Policeman maces Wall Street protestors

The women were shouting. The policeman decided he’d show them.
From the NY Times:

Protest organizers estimated that about 85 people were arrested and that about five were struck with pepper spray. Among those was Chelsea Elliott, 25, who said that she was sprayed after shouting “Why are you doing that?” as an officer arrested a protester at East 12th Street.

9 thoughts on “Policeman maces Wall Street protestors

  1. I find it so sinister that the sprayer saunters away so nonchalantly, and so doesn’t take responsibility for what he just did. Surely that wasn’t legal?

    Incidents like this always make me wonder how much we missed before cellphones had cameras. *shudder*

  2. well I was not there. I do know someone who was. A police woman a friend, good friend, said ” Liz, a lot more happened tat is not on the video, like the big globs of spit on the officers face, and the names I as a woman police officer was called.” Just saying, and I think the officers should not have used mace, but sometimes we do need to know the entire story. Some of the young ladies in question were not ” lady’s “. Does this make real police brutality right, Hell No !
    Perhaps the ones sprayed were not the ones spitting on police officers, and if so they were done an injustice.

    I wish there were a way to know for sure what happened before the incident, and comments about that who saw what happened to provoke the police.

    Liz, alive and resisting the ” man ” in Mastic

  3. LL, i’m sure that there are many different and important perspectives on this incident. Thanks for reminding us of that.

    It’s hard to understand the mace spraying, though, since the guy who did it didn’t seem interested in using it in any way. It also doesn’t seem as though the young women were just shouting, at least as the senior people came on the scene with their mace.

  4. “Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.” – C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
    [Couldn’t resist that one.]

    I tried to comment on this earlier, but it didn’t “take” for some reason. Here’s the gist.

    It’s very difficult to get a complete story from videos like these. Of course, video can be a great truth-seeking tool, but the great epistemic weight accorded to video (“the camera doesn’t lie!”) can actually dissuade people from recognising or even seeking out the full truth.

    Anne, I grant you that this video is consistent with the interpretation you suggest – that the police officer was a jerk on a power trip who, annoyed and disgusted with the group of women in the video, decided to take them down a peg by inflicting some needless pain and humiliation. The mere fact that it the video bears that interpretation as well as it does should be cause for concern and ample justification for an administrative investigation of what happened. However, there’s definitely not enough in the video to rule out other interpretations with which the images are also consistent.

    There are a number of videos of this incident floating around now which complement this one and, while they are, unfortunately, insufficient to exculpate the police officer’s conduct, they do provide some additional context.

    Here’s what the ones I’ve watched seem, collectively, to show:

    A very short time before the spraying, a group of officers has wrestled a man to the ground in the street, to the right and perhaps slightly forward of the point from which the linked video is shot. Within a matter of seconds after that, and just a few yards away both from the first man and from the soon-to-be-sprayees (again, off to the right but approximately even with the video spot), a second man – possibly a photographer? – approaches one of the officers in the street from behind and and appears to give him a small shove. He is immediately tackled by another officer. The two takedowns have really riled the crowd up. (I think the women inexplicably screaming bloody murder *before* the spraying is reacting to one of them, probably the first.) The police holding the net around the “bubble” of women in the video can’t really pay attention to what’s just happened behind them, but the cops in the street clearly look concerned about it. Meanwhile, people just behind the video spot are leaning in and taunting the officers holding down the second man. Also behind the video spot, some protesters have begun kicking down the plastic stanchions holding up the barrier (no officers are physically supporting the barrier in that place). One of the protesters – again, just behind the video spot – has to be placed back behind the barrier by a police officer. The entire line seems to be inching forward towards the street. All of this would be visible to some degree by someone approaching from the angle of the white-shirted cop (that means he’s at least a sergeant, I believe).

