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September 28, 2011

NYPD Occupy Wall Street Pepper-Gate: White Shirts Gone Wild

Many websites are reconstructing the Occupy Wall Street “Pepper Spray Incident. ” The particulars are that on Saturday, September 24, participants in the 11-day-old un-permitted and disorganized protest were hauled out of their contained area and accosted by police.  The images from this confrontation reveal more than police brutality and over-reaction — they specifically capture the active participation of high-ranking police officers in the fray.

Occupy Wall Street help us reconstruct the  pepper spray incident | World news | guardian co uk 1

1. Immediately before the pepper spray attack, a young man is pulled out of the crowd and thrown to the ground.

Occupy Wall Street help us reconstruct the  pepper spray incident | World news | guardian co uk
2. Another protester is pulled down to the ground.
Occupy Wall Street help us reconstruct the  pepper spray incident | World news | guardian co uk 3
3. One officer reaches into the barricaded area and appears to pull the hair of a protester.

Occupy Wall Street help us reconstruct the  pepper spray incident | World news | guardian co uk 2
4. Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, a veteran commander in Manhattan, arrives at the scene and pepper sprays the young women protesters by spraying directly in one woman’s face before making a spraying sweep of her companions. His arm is seen at the extreme right of the video capture.

Occupy Wall Street | NYC Protest for American Revolution
5. Look at the hand gesture of the bald uniform street cop charged with holding the orange barricade up.

video of the incident records that street cop saying to Inspector Bologna: “That’s not procedure. You fucking maced us!” His is not the only objection, the ambivalence of the street cops to the actions of the higher ups is in nearly all of the photos and screen grabs printed here.  In gestures and looks, the body language suggests the street cops were taken aback. (You might take another look at the Daily News photo leading off this post.)

Of course, street cops participated in the violence. And given these photos and video clips, one might suppose that kind of violence has procedural approval of the command structure. But is it procedure to publicly call out your senior officer on his or her behavior? What does it say about the mindset, not to mention the preparation of the Department, that a week-and-a-half into this protest officials at the command level lost control?

(Photo Credits: lead image: Jefferson Siegel for NY Daily News. 1.: video capture, Guardian UK, Occupy Wall Street, September 24; 2.: video capture, Guardian UK, Occupy Wall Street, September 24; 3.: video capture,Guardian UK, NYPD Pepper Sprays Peaceful Protesters; 4.: video capture, USLaw.com, Occupy Wall Street Protesters Maced/Pepper Sprayed; 5.:video capture, USLaw.com, Occupy Wall Street Protesters Maced/Pepper Sprayed.)

  • Anonymous

    The first image evokes memories of another young woman kneeling and crying at the scene of crowd-control gone out of control.

    The officer in blue in photo 6 miming WTF? delivers an on the scene assessment that will never find its way into the official account. Who are you going to believe? His lying eyes?

    • Lucaites

      It is similar to the Kent State photo and it is also different.  Here the woman is “crying” because she has been maced.  At KSU the woman is emoting, expressing something like public grief or wailing.  Each is significant, no doubt, but I wonder about what the difference points to?  I don’t have time to tease it out just now … but I’ll try to get back to it later.

    • Lucaites

      It is similar to the Kent State photo and it is also different.  Here the woman is “crying” because she has been maced.  At KSU the woman is emoting, expressing something like public grief or wailing.  Each is significant, no doubt, but I wonder about what the difference points to?  I don’t have time to tease it out just now … but I’ll try to get back to it later.

    • Anonymous

      Another image comes to mind.  That is of the young napalmed girl in Vietnam.  Basically the picture is one of a young, innocent naive girl who believes in the system, believes in America and believes that we do have the democratic right to express our opinion.  Then, suddenly has faith that all swept away.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc

      To my way of thinking when the cops allow people like Anthony Bologna to do what he did, we are just a short hop, skip and a jump from having full on death squads.  We either have a constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of expression or we don’t.  

  • LanceThruster

    Rome burns as we inch closer and closer to a police state.

    • Anonymous

      Lance, Yes. I’m disgusted that MSM will not cover this huge event. T-Bag creeps? 100 people, 200 news people and their cameras. Outrageous. Democracy Now and Current cover the event very well. Oh and MSNBC too.

