Woman tased at DOJ for peacefully protesting foreclosures (video)

In an image reminiscent of the peaceful Occupy Wall Street students who were pepper-sprayed at UC-Davis in 2011, a woman protesting home foreclosures in front of the Department of Justice on Monday was tased, for no apparent reason, other than that she was peacefully linking arms with fellow protesters.

Here she is, moments after the tasing (video below):


Casual use of tasers is reserved for the underclass and anyone who stands for them. Police violence was always used against “those people,” and in these post-Occupy days, is used once more to punish political crimes as well. Foreclosed homeowners protesting at the Dept of Justice building are apparently committing a political crime. Welcome to Obama’s America, which was Bush’s America, which was Clinton’s America, and so on.

I want to bring you three takes on the tasing by the administration of the ironically labeled “community organizer,” at the ironically named “Dept of Justice,” all of which make good reads — starting with the news and brutal video, then digby, then Dave Dayen.

First the news report, via Huffington Post (my emphasis):

Owners of foreclosed homes were arrested Monday during a protest outside Justice Department headquarters, where they demonstrated against prosecutors’ failure to take legal action against bankers.

Seventeen former homeowners were arrested, according to Washington police. The demonstrators were seized outside the Justice Department building as they sat in groups behind a police barrier, singing protest songs largely invoking language from the Occupy Wall Street movement. They began blocking traffic in front of the Robert F. Kennedy building at 2:00 p.m. Five hours later, Constitution Avenue remained blocked from 9th Street to 10th Street.

Those arrested were charged with “incommoding,” or obstructing traffic, according to Ann C. Wilcox, a lawyer representing the protesters. …

(UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, police arrested those who stayed the night. The video above shows Carmen Pittman surrounded by three large officers before she is tased. More on her story of foreclosure here and below.)

■ Now the video mentioned above. It’s gone a bit viral. Hint for watching: There’s a lot going on in the shot, and the real action is at a place that looks like nothing is happening.

The part of the image you should watch is to the right of center, where several huge cops are tightly holding a (yes, black) woman motionless before someone casually tases her.

Moments before the woman in the middle, apparently linking arms with fellow protesters to the right, is tased for no apparent reason.

Moments before the African-American woman in the middle, linking arms with fellow protesters to the right, is tased for no apparent reason.

The video is quick and brutal, less than a minute. The taser is used at about 0:12. The woman has linked arms with fellow protesters, and doesn’t appear to putting up much of a fight. Suddenly, you hear the “click-click-click” as the juice is pumped into her and she falls. The cops then briefly walk away, and you see her red shoes as she writhes helpless, her body processing the voltage she received. At about 0:34 she reappears at the far right, dragged to her feet in horrible pain (look at her face) to be arrested and carted off.

They treated her like meat. There were hippie designations* for cops in the last big protester days; one of them was Oinkers. Hold that thought; we’ll come back to it.

Next digby, in a piece she calls “Dispatch from Taser Nation“:

There is nothing new about protesters gathering at government buildings. And it has never been a problem for the police to arrest protesters in an orderly fashion, even when the protesters are not cooperating by sitting down and refusing to move. This is the way civil disobedience has worked for many a moon.

Shooting protesters full of electricity in order to get them to fall to the ground in excruciating pain, dazed and compliant, however, is new. And it’s completely unnecessary, not to mention contrary to our long tradition of peaceful protest. I thought this sort of thing went out with the use of firehoses and police dogs.

It happened again today… Note the casual sadism. The young woman is surrounded by three men as she links arms with another protester. She does not appear to be in any way violent or threatening. The big man behind her holds her around the neck and whispers in her ear (who knows what he told her, but if it’s the usual, he says “cooperate right now or you’re going to be tased.”) As a peaceful protester engaged in civil disobedience she naturally refuses. At this point, they would normally pick her up bodily and carry her to the paddy wagon. Instead, they hit her with 50,000 volts of electricity, she crumbles to the ground as her whole body is overwhelmed by pain.

And then they blithely walk away, leaving her writhing on the ground. Let’s just say they were lucky she wasn’t one of the thousands of people who’ve died from tasers. I guess they would have noticed at some point when she stopped screaming.

The takeaway from digby is this — there’s “nothing new about protesters gathering at government buildings” and these arrests are almost always orderly. So what’s different now? The times are again a-changin’ and a nascent spontaneous uprising has begun.

Which brings us to Dave Dayen, writing at Naked Capitalism. This event has “part of something bigger” written all over it. He first connects the general sense of increased uprising in the U.S. to the wildcat low-wage strikes occurring around the country, most recently against the federal government itself — yep, they’re a major perp as well (my emphasis and paragraphing):

The past several years have demonstrated the obvious point that inequality and depression will combine to produce flares of mass social unrest. You see this in Europe and the Middle East, where rising food prices had as much to do with the Arab Spring as decades of political repression.

Things are no different here in America. Even though elites are fortunate enough to have a militarized local law enforcement apparatus in place to make sure the rabble doesn’t get too out of control, these flares, indications of broader awareness that in an economy rigged against them, the only recourse is to step outside the system and shout to the heavens.

We’ve seen this before in US history; it was called the Gilded Age, and it led to the set of progressive reforms as well as a legacy of labor organizing that might, just might, be awakening from what seems like a decades-long slumber.

Over the past year or so, low-wage workers have staged wildcat strikes, walking off the job for a day or two. It started at Walmart, America’s low-wage giant, the largest private employer in the US and the company that the Federal Open Market Committee looks to when making macroeconomic policy decisions. … This has predictably spread to other parts of the low-wage sector. Fast food and retail workers have been systematically striking, one city at a time, under the banner of a $15 per hour living wage. Workers in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee have walked off the job in the one-day wildcat strikes. SEIU and a variety of community groups have been behind the stoppages.

It would be natural to expect chronic one-day strikes like this at the beginnings of union formation. This is exactly how voiceless workers in the 1880s and 1890s began to mass their collective power. That doesn’t mean it will succeed, but it means it’s following a very similar script.

Yesterday’s action in Washington involved the 2 million workers paid, directly or indirectly, by the federal government, who make $12 an hour or less. The federal government is actually the largest low-wage job creator in America, higher than Walmart, McDonald’s or anyone else. …

Dayen details the extent of the government’s perfidy, its contribution to the low-wage scandal, and the protests in DC organized against this inhumanity. Do read; it’s a good write-up.

Then he segues to the protest action in the above video:

These low-wage worker actions are small in the grand scheme of things, but significant because of what they represent – mass dissatisfaction with the current economic order. The land of the free imposes lots of barriers to this type of assembly, action and speech, many of them psychological. … And when that doesn’t work, there’s good old-fashioned police repression. …

Shorter Dave Dayen: “The oinkers are back.”

Dayen has his misgivings, both about the Occupy Our Homes protest and the chance for growing the unrest into something bigger. He thinks that Campaign for a Fair Settlement (CFS), the organizers of the Occupy Our Homes protests (Note: Not OOH themselves, but CFS) are complicit in the Eric Schneiderman whitewash (Dayen is more eloquent on this point). And he’s not sure that we as a nation are capable of a real uprising any more. [Updated for clarity. Dayen’s criticism is of CFS only.]

But he sees that the conditions are ripe:

Whatever you think of the value of public protest or one-day strikes with set time limits, I see them as part of a stirring. Occupy and Wisconsin and what’s happening right now in North Carolina … fit within that context as well. These vapors circling around the country don’t have to form into a solid mass, and they won’t without a lot of clever, savvy organizing and strategizing. But the conditions do exist for it to happen. Life still retains the ability to surprise.

Dayen sees both the opportunity and potential to ignite a moment of destiny. So do I.

*”Hippie designations” are like Borg designations, only different.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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  • Whitewitch

    As an old woman, often protester and daughter of a police officer, your wife is 100% correct. My father was a cop because he enjoyed the power and control, enjoyed inflicting pain and being the “king”. On the other hand I have been at protests where the professional officer, politely put me in cuffs and drove around the corner and lectured me about the real crimes she would rather be fighting than arresting peaceful protestors and then told me to go home and return to fight another day. I was recently told by another commenter that painting any group with a broad brush is a not productive and I believe they are correct. It is just really hard to pick out the professional cops from the swine…it is a job worth doing however.

