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Occupy Wall Street gets ugly

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Haley Shircliff

Staff writer

The past holiday weekend was crazy. While people were busy trying to avoid being trampeled in front of Wal-Mart, the protesters at Occupy Wall Street were also taking a beating.

Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of demonstrations initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters which began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. The protests are against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations—particularly that of the financial services sector—on government. The protesters’ slogan “We are the 99% refers to the growing difference in wealth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

Since the beginning of the movement there have been reports of police brutality and over the past weekend it escalated. Pepper spray is the weapon of choice by police for controlling the protestors. On November 16 in Seattle, Washington, an 84-year-old woman was hit with pepper spray during a march. Dorli Rainey was one of the Seattle activists that were blocking downtown streets. Rainey said police told the group they had to move.

“They picked up their bicycles and started shoving them at us and confining us in a very small place and they started to pepper spray,” Rainey said.

Seattle police on Wednesday referred reporters to a statement they released late Tuesday. Officers gave multiple verbal warnings and only used pepper spray against people who were “refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers.”

Rainey said Wednesday that she’ll still be taking part in the local Occupy Seattle movement.

On November 18, campuses police at the University of California-Davis pepper-sprayed a group of students participating in a peaceful demonstration in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This event was tragic and outright appalling.

Amid public outcry, two of the officers were suspended for their role in the event. The suspension of these officers is an unwarranted reaction by the university; it suggests that the officers consciously and individually made the decision to pepper-spray the students. Blame should not be placed on the officers’ character; rather it should be projected onto authority figures’ responses to the Occupy movement in general.

It is brutal out there for the protestors, but they have the freedom to express their opinion and protest peacefully.