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Author Topic: Occupy Wall Street and the sad state of American protesting
Lyrhawn
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I can only find one or two articles on the Wall Street protests from any major news outlets. Everything else is from blogs or from the international press. It's hard to really get a handle on what it is, since no one is talking about it, but it looks like a highly disorganized mishmash of fringe ideologies, and in some cases, NO discernible ideology, but rather random outpourings of anger. And yet, despite a lack of unity, they've documented several incidences of what clearly looks like excessive violence from the police. It's hard to say whether or not the violence was provoked because no one else is there to document what is happening, so it's all on the protesters side. In some cases, like the video of a small group of women being barricaded off and then maced, I don't see how it can be justified.

I have two real complaints in this post: 1. Why aren't the protesters saying anything coherent? 2. And why isn't the media talking about it?

On the first point, seriously, there are thousands of unemployed, educated young people around this country, and they can't at least come up with a decent list of specific complaints and even a rudimentary plan of action? That's mind bogglingly unbelievable. It's stuff like this that makes me despair for America's future. No matter how things get in this country, most of us just seem to sit around and take it. If I was anywhere near New York I probably would have seriously considered trying to help. Protests, especially in America, tend to be highly ineffective if they aren't accompanied by a media presence and a political message. "What do we want?!" "Eh, I don't know." "And when do we want it?!" "Soon? I guess?" is not an effective message. It's not hard to look at what's going on around us and see the problems, lord knows they've been written about enough. I saw interviews with one or two protesters that were pushing campaign reform to reduce corporate influence over elections, well, there's a start. Adopt that as part of your platform. I just can't believe it's this hard to organize a nation of technological savvy and fed up young people.

On the second point, where is the media? Yes, the protest is unorganized, but it IS an outgrowth of our economic conditions and a lot of frustration. It's news worthy, but barely a peep. And isn't the fact that they're having such trouble coming up with a message also worthy of talking about? Even if all that fails the test, surely the violence accompanying the protests is worth at least a 30 second blurb on CNN.

It's too easy to say that corporations that control the media would of course want to tamp down the story, such as it is. There's something else at play. These same news organizations jump at the chance to report unrest of any size and sort around the world, but when it happens in our back yard we pooh pooh it and move on?

The apathy and malaise in this country is perhaps the most frustrating symptom of our national problems. Yeah yeah, there's the debt, and Congress is dysfunctional, whatever, but no one seems poised to really do much about it.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
It's too easy to say that corporations that control the media would of course want to tamp down the story, such as it is. There's something else at play. These same news organizations jump at the chance to report unrest of any size and sort around the world, but when it happens in our back yard we pooh pooh it and move on?

Of all the possible objections, the one being raised is, news organizations can't possibly be hypocritical? Well. [Wink]
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Lyrhawn
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I'm not saying they can't be hypocritical. Clearly, they are.

Or to be more specific, they're employing a double standard.

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Rawrain
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Either
A- The individuals aren't nearly as intelligent as you believe.

or

B- These individuals are as intelligent as you believe, and they too realized the media will not heed to their needs due to the great control large cooperation have, so in an attempt to get the media's attention on another note, they began brawling hope that would get them enough air time to make their speech.
-

In situations like the A crowd, maybe there are B crowd people in there too, you'd be surprised to find that said "B crowders" may actually be attempting to organize, but maybe due to the sheer amount of A crowd it's not possible, I find myself in these kind of situations all the time /:

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fugu13
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It wasn't really newsworthy, outside of local news, until the 80 person arrest. Getting together a few hundred people in New York City to walk down sidewalks is barely even amateur flash mob level.

And American protesting is just fine for causes that large numbers of people actually have strong enough beliefs about. For instance, the recent Wisconsin drama had high tens of thousands turnout, possibly breaking a hundred thousand (in a city with a tiny fraction of the population of NYC!). That deserved coverage, and got it.

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Rakeesh
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Well I 'spect we can all agree on *that*!
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Rawrain
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fugu13, I've heard nothing about that....

-In Missouri.....

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fugu13
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It was covered fairly heavily by all the major news sources for several days. You must not have been paying attention to the news around then.
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TomDavidson
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*blink* You didn't hear about the Wisconsin protests last winter?
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Rawrain
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I watch the news about 3 times a week for an hour each time - I usually stop paying attention the moment they mention sports, the last MAJOR news I've heard was the Chilean Mining Incident.... oh and small children being hit by stray bullets, and this is why I won't live in St.Louis anyways, I really didn't hear ANYTHING about Wisconsin, in fact I've never heard any news about any events in Wisconsin my whole entire life.... does Missouri hate Wisconsin or something O-o
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
It wasn't really newsworthy, outside of local news, until the 80 person arrest. Getting together a few hundred people in New York City to walk down sidewalks is barely even amateur flash mob level.

