Monday, December 12, 2005

Philly Peace Protest Turns Violent as Police Lose Their Cool (again)

When George Bush's motorcade rolled into Center City Philadelphia today the President was greeted with a loud and sustained chorus of boos and whistles from the crowd of protesters that assembled outside the president's hotel. Bush was in town to deliver a speech about the latest in Iraq. (transcripts of Bush's speech) This was the 3rd in a series of four events staged by the White House to respond to critcs of Bush's Iraq policy. Later across town, Pennslyvania Congressman John Murtha, the hawkish democrat and war veteran whose recent challenge to end the war effectively reframed the Iraq debate, responded to the president's latest Iraq assessment charging that the continued US presence in Iraq undermines any political progress. "The Iraqis are not against democracy!" Murtha said, "they are against our occupation."

It was towards the end of today's protest that things turned decidedly nasty as police charged the crowd, clubs in hand, wrestling a number of protesters to the ground. What had been a peaceful and pleasent demonstration quickly disovled into mayham and confusion as Philly's finest essentially turned "attack dog" on the crowd. It was not immediately clear what kind of threat the cops perceived when they began their assult on the crowd, but they arrested two (black) men who had joined today's rally with their family. Just a few minutes before the altercation, I actually spoke to the two men involved. When they were initailly approched by the plain-clothed policeman none of us had any idea that this guy was a cop. He seemed like a goon to me, out to cause trouble. While the plain-clothes policeman was wrestling one of the men to the ground, his shirt was raised, exposing his badge and gun. Almost immediately, a half dozen more cops (all in uniform) descended on the scene. I believe their aggressive response just made things worse, basically scaring the shit out of everyone at the scene. All the while the crowd chanted out "the world is watching!!" and "SHAME!!" I should note that the fracas was also witnesses by the young sons and the grandmother of the victims who looked on in horror while police brought all the force they had to bear on the two men. No one had any idea at the time what could have possibly provoked the police to act out on the crowd like that.

Local media later reported that police had concerns that one of the men involved was carrying a dangerous object, which turned out to actually be a glass of hot cider. Harmless enough, if you ask me, afterall it was freezing outside. I also later learned from a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that one of the men involved was taken to the hospital and released. The other is in lockup at the 9th Police District, charged with assult on a police officer. Bitterly ironic.

While I am tempted to vent my frustration at what i saw towards the police, that would be too simplistic of a target. I think what i witnessed today is a byproduct of the politics of fear, a fear that is so prevelant in this country nowadays, as methodically employed and cafefully cultivated by the Bush Administration. In this post-9/11 world, the government seems to have masterfully exploited our sense of fear by inundating us with scarey, color-coded, mostly abstract messages that eat away at our peace of mind. Has it gotten to the point where everyone in the country is so "on edge" that a simple thermos of cider can set the cops into an asswhippin' frenzy?? After what I witnessed today, my answer is an emphatic YES.

Photo credits to Bob Herbert and the Deleware NewsJournal.


Anonymous said...

what??? "WWBWL" isn't a crime? WWBWL isn't a threat to our security? I'll be damned. I could of sworn that Cheney or the prez had WWBWL covered and squashed with the Patriot act.

ps. what is WWBWL you ask, why the high crime of "Walking While Black With Lemonade" of course.

Dennis said...

Yeah, I know all about these over zealous cops. Back when I lived in Atlanta I was at some event standing in line to get in. Some jerk walked up to me and started pushing and grabbing me. I pushed him back and told him to get his hands off of me. Next thing I knew I had 5 cops on top of me grinding me head into the ground. A few seconds later I was in a paddy wagon headed off to the city jail. I spent the next 36 hours in a holding cell waiting for a court appearance. In that time I learned that they charged me with assaulting an officer. (36 hours because it was a holiday)... When I finally showed up for court the judge dropped everything. It was clear the "guy" never identified himself as a cop, he wasn't wearing a uniform, and it was clear they roughed me up a little first. I thought about suing the city, but really I just wanted the whole thing to be over with. I have much less respect for the "authorities" now.

