I am really impressed that the Occupy movement is seeing, tracking and discussing the different types of policing. Most importantly the Occupy movement is seeing police as "one of us:"
As many Occupy protesters have pointed out, even as police officers help to safeguard the power and profits of the 1 percent, police officers are part of the 99 percent.
Within the peace movement there has been a discussion of the difference between a police office and solider, where "one of us" is the heart of the difference. Policing is a natural function. In fact, peace and protest communities will set up their own type of police force like marshals along side of protest. Also within the policing community, the same discussion of the difference between a police office and solider is also happening. Norm Stamper, who was Seattle’s police chief during the 1999 World Trade Center militaristic crackdown on WTO protesters, now says:
There will always be situations—an armed and barricaded suspect, a man with a knife to his wife’s throat, a school-shooting rampage—that require disciplined, military-like operations. But most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy and interpersonal skills. I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing… By building a progressive police organization, created by rank-and-file officers, “civilian” employees and community representatives… to build trust and mutual respect—qualities sorely missing from the current equation.
Also within the policing community, the same discussion is also happening. While Norm Stamper lost his job, the erroneous conclusion in policing was that was not enough violence instead seeing that wrong tactics were used. WTO 1999 marked the shift towards paramilitary policing:
Similar tactics, on the part of both police and protesters, were repeated at subsequent meetings of the WTO, IMF/World Bank, Free Trade Area of the Americas, and other international organizations, as well as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the US.
The protesting movement had forgotten the lessons of Martin Luther King and ignored a violent group of protesters called the "Black Block" who broke windows, pushed dumpsters and deflated tires. Those few allowed images of violence to portray the movement.
However media like always only follows the "if it bleeds, it leads" rule. And just like the media told falsehoods about St Paul 2008 national convention, the media had also told falsehoods about WTO 1999.
The New York Times printed an erroneous article that stated that protesters at the 1999 WTO convention in Seattle threw Molotov cocktails at police. Two days later, The New York Times printed a correction saying that the protest was mostly peaceful and no protesters were accused of throwing objects at delegates or the police, but the original error persisted in later accounts in the mainstream media.
The good news is that this Occupy movement is dedicated to the ways of peace and have rejected the Black Block tactics. Voices have ranged from the passionately logical to this boldly clear message:
To the cowards in masks who just want to break shit, you aren't helping at all, in fact, you are making things worse for EVERYONE. I have no idea what you have to offer anyone, you basically have nothing positive to add to the conversation we'd like to have. In short, F U, because your idiotic acts of violence and senseless damage of property is certainly going to be used to smear every peaceful person in the Occupy Wall Street movement, so not only are you not adding anything positive, the only thing you are adding is negative.
After 12 years, both the peace/protest community and the law enforcement community is finally coming to a common vision as expressed by the previous police chief:
But imagine the community and its cops united in the effort to responsibly “police” the Occupy movement. Picture thousands of people gathered to press grievances against their government and the corporations, under the watchful, sympathetic protection of their partners in blue.
If you liked this article then you might like some of these previous articles about community policing and paramilitary policing: