The Truth About Police Misconduct at Occupy Wall Street West

Brian Walker
NationofChange / Interview
Published: Friday 27 January 2012
Brian Walker talks with Sonia Alexander-White about her experience with law enforcement during protests in San Fransisco.

NationofChange's Communications Director, Sonia Alexander-White, recounts excessive use of police force she witnessed and experienced last week during Occupy Wall Street West:

Brian: Were you participating in protest when you were arrested on January 20th? Why did law enforcement confront you?

Sonia: I was actually just observing other occupy participants and when law enforcement locked down the alley way I asked to be let out. I was asked to step back from the officer line and I asked why I couldn't be let out to the street access. That was when the head officer removed me into custody after grabbing my coat and throwing me.

Brian: What were you doing at the occupation and what were you trying to do?

Sonia: I was conducting interviews and taking pictures with my camera phone just before they formed a riot line that locked me in.

Brian: Were the police violent against you in any way?

Sonia: Yes. They tried to intimidate me while behind the line as if I were a criminal. When I tried to speak they yelled louder for me to stay still. When I asked to be let out because I was looking for our camera man they put their hands on me and threw me to the police van.

Brian: What were law enforcement in the area doing before they encircled and arrested you?

Sonia: They were putting riot gear on and getting their clubs out. The officer that threw me was walking bank executives from a location across the street to the entrance of the Wells Fargo building. Protesters were only marching in that location and not confronting any employees. The police then formed 3 troupes that locked the area down and one large group with a set of police on motorcycles that went into the street forcing themselves against protesters that were just chanting the 99% message.

Brian: Did you see any police violence against other protesters? What about non participants and passersby?

Sonia: The same officer that threw me also belly clubbed a writer who dropped his iPad in the street. One motorcycle officer ran the front of his bike into a young girl marching in the street. Other officers pushed protesters and on lookers from out of the street into the sidewalks.

Brian: How large was the police presence where you were in and throughout the occuputation?

Sonia: There were hundreds of officers on foot and on motor cycles.

Brian: Some protesters have alleged that some police officers tried to instigate conflict during the demonstrations; did you see any examples of this?

Sonia: Yes. The main officer controlling the 4 corners that pushed me also took the occupy tent and food table for homeless and threw it into the crowd. Officers yelled at simple protesters and presented body contact to intimidate and provoke a fight break out when they were just standing in front of the banks.

For some raw footage of some of the police misconduct, please click here.



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ABOUT Brian Walker

Brian Walker is a reporter and assistant editor for NationofChange.

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36 comments on "The Truth About Police Misconduct at Occupy Wall Street West"

G.E.R.R.Y.

January 29, 2012 10:21am

CASNYDER said:
"I think those at the top of the department and the politicos who give the orders to deploy them against protestors are responsible..."

I agree, but you must never make excuses for the persons who commit the assaults, whether police or soldiers, because a person with any moral compass could never bring himself/herself to do what they do. It takes individual police and/or soldiers to "pick up the baton/gun" for the politicians and the 1% to succeed.

Ollie Anderson

January 29, 2012 8:37am

I like to thank you protesters, keep it non-violent do not quit. You are working toward Righteousness, I,m a African American from the civil rights movements of the 1960,s in Mississippi and Chicago, Illinois. I,m 65 years old not in the best of health to help. I do not see African Americans in signifcant numbers in the 99% movement,this is unacceptable,some of the reasons are the lack of money,time and the lost of HOPE, no Faith in winning against Greedy Corporation intrest. Keep Hope Alive,continual your good works and we(African Americans) will join you when our Faith in what you are doing is strengthen.

Patti Jo Roth-E...

January 27, 2012 8:48pm

These are distractions. Get to work on your concerns. Focus on the issues. For me this is about Monsanto and other Biotech corporations destroying my food, soil and the environment. I fight for the family farmer. To expend focus and energy on the color of Obama's skin or the games of the richest of the 1% is self-defeating.

zenplacefour's picture
zenplacefour

January 27, 2012 7:12pm

It seems disturbingly clear that a huge majority of police officers, when dealing with OWS protesters, are not abiding by the actual rules or spirit of their paid profession. Police are paid to protect and serve. This means that they must protect law abiding citizens without discrimination, maintain “order” within the bounds of a democratic society, and detain or arrest those people who disobey state and local laws and ordinances. Sounds nice, but we all know that sometimes, in order to keep the peace, things can get messy. But legally, and based on policy, police are not paid to beat people, hit them with pepper spray, or incite them to riot. However, police WILL do these things when personal, professional and political accountability are absent or lacking.

