Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Daniel Murphy

From a distance and the relative comfort of our own easy chairs and daily lives, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp just what is being done in the name of Authority to suppress domestic dissent and to terrify us into submission.

On March 24 in New York City, there was a march against police brutality during which the police engaged in arbitrary arrest and... police brutality. One of the victims was Mesiah Hameed whose arrest and... disposal is documented in a previous post.

Another was that of Daniel Murphy. From reports, he was seized while standing on the sidewalk. He was then subjected to very public and prolonged torture via too-tight flexi-cuffs. From the beginning of the suppression of Occupy activities, there have been numerous instances of police tightening flexi-cuffs to the point of intense pain, prolonged restriction of circulation, nerve damage and worse. It is a form of torture.

I saw a briefer video clip of Murphy's arrest previously, but the one above is far more graphic and disturbing. In it, a number of seemingly completely arbitrary arrests are documented, starting with people who appear to be randomly picked out of the crowd. This tactic has been employed by the NYPD extensively, and it is also used by other police departments (notably, Portland, Oregon) and it is thought to be a form of psy-ops intended to intimidate others from joining the protest. In almost every case, charges against those arbitrarily detained are never filed.

Shortly before scenes of Mesiah Hameed's arrest in this video, we see a young man carrying a yellow "Occupy" flag be arrested. As this young man is grabbed and taken away, the crowd chants: "This is what we are protesting!" He will be seen later in the paddy wagon that comes to pick up Murphy.

At first, it is not really clear what is happening with Murphy's arrest, and from appearances, the police are trying to block its documentation. Murphy is seen on the sidewalk on his stomach, an officer with a knee in his back, but he is only glimpsed briefly between the legs of the numerous officers who are protecting the arrest from view by the public. (NYPD has been repeatedly warned and reprimanded about their practice of blocking the view of their arrests.) Also note is made of the fact that TARU videographers for the NYPD do not record this arrest -- unusual, since they are clearly present, and their job in part is to document arrests.

Finally, when he is sufficiently trussed up, two white shirts hoist him and half-carry him into the street where other officers join in by carrying his legs. He is asked his name by someone in the crowd. He says it is Daniel Murphy.

The police put him face down in the street. Police then harass NYT photographer Robert Stolarik -- who has been repeatedly set upon by NYPD officers during various OWS actions. From appearances, he has been specifically targeted by NYPD, against all their stated regulations about interfering with the press and media.

On the ground, Murphy starts pleading that his handcuffs are too tight. He gets louder and louder, "Please remove my handcuffs, I cannot feel my hands!" He says, "Let me go because I was complying. I don't want any problems." Soon after a couple of cops try to pick him up, he says, "I'm asking you to please take off my handcuffs. I cannot feel my hands. I'm in excruciating pain! I'm begging you, please take my handcuffs off! My hands are turning purple!"

The video evidence shows it is true.

Murphy continues to call out in agony for the next however many minutes -- there's approximately 11 minutes more of the video recording, but at least 5 minutes have been cut out. The crowd becomes extraordinarily concerned (though not quite as intensely as the witnesses to Cecily McMillan's situation), but the police stand around with bovine indifference, more concerned with keeping people on the sidewalk than with a young man in pain not more than a few feet away.

Murphy explains that he has nerve damage from the last time he was cuffed so tightly -- so this is not his first arrest, which may have something to do with why he is being arrested in this case -- and that he had asked that his cuffs not be put on so tight this time. From appearances, however, they were put on even tighter, which is simply an act of sadistic torture.

It's clear, even at the distance of the camera, that his fingers are turning blue.

He gets to his feet and is assisted to a safety curb on the opposite side of the street where he sits very uncomfortably asking repeatedly that his handcuffs be removed while officers stand around indifferently or attempt to herd the crowd. Murphy lies down on the curb.

Members of the crowd are quite aware that what is happening is quite conscious and deliberate on the part of the NYPD; after the Cecily McMillan inciden on M17, it cannot be a surprise to anyone that it is apparently the policy of the NYPD to cause as much public suffering by those they detain as possible.

(The scene at the typewriter is after my own heart!)

Members of the crowd are calling out "loosen the handcuffs!" but of course the police pay no attention. Someone says, "Call 911!" which apparently someone does. In New York, when police are the cause of someone's suffering or medical trauma, apparently the only way to get emergency assistance is to call 911 yourself.

The crowd is clearly very distressed by what they are witnessing (and I would argue that is the psychological point of being so public about these things.)

In the distance, New Yorkers are seen casually going about their business. Ah, the city!

Eventually the paddy wagon comes, and the officer who I assume is the driver opens up the back. We see the young man who was grabbed earlier sitting inside.

Some of the officers on the scene are black, and members of the crowd make remarks about firehoses and dogs and Birmingham and Martin Luther King and "just following orders" that actually seem to resonate with some of the officers. It's impossible to tell what the effect is, if any, but some seem to be at least thinking about what they are doing -- or not doing. And perhaps they are wondering...

Two officers pick up Murphy, and he starts screaming. A member of the crowd says, "I've got EMS on the line and they say not to move him!" A member of the crowd is saying, "His leg is broken! His leg is broken!" while officers use their feet to try to force Murphy's feet to the ground. He is not standing, he is being held up by two officers, one on each arm.