And American protesting is just fine for causes that large numbers of people actually have strong enough beliefs about. For instance, the recent Wisconsin drama had high tens of thousands turnout, possibly breaking a hundred thousand (in a city with a tiny fraction of the population of NYC!). That deserved coverage, and got it.

Well it was a bit more than a stroll down the sidewalk.

But that's beside the point. Wisconsin was easy stuff. It's easy to protest when you're in a well funded, well organized union with tens of thousands of members and the media there to splash your image across the nightly news for hours on end day after day. The protest practically runs itself.

What do we do when people are still just as upset, but totally unorganized in any meaningful way? I reject the premise that a lack of Wisconsin-size protests indicates a lack of strong beliefs.

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fugu13
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I think it represents a fairly solid lack of strong beliefs in comparison to the same sorts of topics that have had, without large organized unions behind them, much larger protests in the past (especially given how much the population has increased).
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Shanna
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The footage coming out of this is insane. Unarmed protesters penned and maced, cops cursing and throwing punches, excessive physical restraint during arrests.
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Rawrain
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Aren't police supposed to be role models of sorts?

Guess that's what happens when ex.military join the police force /:

Not sure if ya'll heard about the SWAT team that raided a guys house, here in Missouri, because someone tipped them off that the guy had drugs, they entered the mans home and shot his dogs immediatly dragged the man, his wife, and children and pinned them against the wall at gun point, after a therough search of the house they found 1 Joint (pot people perhaps even less)... and this whole time you can see the SWAT guy sitting there basking in the "power", I will find a video...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbwSwvUaRqc
Guess I need some corrections, 2/3 dogs were shot 1 being in a cage..., the amount of pot was actually just the resin left over in a pipe....

On the upside, this guy did leave his t.v. on when he was sleeping /:
------

The police, even though they are supposed to be on the good peoples side, a starting to turn into a military order of sorts, this is one bad step in a really wrong direction, after all who has the most swing over the police, rich people.

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BlackBlade
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I don't see any indication in the video or elsewhere that one of the dogs was in a cage. I don't really know police procedure for dogs or are attempting to defend their own.
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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:
The footage coming out of this is insane. Unarmed protesters penned and maced, cops cursing and throwing punches, excessive physical restraint during arrests.

Protests are an extremely volatile situation for cops and they take them seriously. From the videos I've seen, the protest was disruptive and a few of the protesters intentionally confrontational. Some of this is due, simply, to the nature of protests. But the cops were, for the most part, doing their duty of maintaining order. As much as the protesters want to be the center of the universe, there are other american citizens who wish to use those same roads and sidewalks to get to work, conduct business, etc.
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Rakeesh
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Heh, it would have to be an overt display of excessive force indeed before you'd do more than brush it aside, Capax.
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capaxinfiniti
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I see the results of this protest as inherant to the nature of protests and, more generally, human behavior. Some beligerant and confronational protestor; some agressive police officers. I'm not brushing it aside if I'm acknowledging it. But yeah, clearly I don't think this is a case of excessive force.
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Samprimary
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quote:
But yeah, clearly I don't think this is a case of excessive force.
Clearly.
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capaxinfiniti
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Yup, clearly.
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Bella Bee
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:


I have two real complaints in this post: 1. Why aren't the protesters saying anything coherent? 2. And why isn't the media talking about it?

On the first point, seriously, there are thousands of unemployed, educated young people around this country, and they can't at least come up with a decent list of specific complaints and even a rudimentary plan of action? That's mind bogglingly unbelievable.

It kind of reminds me of the 15-M movement in Spain - only without the wall to wall media coverage that they got during their protests this spring/summer.

Although they had vaguely similar opinions and hopes - more jobs, no cuts, capitalism = bad, down with politicians, etc - they never really came to any real conclusions about what exactly they wanted to achieve, or, more importantly, how they could achieve whatever it might be.

So maybe it's not a US thing. It's just a modern youth/society thing. Maybe we just don't quite know what we want, or we're too prepared to see everyone's opinions as valid to decide what is most important.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
I think it represents a fairly solid lack of strong beliefs in comparison to the same sorts of topics that have had, without large organized unions behind them, much larger protests in the past (especially given how much the population has increased).