  • LanceThruster

    Rome burns as we inch closer and closer to a police state.

  • Glenn

    I guess if they were wearing tricorn hats and knee britches they’d be treated with more deference

  • bystander

    But now a second video has surfaced* of Bologna using the pepper-spray on another group during Saturday’s protests, just to get them out of his way.**

    * http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/09/28/1020867/-Bolognas-Second-Attack-with-Pepper-Spray

    ** http://www.observer.com/2011/09/turns-out-pepper-spraying-nypd-officer-anthony-bologna-just-a-huge-dick/

    • Karen H.

      I was amazed when I saw that. Saw the photo too late to add it and it would have been overkill anyway. But the guy’s a menace. 

  • Paco

    Fucking idiots. Same thing happened in Greece and Spain. What the people there is doing is trying to help everybody, including the cops, and that’s how they pay them.

    And the worst thing is absolutely nothing will happen to them because of this. Bastards.

  • http://twitter.com/DREGstudios Brandt Hardin

    The movement is gaining momentum after a week and a half and
    Occupy movements are popping up all over the country!  Stand up together and use your voice to give
    to those without.  Tax the rich and feed
    the poor- you are the 99%!  See my Occupy
    Wall Street painting and Anonymous homage on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/occupywallstreet.html
    where you can also see videos of the protests and police brutality as well as
    get other sources for real coverage of the movement.  

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  • Linda

    It says “fear.”. Plain and simple, the powers that be knew this type of protest had to come sooner or later and they are afraid, very afraid, of themselves. And they should be. I do take issue with you calling the protestors “disorganized.” They’ve been pulled, wrangled, mangled and herded in so many directions by “authorities” who won’t allow them any sound system, communication devices etc that it would be hard to BE organized in these circumstances.

    I think everyone of them is a hero. I’m on my way there and I hope every other disenfranchised person in this country is too. I’m a 50 yr old white woman. Go ahead, call me a hippy…I’ll wear that moniker proudly and sleep like a baby knowing I’m finally standing up to the Facist Corporatocracy and Oligarchs in this country.
    I doubt the offending police officers will sleep quite as well. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe while we fight for their pensions along with everyone else’s and are crowded into “free speech zones” (wtf has happened to this country) they’ll feel a-ok about macing unarmed women with pepper spray from an distance of less than 5 ft. Again, wtf has happened to this country?

    It has to stop, it has to end and if it has to happen Tahrir Square style, well, then I thank our brothers and sisters in the Arab Spring uprisings for showing us the way BACK to democracy.

  • Bugboy

    Inspector Bologna was attempting to instigate a riot.  He should be charged.

    • glenn

      He was certainly using his authority to inflict pain on people in a punitive way.

    • glenn

      He was certainly using his authority to inflict pain on people in a punitive way.

  • Sdkjhsdkjh

    The protest was unpermitted and disorganized. What do they expect if they don’t move the first time.

    • glenn

      What a disgusting thing to say. Are you really saying that citizens who want to protest their government need to be given permission by the government or they can be freely assaulted?

      Do you really believe that a citizen on a public street must immediately obey without question all orders of police officers under penalty of being assaulted with having capsicum sprayed into their eyes if they don’t? Seriously?

    • glenn

      What a disgusting thing to say. Are you really saying that citizens who want to protest their government need to be given permission by the government or they can be freely assaulted?

      Do you really believe that a citizen on a public street must immediately obey without question all orders of police officers under penalty of being assaulted with having capsicum sprayed into their eyes if they don’t? Seriously?

  • tinwoman

    These police are not very well trained or able to deal with real riots, such as are customary in Europe.  There will be casualties when the time comes.

    Even the veteran German riot police lost it this year in Stuttgart.

    Restraint is key to this kind of work and the NYPD ain’t got it.

  • tinwoman

    These police are not very well trained or able to deal with real riots, such as are customary in Europe.  There will be casualties when the time comes.

    Even the veteran German riot police lost it this year in Stuttgart.

    Restraint is key to this kind of work and the NYPD ain’t got it.

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  • Chill

    NEVER GIVE UP! Never, never, NEVER give up!

    Do NOT concentrate power, do not organize!  REMAIN DIFFUSE! 