The man I assume is the driver of the wagon is obviously concerned and tries to talk to Murphy, but he continues to cry and scream, saying "No, no, no, no, no!" His hands are clearly seen and clearly blue.

A white shirt approaches Murphy and say something to him that I can't make out, but it appears that he is trying to get Murphy to stand on his own. Murphy says, "I can't feel my fucking hands!"

Murphy is placed bodily face down in the wagon by four or five officers while the young man who was arrested earlier looks on in a kind of horror. Murphy is heard screaming louder and louder inside the wagon while the crowd erupts in outrage.

The young man inside the wagon can be seen talking to the driver -- and the driver actually seems to be the only officer on the scene who is concerned about Murphy's condition.

The driver talks to other officers; I can't make out what he is saying, but he is obviously quite agitated. The young man inside the wagon slides down to the door and starts talking to the officers as well. The driver tells him to get back.

The driver then leaves the rear of the wagon and I assume goes to the front. A woman in the crowd is asking the police "Why are you arresting him?" The police don't respond, but another member of the crowd says, "He was standing on the sidewalk." The driver returns to the back of the wagon with a new set of flexi-cuffs and enters the rear with another officer.

Murphy can be heard moaning inside the wagon, and the woman in the crowd asks, "Why is he moaning?" A man in the crowd says, "Because of police brutality. Thank you for proving our point today." Some of the officers seem to show just a trace of shame. The woman in the crowd says, "Why are you still hurting him? Stop! Someone's crying in there. Someone's in pain in there. Is there a paramedic in there?"

Officers who had just moments before shown a smidgen of what might have been shame start laughing with one another; one checks his watch. The officers come out of the back of the wagon. The driver locks it up. The woman in the crowd says, "Is there a paramedic in there? He's in pain. Someone's crying in there." And the camera pans to the dozen or so impassive and indifferent NYPD officers lining the street to make sure the crowd stays on the sidewalk.

It is a horrifying scene that those of us of a certain age can easily relate to another era of official indifference to suffering that officials themselves have caused.

It is a horrifying scene and it is meant to horrify those who witness it, for any sane person watching is going to say, "That could be me." And any sane person will tremble at the thought.

Below is a video of Murphy shot on March 22, as he has words with the police at Union Square after his arrest during which he suffered nerve damage to his hands.

Is this why he was singled out and tortured so publicly on the 24th?

The impunity with which officers behave, and the protection they afford one another for this lawless impunity, and the absolution granted by courts and elected officials for police misconduct -- or in this case very public torture -- is one of the main reasons that so many people are so disgusted with the police. It was the reason for this march.

But in the larger context, the lawless and torturous behavior of the police toward Daniel Murphy is emblematic of the lawlessness and impunity with which the vaunted 1% and the public officials they own and control behave toward all of us.

We are all Daniel Murphy.


  1. Wow, that was pretty offensive, and as you know I'm jaded. What about the other guy whose head accidentally broke a plate glass window?
    None are so blind as those who would Nazi.

  2. I saw a brief version of the video of Murphy's arrest the day after the incident. It was bad, but at the time, the connections didn't really gel for me. I was still reeling from the ostentatious neglect of Cecily McMillan -- the young woman who had seizures at Zuccotti Park after her arrest and was left spasming and hyperventilating on the pavement for about 15 minutes before Emergency Services came (called by members of the crowd of witnesses) and I was trying to figure out what had happened with Mesiah Hameed who was pulled out of the crowd the same day as Murphy.

    When I saw this longer version today, I was literally sickened. I know exactly what those officers are doing and it is shameful in the extreme. Many of them know how shameful it is, too.

    I get really nervous when I see this kind of shit from the police and no one seems to know what to do about it. It's great that there are so many witnesses with cameras and all, but we notice there are never any consequences to the officers when they engage in this sort of nasty business (Bologna excepted, but even he didn't experience more than a wrist-slap and a transfer to a far more convenient assignment on Staten Island where he lives, QED).

    I think a lot of people can see this kind of misbehavior by the police and recognize it for the Gestapo shit that it is. But they don't know what to do about it.

    What scares me is that they may not figure it out until it is too late.

  3. Niemöller alert.

    ... and still I don't know what to do.

  4. Passive resistance doesn't work in the face of this sort of conduct. In fact, the police rely on the passivity of witnesses and victims and the complicity of courts and electeds in order to get away with it.

    Every now and again, some of those on scene recognize that the People have the power in these sorts of situations, not the police, and they take advantage of it.

    But it is rare, very rare. Especially so, it seems, in New York. Obedience and conditioning are breaking down, but it's a long slog and hard lessons are still to be learned.

  5. The most powerful cop is always the one inside your own head.

  6. As bad as this incident was, or the Cecily McMillan incident, or any number of others have been, the one that really bothered me -- and still does -- was the Brooklyn Bridge mass arrest.

    The whole thing was way, way too evocative of certain unpleasant aspects of the 1930's and '40's -- and not just in Nazi-land, either. Right here in California, for example. In fact, I played in the ruins of a transit camp for Japanese Americans when I was a kid.

    That's why this development in Portland a month after the J28 action in Oakland was really important to my way of looking at it.

    The marchers are protecting themselves, and more importantly protecting one another; while the shields help (and they're decorative too!), it's their attitude that matters even more.

    They refused to be abused. It doesn't mean they won't be abused, but it does represent a change in the dynamic.

    The results from this changed dynamic have been remarkable. So far...