A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I’ll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Oh, this?” she held it up. “I was in Liberty Park on the 17th [the Six Month Anniversary of the Occupation]. When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.”
“Again?” someone said.
We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks.
“Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, ‘you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?’ So they took me behind the lines and broke my wrists.”
Eileen quickly went on to clarify that the cops didn’t break both of her wrists, just the one – though not for lack for trying, as it turned out. And, as indicated already, she wasn’t the only female Occupy Wall Streeter to be molested by the cops in recent weeks:
Arbitrary violence is nothing new. The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new. I’m not aware of any reports of police intentionally grabbing women’s breasts before March 17, but on March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told me her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.
For obvious reasons, most of the women who have been victims of such assaults have been hesitant to come forward. Suing the city is a miserable and time-consuming task and if a woman brings any charge involving sexual misconduct, they can expect to have their own history and reputations—no matter how obviously irrelevant—raked over the coals, usually causing immense damage to their personal and professional life. The threat of doing so operates as a very effective form of intimidation. One exception is Cecily McMillan, who was not only groped but suffered a broken rib and seizures during her arrest on March 17, and held incommunicado, denied constant requests to see her lawyer, for over 24 hours thereafter. Shortly after release from the hospital she appeared on Democracy Now! And showed part of a handprint, replete with scratch-marks, that police had left directly over her right breast. (She is currently pursuing civil charges against the police department).
And what happened when David Graeber tried to get the establishment media interested in telling this story? This is what happened:
Update (3:40 PM): In comments, a reader asked why I did not go to the media. My response:
To be honest my first impulse was to call a sympathetic [New York] Times reporter. He said he was going to see if he could spin a story out of it. Apparently his editors told him it wasn’t news.
You know what to do.