Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why I Was Maced at the Wall Street Protests

Kelly Schomburg, 18, receiving medical treatment after being pepper-sprayed by police, and mere moments before being arrested, 09/24/11. (photo: Occupy Wall Street)
Kelly Schomburg, 18, receiving medical treatment after being pepper-sprayed by police, and mere moments before being arrested, 09/24/11. (photo: Occupy Wall Street)

FOCUS: Why I Was Maced at the Wall Street Protests

By Jeanne Mansfield, Boston Review
17 August 10

RSN Special Coverage: Occupy Wall Street

Video by Jeanne Mansfield

y boyfriend Frank and I are heading toward Liberty Square to check out what's going on at the Occupy Wall Street protest, when we stumble upon the afternoon march toward Union Square. So we join up and walk along behind. The crowd looks like maybe 300 people, mostly punk-styled kids and folks carrying their computers (for live streaming, we found out later) and some aging-hippie types. People are beating drums, blowing whistles, carrying signs, and chanting: "Banks got bailed out, you got sold out!" and "We are the 99 percent!" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!" and of course the classic "This is what democracy looks like!"
All in all, it starts out as a pretty good time. There are police, but for the most part they are walking behind the group casually, just beat cops bantering and laughing, keeping an eye on things. There are around 30 of them. We reach Union Square, circle it a couple times, and join the human microphone. The human microphone consists of one person speaking or shouting, and then everyone within earshot repeating, thus, a human amplifier, albeit with some delay. After about fifteen minutes, we are on the move again, the crowd spurred toward the United Nations by the messages transmitted from the human microphone.
As we circle Union Square, about twenty NYPD officers haul out orange plastic nets (the kind used to fence off construction sites) and close off the road, diverting the crowd. But the detour, too, is closed, leaving us only one option: straight down Broadway. The lighthearted carnival air begins to get very heavy as it becomes clear that we are being corralled. The main group, about 150 protesters, keeps on down the street, but the police are running behind with the orange nets, siphoning off groups of fifteen to twenty people at a time, classic crowd control.
A new group of police officers arrives in white shirts, as opposed to dark blue. These guys are completely undiscerning in their aggression. If someone gets in their way, they shove them headfirst into the nearest parked car, at which point the officers are immediately surrounded by camera phones and shouts of "Shame! Shame!"
Up until this point, Frank and I have managed to stay ahead of the nets, but as we hit what I think is 12th Street, they've caught up. The blue-shirts aren't being too forceful, so we manage to run free, but stay behind to see what happens. Then things go nuts.
The white-shirted cops are shouting at us to get off the street as they corral us onto the sidewalk. One African American man gets on the curb but refuses to be pushed up against the wall of the building; they throw him into the street, and five cops tackle him. As he's being cuffed, a white kid with a video camera asks him "What's your name?! What's your name?!" One of the blue-shirted cops thinks he's too close and gives him a little shove. A white-shirt sees this, grabs the kid and without hesitation billy-clubs him in the stomach.
At this point, the crowd of twenty or so caught in the orange fence is shouting "Shame! Shame! Who are you protecting?! YOU are the 99 percent! You're fighting your own people!" A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream "No! Why are you doing that?!" The rest of us in the crowd turn away from the spray, but it's unavoidable. My left eye burns and goes blind and tears start streaming down my face. Frank grabs my arm and shoves us through the small gap between the orange fence and the brick wall while everyone stares in shock and horror at the two girls on the ground and two more doubled over screaming as their eyes ooze. In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground, but no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, "I can't believe he just fuckin' maced her." And it becomes clear that the white-shirts are a different species. We need to get out of there.
The other end of the street is also closed off, and we are trapped on this one block along with about twenty frustrated pedestrians. My eye is killing me and I'm crying, partially from the pain and partially from the shock of the violence displayed by these police. A shirtless young "medic" with ripped cargo shorts, matted brown hair, and two plastic bottles slung around his neck runs up to me and says, "Did you get pepper sprayed? Okay here, tilt your head to the side, this isn't going to feel great," at which point he squirts one of the plastic bottles of white liquid into my left eye, then tilts my head the other way and does the other eye, then repeats with water. Then he unties the white bandanna from his wrist and wipes my eyes with it saying, "You'll be okay, this is my grandfather's bandanna, he got through Korea with it, and if he got through that, then you're going to get through this. Just keep blinking." Thanks to the treatment - liquid antacid, pepper-spray antidote - the burning behind my eyes subsides.
A woman with two little girls in tow walks up to a cop at the end of the block and explains that they just need to get to ballet, but he won't let them through. The woman seems to accept this, turns to the girls, thinks for a second, then marches straight to the edge of the fence at the corner of the building. A different officer sees them coming and, understanding their situation, lets them through. So Frank and I bolt for the same opening and escape.
The farther away we get, the more normal everyone starts to look. People have no clue about what's happening just five or six blocks down. Frank and I say maybe two words to each other the whole five-hour bus ride home.
Just for the record, I love cops. I do, my mother worked in the justice system for 30 years, and I've known a lot of really good cops, really good honorable people just doing their jobs. I've never agreed with the sentiment, "Fuck the Po-lice," and I still don't. But these guys are fucked up. There was an anger in those white-shirt's eyes that said, "You don't matter." And whether they were just scared or irrational or looking for a target for their rage, there was no excuse for their abuse of authority. I had always thought that people who complained about police brutality must have done something to provoke it, that surely cops wouldn't hurt people without a really good reason. But they do. We were on the curb, we were contained, we were unarmed. Pepper spray hurts like hell, and the experience only makes me wish I'd done something more to deserve it.


