It likely won’t get much publicity, but late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, the Tulsa police department arrested nine members of the Occupy Tulsa movement. The reason?
Police say the group of 20 protesters were violating a curfew law. Protesters were told they could remain on the sidewalk but would have to dismantle their tents and clean up the area. All city parks, by ordinance, are off-limits from 11:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The protesters refused to comply. Nine of them intended to be arrested, KTUL reports, by remaining on the grass and scrawling the number of an attorney on their arms.
“All occupants of the park must leave now!” they ordered.
With no compliance, the police moved in, surrounding the group on the grass and beginning the first arrest with a dose of pepper spray.
“To me right there that was police brutality,” said Gena Madsen, watching the event unfold.
Not all of the protestors were sprayed, but the fact that it was used at all outraged many of the spectators.
“They were getting pepper spray this close to these people’s faces and just totally, and there was no call for that there was not the people were fighting at all,” she said.
“Pepper spray is used in cases where there is resistance, on this case it was used only on persons who were actively resisting arrest,” said the deputy chief.
One of the arrested was a military veteran upset over having his Pell Grant cut by the government. Other protesters only became emboldened by the arrests.
Said one: “I’m gonna be here until there’s effective change, and I think there’s going to be more and more and more people. I mean, what happened when they turned the hoses and dogs on people in Birmingham, Alabama?”
That comes pretty close to invoking Godwin’s Law, but we’ll let the comparison to the Civil Right’s movement slide for the moment. As you can see by the few videos uploaded to YouTube before the arrests were made, Occupy Tulsa isn’t exactly Occupy Wall Street.
Before we get any further, it should be noted that the Tulsa Police Department is one of the more corrupt departments in the country: “Seven lawsuits have piled up against the city so far from people who allege they were wrongfully locked up by police and nearly 40 people — some with criminal backgrounds — have had their convictions overturned or prison sentences commuted as a result of the sweeping corruption probe, which began two years ago,” according to Newson6.
Like the arrests made in Portland over the weekend, the question must be asked: Who are the police serving and protecting by infringing upon the right to peaceful assembly?
They are certainly not serving or protecting the citizens. And they aren’t conducting themselves in a manner which would suggest peace. Just look at Oakland and New York, and now, smaller cities where protesters are being arrested for no good reason.
The First Amendment to America’s Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The important part of that law, which the Founding Fathers of this country felt was so important as to make it the very first freakin’ amendment, is the notion that no law shall be made infringing on the right of the people to peaceably assemble.
Clearly, authorities are using city ordinances, like no park visitors after 11 p.m., to disrupt those assemblies. The growing pattern of arrests when it comes to the OWS protesters is an alarming encroachment on the First Amendment.
We’ll even leave aside the questionable police tactics to remove the protesters from public spaces. This isn’t about supposed police brutality, this is about an American’s right to peacefully assemble. To protest perceived injustices without the fear or worry that they will be pepper-sprayed or have rubber bullets and tear gas fired upon them just because they refuse to leave a public space.
This is something that should have both progressive and conservatives — participants in OWS and the Tea Party — up in arms. This cuts to the very nature of what makes America, well, America.
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