11

By » Wed, November 16 2011
2011 11 15 18.08.18 450x337 Occupy Seattle vs. Seattle PD 11/15/11

There are better images, but this one I took myself.

Earlier this evening, I walked into the Occupy Seattle parade/protest while trying to get home. As I headed up from the waterfront, I saw a mass of people in an intersection. There were local transit buses lined up the block, unable to run their routes.

As I got closer, I saw the usual Occupy Movement signs. “We are the 99%” “Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street” (which was raided and mostly destroyed last night).

I wanted to watch, so I crossed the street to a spot slightly uphill and upwind, where people looked calmer and there was room to run in case things got weird. Other passersby gathered near me. Two guys dressed in heavy black clothing, combat boots, and masks also joined me on my corner. I kept a close eye on them. So did the police. I bit back the urge to ask the Carhartt brothers not to do anything that would get me maced. Turns out they just wanted to watch, too.

The first thing I noticed was the police presence. Lots of bicycle cops ready to use their bikes as barriers, plus motorcycles, wagons, patrol cars. All the police had the full loadout: visored helmets, Tasers slung low on their bellies, guns and reloads in easy reach. They looked attentive.

A minute or so after I stopped, someone on a bullhorn ordered the crowd to disperse: “This is an order to disperse. You are in violation of city and state law [something something something]. Disperse immediately.”

The occupists stayed in the street and renewed their chanting. “The whole world is watching.” “We are the 99%.” “Who do you serve?”

The entire place lit up with LCD screens as people began filming and photographing.

The order to disperse was repeated twice in the next 5 minutes. At 1800, police began trying to physically move people out of the street. A few seconds later, they pepper sprayed the crowd. I could only see a couple of jets of spray, but the whole scene changed fast. Many watchers booed. Some people in the crowd fell down; the police led a few people away.

Some occupists began to move out of the street toward a (very) nearby public park, but many stayed put. Several looked defiant and angry. A few advanced on the police. They were promptly subdued and carried away. Objects were thrown from the occupist crowd at the police. I only saw 2 or 3 people arrested from where I was standing. Some onlookers started shouting things about police brutality.

Pepper spray, from a distance, smells like dog shampoo.

A few minutes later, police sprayed into the crowd again. I saw one jet of spray. More boos from the crowd. Occupists began moving in earnest toward the public park. The police officers nearest me warned a few people on my corner to stay on the sidewalk.

An older man walked to my corner with a sign that read “Occupy some other street”. There was a collective chuckle.

By 1815, the street was clear. The occupists were all in the public park, and the police had reformed a barrier of bicycles while getting traffic moving. I lingered for a few more minutes, then headed up the hill.

I have mixed feelings about the Occupy movement. On the one hand, I think people should be aware of how big business and the government work together. I believe that people should know what’s going on, and that they should have some kind of voice in matters, especially when government may not seem to be operating in the peoples’ best interest. I like the long-game flavor of the Occupy movement – the problems have not been resolved, so we can’t just forget about it and get back to our Xboxes and McDonald’s fries.

But I think that it’s easy to conflate “protest” with “being jerks”.

Blocking off a major bus arterial at rush hour doesn’t do shit to the 1%. Do the occupists realize that blocking the street ultimately fucks with the 99% who are just trying to get home? “Aha!” they say, “we are raising awareness!”

How does that work, exactly?

“Sorry I’m late, honey, a bunch of jackasses protesting something blocked the buses. Cops had to pepper spray them to get traffic moving again.”

“What were they protesting, dear?”

“I don’t know. 99% something. I’ll look it up *clickety click*. OMG, I have seen the light! I’m so glad they made me late! I would have donated, but we had to pay the nanny for an extra hour, but I’ll join them tomorrow!”

On my way home, a guy who seemed to be with the OWS movement peppered me with questions and information about global cabals, freemasons, US presidents bloodlines coinciding with Queen Elizabeth’s, Seattle government’s attempts to kill of the Occupy movement by not letting them have umbrellas so they die of Fukushima fallout rain, and water fluoridation as a tool to pacify the masses (and invented, of course, by Nazis). This was all in an attempt to get me to join the movement.

I wish the Occupy movement could police this sort of thing themselves. Occupist conspiracy evangelicals and drug-using, street-shitting counterculturals are probably doing the movement more harm than the police could ever do.

But it does have me thinking – not about the global cabal of banks and lizard people – but about individual rights and better ways to run protest movements.

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