+83 # rom120 2011-09-27 13:13
America the land of the brave and free, America the democratic country.....yes, once upon a time. America is bombing the hell out of Lybia because a dictator is putting down an armed revolt. The "democratic" America, doing Wall Streets bidding, is using brutality against peaceful demonstrators. Shame America!
+33 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:03
Unfortunately police brutality is commonplace in large cities like New York and Los Angeles...anyone subject to police brutality (excessive force) has a civil rights action to sue for damages, anyone harmed in New York at this striking event, get counsel and sue the city, Start with the ACLU...
+11 # Malco 2011-09-27 16:56
Non-lethal weapons like mace and pepper spray were introduced so the police would have an alternative to lethal force if they felt threatened. So let's join a few dots here... Anthony Bologna obviously felt very threatened by a few skinny girls in tank tops, so would he have shot them if he hadn't been armed with pepper spray? And if he's so easily scared, shouldn't he get another job? Like maybe Santa Claus in a department store?
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:17
No leave Santa alone. These cops need to go to Irq, Afghan etc and stay there, they are left over mercenaries. What you see them do here, they also do at home to their 'loved ones'

American Hamas
+41 # fredboy 2011-09-27 13:15
Unfortunately you encountered the Tough Guys. All police departments have them. Zip control. Best departments drum them out pronto. Good PDs can't afford mean assholes.
+20 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:04
Thats the reason they should sue, that will make a point and gain them some money as well, and that will get publicity...
+4 # Harold R. Mencher 2011-09-27 16:24
Thats the reason they should sue, that will make a point and gain them some money as well, and that will get publicity...

It's a complete waste of time to sue because you're suing the city, not the police officer(s). The city doesn't care if they lose because whatever they pay out is taxpayer's money. It doesn't come out of the pocket of any individual working for the city.

You need at least two things to force the police to think twice before they abuse their powers. You need a citizens committee with teeth made up of citizens, not anyone working for the police dept or the city, a committee that has the power to either bring criminal charges, real charges, against police officers who violate the constitutional rights of citizens. The individual who have been harmed by these police officers must have the right to sue them as individuals in a civil court of law for damages.

The only way you're going to stop this police abuse and brutality is when the police officers themselves who commit these atrocious acts are not protected by the city and can actually be sued as individuals by their victims with the strong prospect of losing something valuable in the bargain like their homes or some other expensive assets of theirs. That's the only way to stop what they do, and that's not going to happen.
+40 # RandyGab 2011-09-27 13:37
This sounds like IRAN, where they send the formally uniformed police, and then send the un-uniformed enforcers with chains and rods and knives.
+43 # 2011-09-27 13:40
...and what does the Mayor say about this....and who the White Shirts were and where did they come from?
+21 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:06
The Mayor is the head of the police departmment, he should be contacted, and let Michael Moore know, maybe he can interview this idiot who pepper sprayed the girls...lets see how he feels to be in a film exposing the NYPD's best...
0 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:22
He will get to it, with the films, jpegs out there, this will be movie material
Then let's see if the View wants to have some of these fine officers on.

We always sang Alice's Restaurant from start to finish.....
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:20
These are the misfits after service. These are kids who grow up bullies, thinking about killing. Look around you can see them everywhere growing up to parents who teach hatred. Marines used to be the worst. They love abusing their spouses and children....I knew too many, my friends left them...they were black and blue daily
+62 # Abigail 2011-09-27 13:41
How can one comment on the reality that our country is becoming a Fascist State? It is beyond comprehension.
+25 # jon 2011-09-27 14:49
"is becoming a Fascist State?"

Our Foundng Fathers are spinning in their graves.

Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and all of the rest that put their lives on the line to eliminate this kind of tyranny.
+28 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:07
We are already a fascist state, the Corporations and the agents of our government are one and the same and their interest is the same...
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:22
Fasci, is mild this is Hitler Nazi
+43 # DLT888 2011-09-27 14:42
What a country does to citizens of other countries, it will do to it's own citizens. We are being tortured by sick sick masochists who should be on medication and in strait jackets. These white shirts may as well be Hitler's brown shirts -- they have very little intelligence and they are all hate and anger. Glad to hear that blue shirt was appalled at the behavior of the white shirts. I guess that means there are some good cops out there -- getting harder and harder to find them, though.
+32 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:08
Never forget Kent will happen again!
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:25
I wonder where every day. Takes one a....hole to start firing, get out of control and bang bang your dead...Watch yurself, do the March stay together keep walking and taking pictures , get names, precinct
+54 # DLT888 2011-09-27 14:46
My feeling is they may (among other things) be attempting to make the crowd violent. I even saw a MSM headline "riots on Wall Street" and we all know there were NO riots by the people -- by the cops, yes. But as long as the crowd stays peaceful, that goal will NOT be reached. They actually need a crowd to become violent in order to put a full fascist movement into place with tanks, military, ets.. Don't give it to them. Don't lower yourselves to their level because then they win. Keep the protests peaceful while disrupting normal routine.
+24 # John Locke 2011-09-27 15:10
Agreed, they are attempting to provoke a riot or insurrection so they can be justified in killing some of the "protestors" stay calm in the face of diversity, you win that way and they lose...
+15 # Malco 2011-09-27 17:00
I think you have it exactly right. It's Agent Provocateur 101: attack the young women, which will enrage the guys, then start cracking heads because there's a "riot." Pretty transparent tactics.
+41 # allie 2011-09-27 14:46
Watching the video and then reading the text made me sick to my stomach. What a sad testament to America. NYC has become a police state......and you'll never hear or see this on any news station.
-13 # Joeconserve 2011-09-27 15:09
You should have watched FOXNEWS.
0 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:27
They did show more than any other and the showed cops doing the stuff. People were moving not doing anything. This was kill mode...what will the spray next anthrax
+28 # TheCoyote 2011-09-27 14:51
I'm an aging veteran of the Free Speech movement at Berkeley, and of the Civil Rights demonstrations, and of the Anti-war movement. We too were beaten and tear-gassed and jailed for believing that we had freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. We too were mocked and made light of. The economy was booming and no one wanted to listen or to know. No one saw any danger in hundreds of armed police attacking a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. We were 'hippies' and 'commies' and 'punks'. (That was several wars ago, of course, and war wasn't, as it now is, an everyday part of American culture).

Now the vise is closing on the middle class and they are angry and frightened and confused. Be very wary. Frightened people will do monstrous things in the name of security. Maybe this time they'll listen, or think. Or maybe not.
+20 # walt 2011-09-27 14:54
We are in serious danger when the police beat up on their own people while knowing full well the crimes of Wall Street! Even the Egyptian military refused to hurt their own people in Thair Square. This summarizes just what is happening as the haves turn on those who have not! Revolution is inevitable unless we act soon!
+18 # Maryelizmc 2011-09-27 15:22
Eighty four years living in the land of free and home of the brave.The reality of truth on the street is we are NOT free! Sbocked and stunned beyond words .. . fearful for our young people and children and eh unborn,.
+23 # Archie1954 2011-09-27 15:34
You just witnessed whiteshirt Fascism done the American way, in other words exceptionally.
+15 # DPM 2011-09-27 15:35
Just an idea. Is someone reading this able to find out, themselves or through someone else, the names of the "white shirts" or what precinct house the are sent from? If we can find out something about them, that information can be released for public consumption and an embarrassment factor.
I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't being used to provoke trouble. But, the real trouble won't come unless change is made or we are driven from the streets.
+7 # dgrhm 2011-09-27 16:36
The officer who did the macing was Anthony Bologna.
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-09-27 19:28
You have the right to knw their names rqnk and precinct...make sure others are photo, texting, pictures of videos
+4 # Margolicious 2011-09-27 16:16
Unfortunately, the United States has become a fascist state. We must make positive changes. Some members of the NYPD are behaving like the Gestapo. They are violating the First Amendment of the Constitution--the right to peaceful assembly. Big money and corporations own our NYC and are government. Blankfein, Dimon, Paulson, Geithner, Summers etc. should be arrested not peaceful protesters. Yet, we the little people shall overcome. Again there are more of us than them. God Bless and Protect the Protesters they are real Americans. My nephew is going to fight in Iraq while his own countrymen are living in tyranny.
+4 # CL38 2011-09-27 16:32
Remember this when voting in November 2012.
+5 # angelfish 2011-09-27 16:41
These "White Shirts" are the Nazis of today and the Protesters are the Jews who were rounded up, abused and slaughtered unmercifully WITHOUT cause! What ever happened to "Never Again!"? Where is outrage? Where is Justice? WHEN will the REAL criminals EVER be brought before the World to answer for their crimes? All they're worried about is how to protect the Bonuses they're supposed to be getting! Disgusting! They best wake up because, believe it or not, the Whole World IS watching!
+2 # raphaelschild 2011-09-27 17:14
Re: white uniformed NYPD officers. I just did a check and it sounds like this guy was part of the auxiliary police--essentially volunteers--enlisted by NY for situations just like this. (Crowd control, for instance.)
+3 # mrbadexample 2011-09-27 17:27
Here's information passed on from the Green Party regarding comment to the NYPD:
First precinct: +;1 (212) 334-0611
Central booking: +;1 (212) 374-3921
Deputy Commissioner of Public Information: +;1 (646) 610-6700
NYPD Switchboard: 1-646-610-5000
+4 # bigkahuna671 2011-09-27 17:46
It's about time people realized the police aren't there to protect you, they're there to protect the possessions of the wealthy and whatever they need to remain wealthy. The fact is, that's the one thing Fascists have always made sure they had on their side - a strong police presence. Consider Hitler and his henchmen or Mussolini and his. Whether they be Black Shirts or Brown Shirts, they all were thugs given respectability by the state to support the actions of the state. Now we've got the WHITE SHIRTS doing the same thing. Deputy Inspector Bologna should be brought before the courts for assaulting innocent people. Nowhere in the videos of the event do you see the women do anything whatsoever to deserve his malice. He should be stripped of his rank, made to stand trial, then be sent to prison to face some of the people I'm sure he imprisoned. It would only be fitting. Heroes of 9/11? What a bunch of BS. The NYPD has just as many bullies as the LAPD had back in the days of Rodney King. When a bully has the power of the state behind him, he abuses that power, he no longer truly represents the people, he no longer deserves our respect. I've never felt that the entire NYPD should be described as heroes for their actions during 9/11. Yes, some were, but many had nothing to do with what happened that day. The true heroes were the NYFD who went into the towers trying to save lives.
+5 # mrbadexample 2011-09-27 17:48
Occupy Wall Street: 'Pepper-spray' officer named in Bush protest claim

