New York City officials targeted police brutality protesters Saturday, arresting at least 14 members of the Occupy Wall Street movement and tearing the shirt off a 16-year-old girl.
The violent reaction played out like a script from the satirical Colbert Report.
"Another day, another few notches out of the right to assembly in Bloombergistan," New York University Media Professor Nick Mirzeroff said of the March 24 arrests. "A march against police violence was broken up by – guess what – police violence."
Messiah Hamid's arrest stunned veteran members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who shouted at police "that is a 16-year-old girl" and "that's a kid" as she was carried away. The teen's hands were tied behind her and her shirt torn open to expose the red bra underneath.
One video of the unseemly incident suggests Messiah was targeted by officers after exchanging words with a police officer driving a scooter the wrong way on a congested one-way street. The aggressive driving tactic appeared to target members of the peaceful pro-democracy movement.
The officer appeared to aim their scooter at marchers as a pretext to arresting those who didn't scramble out of the street. The youthful Messiah initially stood her ground.
When the 16-year-old turned to run from the officer she became entangled with several other marchers and fell to the pavement, according to a bystander. Hamid clung briefly to a well known undercover officer commonly referred to as "Hispter Cop" with closely cropped hair and a black leather jacket.
"A couple girls were on the street trying to get up, screaming 'stop,' and a couple protesters were trying to help them," the bystander said. "A cop grabbed Messiah and dragged her to the sidewalk by her arm, and then I was pushed on top of the cop who was cuffing her. Another cop was holding on to her by her shirt and then dragged her away, which is when her shirt ripped open, exposing her to the crowd.”
Hamid is the latest in a long line of young people arrested by the administration of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. The wealthiest elected official in U.S. history baited pro-democracy protesters March 19 in his metallic Boston accent, saying: "You want to get arrested? We'll accommodate you."
More than 1,200 New Yorkers rose to the challenge Friday and Saturday. A crowd of at least 800 asserted their freedoms of speech and assembly Saturday to march north from Zuccotti Park to Union Square. They were joined there by additional protesters. At least a dozen were arrested.
A second Occupy protest at the United Nations drew about 50 protesters Saturday, generating at least two arrests. A crowd of 400 turned out a day earlier for Occupy's weekly Protest Friday march.
"That's Czar Mike and that's his nanny state," said Occupier Fatima Shadidi, 60, of Brooklyn (below right). "He sits on his high horse and says 'I don't want you smoking, I don't want you drinking soda, I don't want you eating salt, and I don't want you protesting against the greed of the 1 Percent. Well, I think I can make those decisions for myself. So do a lot of people in this city."
Bloomberg has established himself as the poster child for the hubris of America's self-appointed political and business aristocracy the past six months. The 70-year-old owner of the Bloomberg LP financial information network is the 11th richest man in the United States with a net worth of $20 billion, according to Forbes.
However, instead of remaining neutral in a class warfare dustup that clearly impacts his business interests on Wall Street, Bloomberg has turned the New York Police Department on those questioning the status quo. The term-limited mayor, who leaves office at the end of 2013, described the department as "my own army" during a Nov. 29 speech.
The Occupy movement is really not about Bloomberg, although his dictatorial bent has made him its focus in recent weeks. The movement is about the growing imbalance in American wealth between the 1 Percent and the 99 Percent. A disparity engineered by industry interests purchasing political influence in our pay-to-play system of government.
They have succeeded in orchestrating a sea change since 1980 - supplanting the middle class as the most powerful force in American politics. And converting representative democracy into a de facto corporate oligarchy.
Loren Hart, 33, of North Carolina, said he got involved in Occupy because he's worried that the predatory business interests which exert tremendous influence over our government are incapable of advancing the greater good. He also noted that all three major monotheistic religions consider usury – the lending of money at high interest rates – to be sinful.
Those rates translate into huge profits for the banks and credit card firms that undermined state usury laws in the 1980s. Most lending rates were capped at 11 percent a year until 1983, when entrepreneurs charging higher rates were known as loansharks and considered criminals. Today, banks like JP Morgan and Bank of America routinely charge annual credit card rates of more than 25 percent, even though inflation is flat.
Payday lenders routinely charge more than 900 percent a year.
They do so legally thanks to changes in U.S. banking regulations engineered by the 1 Percent.
