Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Police Violence Has Contributed to the Growing Strength and Diversity of Occupy Movements

The reason police brutality has become such a major issue in Occupy movements across the nation and has helped those movements to grow is that it forges a powerful connection between the white, largely middle class youth, who have been the bulwark of every Occupation movement thus far, and Black and Latino working class youth who are a sizable portion of the population of almost every city where Occupations have taken place. Most middle class white young people have not been stopped and searched for drugs and weapons when walking through their own neighborhoods; have not been roughed up, thrown on the ground, or arrested when they challenge police actions or ask for officers badge numbers, and have not been kept for two nights in lock up for minor offenses. These experiences are common in most Black and Latino working class neighborhoods and have been a source of simmering rage in these communities, but few middle class people either know or care about such things. Now however, thousands of white middle class young people have been on the receiving end of such treatment and it has had two effects. First, it has enraged them, their friends, their parents and their teachers; and second, it has forged, for the first time, an emotional as well as programmatic connection with working class youth who have been trying to get policy makers to take these issues seriously for a long time. As a result, every time there is an episode of police violence, the ranks of the protesters are swelled with two populations- white middle class people who are shocked that people like them have been treated that way, and Black, Latino and working class people who know very well that this goes on and see that an issue affecting them that has largely been in the shadows has moved into the forefront of public consciousness

In short, police violence has not only made the Occupy movements larger, it has made them far more multiracial and diverse in social class. This certainly took place in New York after the pepper spraying and mass arrest of OWS Protesters, but it also has taken place in Oakland, making that movement, in its latest phase, far more representative of the population of the city than it originally was

Dr Mark Naison
African and African American Studies


Micki McGee said...

Police overstepping -- along with their out and out violence -- is also forging alliances with neighborhood moms. See my post about the police preventing my kid's school bus from bringing her home over the phantasmatic takeover of the Halloween parade.

Mark Naison said...


Your posting was incredibly powerful and also chilling. And what you describe seems to be happening in many other cities.

We have created the nucleus of a domestic police state and it is expanding its reach from working class inner city areas into middle class neighborhoods and central business disricts