Unless the police are under DIRECT threat from personal attack, excessive aggression can never be justified under any rule of law. When it comes to overt, unprovoked, OFFENSIVE aggression, state and federal laws are extremely clear and hold a hard line against it, at least theoretically. Non-violent protesters who fail to move from private property may be, after sufficient warning, cuffed and arrested, but beating them and/or applying other forms of brutal, physical force to achieve these ends are clearly prohibited.

It's seems simple, yet why do the attacks on protesters continue? Well, who’s going to stop them, if not their superiors? The biggest problem is that, as a society, we’ve watched these attacks for so many decades; we’ve just come to accept police brutality as the norm. Is this not “Big Government” at its worst? So, despite the rhetoric that conservatives attempt to ram down our throats, it’s not the protesters that are the problem in a democracy (particularly a mature and model one), it’s how police, politicians, and the 1% justify the violence against them through political cowardice and warped, self-serving and negative interpretations of what are clearly peaceful assemblies.

To paraphrase a U.S. serviceman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan “…we (U.S. Troops) are not even allowed to use these tactics (like those used by police on OWS protesters) against townspeople who resist our presence in areas suspected of being under Taliban control…” The 1% have already found the loopholes that have worked to undermine the Constitution, and if we continue letting them circumvent the first amendment through local trash codes, we’re fu*ked! Thanks, Zen

paulrevere

January 27, 2012 11:04pm

"SERVE......AND.......PROTECT

On the side of police cars pre 1980's the sequence of words emphasized SERVE as the first word and PROTECT second...they serve us, WETHEPEOPLE, and in that serving, part and only part, of their SWORN duty is 'protect', for in our peaceful society, 'protection' is rarely needed, and today well attested to by the drop in the first decade of the millenium, in FBI stats on violent crime.
SERVE and protect...who do they work for? Who pays their salaries? Who provides them with legal mandate and guidance? = WETHEPEOPLE...
Why are such a vast majority of our police forces, nation wide, looking like armoured ROBOCOPS and humorless, antisocial, over stimulated thugs?

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 6:25pm

One thing that a civilian, someone who's never been in the military, doesn't understand. In the military there is a Rank Structure and a Chain of Command. There is no comparison in civilian life. You don't question orders, you follow them, and there is a rule called "first order last, last order first." Don't do what you are told and you and others suffer or die as a result, so you are trained to do just that! Orders flow down, gripes flow up and it is up to those in command above you to determine what to do with gripes. There is no such thing as equality when you are in the military. Something that civilians can't understand but it is necessary for it to be that way. So thinking that the Police, who are actually a paramilitary force, and the military can take a hard line, as you put it, on their own behavior is rediculous. In civilian life it is up to "the people" to "police" the police by insisting to those in the government what is acceptable behavior! If people weren't so complacent and lazy they would know this already and step up to the plate, instead of sitting back and watching it until the day it happens to them personally! Do you know what separates Americans for the rest of the world? The incessant use of the personal pronouns I, ME, MY, and MINE! Listen to people talk. Whatever happened to "WE" the people? OUR country. OUR Problems. The finger should be pointed back at ourselves instead of at everyone else. I almost forgot. You are misusing the word pederast I think. A pederast is a male who is attracted to boys in or after puberty, while a pedophile is a person, male or female, who is attracted to prepubescent children! There is a technical difference. The usage of the word pederast mainly comes from the King James Version of the Bible and its related religious affiliates, and refers to homosexuality between men. So, your religion may be showing by your usage of the word pederast. The average person and the media use pedophile to cover them both.

Stogy Skip

January 27, 2012 5:49pm

I thought that we had a Constitution. I thought that it stated that we had a right to protest. When did the Mayors and bankers change the Constitution???

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 4:28pm

Oops - it put my reply in the wrong place because I wasn't logged on yet.

