Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Arrests

[Note: this is from our local Fox station; initially, relations with the reporters from Channel 40 were... rocky. They were denied interviews, they were told, "Fox Lies!", and they were otherwise made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome on the Plaza. That began to change, though, when they ran some surprisingly unbiased and truthful reports about the Occupation. Compared to some of the other local teevee news coverage, theirs and Univision's have been the least contemptuous and snarky. However, none of the television news operations are being allowed to interview or video anyone involved with the Occupation without being surrounded by Occupiers who are recording what the teevee people are doing and what the person being interviewed is really saying. That way, there is a record of what happened that is not solely that of the teevee editing room. This practice seems to have convinced the teevee "news" people to be more... careful.]

I'm watching on two Livestreams. There are now 60 volunteers sitting down in the Plaza. One is in full Navy uniform. There may be another 20 observes and supporters. There are 4 or 5 police in the Plaza, some on bicycles. There is a paddy wagon. More patrol cars are arriving.

Spirits are high. They are not afraid.
Order to disperse was issued at 11:24p. Most of those sitting in the Plaza got up and went to the sidewalk. 9 remain to be arrested including Russell who is confined to a wheelchair. The police are trying to figure out what to do. The crowd is chanting "Waste of Money! Waste of Money!"


For some unknown reason, the Livestreamer with the camera on the arrests suddenly decided to fast-walk half-way around the Plaza (which takes up a whole city block) to get a different view after documenting the second arrest. People on the Livestream chat were saying, "What are you doing? GO BACK!!" over and over, but she kept heading around the Plaza in the opposite direct. People were virtually screaming in the chat, "'GO BACK!!!!" She kept going in the opposite direction. There was no explanation. She just kept going. The other live stream was focused on the processing point in the Plaza for the arrestees; it was outside a cafe in the Plaza -- which happened to be in the dark at the time. I'm sure it was light enough for the cameraman to see what was going on, but nobody else could.

After the first Livestreamer got about half way around the Plaza, the complete opposite corner from where the arrests were taking place -- it seemed she wanted to record the action at the police end -- she decided to head back the other direction. She got maybe half-way back to where she'd started from when the screen went black. Watchers thought it was temporary, as often happens with Livestream, but the screen stayed black. Someone in the chat said, "She dropped the laptop." Apparently the feed was dead. It did not return for the next ten minutes or so that I watched, and the other camera stayed on the processing point where no one online could see anything that was happening.

I'm sure some of this got sorted out in the by and bye, but I decided this was my cue to toddle off to bed. It's going to be a busy day after the sun rises.


Some detail of the procedures employed:

These arrests took place at a different location in the Plaza than previously; the scene was very well lit -- what we saw of it before the camera people went elsewhere to record something else.

I'm going by my often faulty memory, so take this for what it's worth. The police officer in charge of the operation announced over her patrol car's PA that it was an illegal assembly, that anyone who stayed in the park after closing time would be subject to arrest. She made this announcement at the corner where previous arrests had taken place -- only the volunteers were assembled at a corner at the other end of the block, so she was mostly making her announcement to media. That was kind of funny. At her first order, the majority of those sitting in protest got up and left the group who were volunteering to be arrested. Most of those who got up then assembled on the sidewalk, chanting. A few additional people joined the group who were volunteering to be arrested until there were nine in total, and someone took information from them all so that the lawyers would be able to follow up on the arrests efficiently.

The command officer then walked around to the corner where the Occupiers were actually sitting, and gave her second order to disperse. She was accompanied by one other officer (also female, I think.) Daniel, the veteran in full Naval uniform who was volunteering for arrest, then began to shame the officers for what they were doing, much like the Marine in New York, and though I can't be certain since the camera was behind the command officer, it seemed to have an effect. At one point, the command officer turned her head to the side and the expression on her face was one of almost wretched despair. Daniel continued for a while, then went silent.

Shortly, two columns of officers more or less marched from their assembly through the Plaza, to the corner where the volunteers were sitting. There appeared to be at least a dozen officers in each column, all in riot gear. The chant went up, "Where's the riot? Where's the riot?" The officers surrounded the volunteers and formed a cordon beyond which the crowd (of maybe 100) had to stand. Another officer off to the side was directing the riot police. They looked really stupid, and I wouldn't doubt some of them were mortified, surrounding a handful of non-violent protesters, with their billy-clubs at the ready, helmets and visors making them look oh so tough, while other officers (who may not even have been in riot gear, I couldn't see clearly enough to tell) conducted the arrests.

The arrests started with Daniel, the man in the full Navy uniform. This caused an outcry in the crowd of course. And the shame of it must have been felt by any officer with prior military service. That, of course, was the point. "Diversity of tactics."

After the second arrest, the camera moved away, and I haven't found any additional information about what happened next except that Russell, the man in the wheelchair, was arrested and released fairly quickly afterwards (this was his second arrest at the Plaza, I think.)

The legal argument that was made at the Council meeting -- very well, too -- was that the city has no authority to interfere with exercise of free speech and peaceful assembly. To do so is a violation of the First Amendment and any ordinance that does so is unconstitutional on its face. The city attorney tried to argue that the city was within its rights to limit time and place of assembly and free speech, an argument that was demolished so thoroughly that the city attorney looked like a complete nitwit who did not know the law. [I was informed during the hearing that when the current city attorney was in private practice, her appearances in court were... less than stellar.] One of the most telling arguments was that the government does not have rights, it exists to protect them, and by performing these nightly arrests, the city is opening itself to severe liability on constitutional grounds. No one who has been arrested has gone to court yet (the first group is ordered to appear on October 26) so this argument -- among others -- has not been made in court yet. But the way it was argued at Council, it was devastating. By arresting at all, but especially by continuing these arrests after this hearing, the Council really has put the city in legal jeopardy on constitutional grounds -- which may be one reason why so many other cities are cooperating with their Occupations.

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