David and Goliath: Mass Arrest At Occupy DC

Allison Kilkenny

There are a handful of macabre hallmarks that brand an Occupy chapter as having arrived”: the infamous tent city, of course, followed by the brutal crackdown by police, and last but not least, the mass arrest. Occupy DC, one of the only major tent cities left in the nation, experienced the latter last night when police detained 31 protesters following a day-long tense standoff in McPherson Square.

This time, the excuse for the police intervention came in the shape of a 15-foot-tall wooden shelter protesters put up Saturday night in the park’s southwest corner. Protesters intended the structure to provide shelter during the winter months for their General Assemblies. The barn” as it was being called on Twitter became some Occupy protesters’ last stand as they gathered in front of the half-built shelter, and six demonstrators clung to the roof in order to guard it. Eventually, police hauled in a cherry-picker to remove the protesters from the roof. The Washington Post reports that 15 occupiers were arrested and charged with crossing a police line, and 16 arrestees were charged with disobeying a lawful police order. (photo by Dave Weigel)

A man named David performed the headline-stealing action resulting in charges of resisting arrest, indecent exposure, and urinating in public. The last two charges are police tautology because by its very nature, public urination entails indecent exposure. The trumped-up redundancy may have something to do with officers being slightly peeved that a protester urinated, though it’s unclear where he was aiming. Some reports on Twitter said on the barn itself, while others indicated he deliberately aimed at a police vehicle. One tweeter said he was simply demonstrating how trickle-down economics works.”

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume David did deliberately aim his righteous stream of fury at the police. Such a scenario would be most unfortunate, not just because pissing at cops is incredibly short-sighted, but also because the establishment media has a habit of treating stuff like property damage and public urination as The Crimes Of The Century, while the other actual news (civil liberty-crushing behavior by the ever-expanding police state) falls by the wayside.

In that single act of excretal effrontery, the occupier guaranteed the morons at Fox and Friends will continue their career-long obsession with the bowel movements of liberals, instead of chatting about police beating and tear-gassing protesters. Not that Fox and Friends was mere moments away from hopping on the civil liberties-loving train, but it’s a shame to hand the right-wing media a golden gift like this. (I’ll stop with the pee puns after this, I swear.)

Just as the west coast media obsessively covered the antics of a handful of self-declared anarchists who committed the gravest crime of all, property damage, instead of the brutal actions of the LAPD, so the media seems once again prepared to rush things along by declaring there have been no reports of injuries.” I’ve previously written about how the LA Times colossally dropped the ball in its coverage of injuries during the raid at Occupy LA. Originally, the Times applauded the raid and arrest of more than 200 people by calling the eviction successful” and cheering the LAPD’s ability to avoid fierce confrontations.” The Times was then forced to somewhat correct itself when it became clear there had been fierce confrontations that resulted in protesters being beaten and injured.

David was the last protester to be pulled down from the barn frame, which prompted the watching crowd to chant, David beats Goliath!” Huffington Post reporter Jason Cherkis witnessed the police action and tweeted that it took three police officers tying up David with rope and hitting him with a baton to eventually wrench him from the frame. At one point, the livestream narrator remarked, It looks like he’s being choked.”

Just when it seemed over, and police finally pulled him off the structure, David made one last lunge at the barn and regripped the A-Frame, sending the crowd into a frenzy again as they chanted his name.

Cherkis reported a protester shouted, David, you can do it!”

When the police finally subdued David, it brought the nine-hour standoff to a close.

Oftentimes, the media doesn’t hear about injuries to protesters until they have been released from prison, and even then some demonstrators are hesitant to file complaints against the police for a whole host of reasons. Some have prior records and have been abused by police in the past, and as a result they’re extremely wary of the cops, so filing a report of abuse with them is out of the question. Others don’t understand the severity of their injuries, and some protesters simply aren’t informed on their rights not to be beaten silly by the police. There’s another possibly, too: after a long showdown with the police, many injured demonstrators just want to go home and sleep it off.

But after hours fending off the police and being struck with a baton, David might take issue with the Washington Post reporting there were no injuries.” If there truly turns out to be no injuries, it’s only because David, this time, was fortunate, and not due to a lack of effort by the Washington D.C. police.

The deeply ironic thing about all of this is that it was a D.C. building inspector’s assessment that the structure was unsafe which led to police action. Apparently, building a barn is unsafe, but tying up protesters and trying to yank them off the roof of said barn is in the public’s best interest.

Other disturbing allegations are beginning to emerge int the wake of the raid.

You don’t go to Iraq to watch YouTube videos of protesters getting beaten up,” said 21-year-old Michael Patterson, one of the Occupy DC protesters who was arrested earlier in the afternoon. Patterson says one of the D.C. police officers had instructed one of his colleagues to taser him, but the officer refused.

I suppose one could argue it’s extremely reassuring that an officer remained levelheaded enough to realize tasering a protester would only escalate an already volatile situation, but it’s also disconcerting, if it’s true, that another officer wanted to go there in the first place.

The most unfortunate outcome of all this would be if David’s urine steals the show, especially considering tomorrow’s multi-city planned actions to reclaim some foreclosed homes on behalf of homeless families. Some in the establishment media are like bloodhounds trained to sniff out activist urine, and are drawn to all things excrement, which would be a misallocation of resources given the thoroughly populist and groundbreaking acts of civil disobedience planned for tomorrow. I hope to see every major media outlet in the streets Tuesday, but that’s probably hoping for too much.

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.
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