osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,
osewalrus
osewalrus

Surprised at Police Tactics In OWS? Actually, Bigger Surprise Is Anyone Cares.

A number of friends and acquaintances have expressed surprise at the almost casual use of pepper spray by police and the military-esque tactics used. After all, they ask, don't these people know that they are being caught on film? Don't they study history?

History actually teaches a rather different lesson, however. The extent to which the nation responds to these things cycles. The behavior of police wrt the various "Occupy" movements is consistent with police tactics against protesters over the last 10+ years. A video search of "FTAA Protests" will yield fairly substantial video evidence of the use of tear gas, concussion grenades, and bean bag blasters, plastic and rubber bullet firings, and other tactics being used against protesters in protests against the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement negotiations starting in 2003.

What is actually interesting is that it has triggered significant popular response this time, where previous efforts have not. I hypothesize the following differences. Historically, they are similar to why the protests of the early 1960s had such huge impact.

1. Social media has become ubiquitous, but is still fairly new. As a result, people are potentially deeply affected by the ability to view raw footage without editing and intermediaries. While various social media have been available for some time, we have hit a tipping point.

2. The public is generally sympathetic to OWS.

3. The issues are central to people's lives and easy to understand, as opposed to FTAA and other policy issues.

4. The subjects of assaults have generally been fairly sympathetic. A veteran, an 84 year old protesters, a line of students.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, occurs long run. But things seem promising so far.
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