    It is the CONCENTRATION of POWER that caused the trouble in the first place! 

    You, WE all shall prevail if only we continue to maintain the WE, and avoid egocentrism. 

    In other words, we don’ need no stinkin’ LEADERS! 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_43OPDO2YVOGLADPLBYKDEEQRB4 Joel

    It means that the cops are human and sometimes fuck up. It’s why I can’t take you leftists seriously. You’ll never thank a cop when they do their job, you’ll never thank a cop for screaming at another for not doing their job but you’ll only care about when they fuck up. I expect nothing more after living in NYC for so many years.

    I’ll tell you one thing, growing up as a white boy in the LES in the 80’s, I didn’t see kids who looked like that in my area. I’ll give you a HINT as to why you wouldn’t see faces like that in my area – it wasn’t because of the cops.

    What the cops did was wrong but you must realize that they are human and are not perfect and if you swarm them, harass them/etc, out of many thousands of cops, a few will do something wrong. So would you in that situation. DO NOT fool yourself. You hold them to high standards when they fail and ignore them when they don’t. You defend cop killers and anarchists before you would ever shake the hands of a cop. It is why you should be thankful they only pepper spray a few people. You would deserve a lot worse. I had to watch one shit hole neighborhood after another burn down or stay burned down, until the late 90’s, while you crybabies stayed in safe areas and blamed cops for everything. Cry elsewhere. 

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  • Lucaites

    Steinpiaz: Actually, I think you may be correct here.  The Accidental Napalm image might be the more appropriate comparison to this image. It clearly points to something that should not happen, that we are responsible for, and seems to locate us in a trogolodyte world.  Those things relate in some measure to the Kent State image as well, but the issue of grief seems to be more to the point there.  Maybe this is something of a hybrid image in its “iconic” potential.  Worth thinking about more.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t know for sure, but it may add yet another perspective. I’ve always thought the children were fleeing from a napalm attack, not that they themselves had been struck by napalm. That horrible stuff sticks to flesh (or anything else), and it seems unlikely they would still have been running.

    If I’m right, that means we have a third category: victims of direct assault (the young people who were pepper-sprayed); victim overwhelmed by a combination of personal and common grief, as Lucaites noted; and victims fleeing from a horrific attack they would have no capacity to comprehend. How can one get his or her mind around something like that?

    [My wife and I saw the exhibit of Pulitzer Prize photos at the Newseum in Washington while we were up there for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert (hugely disappointing) rally. The picture of the fleeing children was included, and the presentation included audio of the photographer talking about it. If the exhibit is still up and you're in the area, it's definitely worth visiting.]

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think the image was so powerful that it may be one of the most iconic images of this decade and (hopefully) comes to symbolize a new shift towards economic justice and the breakup of the power of rich corporations over the average human.  When people that look like librarians or Sunday school teachers (the woman is actually a teachers aid) are so obviously brutalized by the police, it sinks in with the majority that maybe things aren’t what they say and really makes the average person question rather or not we really do live in a free and democratic society.  We say we do, many people think they do.  But do we?  But, an image like this is too uncomfortably close to home to ignore.  I think this photo will come to symbolize the day things began to change.  And they will change.  Believe it.

  • GarnetMoom

    I don’t know how old you are but I remember the massacre at KSU. They are both about police brutality; aimed at those who express dissent at the establishment… You would be hard pressed to find this type of brutality at a Tea Party rally.
    Actually, the young woman in the Kent State U photo was expressing horror as one of her fellow student protesters was dying in front of hern after being shot by the National Guard.

  • Anonymous

    It’s easy to get lost analyzing images, partly because we’re wired to find patterns and make connections — it’s fun! So we end up seeing imaginary bears in the night sky stars which is, from a lot of angles, pretty silly. But it’s also instructive. I’ll betcha anything the folks that saw Ursas Major and Minor in the northern sky spent a lot of time outdoors, that they were pretty diligent about spotting bears before the bears spotted them.

    The Liberty Park, Kent State, and Accidental Napalm images are structurally quite similar. Each focuses on a girl in excruciating pain set against a chaotic background. None of these victims did anything for which their pain was just retribution. They embody “collateral damage”. The bear is not present in these pictures, he is just off camera. The hand that delivered the pain is so-called civilization, the NYPD, the Ohio National Guard, the South Vietnamese Army.

