Update: I started writing this open letter Sunday evening and continued working on it Monday. In the meantime, the Boston PD made mass arrests at Occupy Boston. According to an FDL blog by Kevin Gosztola, there are reports of military veterans who are part of Veterans for Peace being beaten by police.
This open letter initially focused on the NYPD. I am now widening its focus to appeal to the sense of decency and professionalism among officers in: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, St. Louis and Seattle. According to a blog posted at DailyKos at 12:52 am, PT, by Horace Boothroyd III, police in all of these cities evicted Occupy protesters and made mass arrests. These occurred in six different cities within minutes of each other. If anyone has more information on this, please post it.
Dear Lieutenant Bologna and fellow officers,
Let me start off by telling you something about the folks you’ve pepper sprayed, arrested, and whacked with billy clubs. They are fighting for your pensions. Let me repeat that: The protesters you have pepper sprayed, arrested, and, in a few instances, have seemed eager to attack–they are fighting for your rights. They are fighting for your pensions.
I know that they have not articulated demands yet. But I do know that they have gathered to protest mass injustice and seek to occupy Wall Street. I encourage you to put two and two together here. Let me ask you a question. Who looted the pension funds of millions of Americans, including the police pension fund?
Here’s a clue. It’s not the people with the picket signs. If you want to know who looted your pension fund, stroll down Wall Street (which has been placed off limits to most Americans right now despite the Bill of Rights’s guarantee of the right to peaceably assemble). When you’re in the middle of the block, stop and look up at those sky-high office windows. That’s where the criminals are.
I do understand that cops receive orders they have to follow. And I understand that at least some of the protesters involved in Occupy Wall Street have deliberately chosen to commit acts of civil disobedience such as crossing a police barricade so that they can step onto Wall Street or the Brooklyn Bridge.
I applaud them for their courage. I admire them and they have my wholehearted support, because they are peaceful. They have chosen to commit acts of civil disobedience in the most peaceful and civil manner possible.
Here is what has not been civil during the past week or two–your response and the response of a few of your fellow NYPD officers (I hope these overly aggressive officers comprise a very small minority of the NYPD.) As I said, I know that you have to enforce the law. So, if someone crosses a barricade, you have to arrest that person. But you do not have to whack people with billy clubs, break their glasses, throw them up against the side of a building, or put handcuffs on so tight their hands turn blue.
Lt. Bologna, you have been responding to the protesters’ attempt to set foot on Wall Street as if they had just marched down the center aisle of a church at Sunday Mass, grabbed the chalice out of the priest’s hands and flung Holy Communion down on the floor.
Wall Street may be sacred ground to Jeffrey Immelt, Jimmy Dimond, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Michael Bloomberg and a few hundred other people. Wall Street should be their hallowed ground; it has served them exceedingly well. They are the 1 %.
But Lt. Bologna, you and your fellow officers are not part of the 1%. You belong to the 99%, just like me and just like the folks with the picket signs and sleeping bags. In Occupy movements across the country from Cleveland to LA to Portland and points beyond, the cops have been peaceful, polite, and even friendly to protesters. Before the Occupy movement started, in Madison, Wisconsin; a lot of cops went right back down to the state capitol as soon as they had finished their shifts, picked up picket signs, and joined the protesters. Those cops understood that protesters defending the right to collectively bargain were also defending the cops’ right to collectively bargain.
Please, Lt. Bologna, enlighten me. Explain to me the acts of violence and hostility I have seen on TV from you and a few of your fellow officers. Is there something I’m not seeing here? Are you perfectly okay with the banks looting your pension funds? Perhaps you plan to never retire. Maybe you will enjoy bigger deductions from your paychecks to cover the shortfall in your pension fund. Who knows, maybe you are part of the 1%, and secretly own a hedge fund, and took up police work because you needed a hobby.
Or, perhaps Wall Street is a separate country where the Bill of Rights does not apply. Folks can get a permit to march just about anywhere, including the Lincoln memorial. But for some reason, the city of New York will not issue a permit for American citizens to set foot on the hallowed ground of Wall Street if those citizens are holding picket signs instead of briefcases. Isn’t Wall Street owned by the public and cleaned and maintained by taxpayer dollars?
Now, of course, Lt. Bologna, you do not have control over whether the city of New York issues a permit to Occupy Wall Street. But you do have complete control over whether you behave with civility and make an arrest in a professional manner or whether you behave like a thug and disgrace yourself and the NYPD. The whole world has been watching. I will be watching Occupy Wall Street every night this week, and I want to respect the cops. Please help me do that.