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October 29, 2011

Occupy Denver: “Normalizing” the Robo-Cops, and More Fuel for the “Violent Protester” Meme

If the photos from Occupy Denver Saturday night serve a constructive function, it’s to establish that Oakland was not an anomaly. Employing pepper spray, rubber bullets and also tearing down Occupy tents outside the state Capitol and the Civic Center, the Denver police seemed to be following the same template. It would be a tragic thing for the movement if these images led to “the normalization” of such scenes and the routine engagement of riot/robo-cops by the state — but they very well might.

I also post three photos out of the Denver Post’s 55 picture slideshow here for cautionary reasons. With some media quick to visually propagate the notion of violent tendencies at the core of Occupy, I was especially concerned about this particular photo:

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this image showing up on right-wing sites or in the traditional media as evidence of the movement’s violent tendencies, especially in light of this caption:

Denver Police Officer struggles on the ground with protesters during the Occupy Denver protest in Denver, CO, Saturday, October 29, 2011. Occupy Denver protesters and law enforcement officers faced off on the steps of the state Capitol and Civic Center this afternoon after protesters marched through downtown Denver for the fourth week in a row.

Before concluding that this cop has been attacked by protesters, however, a little context is in order. Not that it’s provided by the slideshow, but it would be helpful to consider that last shot in the context of this one (as well as to consider all three photos in this post as a group):

In terms of their order of appearance in the Denver Post slide show, by the way — at least as I’m writing this late Saturday night —  I should add that the first photo in this post leads off the slideshow while the second is #23 and this third photo is #35. Here’s the caption accompanying this picture:

A police officer goes after a protestor after he wouldn’t give up a tent while the police were tearing down tents in Civic Center Park Oct. 29, 2011. Police and Occupy Denver protestors clashed after a peaceful march through Denver that ended at the State Capitol Building with a standoff. Seven were arrested by early evening.

I can’t say for sure what the correct sequence was (I’m assuming they appear here, and in the Denver Post slideshow, in reverse chronological order), but if you consider them together along with the caption data, the cop clearly seems the aggressor, the protesters mostly passive and possibly engaged, in the middle shot, in fighting over the tent. (Notice also, how the copy is going for his weapon when he’s on the ground.) Perhaps the most significant point, however, is just how much muscle he had alongside him to maintain the upper hand (as well as the larger context, which you can appreciate viewing the entire slideshow, of the police first confronting the protesters, and then tearing up the place).

Note: Each of these photos expands to larger size.  See the entire Denver Post slideshow (“Occupy Denver protesters face off with police – Saturday, October 29, 2011″) here.

(photos: Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post caption 1: Police raise weapons while making an arrest during the Occupy Denver protest in Denver, CO, Saturday, October 29, 2011. Occupy Denver protesters and law enforcement officers faced off on the steps of the state Capitol and Civic Center this afternoon after protesters marched through downtown Denver for the fourth week in a row.)

  • Anonymous

    Parks are public space, not a place for the public to camp. The rule of law is important for maintaining public spaces. Put up a tent without permission, expect SWAT.

    If those protesters didn’t force the police to use expensive resources to manage city parks, the police could investigate rampant and widely known fraud throughout our financial system. Selfish selfish protesters.

    • Anonymous

      SWAT?  Are you kidding me?  And here I thought they were for ARMED suspects, not for campers!

    • glenn

      In LA the rationale is that the protesters are making it too hard to water the grass!

      Nice priorities there.

    • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

      I think that David Harvey addresses this issue very well:

      “In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement the state backed by
      capitalist class power makes an astonishing claim: that they and only
      they have the exclusive right to regulate and dispose of public space.
      The public has no common right to public space! By what right do mayors,
      police chiefs, military officers and state officials tell we, the
      people, that they have the right to determine what is public about “our”
      public space, and who may occupy that space, and when? When did they
      presume to evict us, the people, from any space we, the people, decide
      collectively and peacefully to occupy? They claim they are taking action
      in the public interest (and cite laws to prove it), but it is we who
      are the public! Where is “our interest” in all of this? And, by the way,
      is it not “our” money that the banks and financiers so blatantly use to
      accumulate “their” bonuses?”

      You can read the rest here: http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/777

      One of the things that OWS is doing is contesting the unearned authority of the 1% to make the law and determine what is moral and immoral, just and unjust.

