". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, September 26, 2011

09/25/11: NYT: Joseph Goldstein: Videos show police using pepper spray at protest

It took a second day to get this article in the NYT, which, though it gives the police every benefit of doubt and minimizes the extent of what they did, begins to acknowledge that the police mistreated protestors. (It should be noted that, as every writer knows, much of the spin in news articles, including the Times, happens in the editing and the headline- and caption-writing.)

I don't think we'd have seen this piece at all without that
video of the girls getting pepper-sprayed by a white-collar cop, which has now been clicked 681,315 times. And here's a slo-mo analysis of the incident. Or this video, or this one, or this one, or this one. Or . . . this one, which contains no violence but is intense. And here are stills, including a sequence of a drummer being brutalized. Later we'll talk about the role of drums in this, to say nothing of rapping. The policeman who sprayed the girls' faces is being identified by name on the chat stream of the live-witness channel ( along with an appeal to call Mayor Bloomberg's office and demand that he be fired.

Meanwhile, this article doesn't mention anyone being thrown face first to the ground (police "shoved"), or a knee on anyone's throat.

[ " September 25, 2011
Videos Show Police Using Pepper Spray at Protest on the Financial System

For a few moments on Saturday, the confrontations between the police and the protesters just south of Union Square in Manhattan seemed fairly typical. People pushed, the police shoved and arrests were made, and in the many videos recording the protest, it was not always clear which of the three had come first.

As the police arrested a protester in the street, an officer wearing a white shirt — indicating a rank of lieutenant or above — walked toward a group of demonstrators nearby and sent a blast of pepper spray that hit four women, the videos show.

Numerous videos and photos captured the aftermath: two women crumpled on the sidewalk in pain, one of them screaming. They were temporarily blinded, one of the women, Chelsea Elliott, said.

Ms. Elliott, 25, who was not arrested, acknowledged that “there were some rough people out there” at the protests. She and the other women were penned in behind police netting meant for crowd control. But, she said, neither she nor the women around her did anything to warrant having pepper spray used on them.

“Out of all the people they chose to spray, it was just me and three other girls,” she said Sunday in a telephone interview. “I’m not pushing against anybody, or trying to escape.”

The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said the police had used the pepper spray “appropriately.”

“Pepper spray was used once,” he added, “after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier — something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.”

Since Sept. 17, a few hundred protesters have occupied Zuccotti Park on Liberty Street and Broadway, seeking attention for what they say is a financial system that is unjust and flawed. They have embarked on a series of daily marches near Wall Street, but their march to Union Square on Saturday was their largest and most ambitious.

Returning to the financial district from Union Square, many protesters used University Place, and the demonstration spilled into the street with protesters walking against traffic. The police put up mesh nets to prevent them from going any farther down University Place, and many of the demonstrators ended up on East 12th Street.

Ms. Elliott was one of several protesters on East 12th Street who had been corralled behind the plastic netting, which was being held by a line of police officers.

Ms. Elliott said she spent part of the time trying to engage the police officer nearest her in a conversation about pensions.

“I’m just trying to converse with them in a civilized manner, and tell them I’m a civilized human being,” Ms. Elliott said. She remembered saying, “Stop! Why are you doing this?” in response to an arrest not far away, but doing nothing else to attract attention.

“A cop in a white shirt — I think he’s a superior officer — just comes along and does these quick little spritzes of pepper spray in my and these three other girls’ eyes,” she added. The officer’s identity was not provided by the police.

The scene around Ms. Elliott verged on the unruly on Saturday. The police made arrests in the area on charges not only of disorderly conduct and impeding traffic, but also of inciting to riot and assaulting a police officer. About 80 people were arrested; some spent the night in jail and were arraigned on Sunday.

Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for the protesters, said he believed that pepper spray was used several times on Saturday. “I think it is very fair to call it police brutality,” he said.

The Police Department rarely uses pepper spray as a means of crowd control. Although the police used it during a large-scale antiwar protest in 2003, it was not used with much frequency during the protests associated with the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, although they were some of the largest demonstrations in the city in years.

“We don’t use it indiscriminately like other cities do,” said Thomas Graham, a retired deputy chief who until last year commanded the department’s Disorder Control Unit. “You’re not just spraying indiscriminately into a crowd.”

Police officers, he said, “have the choice between spraying the guy or struggling with the guy with the night stick,” he said, adding, “Get poked with a nightstick good and hard and you might have a cracked rib from that.”

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.
" ]

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