"It's clear from the bible that the heart of Jesus' message was that there's nothing more important than standing with the poor and the vulnerable," said Hart, who was sporting an 'Occupy Catholics' sign on his coat.
More than 6,000 Americans have been arrested since the Occupy protest against the rising inequality in American society got its start in Zuccotti on Sept. 17, 2011. The once-admired NYPD has been responsible for more of those arrests than any other police department.
NYPD arrested 73 members of the Occupy movement on March 17 during a nonviolent protest in Zuccotti Park by more than 600 people to mark the group's six-month anniversary.
One spinoff effect from Bloomberg's use of the department to protect his financial interests has been the virtual disappearance of the NYPD hats and T-shirts which peppered the streets of New York City's working class neighborhoods for a decade after 9/11. The display of such items is now confined largely to tourists.
"We're seeing the frustration and anger raised on both sides - the protesters and the police - and I blame that squarely on the mayor and the commissioner," City councilman Jumaane Williams (below left) told The Guardian. "When you try to suppress people's speech, they do tend to get angry. What I saw last week was people using Zuccotti Park in the way that it was supposed to be, the way that they were told that they could legally use it, and they still got beat up and they still got arrested."
One protester suffered a seizure during the March 17 chaos, according to the Huffington Post. One man had his head smashed into a window and another woman was thrown onto the hood of a car by her neck. When the incident was over, a handful of protesters were charged with assaulting police officers.
Saturday's march was tinged by references to the events of March 17, which protesters described as a "police riot." Marchers dressed their bicycles up to look like the NYPD scooters that are routinely driven into crowds of protesters in lieu of mounted police. Others wore mock uniforms, barked orders at passing marchers, and carried signs calling for the resignation of Ray Kelly - the department's once popular commissioner.
Bloomberg, who was born into a middle-class family, seems to relish the showdown - albeit from afar. At his direction, police have arrested the children of the working class again and again. Richie Machado (below right), 20, has been arrested six times in the past six months for marching against the growing concentration of American wealth in the hands of the 1 Percent. The soft-spoken Queens resident weighs about a buck twenty soaking wet.
Bloomberg, who is now derided as "Czar Mike" by some constituents, has a decidedly higher expectation for the way his own children should be treated. A Queens pizza worker who expressed interest in 29-year-old Georgina Bloomberg was arrested by NYPD for stalking and harrassment in 2011. Even though he never met, contacted, or threatened the resident of Wellington, Fla., according to the Gothamist.
The New York City Police Department has seen a steady decline in its reputation since Bloomberg changed city electoral rules to win a third term in office in 2009. Like its wealthy patron and the banking sector he champions, some members of the department have begun to behave as if they're subject to a different set of rules than the general public.
NYPD is mired in a ticket-fixing corruption scandal, engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct in its widespread use of stop and frisks, and has been widely criticized for its extensive surveillance of both Muslim-Americans and Occupiers.
The Police Department conducted a record 684,000 stops and frisks in 2011 — a 14 percent increase from 2010, according to the Rights Working Group in Washington, D.C. Eighty-seven percent of those stopped were Black and Hispanic. The two ethnic minorities account for 54 Percent of city residents. Four million New Yorkers were stopped and searched between 2004 and 2011.
NYPD Spokeman Mike Browne and Bloomberg Spokesman Stu Loeser did not respond to inquiries from The Cynical Times for this story. The pair now have an unbroken streak of eight months without responding to this nonprofit news organization, which is staffed by veteran journalists who once routinely interacted with city offices as members of the mainstream news media.
Retired Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis, 60, was on hand to fill the void Saturday for frustrated New Yorkers struggling to understand how their own police department could turn on them which such ferocity and display such contempt for the very laws they're paid to safeguard. The 24-year veteran, who also is a member of the Occupy movement, said many police officers privately support its goals.
However, Lewis (left) said the groups which compete for police union leadership rely on corporate contributions to get their message out. Just like the politicians in Washington, D.C. Ultimately, that makes them beholden to the members of the 1 Percent who can afford to back their political aspirations.
Nobody joins the police to beat up decent working-class kids, Lewis said.
Why was it worth risking his police pension to get involved in Occupy?
"It's not about worth – it's a matter of gotta do it," Lewis said. "It's just like seeing a child in diapers sitting in the middle of the street. You have to pick it up and find out who it belongs to."
If you're a good person.
Sadly, everyone isn't.
This story was updated March 27 with new information in paragraph 4.
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