    So, here’s another story that this video could be illustrating: The spraying cop – let’s call him Sgt. Pepper – has seen/heard that two men have had to be physically taken down in the street just across from where the video is being taken. On approaching the immediate area, he sees that the crowd’s behaviour on this side of the street is worsening and becoming more pugnacious, if not actually violent at this time. The integrity of the police line seems to be wavering, and the crowd has ignored several lawful orders to back up away from the street. If anything, the line is creeping toward the street, and indeed has been illegally crossed at least twice minute or two. Sgt. Pepper infers, from the fact that his officers are bunched up around the area where the women in the video are, and also the fact that a “bulge” has begun to extrude in the barrier at that spot, that this is the spot where the police line is under the most strain. He’s getting multiple calls over his radio requesting a supervisor’s immediate presence at other points of the intersection, and thinks has to address the situation on this side quickly – relieve some of the pressure on the line before something worse happens, as he’s seen dozens of times before in his career. Sgt. Pepper unholsters his pepper spray (technically not mace, a kind of tear gas police don’t carry anymore) and discharges it.

    Which narrative is closer to the truth? Is the truth some third thing? I don’t know. Hopefully we will find out. Even in the alternate version I presented, Sgt. Pepper shouldn’t necessarily escape a reprimand of some kind.

  5. Thanks, Kimberly. One can follow links to a page that allows one to register a complaint.

    Nemo, I think the cop’s activities after he sprayed the young women could count against your otherwise thoughtful account. He doesn’t stay around to assess the situation or to see if there’s more to be done nearly. I come from a heavily military family and I don’t think this disregard for consequences when one is supposing help troups is at all acceptable.

  6. Anne, I take your point. That said, there is some doubt in my mind about the extent to which what he did afterwards is relevant to how justifiable his use of the pepper spray was. I’m inclined to think there are only a couple of circumstances in which it matters.

    The first would be if there is some some rule or regulation dictating certain conduct for officers after pepper spray use in this situation, and Deputy Inspector Bologna’s post-incident conduct violated it. Even there, it would not go to whether his use of pepper spray was justifiable in the first place.

    The second is if the post-incident conduct casts serious doubt on some aspect of the account of the incident. Typically when this sort of thing comes up the post hoc conduct is considered if it helps to establish or refute some state of mind crucial to the deed itself. For example, if someone kills someone else and promptly goes to significant lengths to hide the body, one might say that the post hoc conduct was inconsistent with accidental killing or with mental incapacity – both of which are relevant to determining the extent to which the killing itself was a culpable act. But cases where this is relevant and clearly sheds light on the incident are pretty rare, I think. In DI Bologna’s case, it’s a little hard to see – particularly since at least in my hypothetical account there is no crucial state of mind that would be contradicted by his post hoc conduct.

    I do find it interesting that people around the Interwebs have made so much hay out of what they perceive as DI Bologna’s conduct and especially his mien immediately before and after the incident. Some of this (not your comment, Anne, which made a different and more cogent point) has been not only unbelievably subjective but involves some kind of question-begging or projection or whatnot. The following comments about the video are typical:

    -Watch as the cop saunters up to the protesters! [See? He’s sauntering! He doesn’t care about his fellow human beings!]
    -Now watch him skulk away! [You *know* there’s no guiltier gait than skulking!]

    To which I say, don’t be hatin’ on the ambulatin’. The human capacity to indulge confirmation bias in interpreting others’ “body language” is even more pronounced than with respect to verbal language. Remember George W. Bush’s supposed “swagger”? (“In Texas, we call that walking” was one of the better comebacks he ever had.)

    Your observation is much more sensible. If DI Bologna should have stayed around to assess the situation and see if there was more to be done nearby, or otherwise showed (after the fact) an unacceptable disregard for consequences, that’s worthy of reproach (although it doesn’t affect whether his use of pepper spray was justifiable in the first place). However, it’s not clear to me that one can tell this. For one thing, I’m not sure what kind of further assessment or action was required that could only be accomplished by a precinct commander physically remaining in one spot there. After all, he did have a cohort of well-trained subordinates blanketing the scene and they all carry radios. In addition, at about 0:56 in the video, even before DI Bologna reholsters the pepper spray, you can see that he is already making/receiving a call on the radio mic clipped to his shirt. You and I know that call was probably about making a donut run, or to brag about whupping protesters, but we shouldn’t exclude the possibility that it concerned an urgent police matter requiring a supervisor’s presence at a different location in the vicinity.

    Anyhow, I expect we’ll all find out more in the days and weeks to come.

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