You're talking about what? Civil Rights Movement protests? Those also had large groups behind them that were reasonably funded and helped organize both an ideological front and a protest movement.

The strong feelings are there. There's just something missing from a generation or two ago. I think ideological cohesion is a BIG part of it. There's no one message to get behind and chant. They sort of had something going with the "we are the 99%" thing, but even that is too vague. They should have figured out the message BEFORE they marched.

What historical spontaneous protest movements did you have in mind?

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:


I have two real complaints in this post: 1. Why aren't the protesters saying anything coherent? 2. And why isn't the media talking about it?

On the first point, seriously, there are thousands of unemployed, educated young people around this country, and they can't at least come up with a decent list of specific complaints and even a rudimentary plan of action? That's mind bogglingly unbelievable.

It kind of reminds me of the 15-M movement in Spain - only without the wall to wall media coverage that they got during their protests this spring/summer.

Although they had vaguely similar opinions and hopes - more jobs, no cuts, capitalism = bad, down with politicians, etc - they never really came to any real conclusions about what exactly they wanted to achieve, or, more importantly, how they could achieve whatever it might be.

So maybe it's not a US thing. It's just a modern youth/society thing. Maybe we just don't quite know what we want, or we're too prepared to see everyone's opinions as valid to decide what is most important.

I think that last part is part of it, perhaps. We're far more likely than previous generations to compromise and listen to another side of an argument. But at the end of the day, we still need to be decisive.

Even if we organized the entire thing online, we should convene local meetings, come up with ideas, and elect delegates to larger and larger web meetings until there's a regional or national hierarchy in place that can create and pass a platform of ideals to run on. It's also about more than just complaining against this particular issue. Youth political action power in general in this country is anemic and sad. It's why it's so easy for the government to sell out the youth vote, because we have no lobby, we have no money, and through apathy a lot of us don't vote. If we organized, we could start demanding a voice at the table. Otherwise they can continue to either ignore us or buy us off with lunch money.

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Raymond Arnold
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I think at least part of the problem is that solving economic problems is HARD.
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fugu13
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quote:
You're talking about what? Civil Rights Movement protests? Those also had large groups behind them that were reasonably funded and helped organize both an ideological front and a protest movement.

The strong feelings are there. There's just something missing from a generation or two ago. I think ideological cohesion is a BIG part of it. There's no one message to get behind and chant. They sort of had something going with the "we are the 99%" thing, but even that is too vague. They should have figured out the message BEFORE they marched.

What historical spontaneous protest movements did you have in mind?

We've had much, much larger protests, pretty much involving primarily groups that exist to protest (as opposed to other sources of organizing power such as unions), in the past decade on issues from whales to free trade to lots of other things. A few hundred against capitalism is an extraordinarily tiny protest, and deserved about as much (again, prior to the arrest events, which were at best mismanaged) national news coverage as the regularly occurring (I know there was one every few years in southern Indiana alone) "try to block out planned parenthood" anti abortion events that could get a few hundred people together: none.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
I think at least part of the problem is that solving economic problems is HARD.

Sure, but perhaps my complaint isn't that the youth of America don't have a concrete solution that will fix our economic problems so much as they don't have any voice in the conversation at all.
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Lyrhawn
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Fugu -

I think you're missing part of my point, well, perhaps most of it really.

Part of my problem is that there really isn't much of a group here that exists just to protest. Save the whales, anyway, is pretty much a concrete thing to rail against. Railing against capitalism? If you really questioned anyone there, the grand majority aren't going to argue against capitalism, just today's application of it. It's frustrating that there is no cohesive movement that groups like unions, and even environmental groups, have. I absolutely disagree that it's because of a lack of strong feelings. The youth of the nation have strong feelings about a LOT of things. There's just a wave of jaded cynicism that it seems impossible to overcome. I think much of it has to do with feeling powerless, rather than not caring enough. I can't measure my opinion on this any more than you can measure yours, but I do disagree with you.

I guess I'd also like to see something from the media that represents a youth-centric aspect of the current problems. I don't blame the media for PART of that. America's youth has to do something to garner recognition first, but it's an issue that's worth talking about, and isn't actually talked about. Par for the course for the media, I suppose. You could say the same about a lot of things. On the whole though, I'm not particularly annoyed that the media didn't cover this specific protest before the violence. Though, it would seem that the major media outlets, the one with television channels and such, have been incredibly lax in their reporting. Only ABC, as of a day or two ago, had actually done anything with it, and it's still mostly a blip on the radar.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by capaxinfiniti:
Yup, clearly.

