Police interference raises ethics questions

TEMP ORARY December 9, 2011 0

The slogan “We are the 99 percent” has come a long way since it originated with The Occupy Wall Street movement. From Wall Street to downtown Lancaster, Occupy protestors claim to be a part of the 99 percent not included in the wealthiest portion of the U.S. population. Each week since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, the news identifies at least one new significant location for protestors to meet. However, as Occupy makes its way all over the U.S., the protests are becoming more controversial, and police involvement is becoming common, making it harder, sometimes even dangerous, for protestors to participate.

Unemployment and inequality in the workforce motivated activists to begin New York City’s Occupy Wall Street protests, but what these activists did not know is how far Occupy protesting could actually go, literally and figuratively. Although they may have hoped Occupy would spread across the nation, the violent acts from the protests have been making headlines as much as the protests themselves.

An incident involving pepper spray occurred within the Occupy Seattle protests at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Wash. on Nov. 16, in which an 84-year-old woman was sprayed with pepper spray by police. Photos of Dorli Rainey’s face covered in pepper spray appeared on the front page of newspapers nationwide and eventually went viral.

Pepper spray seems to be the biggest hazard at Occupy protests as police attempt to control the protestors by using the spray on everyone, regardless of whether or not they are causing any harm. This was the case at another Occupy protest, which was disrupted by pepper spray Nov. 18, just two days after the Occupy Seattle incident.

The University of California Davis student protestors were sprayed by police officers. The story became controversial as it became clear that students involved in the protests were protesting peacefully. The chancellor of the college, Linda Katehi, became the face of the controversy when she claimed to have asked the officers to try and stop the protests, but told them to do it peacefully. “We told them very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it,” Katehi stated, according to The Sacramento Bee, a daily newspaper published in Sacramento, Calif.

Maddie D’Almeida, a sophomore criminal justice major at Elizabethtown College, has been discussing the violence at the recent Occupy protests in a few of her classes this semester. “If it is to the point where other innocent bystanders are in danger, then pepper spray could be a necessary means of protection,” D’Almeida explained. “This was not the case at those incidents, though, since the activists were protesting peacefully.”

In some of the less violent protests, police still have a large say in whether or not protestors can remain in their protest situations. Occupy Oakland became victim to this particular type of interference a week after the pepper spray incidents occurred. Police officials asked those at the camp in a local park in Oakland to remove their tents from the location. “We made the announcement asking people to leave, and they did, and they packed up their tents and left,” Oakland police spokesperson Johanna Watson said, according to news magazine U.S. News & World Report. Although there were no violent acts occurring at Occupy Oakland, police still played a significant role in ending the Occupy protests.

All of the recent controversies concerning the Occupy movement seem to have taken away from the reason Occupy Wall Street initially became an issue. Amrit Gordon, a senior business administration major, will enter the professional world in May with hopes of finding a good, stable job as a college graduate, which is what those involved in Occupy protests support. “These Occupy protests are necessary because it takes business ethics into concern,” Gordon said. “Things are unfair and issues need to be addressed.”

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