      If you see photographs of the widespread police brutality and think it was justified, it says volumes about your own moral character. OWS is a non-violent, pro-democracy social movement. The police are violently suppressing democracy in public spaces in direct violation of the constitution. You might not agree with OWS, but don’t pretend you care about the rule of law, free speech or the freedom to assemble.

  • bks

    32 people were arrested at OccupyRochester (NY) night before last.   Something *is* happening here.

    http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011310290008

    It will be 70 degrees and sunny in Oakland on Wednesday.  See you there.

        –bks

    • Nick

      You’er stuck in the sixties.  Wake up and come up to reality.

  • Stella

    I don’t get any implication of violent protesters from the pictures. The message to me is “Don’t even think about forming any kind of non-authorized human community.  We own you, and will control you with our stormtroopers.”

  • glenn

    I find it interesting that all the other cops are wearing helmets, face-masks, gloves and body armor, and yet this particular cop has chosen to wade into the fray bare-headed, short-sleeved, and bare-handed.

    In photo 2 he lunges into the crowd, under the elbow of a protester – not sure what he’s lunging for with his outreached hand, but he is putting his body in a position where, if the protester were aggressive or violent, the cop would be putting himself in risk. And what for? to grab a tent?  He reminds me for all the world of a frustrated dad going after a naughty kid – “why you little shit, I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    It’s pretty clear he doesn’t fear physical violence from the protesters – looks like the heavy-duty stuff is all for show.

  • glenn

    I find it interesting that all the other cops are wearing helmets, face-masks, gloves and body armor, and yet this particular cop has chosen to wade into the fray bare-headed, short-sleeved, and bare-handed.

    In photo 2 he lunges into the crowd, under the elbow of a protester – not sure what he’s lunging for with his outreached hand, but he is putting his body in a position where, if the protester were aggressive or violent, the cop would be putting himself in risk. And what for? to grab a tent?  He reminds me for all the world of a frustrated dad going after a naughty kid – “why you little shit, I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    It’s pretty clear he doesn’t fear physical violence from the protesters – looks like the heavy-duty stuff is all for show.

  • glenn

    I find it interesting that all the other cops are wearing helmets, face-masks, gloves and body armor, and yet this particular cop has chosen to wade into the fray bare-headed, short-sleeved, and bare-handed.

    In photo 2 he lunges into the crowd, under the elbow of a protester – not sure what he’s lunging for with his outreached hand, but he is putting his body in a position where, if the protester were aggressive or violent, the cop would be putting himself in risk. And what for? to grab a tent?  He reminds me for all the world of a frustrated dad going after a naughty kid – “why you little shit, I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    It’s pretty clear he doesn’t fear physical violence from the protesters – looks like the heavy-duty stuff is all for show.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like he was wresting with someone off camera for possession of the tent, and when that person let go, the cop fell backwards.

    Naturally, the person who let go will be slapped in jail for violence against a ‘peace’ officer…

  • Anonymous

    It looks like he was wresting with someone off camera for possession of the tent, and when that person let go, the cop fell backwards.

    Naturally, the person who let go will be slapped in jail for violence against a ‘peace’ officer…

  • Paco

    If there’s something that the Occupy movement is showing, is how the police are nowadays nothing more than pitiful lapdogs for the corporations.

    It’s a pity, since they also would have a lot to gain from the Occupy movement.

    • Nick

      Wow, so they attack cops and you guys make any form of argument you can to excuse it?  
      How do you explain them surrounding another officer, and one knocking him off his motorcycle? Got a good reason to dispute that clear video?  

      How about the deliberate attempts on protester livesteam video, taunting police and making jokes about 9/11 to them?  Nice peaceful protesters. 

  • Nemo

    Local governments are setting the ground rules slowly – You cannot do this anymore! The police are there to maintain the status quo.  They will use what they have at hand. In other countries they will shoot you. This is not about rule of law.  Mubarak, Ben Ali, Khalifa, Ahmadinejad, etc, they all have rule of law on their side. 

  • http://twitter.com/vaughnwallace Vaughn Wallace

    Most, if not all, of the images in the Denver Post online slideshow have exif-data embedded, complete with capture times. Makes it easy to analyze these photographs as chronological evidence.

  • http://twitter.com/vaughnwallace Vaughn Wallace

    Most, if not all, of the images in the Denver Post online slideshow have exif-data embedded, complete with capture times. Makes it easy to analyze these photographs as chronological evidence.