And when people think like you in law enforcement, they typically legitimize the protesters in a way they could normally only dream of.
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Raymond Arnold
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I was at the protest, briefly, and frankly it seemed like a non-event. I asked various people what they were particularly hoping to accomplish. The most coherent response was "end capitalism", followed closely by "raise awareness that Global is a big deal but that it's basically too late to do anything about it."

Most of the other people seemed to have a vague desire to protest but frankly didn't even seem all that angry.

A few days prior I was at the Troy Davis protest, which involved a lot of young people, had a clear objective, got news coverage, and felt extremely productive.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
... felt extremely productive.

Except for the part about Troy Davis dying [Wink]
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Blayne Bradley
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If only we had some kind of group of intellectuals and activists who could organize such a large varied and diverse group disjointed people into one unified cohesive force of action.

Like a party or something. Like a party dedicated to helping the downtrodden and those affected negatively by the "free market" and capitalism...

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Glenn Arnold
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"I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat." -Will Rogers.

Unfortunately, whenever you have a large number of people, you have a large number of opinions and motives. It shouldn't be surprising that this protest seems to lack focus. And given that economics is not simple, I would be distrustful of anyone who claimed to have a simple agenda for reforming Wall Street.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
... felt extremely productive.

Except for the part about Troy Davis dying [Wink]
Well, yes, there's that. (Insert suitably tongue in cheek yet not actually funny emoticon).

I don't know that the protest was actually the single best use of my two hours, but I think that, given my knowledge at the time, it was dramatically better than whatever else I was likely to have been doing that night. (I'm trying to get into the habit of volunteering time for good things, and also into the habit of thinking about which good things are most productive, and gradually those two habits will hopefully produce a noticeably positive impact on the world.)

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pooka
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When I was a young un I went to a couple of protests. There was a mish mash of Save the Whales, Divest from South Africa, End Nuclear testing, Vietnam POW/MIA (twenty years ago there were people pretty sure they still had loved ones alive in Vietnam). That was in Lafayette Park, across from the White House (during the Reagan or GHW Bush admin). I watched a documentary about Reagan and supposedly there was all these protests when he was in office, but I don't remember much about them at the time. Oh yeah, acid rain.

Later I went to a protest at a nuclear testing site in Nevada, and the range of signs and messages was about as diverse. There was a little larger "homeless not helpless" group there.

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beverly
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It would seem that most of the people arrested were arrested for filming officers.

But it is not illegal to film officers.

This is clearly an abuse of power.

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fugu13
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Unfortunately, that ruling is only from the first circuit court of appeals, whose jurisdiction does not include New York. In many jurisdictions courts have allowed wiretapping laws that prevent videotaping officers (with sound). As far as I know (though I have not researched extensively), there is no ruling in New York stating that video taping of officers with sound is legal, and I don't know if there are any laws that would make it illegal (until overturned by a court), so they very well might exist, and it very well might still be illegal there.
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Lyrhawn
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Well that's interesting. So the law isn't so much against film, actually the law doesn't seem to exist at all, it's an application of eavesdropping laws used by police to thwart filming? That's what I took away from the article, in part.

Other than shouting "film only, no sound!" when they try to arrest you, there doesn't seem to be much of a way out of that.

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beverly
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Maybe this will spearhead making the law more *clear* that video-tapping officers is a very, very good thing. [Evil]
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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by beverly:
It would seem that most of the people arrested were arrested for filming officers.

I'm not getting the same impression based on what I've been reading. NPR reports that a spokesman for the protest claims "[one] demonstrator was arrested because she refused to stop taking photographs of the arrests" but also reports the police as saying "the arrests were mostly for blocking traffic. Charges include disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But one demonstrator was charged with assaulting a police officer."

The same thing was reported by the WSJ and MSNBC:
quote:
There were approximately 80 arrests, mainly for disorderly conduct by individuals who blocked vehicular and pedestrian traffic, but also for resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and, in one instance, for assault on a police officer, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

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fugu13
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Yep, most laws used to prevent videotaping officers are just anti-taping laws (though I don't think all).

