Bob O’Grady being arrested in the San Diego Civic Center Plaza for laying inside of his sleeping bag to stay warm while a group of non-violent occupiers from San Diego, Los Angeles, Irvine, Encinitas, and other transplants from various locations across the US pow-wow under an erected U.S. flag in the heart of the plaza; in celebration of Veteran’s Day. SDPD uses excessive force to apprehend Bob, a SDPD officer uses a choking technique I never knew was legal in the continuum of force ladder. That must come after using a closed fist to assault the suspect in the face.
From OccupyCal, the police tell the protesters that the grass is closed.
At about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, a police officer told me and about eight other students that, and I quote, “the grass is closed.” We were going to sit under a tree and discuss things, and two police officers were watching us vigilantly to make sure we didn’t suddenly do something violent like try to put up tents. As we moved towards the tree, the first police officer stepped up and informed us that we could not walk from the broad concrete steps of Sproul Hall, where about a hundred people were sitting and talking, and sit on the grassy area just to the north of it. “The grass is closed,” she said.
Students often eat lunch on this stretch of grass, yet, at this particular moment, the police decided that it was now off limits to the students, simply because they had the power to say so.
To make things more interesting, it immediately transpired that the other police officer had, in fact, already given them permission to sit on the grass. And in an instant, the arbitrariness of the rule was made evident and undeniable.
I said to her, in as level and direct a tone as I could manage, “This is why we don’t trust you.” And she again elected to say nothing. She didn’t have to. The truth of power, in this situation, is that the policy is what the police will use their force to enforce. They don’t have to have a legitimate reason, nor are they embarrassed when it is shown that the “grass is closed” only because someone with authority said so. And the grass only became open because someone with more authority said so. Such people are not to be trusted.
These are not abstractions or “power” as a theoretical concept. This was power made frighteningly manifest, on the bodies of human beings who did not obey a police order to get off the grass, the very exact same grass I was talking about earlier.
At UC Berkeley, the police physically assaulted several protesters.
Celeste Langan, a campus associate professor of English and one of the protesters arrested Wednesday afternoon, said in an email that she knew that what she was doing by participating in the human chain was a form of nonviolent resistance, knew that she was disobeying the police order to disperse and knew that her participation made her subject to arrest. But, she said, she expected the police would arrest the protesters “in a similarly non-violent manner.”
“Rather than take my wrist or arm, the police grabbed me by my hair and yanked me forward to the ground, where I was told to lie on my stomach and was handcuffed,” Langan said in the email. “They could have taken the time to arrest us for refusal to disperse without violence, but instead seem to have been instructed to get to the tents as quickly as possible. Since the tents posed no immediate threat to public safety, their haste and level of force were unwarranted.”
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau later sent out an email stating that, because the protesters were linked together, it was not considered a non-violent protest and the police were justified by their actions.
The protesters knew there was a good chance they would be arrested and, since they were non-violent, they felt they would be arrested in a non-violent way as well. Things, however, turned out much differently than they had expected.
For UC Berkeley graduate student Alex Barnard, the most disempowering moment of Wednesday night was not when he was repeatedly hit with a police baton, cracking one of his ribs. Instead, the most disturbing moment of his experience came afterward, when he says an officer told him he had “no rights.”
According to Barnard, who was arrested along 31 others as part of Wednesday night’s Occupy Cal demonstration, after he was handcuffed with a zip tie and taken into Sproul Hall, a police officer asked him for identifying information. Rather than immediately answering, Barnard said he asked the officer about his rights and when he would be allowed to speak to a lawyer. It was then that the officer told him he had no rights and, after Barnard disputed the statement, said he would be recorded as “uncooperative” on his police forms, according to Barnard.
“You didn’t have a voice,” Barnard said.
According to UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett, the identification process Barnard described is completely different from any kind of interview or interrogation process and is not involved with the right to have an attorney present. She said she was not aware of the exchange described by Barnard but said it is not the kind of exchange the department wants officers and arrestees to have.
You don’t have any rights. You aren’t supposed to talk with the police. Just do whatever they tell you. The important thing to remember is that, even though the police tell you that you have no rights, you do. You need to know what they are before you get into a situation like this and do not let the police intimidate you. If you are arrested, there are rights that go with it, despite the power abuse from the police who say otherwise. The 1% doesn’t want you there and they are more than happy to allow the police to behave in this manner so long as the police are protecting them.