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.
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.
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