Police brutality in Occupy movement violates rights

Police forces moved to evict Occupy protesters in Los Angeles and Philadelphia over the last week. In both cases, these raids took place after midnight — when the possibility of public outcry and media coverage was minimal — with the police force decked out in full riot gear. Protesters, denied their fundamental right to peaceful protest, were thrown in jail by the hundreds and held for the maximum possible time without charge — 48 hours — before being released. Apparently our government only supports democracy when it involves another country’s people fighting for their rights. When it comes to flaws in the democratic process in our own country, many state and government officials have so far been content to look the other way.

To riot police and to those who command them, here’s a quick tip: If you’re conducting an operation in the dead of night and keeping journalists from covering the story, you’re doing something wrong. These forces knew that they were engaging in something dirty, secretive, and even a little unconstitutional; and yet they still went through with the plans handed down to them. Despite the fact that Occupy is a non-violent movement, these same police have been given orders to evict protesters by any means necessary.

Rubber bullets and tear gas grenades were used to clear demonstrators in Oakland, Calif., resulting in substantial injuries to an Iraq War veteran; at the University of California at Davis, police doused protesters with military-grade pepper spray at a close range in such an ardent manner that a couple of students, one of whom was coughing up blood, had to be taken to a hospital. When our nation’s children, students, elderly women, professors, and veterans are being brutally clubbed or pepper-sprayed for their involvement in non-violent protests, something has got to stop. The police response to Occupy has never worked, and it never will.

This doesn’t even account for the cost we’re paying for mayors across the country to evict their citizens and, in many cases, our peers: According to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, the cleanup and removal of the Occupy movement in that city cost approximately $1 million in taxpayer dollars. At a time when all of California is suffering from an enormous financial crisis, Villaraigosa chose instead to spend much-needed money on paying police officers to break down a peaceful camp long after business hours were over.

The fiscal decision making involved here is truly mind-boggling.

As students and Americans, we must hold our government accountable for the repeated crimes it has committed against men and women who are supporting a cause they believe in. To stand by and say nothing is to support the removal of those rights. Regardless of whether or not we support the Occupy movement, we have a fundamental obligation to protect and defend our own rights from being taken away.

With enough eyes on them, those in charge of this widespread brutality may finally begin to take notice.