Today: Jul 16, 2024

Occupy Wall St. and police brutality

REECE ALVAREZ — Special to Southern News

Dropping to their knees, screaming in pain, blindly reaching out for help—three women were pepper sprayed while being peaceably corralled by New York City police officers during the second week of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Ample footage of the incident is found on YouTube and has become a popular example of police brutality during the protests with over a 500,000 views.

Gregory Adams, an assistant professor of sociology at Southern Connecticut State University, said he was deeply disturbed by the footage.

“From what I can see it appears Fourth Amendment rights have been violated,” he said.

He mentioned specific instances where protesters were dragged out of controlled groups and arrested, as well as a man with professional camera equipment being thrown into a car, all of which has been documented on YouTube.

Major criticisms by mainstream news media have labeled the protesters as disjointed.  Writing for the New York Times, Joseph Goldstein referred to the protest as a “loose protest movement,” one that is “unorganized” and “uninformed.”  CNN also described the protest as “disorganized” and mocked the protests as misinformed in a segment, “Seriously protesters?!” by Erin Burnett on the Out Front news segment.

“Don’t blame big banks. If you have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself,” Herman Cain, a possible candidate for the GOP nomination for the 2012 election, said of the protesters.

“It’s telling of the times, there are people who are discontent,” said Professor Jon Bloch, department chair and professor of sociology at SCSU.

He said he sees historical roots to the issues raised by the protesters. It is an argument he said that has been going on for over 200 years.

“Do we believe in giving certain privileges to the wealthier because supposedly they create jobs and so forth,” he said, “or do we believe we should be more socialistic?”

He also sees protests as a boiling over of patience with the political system. Including the Tea Party movement, he said both sides of the political spectrum are out of patience. Adams said he too is tired of the usual political rhetoric.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard politicians say, ‘Well intuition tells you that you don’t tax the people that create the jobs,’” he said, “however there is no evidence right now that there is a shortage of corporate cash.”

In a news conference held Thursday in response to the protests, President Obama also acknowledged a running out of patience.

“The protesters are giving voice to a more broad based frustration about how our financial system works,” he said.

Joe Ferraro, an Southern senior studying journalism, finds himself  “conflicted” on the issue.

“I think their heart is in the right place but there is a little bit of hypocrisy going on,” he said.

He finds credibility lacking in a group he described as well dressed and carrying the latest in Mac technology.

“I feel like trust-fund babies should not really be protesting a system that gives them all of that,” he said.

He said he does sympathize with aspects of the movement, he said, especially coming from a working class family and as a student.

As protests and walkouts spread to college campuses and cities around the country, Adams said the movement has touched a national nerve.

“I think what these [protesters] have put their finger on is that the corporations right now are flush, while they are hurting,” he said.

“I see that here at Southern, these students’ parents are struggling to send them to school, these students are worried about what jobs will be available to them on their way out.”

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