    In absolute terms there is far more pain in the Vietnam image. That poor girl nearly died, wasn’t protesting anything. The girl in Liberty Park was treated at the scene, vinegar and something else. Mary Ann Vecchio’s pain was emotional and not physical, a difference we recognize as adults — as children we made no such distinction. 

  • Lucaites

    Actually the children in the accidental napalm attack were hit by the napalm.  That is why the skin is actually peeling off of Kim Phuc (the girl’s body).  And if you go to Life for that date you will see other, even more horrifying images of skin peeling off of babies.  Those photos don’t get reproduced very much.  Bob Hariman and I write about it at some length in our book No Caption Needed (as well as the Kent State Photo BTW).  But you are write in pointing to the sense in which the photo above sits somewhere between the napalm and kent state photos.  Like Kent State the people here were protesting and thus in some odd way, voluntarily in harm’s way; like Napalm they are actually being attacked.  Of course the girl at Kent State was also part of the student population being attacked (though she was actually not a student but a transient) though she wasn’t physically harmed so she is crying out in horror (as someone above suggests) and in grief.  I think the public perception of the image suggests that it was read as more an image of grief than horror, but there is lots of room for interpretation there.  I’m not sure what to make of all of this,EXCEPT that in each instance the image seems to invite a reaction that clearly exceed normal ideological wrangling and suggests something like a moral wrong …. It doesn’t matter what these people were doing, they don’t deserve to be treated like this.  In short, they all point to something that is fundamentally wrong.  That the images have not circulated in the mainstream media points to a doubled moral outrage.

  • Anonymous

    Lucaites, thanks!! At least I can say that for me my foolish error was “fortunate fall.” Not only did it elicit additional insight from you, but it also sent me back to your book and to Nick Ut’s comments in the Life article. Your correction also reminded me once more of something I preach but too often forget: to quote the title of Error Morris’s book, which I’m reading right now, Believing Is Seeing.

    I used to show and discuss Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors with 3rd semester Honors students. One day I mentioned casually that Judah’s brother had taken money to hire a hit man and then he himself had shot Judah’s mistress. The students burst out, “No, it was a different guy!!”

    I insisted, pointing out that I had watched the film a dozen times. But I promised to watch it once more, and I did. The students were right, of course, and next class meeting I apologized profusely for my stubbornness and praised them for their sharp eyes and willing to protest. A good teaching moment for all of us.

    Quite clearly, though, I needed a refresher lesson. What makes my mistake this time even more of a lesson is that within the past year I had heard Ut talk about the image at the Newseum, and had read your book! Subtle instance of confirmation bias, perhaps.

  • Lucaites

    Be sure to read our review of “Believing is Seeing” at http://www.nocaptionneeded.com.

  • Lucaites

    Old enough that I could have been one of the students protesting — in fact, was, albeit on a different campus.  And you are right in part.  Though at Kent State it wasn’t the “police” but the “national guard.”  And the woman was actually not a student but a transient.  I’m not sure either of those facts mitigates the force of the image.  I agree that she is expressing horror, but I think it was also read as a sign of grief as well … but admittedly a form of grief animated by the horror.  The key to that photo, I think, is that it channelled a good deal of public sentiment about what was happening here.  And while we would not want to point to it in any direct cause-effect way, it was certainly one of the markers that turned public attitudes more broadly against the war.  Interestingly enough, we don’t get the same kind of affective response from the photo above.  A large part of that, no doubt, is because it hasn’t circulated very widely among the mainstream media.  But also I wonder if it isn’t because public sentiments, for whatever reasons, have turned against such forms of protest in ways that refuse to acknowledge or accede to the moral crime here.  

    I still can’t put my finger on it, but there seems to be something fundamentally different about this photo and the Kent State image, notwithstanding the points of analogy you point to.

  • Lucaites

    Agreed.  But I would only add that sometimes (and maybe oftentimes) so-called  ”imaginary bears” can be more threatening than the so-called “real thing.”  And if nothing else, seeing the connections alerts us to something fundamental about who and what we are.  

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