American mainstream news was studiously ignoring the protests on Wall Street until people started getting hurt. Video of a police officer pepper spraying people already being held behind plastic netting really upset some viewers and brought the protests into the headlines.
Now it isn’t unusual for protestors, guerrillas, or other asymmetric warriors to try to provoke violence as a means to rouse the masses. But the Wall Street protestors hardly seemed provocative — these were not black-hooded call-myself-an-anarchist-so-I-can-trash-things types. The police had a peaceful situation that the media could ignore. So why did the cops turn ugly?
It is noteworthy that the violent cops are either wearing civvies or white shirts (instead of blue). This means they are upper echelon career police, not the standard beat patrolman who gets maybe half their salary. A thread on SomethingAwful points this up and one person writes:
the white shirts are the ones under pressure to get this shut down. Instead of having slap fights with low level cops, the protests are hitting the department where it hurts, the budget, where the ones who suffer will be higher up the food chain. This constant police presence, not funded out of an anti-terror budget, has to be wreaking havok on their shift schedules and OT budgeting. The fact is, because of the sensitive nature of the location, the department HAS to respond disproportionately by expending massive resources and, yes, perpetrating violent reprisals. They have to have a constant extra detail of cops watching the protesters, at least a one to one ratio, 24/7. A long grind like this has to be a big, weeping hole in the department’s budget.
The fact that the protesters are breaking out and randomly walking around the city – poo poo, what a loving mess to have to deal with from a police staffing perspective.
The rank and file aren’t the ones macing the protesters because the rank and file are scoring sweet, sweet limitless overtime, which they desperately need to supplement their $24,000 entry level wages. Babysitting nonviolent hippies in a safe location with plenty of decent restaurants around is a really sweet OT gig if you can get it.
Spit in a patrolman’s face and the big blue machine doesn’t sweat it – that’s what it’s there for. Hit it in the pocketbook and you’ll get white shirted high ranking types under pressure to shut it down. That’s why the white shirts are the ones with the mace.
That seems to me to have the ring of Truth. I’ve read a great deal of handwringing editorials doing some kind of good apple/bad apple analysis and a lot of salami-slicing about the State monopoly on violence and how it should be utilized, but the mechanics of these situations deserve analysis.