Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Detroit - Or What the Rest of the Country Could Learn from Michigan

Occupy Detroit is continuing to happen in Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit, approximately 10 miles east of the Warrendale neighborhood. As far as protests go, it is a peaceful - almost uneventful - protest. There are signs, slogans, and speeches, but these isn't anything even remotely close to the chaos that has happened in Boston, New York City, and Oakland. It's also a much smaller protest than is seen at many other cities around the country.

A large part of why Occupy Detroit remains so much smaller and less problematic than many other cities around the country is because the Detroit Police Department and related agencies are treating it different than their counterparts in other cities do. For this, I give a lot of credit to Chief Ralph Godbee, which long time readers of this blog will find noteworthy because I haven't been a fan of him in the past.

Other cities around the country have tried to shut down the Occupy encampments, often evicting the protesters with a considerable degree of force. Oakland, California is the most recent example of such an abuse, which is documented in the two videos below. (Warning: these videos contain explicit language and graphic images.)

The protesters were in a plaza that was legitimately closed, even if there hadn't been a protest going on, that area would still be closed to the public. As such, there was a legitimate basis for ticketing or arresting them.
But shooting people in the face with a tear gas canister? Or throwing a flash grenade into a crowd?

These things are utterly reprehensible. They are even more so when they are done by someone who has sworn an oath to protect and serve the public.

Non-violent offenders should face a non-violent arrest. It's really that simple. Adding violence to the equation does not ever contribute anything positive.

Incidents like this have happened several times over the past month. Each time it happens, the Occupy protests get larger as images of police brutality stream across the internet, which only adds fuels to the fire that is the Occupy protests. If the police were to allow them to simply protest non-violently, it's doubtful that this movement would have ever grown to its current size.

Thankfully, the Detroit Police Department and their counterparts elsewhere in Michigan have not fallen into same trap that law enforcement officers in Boston, New York City, and Oakland have. They allow the Occupy Protests to happen with little interference and it doesn't gain the same momentum as in other cities.

The rest of the nation could learn a few things from Michigan, if they were willing to learn.

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