RAY LEWIS, a retired Philadelphia polilce captain, joined forces with Occupy protesters, saying corporate America was using police “as hired thugs.”
As Occupy camps from coast to coast face evictions — and in many cases have already been pushed out of parks and plazas like so much human trash — it's clear that the institutional response to the movement is escalating dangerously. Likewise, relations between police and activists seem to be deteriorating, as non-violent protesters continue to be arrested almost daily.
But as tensions build between Occupiers and Big Brother, what's also true is that individual officers are increasingly concerned about their role in combating Occupy. Even in cities where the overall police response has been barbaric, there's a growing sense that cops who've been charged with breaking camps are unnerved by such orders.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles authorities avoided a riot by working with protesters, and even thanking them publicly for demonstrating their right to free speech. On a smaller scale, last month in Oregon an officer was seen sobbing in his combat gear while raiding a Portland encampment. In October, Albany police — along with state troopers — refused to arrest protesters despite pressure from the city's mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
At least one Occupier believes that such sentiments are not anomalous. Calling himself Danny — he wouldn't reveal his true identity — he created a movement-within-a-movement, Occupy Police (OcPo), designed to be an outlet for officers of all ranks, everywhere, to speak openly about Occupy.
"We think solidarity with police is needed," says Danny in the only interview he's granted to date. As he launches Operation SHIELD — an OcPo initiative calling for civilians, ex-police, and ex-military to physically step in between protesters and cops in the event of future confrontations — Danny's goal is to bridge this most glaring divide among so-called 99 percenters. He continues: "There are a lot of active cops right now who can't speak, can't get involved, and have no place in this protest . . . but they sympathize with the direction of the movement and its political standpoints — that the system is screwed up, and that this is about bad government. They also believe that it's not good for this to turn into a street war between police and protesters."
UNHAPPY OFF THE RECORD
Danny started OcPo in mid-October, after a series of intense talks with buddies on the Boston force about the eviction of Occupiers from the Rose Kennedy Greenway on Columbus Day. "My friends who are cops did not like what happened," he says. "They have to do their job — and they can't act out about it openly — but they're unhappy off the record with what's going on, and they're not happy with having to arrest non-violent protesters."
By early November, Ocpo had thousands of connections on Facebook and Twitter, and what Danny described as an outpouring of moral support and gratitude from police. While any cop who supports OcPo understandably can't say so in public (or to the Phoenix), the platform has allowed at least one officer to express himself. Fred Shavies of Oakland PD was accused by activists of attempting to covertly infiltrate the Occupy in his city. "I totally agree with Occupy Wall Street," Shavies says in a video on the OcPo Web site. "I identify with the 99 percent, but I also have a job to do."