Friday, November 18, 2011

This is the scene of the take down of Brendan Watts -- aka Romania -- whose bloodied head is the iconic picture of the N17 Demonstrations in New York

I have not yet found any update on his condition, but a close up picture of him being man-handled by police on the ground was in my morning newspaper (unidentified, just a random "grab" photographed by AP, so I won't try to find and post the picture here). The scene can be found in the video above with very careful searching. It was a melee obviously.

According to witnesses who Tim Pool interviewed yesterday, Brendan "Romania" Watts had been on the barricades around the Plaza and was confronting police by shaking the barricades, trying to move them, and shouting at police officers. Apparently he started to pick up a barricade when one of the officers jumped over it and started chasing Brendan.

Again this is based on what I recall witnesses saying in Tim's video yesterday -- I'm sure it's on line if anyone wants to review it.

Brendan ran and apparently a number of other officers joined in the chase. Brendan fell and hit his head on the curb of one of the planters, and the police jumped him, with more and more joining in. Some of the demonstrators tried to intervene, and apparently at least one tried to get Brendan out of the middle of the fracas.

It is not clear that police actually struck Brendan, but they were grabbing him and trying to "control" him -- which you can sort of see in the video. Others were trying to get him out from under the police. At about 3:25 in the video, Brendan is seen being thrown out of the planter and onto the granite (?) surface of the Plaza. He's obviously badly injured. It's clear to me at any rate that the police recognize Brendan is badly hurt and it looks like they are calling for assistance. Then Brendan starts struggling, and it looks like the police are getting very rough with him. I don't know whether any medical assistance was called. It should have been, immediately, but we've seen over and over many incidents of demonstrators being injured by police being left to fend for themselves or being arrested and taken away in a severely injured state only to be neglected once in custody until their situation worsens.

It's obvious that once the police get Brendan under "control" he can't walk. They continue to rough him up (something similar happened with an injured demonstrator in Portland, and of course it happened in Oakland with Kayvan Sabehgi. Video of what happened in that incident seems to come and go. The Scott Olsen video is still widely available.)

It's easy to see why witnesses were not really clear on what happened. They couldn't see, and they couldn't get very close to what was going on because of all the police who crowded in.

Tim Pool was in the Plaza when this happened, by the way. He was at the opposite end of the Plaza when he saw the police rush in, and he attempted to get closer, but it was of little use given all the people and police on the scene. He said he knew who Brendan "Romania" was, and he had seen some of the interaction on the barricades, but he didn't know anything else.

Other people had taken video and still images of the fracas and the aftermath, some of which Tim tried to show on his stream.

At this point, that's all I know.



  1. I was standing next to Watts and taking photographs for several minutes leading up to this melee. I can confirm that he was apparently trying to provoke a reaction from police. I witnessed him blowing cigarette smoke into their faces, smearing toothpaste (?!) on the glove of an officer, kicking the barricades and pushing them out toward the sidewalk, and finally, knocking the cap off an officer, which is what caused them to pursue and arrest him.
    Were it not for the slippery and volatile conditions within the park at the time, I think he could have been arrested with a minimum of force. As it is I think the police were remarkably restrained in the face of being surrounded by rowdy demonstrators.
    My pictures of Watts are on Flickr here:

  2. Thanks for the link to your pix. They seem to confirm that the injuries Watts sustained did not happen immediately when he got to the planter. Given the melee... he could have been injured at almost any point in the fracas.

    From all the reports I've seen and read, there is no doubt in my mind that Watts was being provocative prior to being chased by police.

    The question is what is the appropriate response. Should the police escalate as they did here or not?

    It seems that every time the police escalate -- whether as here or in Seattle or Berkeley or Oakland or Davis or Atlanta or wherever -- it backfires on authority.

    Police always have discretion in these matters. Always. Unfortunately, they haven't been much inclined to exercise their discretion to de-escalate.

    Why that is remains to be seen.