Will New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ever be held accountable for the criminal and unconstitutional behavior of the thuggish police officers and their equally contemptible superiors who — indiscriminately and without provocation — attacked hundreds of the estimated 2000 peaceful demonstrators who took to Manhattan's streets last week to celebrate the first-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street?
How does Bloomberg square the blatant, unprofessional aggression of a police force that is theoretically under his control with the fact that to date at least 6572 United States service men and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, ostensibly to keep America free from Islamist terrorists who consider free expression Western decadence?
The answer to this second question seems relatively clear: after a year of police overreaction and unmitigated brutality, Ayatollah Bloomberg does not give a damn. A self-made billionaire, Bloomberg is a card-carrying member of the One Percent. He made his fortune servicing Wall Street. In short: plutocracy good; Occupy bad.
The first question requires a more complicated answer: Bloomberg, like most big-city mayors, does not really control his police. Cops are a semi-autonomous power center. The mayor may appoint the commissioner, set the budget, and orchestrate the command staff. But it is the rank and file who run the show. Their tolerance for abhorrent behavior establishes operational tone.
Watch the YouTube videos and you will see that for every uniformed bully assaulting innocent marchers, there are many other cops who are guilty of only an excess of surliness. As day gave way to night, however, the energy of the thug element became contagious.
Call it a disciplined police riot, as opposed to the premeditated, Gestapo-like violence (according to the late Senator Abraham Ribocoff of Connecticut) that spilled blood at Chicago's 1968 Democratic convention. But a riot of any description is a mass assault. New York's systematized attack on people exercising their rights of free speech and assembly is political oppression, naked and vile.
Of all the reprehensible attacks that occurred during the afternoon and evening of September 17, perhaps the most despicable captured by video were two involving pepper spray. The attacks smack of premeditation: first, a group of female protesters were surrounded by plastic mesh, what police call "kettle netting." Then, the trapped women were pepper-sprayed by a senior ranking officer.
The New York Daily News was the first to report the attacks. A slow-motion video analysis by uslaw.com prompted widespread reporting by the New York Times, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, Time, the Guardian, and the Atlantic.
As a result, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. have ordered their own investigations.
We hope those investigations will shed light on the mauling and arrest of Phoenix staff writer Chris Faraone. Faraone is a veteran of more than 20 Occupy actions around the nation and the author of 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, a book the aggressively capitalist Economist pronounced the best yet written on the Occupy movement.
As powerful as the scores of online videos are, Faraone — writing with humor and panache, and consistently downplaying the serious injury he suffered — brings the reader face to face with the New York pavement as police tackle him, cuff him, and arrest him for just being there. His account starts here.
Faraone's story demands a response — and the Boston Police Department can provide one, if it shows more restraint than its New York counterparts when the Occupy Boston movement celebrates its one-year anniversary this Sunday, September 30.