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The Metamorphosis of the NYPD

by DAVE LINDORFF

Probably the biggest accomplishment of the Occupy Wall Street movement to date has not been the light these courageous and indomitable young activists have shined on the gangsters of Wall Street, as important as that has been. Rather it has been how they have exposed the police of the nation’s financial capital as the centurions of the ruling class, and not the gauzy “people’s heroes” that they have been posing as since some of their number, along with many more firefighters, nobly gave their lives trying to rescue people in the World Trade Center towers on 9-11.

 

That image of cops as heroes was always largely a PR creation. Not that many cops actually died in the towers (23 from the NYPD and 37 from the Port Authority Police, vs. 343 firefighters). Most of the city’s cops that day and every day before and since 9-11 have spent their time patrolling the streets of the city as usual, harassing young people, poor people and people of color, conducting random stop-and-frisk searches, handing out parking tickets (often undeserved) and making the occasional arrest of actual criminals.

 

There are certainly good cops and bad cops, but the good cops are for the most part not heroes. They’re decent people doing their job properly, just like most of the rest of us in this society, whether we’re janitors, teachers or even journalists. The problem is that the bad cops — and there are way too many of them in police departments across America — are a menace because of the unchecked authority they wield and the weapons they carry.

 

As MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell put it in an opinion piece called “Last Word” on the cable network that was sadly unique for television for its brutal honesty, “Every day in America police are too tough, every day in America police cross the line and abuse citizens, every day in America police get away with that,” and nothing is done about it. It gets covered up by any “internal investigations” that get done.

 

The gratuitous brutality on display by New York police during a Saturday march that was part of this Wall Street Occupation action, and the hundreds of wrongful arrests, the excessive police presence, the countless beatings of young people who are doing nothing but expressing their disgust with the nation’s economic ruling elite, the battering of people with cameras who try to exercise their First Amendment right to videotape police officers abusing others, the spraying of toxic chemicals into the eyes of young women who are just standing behing police lines doing nothing, that went on that day and through the night, and the automatic justifying of all these atrocities by police authorities and the office of the mayor, are, to put it gracefully, the actions of pigs.

Back in the late 1960s, the Black Panthers, an organization established to defend black communities from the police thugs who then as now occupy minority neighborhoods like an alien army, took to calling the cops pigs. Sad to say, it was an apt description. Police, back then and even now, routinely batter minority people who have already been handcuffed and arrested, using batons, kicks to the groin and head, choke holds, and other methods, as well as tasers, mace and pepper spray. They engage in such sadism not to control subjects in their custody, but simply because they are twisted brutes drunk on their power, and because they can get away with it. Tasers, which can kill, are particularly popular torture devices, used with increasing frequency.

What we are witnessing now, in the videos surfacing showing the police terror on Wall Street, is the action, once again, of pigs. Someone like Police Assistant Supervisor Anthony Bologna, who is shown clearly on videotape on two separate occasions spraying pepper spray, first into the faces of young women, and then at retreating demonstrators, is a classic pig. (Bologna, who is supposed to be providing supervision to lower-ranking cops, was already guilty of gratuitous pepper spraying of legal demonstrators during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.)

If Mayor Bloomberg were a decent human being, he would first of all demand the arrest and firing of Bologna as a sign that he was serious about defending the people of his city from lawless thuggery by men wearing the uniform of the New York City Police Department. Then he would withdraw his uniformed pigs from the streets of lower Manhattan and announce that the occupation of Wall Street would be allowed to go forward unharassed.  He could send in traffic control officers to vehicles flowing if he wants, but no other police presence should be in evidence unless the kids start to misbehave.

The heroic sacrifices of a few dozen New York City cops back on Sept. 11, 2001 were taken advantage of by police not just in New York, but all across the country, who shamelessly basked in the glow of public adulation of their uniforms that was really only deserved by those who had actually raced up the stairs of the burning buildings.  Politicians like Mayor Bloomberg and virtually every elected official since 9-11 in Washington, have wrapped themselves in the flag and the uniforms of those martyred police officers too, helping to flog the public’s mindless hero-worshipping of the police, and benefit from the reflected glow.

But that hero-worshipping has come at a heavy cost, as police since 9-11, with the encouragement of political charlatans, have been increasingly adopting police-state and para-military tactics towards dissent of any kind.

It took the Occupy Wall Street kids to show the police for what they really are.

What we got has been an ugly display of pigs on the loose now for over a week in New York.

Even the corporate media, which for days had tried to pretend nothing was happening  in Lower Manhattan, have finally been forced to report on the dispicable police abuse of these brave kids.

The farcical mythology of police as heroes in blue is over.

Sad to say for those good cops who are just trying to protect and serve, the pigs in their midst have shown the true nature of NYPD policing, and unless we start seeing good cops coming out and denouncing the violent and un-Constitutional behavior of their thuggish colleagues and especially their even more thuggish supervisors, it will be hard going forward, at least for this reporter, not to laugh when someone next refers to cops collectively as “heroes.”

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding editor of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent alternative online newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, LINN WASHINGTON, JR., and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

CounterPunch Magazine

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