Returning to the previous conversation, my argument has only been over two things: one, the protest was entirely unworthy of national coverage due to its size (until the noteworthy police activities). Given the huge numbers of similar size or larger protests that happen regularly and don't get national news attention, I don't really see how there's much to argue about there. Two, that the small size reflects a lack of widespread strong support for the sorts of positions being advocated. After all, there are *similar* issues, such as free trade and globalization, that generate large protests (and that's even if we subtract out the union-backed protests). It isn't entirely unreasonable to say that "the feelings exist, it's just nobody has managed to organize them", but I find it extremely unconvincing: people, including people from similar demographics, have been extremely capable of organizing numerous protests on topics near and far. That there hasn't been a competent organizing of a large scale (localized or distributed) protest strongly suggests to me that there just isn't enough true discontent to work with. The same people protesting "capitalism" in most cases partake extensively of the fruits of capitalism, and I think the lack of strong action comes from that lack of commitment to professed beliefs at the expense of comfort.

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beverly
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The police are saying that most of them are for blocking traffic, and that same quote is getting repeated in multiple articles.

The people present and recording it record several instances of people being arrested because they were filming. Some were arrested for wearing masks. (The law being used here is 116 years old, created to target the KKK.)

Very Telling Videos.

The first two videos are of people being treated brutally who are on the sidewalk. The last video has a guy shouting and standing in the street (with a lot of other people) but certainly doing nothing to deserve the violent treatment he got.

There was a guy taken down who was walking down the street drumming on a drum. Another guy was arrested for doing nothing more than writing "LOVE" on the sidewalk. There are plenty of people standing in the streets blocking traffic being completely left alone. What kind of sense does that make?

It seems that officers, frustrated at their inability to clear the street of 1000+ people, are losing control of themselves and lashing out at random people for no reason.

[ September 27, 2011, 04:27 PM: Message edited by: beverly ]

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beverly
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Video put out on Youtube on Sept 2nd calling people to join this protest and their goals and purposes.
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fugu13
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1000+ people? I've seen zero evidence they got more than maybe three hundred, tops. And most of the videos seem to show so few that I think that's probably an overestimate.

Also, while the videos are important evidence, remember that there's nothing inconsistent between most of the arrests being for blocking traffic and a few videos showing people being arrested for filming or wearing masks.

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beverly
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I'm rather more concerned with officers abusing power than with the percentage of what the arrests were for or the number of people present. I can't know what the percentages are at this point, that information just isn't available yet. I can see that there is abuse going on. I can see that better than you can estimate how many people are there.

This article estimates 5000.

Because of the videos taken, the people involved are more likely to be held accountable and the information on who was arrested for what more likely to come to light. But considering the behavior of the officers and their denial of using force or pepper spray inappropriately, I am less likely to take their other statements seriously.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
1000+ people? I've seen zero evidence they got more than maybe three hundred, tops. And most of the videos seem to show so few that I think that's probably an overestimate.

Also, while the videos are important evidence, remember that there's nothing inconsistent between most of the arrests being for blocking traffic and a few videos showing people being arrested for filming or wearing masks.

I don't know about thousands, but the videos I've seen suggest more than 300, though, for how long they were there I have no idea.
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capaxinfiniti
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The vids you linked to above are 40 second clips. I've seen some longer ones but few can be considered accurate portrayals of the entire situation. They don't show the possible provocations and infractions which occurred before the arrest. Having a camera doesn't give you carte blanche to do as you wish around the police. Siding with the cops in this case seems reasonable. The cops are very aware that nearly everyone at protests such as this have cameras of some sort. And it's equally likely that the bystanders and spectators do as well. The fact that the police officers are keenly aware of this, and understand that the videos heighten the level of scrutiny and criticism their actions will recieve, makes me wary that the arrests were unwarranted and the force excessive.

I feel the cops were more than accommodating considering the circumstances. I doubt any of the officers woke up that morning relishing the idea of escorting a few hundred people through one of the busiest cities in the world, know that there would be a few confrontational individuals among them with a vendetta against authority and a camera in each hand. It should be understood that the cops are guarding against an escalation of the situation and more hostile situations, such as rioting.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by beverly:
I can see that there is abuse going on.

No. You're not there. Videos can be edited very easily -- even unintentionally.

There may be abuse, and it certainly should be investigated. But to have decided that there definitely is at the very least premature.

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Dan_Frank
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Hey, I haven't been following the media's coverage of the occupy wall street stuff at all, but I'm curious: Did anyone make a big stink about all of the Obama-as-Hitler posters the way they did when those posters showed up at Tea Parties?
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beverly
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Multiple videos have been taken from different angles. I've seen them. I have a hard time believing there is anything that could've happened before to make what happened after not abuse. But I'm not their judge or jury. I just have an opinion.
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Mucus
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I'm surprised that there is so little resistance to laws stopping filming of police. Then again, I should find out how it works here.
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