Since the last couple of months, there have been ongoing Occupy movements and I have been noticing a trend of disbandment of these protesters by the police force through violent means.
Since history, there had been many notable cases where protests demonstrations were done. United States which had always been known as a model democracy, every person is given the right for free speech and activity as long as it “doesn’t severely affect the rights of others.” However, recently there has been cases where the police force would use aggressive tactics to evict these protesters despite the protestors did not break any regulation. Some examples are the following: Baruch students who protested about tuition hike get arrested as well as beaten and injured by police, a vast amount of property were confiscated from the Occupy Wall Street sleeping demonstrators, Oakland Police Department fired tear gas, smoke grenades and bean-bag rounds which seriously injured an old Iraq veteran, police force evicted and arrested hundreds of protesters in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, campus police officer pepper sprayed sit-in demonstrators at University of California, police force also pepper sprayed protesters despite that they were legally standing in the sidewalk in New York.
Indeed, the police force is responsible for maintaining the public safety. If protesters did indeed break any regulation or in any way severely harm another individual’s safety or right, then that is when the police may perform their duties and exercise their power. But Occupy movements protesters have only used peaceful means, thus, it really questions the legitimacy of the violent and force tactics the police have been using lately. In the article U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn’t Protecting Occupy Protesters’ Rights, Frank La Rue, a longtime Guatemalan human right activist who serves in the U.N wrote a letter concerning the violation of human and constitutional rights of these protesters. He also touch upon the principle of proportionality which I also agree with.
“One of the principles is proportionality,” La Rue said. “The use of police force is legitimate to maintain public order — but there has to be a danger of real harm, a clear and present danger. And second, there has to be a proportionality of the force employed to prevent a real danger.”
“And history suggests that harsh tactics against social movements don’t work anyway, he said. In Occupy’s case, he said, “disbanding them by force won’t change that attitude of indignation.”
In the history, there has also been such forceful tactics against social movements but they only fail to solve any problem. Likewise, similar aggressive tactics were also being used lately. It is absolutely unjustified that these protesters were being treated as if they were criminals. As a result, many protesters end up being injured and I feel like the police force is indeed abusing these protesters’ rights.
“We’re seeing widespread violations of fundamental First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-chair of a National Lawyers Guild Committee, which has sent hundreds of volunteers to provide legal representation to Occupations across the nation.
“The demonstrations are treated as if they’re presumptively criminal,” she said. “Instead of looking at free speech activity as an honored and cherished right that should be supported and facilitated, the reaction of local authorities and police is very frequently to look at it as a crime scene.”
Every person has the right to dissent with the authorities. I feel like the police force went beyond overboard to “fulfill” their duties. Especially living in the democratic-based country, it is disappointing to see these kinds of violations to happen.
“I think it’s a dangerous spot in the sense of a precedent,” La Rue said, expressing concern that the United States risks losing its credibility as a model democracy, particularly if the excessive use of force against peaceful protests continues.
Like what La Rue said, U.S. will only lose its reputation and credibility if such forceful tactics continue to be use against these peace demonstrations. Such tactic is not going to rid any dissensions but will only cause more uproar and resentment. What happened to the country that used to believe in peace and democracy? The government is not helping the situation by continuing to use this kind of tactic. The way how the police force reacted to the Occupy movement lately only showed violation of every individual’s fundamental rights.
For more information, please refer to the following links of the articles:
- 15 Arrested During Baruch College Tuition Protest: http://www.dnainfo.com/20111121/murray-hill-gramercy/15-arrested-during-baruch-college-tuition-protest
- U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn’t Protecting Occupy Protesters’ Rights: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/02/occupy-wall-street-un-envoy_n_1125860.html