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 3:28pm

There is one successful tactic against that kind of punitive uniform divide and conquer tactic - the entire populace needs to unite with the despised and oppressed. When Hitler's goons announced that the Jews had to start wearing yellow stars, the resistance organized everyone they could reach, and on the appointed day that the stars were required, the King and every Dane who knew of it went out of their homes with yellow stars on their chests. Denmark was the only occupied nation that managed to preserve almost all the lives of their Jews, due to the Dane's being willing to stand united with the Jews and to hide and smuggle them to safety at risk of their own lives.

Gaylan

January 27, 2012 5:29pm

Why would you think the oppressed or despised would want to unite with you protesters? Do you think they will let you push them into the streets, steal their livelihoods, and oppress them, but open up with welcome arms you pathetic cry for "unity" after your oppressive and inhumane treatment? My gosh what a pathetic suggestion. Do you remember the old saying ...

""" First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
"""

Who's laughing now? I have been oppressed for YEARS by you "type" people and I will never lift a finger to help your kind. You are the ones who are heading to the concentration camps when they get tired of playing with you. Play time will be over, and they will put away their toys soon enough. It is too late to call the oppressed and neglected to unite.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 6:28pm

What "type" would that be GAYLAN?

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 4:03pm

One problem CASNYDER America is a country divided. The Presidential Election is coming up. Look at the Electoral College (Red State/Blue State) map. The majority of our population are W.A.S.P.s. White Anglo-Saxon (German, Dutch, British) Protestants and make up almost the entire "Religious Right." Religion before reason! I think they are still pissed over the abolition of slavery and Jim Crowe. We've had one Catholic president (Kennedy), and he was assassinated, and 10 who were either not affiliated to a religion or had doubtful religious beliefs. That leaves 33 that were Protestant. That would be 75% by the way.

pieman420

January 27, 2012 3:04pm

i still remember how the us park pigs misbehaved during the july 4th smoke-ins in dc!!! they kept me overnight on a trumped up charge!!

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 4:07pm

Same here pieman. Fortunately for me I had speed and agility when it came to running. =D

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 2:53pm

Does anyone know about the history of the Roman Empire? How did they know who their slaves were? They had to wear blue and had their heads shaved. That was to make them stand out and not be able to deny that they were slaves. I have studied the Roman Empire extensively and this is a very little known social fact of the Romans. America is a merger of the Roman Empire and Anglo-Saxon England that comes from a feudal origin.

Gaylan

January 27, 2012 5:31pm

Correction. NOT America, The US corporation is under Roman rule... There is a HUGE difference between America, and the US.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 4:12pm

I actually just read that in Renaissance England the color blue also signified servitude.
http://renaissanceclothing.blogspot.com/2011/02/meaning-of-renaissance-a...

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 3:42pm

There is one successful tactic against that kind of dissenter punitive uniform divide and conquer tactic - the entire populace needs to unite with the despised and oppressed. When Hitler's goons announced that the Jews had to start wearing yellow stars, the resistance organized everyone they could reach, and on the appointed day that the stars were required, the King and every Dane who knew of it went out of their homes with yellow stars on their chests. Denmark was the only occupied nation that managed to preserve almost all the lives of their Jews, due to the Dane's being willing to stand united with the Jews and to hide and smuggle them to safety at risk of their own lives.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 2:49pm

The Police aren't mindless automatons cordleycoit. They know exactly what they are doing and enjoy it. Power for the, in reality, powerless. I have actually told cops when they were being aggressive without cause, "Do you remember when you were back in high school and those guys stuffed you in that locker?" "I'm the one who let you out!" Get my point? The Police in America are out of hand due to not being held to a higher standard of conduct than the average person. They are "Public Servants" not Gods. They are also human and are fallible! If you hold a public position, especially where you are carrying guns, you should be held to a higher standard because of your position or job. Not to a lower standard and at the same time idolized and revered because of your job or position. The same goes for politicians and their political cronies. Whatever happened to accountability and oversight???

