Occupy Miami's Protests Remain Peaceful While Other Movements Taste Pepper Spray
In Oakland last week, police at an Occupy protest shot a military vet in the head with a rubber bullet, landing him in critical condition; other video showed officers lobbing dangerous flash bombs into peaceful crowds. In Portland, Maine, a homemade bomb went flying into the demonstration. Police from coast to coast, in fact, have violently cracked down on the anti-Wall Street protests, arresting hundreds.
Yet here in the Magic City -- a place that drew the world's attention just eight years ago with a staggeringly violent protest crackdown -- Occupy Miami has been 100 percent copacetic. What gives?
The answer from protesters and police is the same -- for now, they're all on the same page.
"The Miami-Dade police and the protesters are enjoying a peaceful protest, a vital part of our democratic society," MDPD spokeswoman Maj. Nancy Perez says in a statement.
Muhammed Malik, a community organizer, says protesters have gotten support from many cops who agree with the sentiment.
"Thus far, I believe the police have backed off, not really engaged us, tried to crack down on us," Malik says. "I think, also a lot of the police are facing cutbacks. I know a lot of them see themselves as the 99%."
Perez says that as long as the protests remain peaceful, the cops have no reason to intervene. (By the way, since Occupy chose the Stephen P. Clark Government Center -- home of County Hall -- to camp out, their squatting site is in the county cops' jurisdiction, not the Miami PD.)
"We will only impose conditions on the demonstrators if necessary to prevent ... damage to property. Thus far that hasn't been the case," Perez says. "At this point, there have been no discussion on moving or clearing demonstrators."
Occupy Miami was established about a month ago and is halfway through its third week of the fully committed camping out at the Government Center.
A peaceful Miami has been the exception in the Occupy movements. Folks have been arrested in Portland, Oregon, Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, and elsewhere. Many were given curfews that ended up neglected or were evicted from their campsites and refused to leave.
Here are some of the more horrific offenses against protesters elsewhere:
New York: Occupy Wall Street had met with some clashes, but the most confusing incident took place on October 1 on the Brooklyn Bridge. It was reported that New York's finest lured, even encouraged, protesters to march on the bridge, then arrested around 700 of them.
Boston: This was one of the first well discussed Occupy/authority incidents. On October 11, cops arrested 100 peaceful protesters around the Rose Kennedy Greenway, ripped down their tents, and threw away their belongings. There were, apparently, some expensive shrubs in the area that needed to be protected from damage.
Oakland: On the night of October 25, shit got real in Oakland. Police were ordered by Mayor Quan to "empty out encampments" at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Thus tear gas and flash grenades rained down upon the people. The most covered incident involved the cracked skull of Iraqi war vet Scott Olsen. According to the HuffPo, "After demonstrators rush to Olsen's aid, an Oakland cop waits a few beats before lobbing a second explosive device at the crowd."
Of the cops here in Miami, an occupier named Frank who declined to give his last name said, "generally they're friendly." Word is they even brought protesters pizza; Frank confirms that they've sponsored some meals for the dedicated campers.
Malik adds that police can see a wide base of support for Occupy: "The police are really seeing how many community groups from different backgrounds are coming out, and that kind of power, I think is holding the police back at bay."
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