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October 2011, Week 3

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Mon, 17 Oct 2011 22:09:52 -0400
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Wall Street's Second Occupation: The
Police Move In 

by Tom Engelhardt

Published on Monday, October 17, 2011 by
TomDispatch.com 
Distributed by Common Dreams 
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/17-2

These last weeks, there have been two "occupations" in
lower Manhattan, one of which has been getting almost
all the coverage -- that of the demonstrators camping
out in Zuccotti Park.  The other, in the shadows, has
been hardly less massive, sustained, or in its own way
impressive -- the police occupation of the Wall Street
area.  [ vandalog / RJ)] This massive semi-militarized
force we continue to call "the police" will, in the
coming years, only grow more so. After all, they know
but one way to operate. (photo: vandalog / RJ)

On a recent visit to the park, I found the streets
around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to
traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and
out of uniform) -- on foot, on scooters, on
motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on
horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it.  At
the park's edge, there is a police observation tower
capable of being raised and lowered hydraulically and
literally hundreds of police are stationed in the
vicinity.  I counted more than 50 of them on just one
of its sides at a moment when next to nothing was going
on -- and many more can be seen almost anywhere in the
Wall Street area, lolling in doorways, idling in the
subway, ambling on the plazas of banks, and chatting in
the middle of traffic-less streets.

This might be seen as massive overkill.  After all, the
New York police have already shelled out an extra $1.9
million, largely in overtime pay at a budget-cutting
moment in the city.  When, as on Thursday, 100 to 150
marchers suddenly headed out from Zuccotti Park to
circle Chase Bank several blocks away, close to the
same number of police -- some with ominous clumps of
flexi-cuffs dangling from their belts -- calved off
with them.  It's as if the Occupy Wall Street movement
has an eternal dark shadow that follows it everywhere.

At one level, this is all mystifying.  The daily crowds
in the park remain remarkably, even startlingly,
peaceable.  (Any violence has generally been the
product of police action.)  On an everyday basis, a
squad of 10 or 15 friendly police officers could easily
handle the situation.  There is, of course, another
possibility suggested to me by one of the policemen
loitering at the Park's edge doing nothing in
particular: "Maybe they're peaceable because we're
here."  And here's a second possibility: as my friend
Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America's Dream
Palace, said to me, "This is the most important piece
of real estate on the planet and they're scared.  Look
how amazed we are.  Imagine how they feel, especially
after so many decades of seeing nothing like it."

And then there's a third possibility: that two quite
separate universes are simply located in the vicinity
of each other and of what, since September 12, 2001,
we've been calling Ground Zero.  Think of it as Ground
Zero Doubled, or think of it as the militarized recent
American past and the unknown, potentially inspiring
American future occupying something like the same
space.  (You can, of course, come up with your own
pairings, some far less optimistic.)  In their present
state, New York's finest represent a local version of
the way this country has been militarized to its bones
in these last years and, since 9/11, transformed into a
full-scale surveillance-intelligence-homeland-security
state.

Their stakeout in Zuccotti Park is geared to extreme
acts, suicide bombers, and terrorism, as well as to a
conception of protest and opposition as alien and
enemy-like.  They are trying to herd, lock in, and
possibly strangle a phenomenon that bears no relation
to any of this.  They are, that is, policing the wrong
thing, which is why every act of pepper spraying or
swing of the truncheon, every aggressive act (as in the
recent eviction threat to "clean" the park) blows back
on them and only increases the size and coverage of the
movement.

Though much of the time they are just a few feet apart,
the armed state backing that famed 1%, or Wall Street,
and the unarmed protesters claiming the other 99% might
as well be in two different times in two different
universes connected by a Star-Trekkian wormhole and
meeting only where pepper spray hits eyes.

Which means anyone visiting the Occupy Wall Street site
is also watching a strange dance of phantoms.  Still,
we do know one thing.  This massive semi-militarized
force we continue to call "the police" will, in the
coming years, only grow more so. After all, they know
but one way to operate.

Right now, for instance, over crowds of protesters the
police hover in helicopters with high-tech cameras and
sensors, but in the future there can be little question
that in the skies of cities like New York, the police
will be operating advanced drone aircraft.  Already, as
Nick Turse indicates in a groundbreaking report
"America's Secret Empire of Drone Bases," the U.S.
military and the CIA are filling the global skies with
missile-armed drones and the clamor for domestic drones
is growing.  The first attack on an American
neighborhood, not one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Somalia, Yemen, or Libya, surely lurks somewhere in our
future.  Empires, after all, have a way of coming home
to roost.


Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire
Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com.
His latest book is the The United States of Fear
(Haymarket Books). Previous books include The End of
Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond,
The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became
Obama's, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of
Publishing. His most recent book is  (Haymarket Books.)
 To stay on top of important articles like these, sign
up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com
here.

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