  • Pingback: POLICE USE PEPPER SPRAY, RUBBER BULLETS ON OCCUPY DENVER PROTESTERS TRYING TO STORM CAPITOL | Tom Tancredo

  • Pingback: More. Occupy Denver children behaving poorly | Tom Tancredo

  • witness

    OK, here’s the story of the photos, cuz I was right there:

    The Third picture comes first, a young woman (yes, not a he but a her) was setting up a tent when her left wrist became entangled with the tent straps, and she was unable to remove the strap when the police began pulling from the other end.  The cops viewed this as resistance and she was tackled (picture 3).  When the individual in the middle picture arrived, the woman in the first picture was at the bottom of a pile of cops, being beaten with a tent wrapped around her head, having her face driven into the ground, and being groped inappropriately by insecure alpha douchebags (picture 1).  The individual in the second picture reacted as anyone should, and attempted to stop the assault (picture 2).  Some cops went down, the individual from the second picture was beaten and pepper sprayed repeatedly for trying to help a fellow human being in distress, and many bystanders were treated similarly.

  • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

    Well, I checked the file info on the pictures and this is what I found:

    p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}
    p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}

    #1: created 10/29/2011 – 2:06 PM

    #2: created 10/29/2011 – 2:05 PM

    #3: created 10/29/2011 – 3:08 PMThat would mean that the middle photo came first, the cop on the ground, followed a minute later by the first photo, where he and his associates are clearly on top of the situation. Then, according to this data, the third photo was taken slightly over an hour later, as the cops are tearing up the campsite.

    • witness

      yeah that’s interesting, but wrong. Exactly the opposite of the actual sequence, in fact. The file times must not correspond to the times the photos were taken, I can say this because all this happened right next to me. You can see the officer pulling on the tent in the third picture, and see it wrapped around a woman’s head beneath him in the first picture. Look closely.

  • Notfullyformed

    The top photo is very interesting in that, be it gun or fingers, everyone seems to blaming someone else. it’s reminiscent of the infamous scen from Reservoir dogs. I hope these protests don’t end up in that same kind of blood bath.

    I also find it interesting that these pics fall directly in line with the part of Obama’s MLK memorial dedication speech that the media chose to run ad infinitum, as a not too subtle reminder of what the OWS can and should expect to endure. Below is the excerpt.

    It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone. Progress was hard. Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats. For every victory during the height of the civil rights movement, there were setbacks and there were defeats. “

  • Troutcor

    OWS has made hugely important progress by making it crystal-clear how unhappy people are with business as usual. But where to go from here? In my opinion, there is little or nothing to be gained from confrontations with the cops, and I’m not really certain if camping out all winter will do much good, either. It is time to channel the discontent to the political system, specifically by making it clear that the alleged standard-bearer of our ideals, the Democratic Party, has sold out. Think about it – we elected Obama to change the very problems OWS seeks to address. That people have had to go out in the streets under his “leadership” speaks volumes. The only way change will be made is if we first take back the Democratic Party from the Geithners, Obamas and Clintons of this world. We know we oppose the GOP and they oppose us; it is a waste of time proving that over and over. The deeper question is not who is against us, but who will act for us?

    • psychohistorian

      You say the the deeper question is who will act for us and I would say you lost any shred of real humanity asking such a question.  You are responsible for your actions.  The Occupy folks are speaking to a broke system that you would have others fix for you, pathetic.

      Become the change you want.  Its messy and hard but it will get you a lot further than your faith in others doing it for you.

  • Pingback: Violence or an other way to win | Marcus' s Space

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  • Nick

    Mr. Shaw,

    Protesters on an Occupy Colorado site admitted that other protesters attacked the police.Protester also noted cop was “knocked to the ground” not that he fell.Wiley OWS protester: “Whoever decided to “fight for the tents” and knock a cop to the ground, you got the nice Muslim button lady teargassed. Was it worth it? Seriously, I think the cops could have handled things better, but what happened today is absolutely on the head of the idiot who decided to get physical with the cops twenty feet from the info table”.Try to be at least as honest with yourself as this protester is being.

  • bks

     Updated forecast:  72F and Sunny.   It will be a glorious day.  Log out, turn off your phone and come meet some real people.

        –bks

  • Anonymous

    Cops do the tear gassing and you whiners always blame it on the people getting tear gassed (not to mention beaten and maced, and sexually assaulted, in this case). Nice work.

  • glenn

    Gosh, people said mean things to cops!  This must mean the OWS protesters are Evil!

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