The Tuesday night injury of a Marine veteran of two tours in Iraq while peacefully protesting in Oakland marks a major shift in my attitude toward the Occupy Movement.
Scott Olsen, age 24, was apparently struck by a tear gas canister as Oakland police attempted to clear “occupiers” from the intersection of 14th and Broadway. Mr. Olsen’s skull was fractured and he has been unable to speak since the injury. See more details from the San Francisco Chronicle. Additional information is also available at the Occupy Oakland website.
Occupy Nashville has been camping at Legislative Plaza in front of the state capitol. After the Tennessee Governor declared a curfew, State police conducted a Friday pre-dawn raid that ended in twenty-nine arrests. Even more occupiers were back on Saturday. There were further arrests Saturday afternoon. But a Nashville judge has released them finding the Governor has no legal authority to declare a curfew for the Capitol grounds. See more news from The Tennessean and a relevant analysis by one of the newspaper’s columnists.
As I write this (6:30 PM Mountain Time) Denver police remain engaged in a day-long struggle with Occupy Denver on the steps of the Colorado state capitol and nearby. See more at the Denver Post. This was the first day for a new police chief in Denver.
In all of these cases, according to the media reports I have read and a few emails and phone-calls from locals, the conflict has been prompted and/or seriously escalated by aggressive police activity. My personal sources are public safety or retired public safety personnel. This is in contrast with the so-far much more restrained police response in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Chris Bellavita was the first to write about Occupy Wall Street here at Homeland Security Watch. When Chris made this choice I was not convinced the movement was a homeland security issue. Mark Chubb has given the movement considerable attention.
While I understand — and usually support — the role of all-crimes, all hazards, and intelligence fusion as contributions to homeland security, that does not mean I always think homeland security has anything to contribute to the particular crime, specific hazard, or fusing of intelligence. In the case of the Occupy Movement I did not even recognize a crime, hazard or legitimate intelligence target being involved. I still don’t.
I am, however, an advocate for the homeland security discipline’s potential role in assisting our more command-and-control oriented colleagues to recognize when a complex adaptive system needs to be given enough space to resolve itself and, if possible, prevent the complex adaptive system from blowing up in our faces and injuring too many innocents along the way.
Many of the links embedded in the post above include updates on the situation in each city.
Denver strikes me as the most treacherous. Trying to piece together several reports from Denver suggest there have been a series of tactical missteps that have contributed to the violence. In particular, it sounds to me (and some of my sources) that too few police officers have been assigned to undertake clearing actions. This has tended to increase the force applied by the officers involved… and Newton’s third law of motion has been socially confirmed (again).
Early Sunday morning thirty-seven were arrested in Austin, but without significant violence. The Austin city government has requested that Occupy Austin appoint leaders to meet Monday to discuss new rules for the occupation of the City Hall plaza. There was a General Assembly of the Occupiers on Sunday night, but I cannot find a report of their decisions. It is an interesting request to make of the resolutely leaderless movement.
Not included in yesterday’s post was a potentially important tactical shift by the Occupiers in Portland, Oregon. There the protesters have begun to target the affluent mostly residential Pearl District. Jamison Square, a city park serving the Pearl District, has a long-established midnight curfew which police enforced Saturday night. There were thirty arrests, no significant violence was reported. (Also see Occupy Portland website.)
In Oakland and Nashville there was clearly an effort on all sides to avoid further confrontations on Saturday night.
According to a Sunday report in the San Jose Mercury-News, Scott Olsen is recovering. “Olsen was listed in critical condition at first, suffering damage to the speech center of his brain, according to Olson’s roommate, Keith Shannon. But though Olsen remained hospitalized Sunday and was not able to speak, doctors expect a full recovery, Shannon added. His condition Sunday was listed as fair.”
OCTOBER 31 UPDATE: The Occupy Together site has begun providing a round-ups of outcomes across the nation.