Robert Smiley

January 27, 2012 2:23pm

So to stop this kind of egregious government behaviour (police are the strong arm of the law) the people must act as awhole and confront these imbeciles in the courtroom, one after the other for however long it takes to cure them of their disdain for the people they are supposed to serve,

Gaylan

January 27, 2012 5:34pm

That's the answer, and solution. You don't create a law, then publicly object to it. You must do the proper thing, and remove them. JURY nullification. The people have always had the resolve. It is their proper position, because they are the power. BUT when they stand out in public, and act like little rebellious children, they will be treated as such.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 3:24pm

The law is a joke Robert. It has been modified by the influence and money of the rich to benefit them. Most of the judges are political appointees and owe allegiance to their masters. Here in Philadelphia, the Home of the Constitution of the United States of America, they have caught judges having out of court lunches with prosecutors and prosecution witnesses and nothing is done about it. Half of them are slum-lords here! Some don't have a law degree, which I guess isn't a prerequisite to judge cases. Signatures on a petition can get you in the election to become a judge in Philadelphia, then they have to come up with the money to campaign. Humm ... I wonder where that money comes from? The Philadelphia Court System doesn't even follow the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has quite a bit of cases overturned at the state level as a result. But, only if the defendants can afford a lawyer to be able to appeal "in a timely manner." If you are interested go read up on Samuel Chase and his impeachment from the Supreme Court in 1805 and the effect this had on defining "judicial independence."

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 2:18pm

Go back and look at the films of people marching during the Civil Rights Movement. It is the Police who had the fire hoses and batons and attacked the marchers back then. So I say nothing has changed. Kent State, the WTO march in Seattle in 1999, and the free Rage Against the Machine concert in Los Angeles protesting the Republican National Convention in 2000 are other examples. I could give further examples if need be! What ever happened to our right to protest? I remember going to Washington, DC every 4th of July for the "Great American Smoke In" and smoking weed on the White House lawn in protest of the criminalization of marijuana when I was a teen and in my early 20's.

Riconui

January 27, 2012 2:16pm

To protect and serve?, Huh. But who exactly do they protect, and who do they serve? Yes they are functionaries of the entrenched power, and they act on the directive of other authority, but they act with personal discretion when they are on the street. Making the police the object or subject of the #OWS movement moves the focus off those who need to be convinced or removed from office.

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 4:23pm

I agree, it doesn't help to make the police the bad guys, because it dilutes the message to hold the 1% accountable, and its the ones who decide to deploy the police who are ultimately responsible for what happens when they do. I do know police who honestly entered the profession with the desire to protect & serve the 99%, just as many of our troops do. I think those at the top of the department and the politicos who give the orders to deploy them against protestors are responsible for creating a culture that villifies dissenters and encourages cruelty and excessive force. There is a lot of peer pressure in the police and military forces to vilify their opposition, which helps even well intentioned cops slide into overlooking the misbehavior of their peers, justifying doing so with the angry statement that outsiders can't understand the stress they are under, so they are justified if they sometimes snap & slip into cruelty when called upon to apply force. But there is no excuse for cruelty from those in positions of responsibility - would we just pat a parent pederast on the back and say "its alright, you must just have had a hard day, we know you didn't mean to do it"? No, we'd take the kids from them & throw them in jail - no second chances. And the police & military should be holding the hard line on their own behavior more than anyone else, because it is a certainty of consequences that helps one to self-regulate your actions.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 5:54pm

One thing that a civilian, someone who's never been in the military, doesn't understand. In the military there is a Rank Structure and a Chain of Command. There is no comparison in civilian life. You don't question orders, you follow them, and there is a rule called "first order last, last order first." Don't do what you are told and you and others suffer or die as a result, so you are trained to do just that! Orders flow down, gripes flow up and it is up to those in command above you to determine what to do with gripes. There is no such thing as equality when you are in the military. Something that civilians can't understand but it is necessary for it to be that way. So thinking that the Police, who are actually a paramilitary force, and the military can take a hard line, as you put it, on their own behavior is rediculous. In civilian life it is up to "the people" to "police" the police by insisting to those in the government what is acceptable behavior! If people weren't so complacent and lazy they would know this already and step up to the plate, instead of sitting back and watching it until the day it happens to them personally! Do you know what separates Americans for the rest of the world? The incessant use of the personal pronouns I, ME, MY, and MINE! Listen to people talk. Whatever happened to "WE" the people? OUR country. OUR Problems. The finger should be pointed back at ourselves instead of at everyone else. I almost forgot. You are misusing the word pederast I think. A pederast is a male who is attracted to boys in or after puberty, while a pedophile is a person, male or female, who is attracted to prepubescent children! There is a technical difference. The usage of the word pederast mainly comes from the King James Version of the Bible and its related religious affiliates, and refers to homosexuality between men. So, your religion may be showing by your usage of the word pederast. The average person and the media use pedophile to cover them both.