Kevin said...

Great photo - is he being hit, or is the person in the foreground grabbing his jacket collar?

You say: "I saw the entire incident at close range and i must confess that it was very painful and infuriating to accept what I was witnessing."

But what did you /see/? You haven't really described anything. Was there an altercation- who started it, what moves were made, were words exchanged then it got physical... or what?

You witnessed it, so would you please break it down so we can understand what happened. Thanks.

Mikyeil said...

In The Name of The Most Beneficient

first,i would like to express appreciation to all people who have supported The Truth. due to pending judicial scuffles, i will not go much into specifics about the incident described; when a pee-colored liquid is used by a group as excuse for blatant human rights violations against members of another group, as indicated in reports including this one, believe there is something sinister on hand. dunno how they will try to use my words against me in this instance; yet, by being black and attacked i am presented with:

The Choice

to speak out or shut up, to stand down or get up, to hold tea (ha!) or hic-cup, but many heroes have proven...
They may grab minors and give out shiners, use undercovers to terrorize mothers, beat bros outside of bistros, but many cops haven't learned...

big shout out to kevin (which is a way of acknowledging your comments;excuse me if i seem just a bit fearful of misunderstandings- my last one got me a cheese sandwich and a brutal beatdown)look closer: angle of head tilt indicates i was socked, dontcha think? if you don't, i ain't mad at ya-you didn't punch me!
Copyright 2005 Mikyeil El-Mekki

Anonymous said...

One of the things that happens to people when they are on a heightened state of alert for a long period of time is that they become very easy to trigger. The adrenaline gets the better of you, basically. Most cops and soldiers learn to work with the adrenaline and keep it under control. Then there are the ones who lose it and start beating the shit out of someone. I'm not excusing the cops' actions, they obviously behaved in a thugish, violent way to something that was not even close to a threat to them. Their behavior could have incited more violence. I'm just saying they may not be jack-booted racist thugs, but just cops whose emotions fogged over their judgement.

Anonymous said...

I was at the protest until around 11:30, when I had to leave to check out of my hotel. (I was travelling to Philly on other business when I learned about the protest, and the person I was travelling with wasn't particularly sympathetic to changing plans to attend, so I stayed as long as I could.)

While I was there it was peaceful. The block-long sidewalk across from the hotel where Bush was speaking was jammed with people holding signs and chanting anti-war slogans. The street was closed off and was lined with rows of TV trucks, next to the hotel, then a row of police, and finally a row of evenly-spaced Secret Service guys scanning the crowd. Off to one side, I could see a group of police in riot gear, but they seemed to be at ease.

I went because I felt really good to be able to shout out my opinion of the war in a place potentially within hearing of George Bush. I don't know where in the hotel the fundraiser was located, but there was a row of tall draped windows on the second floor that looked like there might have been a large ballroom behind them, and every so often, someone would come and peek out at the crowd. I'm sure we could be heard inside the hotel.

It's sad that the police would go after someone in that crowd with no provocation. My friend had been joking with me that he wouldn't stay to bail me out if I got arrested, as he had to get to work the next day. At the time, we both thought we were joking. It's a sad day in this country that a person has to be worry about being arrested just for staging peaceful protest.

I hope that Bush hears the same voices shooting in protest all across the country every time he leaves the White House.

Anonymous said...

If someone is carrying a 'suspicious' substance, why would you start a physical confrontation with them, and risk releasing said unknown substance?

royce said...

in 1993 i became disable, while the staples from my back surgery where still holding it together, a glen rambo, yes rambo! a glassboro officer, stoped me and expained to me with force! that i have killed my wife? while getting beat opond, i tryed to tell the cop I NEVER BEEN MARRIED! after my beatin, i went to the hospital to get the staples replaced! and than to my lawyers and sued the balls off of my friend officer rambo! the beatin i recieved was worth, $13,000! not bad for a ass beatin! when they hit you> sue them!! as i did with officer glen rambo.. thanks glen!