  • ComradeRutherford

    And banks that fraudulently foreclose on the wrong house are never punished, and homeowners have no recourse, they lose everything, and the bank CEO votes himself a $1M bonus for getting away with breaking the law.

    That’s the Conservative Utopia!

  • Butch1

    It’s interesting that those who have a sadistic leanings are drawn to positions of power where they can enforce them over others without worry. It is a “boy’s club” where they “protect and serve” each other. ;-)

  • el_polacko

    ….except for the fact that we have had a democrat administration for the last five years. isn’t still blaming repubicans for everything that’s going wrong just a wee bit silly ?

  • el_polacko

    pay your mortgage and nobody will “steal” your home. if you can’t afford to buy a house, then don’t buy one. ‘problem’ solved !

  • el_polacko

    …and this is all happening under the obama administration mostly at his personal direction. believe me, if the board of jp morgan were to turn on obama they would be hit with all the weight of the government whether that means the IRS, tazers, or drones.

  • el_polacko

    when you buy a house you are making a contract to pay the mortgage. if you do not pay, you get foreclosed. how do you not pay and then ‘protest’ ?? it’s nonsense.

  • condew

    We are getting pretty bad, but we are not North Korea — yet.

  • condew

    Where are Holder and Obama’s “Department of Justice”? The press has been very clear that there was malfeasance, but nobody was indicted, nobody tried, nobody went to jail. Prosecuting criminals is not something Obama needs Congress to act on, this is totally within his control, and he does nothing.

  • condew

    Can we identify the officers involved, both the one wielding the tazer and those assisting by holding his victim? A policeman who tazers a subdued subject should be charged with assault and battery, or dismissed as unfit for duty just as we would consider an officer who beat a prisoner in a cell as unfit to be a policeman. And if his supervisors won’t take action, we should at least make very public his name, organization, rank and crime.

  • Clevelandchick

    Which is why it wasn’t ruled as discrimination to not admit someone to the police academy for scoring too high on their IQ tests. The more educated the less likely you are to abuse the public or to use force as the first rather than last resort. The institutionalization of sadism is by design.

  • arcadesproject

    Tasing citizens for assembling peacefully? You can think of it as ‘torture to go’. Or a ‘mobile torture app.’ Or, You think that’s torture? Wait ’til you get to Guantanamo.

  • d3clark

    I wonder how many of these guys’ fathers were serving in the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970?

  • Plus a C- average in the academy.

  • Butch1

    I think it’s a prerequisite to get into the “institution.”

  • Anybody remember the Chicago convention police riots—-Dems have always had one foot in the fascist pot.

  • In my experience they are all in the letter category. Except, possibly Vermont.

  • I don’t think they care. It’s sadism, increasingly institutionalized.

  • Butch1

    The original reason to use a taser was to protect one’s self if a person was advancing toward you. Now, they use them as a punitive measure. These idiots need to read their own literature about how to use them. I guess it doesn’t matter to them since they hold all the power and are sadists.

  • A loooong time ago, one of my great grandfathers used to tell us kids stories of “the Pinks” and how they were often brought in to break up strikes and sometimes even union meetings. (He’d been a coal miner and then later a steel worker.)

    In my childish mind, I thought they were called ‘Pinks’ because maybe they wore pink Bowler hats or old-timey suits colored pink. It turned out they were actually Pinkerton Detectives — professional thugs hired by corporate bosses and given free rein by the local cops to do anything to try to break the unions. Often the cops would join in, according to my great-grandfather’s stories. Back then, the billy-club was the weapon of choice, although some used illegal knuckle-dusters or lead-filled saps. Very often the violence and beatings were severe as much as they were gratuitous.

    The use of the taser today is not much different from the club to the gut back then, or the sap to the back of the neck. It’s not for compliance, and not to subdue an otherwise uncontrollable person so they can be arrested. They electrocute these people for the sake of sadism and extrajudicial punishment, to inflict extreme pain for failing to be submissive and for disobeying. Hell, you can be complying with police orders and, well, we’ve read plenty of stories where the cops will tase people who are handcuffed and lying on the ground. Or one particularly horrific video I saw where the cop was tasing a guy over and over, while repeating, “Comply, comply” — as if someone can do anything but writhe on the ground while their nervous system is being jacked with several thousand volts of electricity.