The officer accused of pepper-spraying demonstrators in the video circulating online is a defendant in an unlawful use of force case dating from the 2004 Republican convention in NYC.
+3 # in deo veritas 2011-09-27 17:54
If there are ghosts, then I hope the ghosts of the heroes who have died in the line of duty for the NYPD will haunt these stormtrooper thugs to their own graves. We are finding out who the real terrorists are.
+4 # Bill Smirnow 2011-09-27 18:00
There are 45 other cities and towns in the US where this is being done, too. All need to have video equipment to focus on police badges with names, badge #s, emblems, etc. Get their faces on camera, too. Law suits, be they civil, criminal, class action or individual must hold these people accountable. Bloomberg, as head of the P.D. should be legally culpable, too. He is the person most responsible for the pepper spraying and head smashing being done by jack booted cops.And if it can't be done in the US, in the ICC and/or ICJ [International Court Of Justice]. There is absolutely no reason for any of these unprovoked attacks on the public. The obvious criminals are working at Wall Street and they're the ones that need to be arrested and tried for their crimes, past, present and ongoing. We should have the pictures, names, companies they work for and nature of their crimes all up on the internet. Then strategy has to be determined. What do we do? Make citizens arrests on them? Attempt legal action, domestic and or international. We can win if there are enough of us and the fight continues long enough. Suggestion- get a screen out there and show the movie "Inside Job." Lobby your local TV stations,especi ally PBS and cable channels to air it. Lastly, remember that this is our country and we will triumph over the Wall Street economic terrorists that own the media andbothparties
0 # NOMINAE 2011-09-27 18:54
You are going to bring charges against "Officer Tony Baloney"? Do you *seriously* think that is a *real* name ?
0 # Mermaid19 2011-09-27 18:56
They looked to you like you did not matter, that is true you did not matter In Nazi Germany when the brown shirts were attacking women it was reported that things have reached a new low and looking at this attack that is what I see, our country, the ones who are supposed to protect us have reached a new low and that is what is scary to me in this moment. I personally see this as a Woman's Issue and all of us need to stand up against this type of brutality. One of those young women could have been my daughter, my sister, my granddaughter, my girl friend and to the men you need to stand tall with us letting them know you will not accept this type of treatment for women, after all where do we all come from, we come from the heart and soul of the woman. And if any of the attackers or their friends are reading this you all need to be ashamed of yourself deep in your cores, you have sold your soul and I am not sure what the reason is because in the end you will not matter either. Is a paycheck or some sense of power more important then having a moral compass, then treating women with respect, then supporting the First Amendment. You may have a sense of power but you like all of us are being used and abused. My heart goes out to all those who were injured and arrested.