VGF

January 27, 2012 2:00pm

AND Remember >>>the Citizens of this ''Republic " do not Want to Support with our Tax dollars..these kinds of People to '''Police''' us ...And to beat our heads in..for the WallStreet Bunch. .just because we are >>>Finally..standing up for OUR Rights...Rights that ARE Ours. People, This kind of Action out of Any policeman..( Or woman ) is Not going to Continue. Not without A Lot of Bloodshed and Strife in our streets. Police ...Think about Where you are headed Why can`t you All face the fact that this Rebellion that you are Attempting to put Down..IS also a battle For Your benefit, as well. [YOU ARE one of The 99 percenters..whether you realize it now, or not.] The One Percenters are Not going to win This Fight. WE ARE.

Butch

January 27, 2012 1:47pm

There are no "Officer Friendlies" These thugs have the permission to break the law against the citizens and the irony of all of this is that we, the people are paying for their jobs and they are doing this to us.

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 3:47pm

I don't agree that all the police are abusive, but the atrocities some police commit is part of the reason that I hang up on the phone solicitations asking for donations to Police retirement plans. Also because I don't have retirement savings, and of those professions that do, police are the only ones I've heard of that think its a good investment to pay for telephone solicitors to feed their retirement plans. Either that means that they've got a lot of folks who will contribute to them when asked, or they've got too much money already if they can afford to pay telemarketers, or both.

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 3:03pm

Just for the hell of it go sit in on criminal court cases sometime. The lying on the stand by the police (perjury for us common folk) is so rampant and obvious that it really is a travesty to watch. But then again from God's lips and out of their mouths! I have relatives that are cops so I know first hand that the police have an "Us vs. Them" perspective. The them being anyone who is not a cop!

Jeffrey Hill

January 27, 2012 1:21pm

Remember how Oakland Mayor Jean Quan revealled the fact that the Dept. of Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano) had a conference call with approximately 17 big city mayors in how to quash the Occupy movement.

Napolitano takes her orders from the White House.

The buck stops with Obama who didn't like the 99% making his thieving Wall Street "SAVVY BUSINESSMEN" 1% buddies feeling uncomfortable.

CASnyder

January 27, 2012 4:00pm

Were Jean's literal words that the administration asked them together to figure out how to "quash"protests, or is that the interpretation of some who heard her statement? I would very much like to know if the administration was definitely skipping negotiation and going straight to oppression, or if the meeting might have been trying to get mayors to exercise some restraint so as to avoid escalations that would make more of the nation unsafe. Since it was a closed meeting of only a few dozen people, perhaps we will never know for sure, but if the administration was urging skipping negotiations and going straight to force, and that came down from Obama, then he better give that Peace Prize back, because he'd be a hypocrit.

BozoAdult

January 27, 2012 1:16pm

The police are storm troopers for the 1%. Mainly their mission is to stop the message of the 99% protesters. These actions by the police are criminal. They are sworn to uphold the right of the protesters -not attack them.

Cordleycoit

January 27, 2012 12:40pm

Remember the police only do what they are ordered to; they are mindless automatons.

Jane Chischilly

January 27, 2012 4:45pm

mindless, sadistic, sickos who carry out their orders with glee

Tearlach Uisnec...

January 27, 2012 2:31pm

The Police aren't mindless automatons cordleycoit. They know exactly what they are doing and enjoy it. Power for the, in reality, powerless. I have actually told cops when they were being aggressive without cause, "Do you remember when you were back in high school and those guys stuffed you in that locker?" "I'm the one who let you out!" Get my point? The Police in America are out of hand due to not being held to a higher standard of conduct than the average person. They are "Public Servants" not Gods. They are also human and are fallible! If you hold a public position, especially where you are carrying guns, you should be held to a higher standard because of your position or job. Not to a lower standard and at the same time idolized and revered because of your job or position. The same goes for politicians and their political cronies. Whatever happened to accountability and oversight???