    My wife once told me there were three categories of law enforcement, back in her draft resistance and war protesting days. There were the police officers — professional and decent. There was one time, for instance, during a terrible winter storm in Vermont and a police officer helped escort my wife and her group to safety, following them in his car all the way back to town. Then there were the cops — just schlubs doing their job, but not especially caring one way or the other. And then there were the Pigs — men who enjoy hurting others under the color of law, protected and immunized in their sadism by their uniform and position.

    Those are the ones who will electrocute a peaceful protester. Not officers, not cops, but Pigs.

  • ComradeRutherford

    No, you missed the point completely. By that logic, the criminal banksters wold be allowed to tase the people whose homes they stole.

  • pappyvet

    I understand the frustration and anger Liz, but the republicans are only the loudest and most transparent members of a group whose idea of serving the people has more to do with a garnish than democracy. Big money controls our country now and until we defeat that cancer, the best form of government yet created will continue to be eaten away.It is true from their actions that the wingnuts are pushing very hard for a country of cold ,bruising myth laden existence for everyone except the too big to fail crowd. However,when most of the democrats continue to fold and shrug their shoulders,I’ve got to think that they are so bogged down by money and a lack of personal courage that whatever their personal beliefs are, cannot at this time be brought to bear.

  • Think of England

    We are way into an age of fascism. It may sound like hyperbole but it’s not. Government surveillance is all pervasive. Use of military tactics on American civilians is way up. Courts are generally complicit and even when the courts rule against the government, the government just ignores it. Can you imagine these goons tasing, say, the Board of Directors of JP Morgan/Chase?

  • By that logic, people who were screwed over by a bankster should be allowed to line up to tase the crook that stole their life savings.

  • The big lie of the mortgage meltdown is “no one could have foreseen what was going to happen.” That’s a flat out lie. People had been warning about the many problems with sub-prime, interest-only, 40-year and other “creative” mortgages for years. Even more troubling were the mortgage-backed securities and then the investments designed to pay off when those mortgages failed. They didn’t know? it’s obvious that they did. The big lie needs to be exposed. the same people are still in charge. The too big to fail banks are bigger and failier than ever. No one learned their lesson. They weren’t even honorable enough to forgo bonuses after taking a bailout. it’s time to break up the banks that are too big to fail. Too big to fail = too damn big.

  • nicho

    We are a failed society.

  • pappyvet

    “The Roman arena was technically a level playing field. But on one side were the
    lions with all the weapons, and on the other the Christians with all the blood.
    That’s not a level playing field. That’s a slaughter. And so is putting people
    into the economy without equipping them with capital, while equipping a tiny
    handful of people with hundreds and thousands of times more than they can use.”

    Louis O. Kelso, 1984

  • ComradeRutherford

    The only difference I can discern between the two major parties is how fast to turn the USA into a third-world dictatorship and police state. The Dems want it today and the GOP wanted it yesterday.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Ever since George Bush made torture the Law of the Land, using tasers on non-violent activists is mandatory.

  • Agree! So did Eisenhower for that matter.

  • nicho

    Sorry, Liz, but it’s not a Republican thing. It’s Corporatists (Republican and Democrat) against the rest of us. As Ralph Nader tried to warn us — and was crucified for it — there is no longer any significant difference between Republican and Democrat.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    the bullies are out of control in this country – good republicans all

  • Sarah

    So fucked up. Fuck the fucking police and the fucking big banks. That’s how they treat ppl every day. Sickening. We need to take the fucking power back people RISE UP!!!!

  • therling

    Meanwhile, the guys that created the mess with their “banks too big to fail” are receiving multi-million dollar bonuses. Great system we have here.

  • nicho

    What part of “corporate dictatorship” don’t you understand?

  • ronbo

    Concentration of wealth is like concentrated orange juice (you can’t drink it but you can taze it).

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