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Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass Beaten At Occupy Berkeley

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass Beaten At Occupy Berkeley

What is going on in this country?

I’m dismayed even as I write these words. I never thought I’d see the day when I would write a headline like the one you see above.

Apparently it’s not enough that students, military veterans, women, the elderly and former police officers have been roughed up, arrested without cause, and pepper-sprayed at point-blank range during numerous, peaceful, Occupy Wall Street protests around the country.

Now, they’ve turned their night sticks on educators and poets.

Below is an excerpt from the New York Times. It is written by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, a man whose work I studied and admired throughout my undergraduate years as a creative writing student. It is a shocking eye witness account of events that took place at UC Berkeley, where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement.

Free speech, it seems, holds little weight in California now.

“…Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.

“…NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive.”

The ramifications of the officers’ violent behavior, which has been duplicated at Occupations around the country, are bigger than politics or economic policy. What we are seeing is a suspension of human respect, a disregard for the value of human life.

Police departments that engage in this behavior are failing their oath to protect and serve. As are the bureaucrats that issue their orders.

Regardless of how you vote or who you worship, tell me honestly, is this the America that you want to live in? Do you want kids to grow up thinking that beating someone is ok, as long you disagree with their opinion on corporate tax rates? Does this make you feel free/safe/proud? Can’t we put aside our petty differences for just one damn second and realize that this is wrong at the cellular level? WE ARE ALL HUMAN! Do we not all deserve some measure of basic respect one from another?

I have no energy left to be angry at this injustice. I am just sad. Sad for what unbridled greed and censorship has done to America. A country I love. A country built on the idea that ANYONE, no matter what they believe, could live here and be safe.

That America is disappearing. Will you let it slip away because it’s too annoying/time consuming/confrontational to get involved? Or will you take a stand?

Related Reading:

Shocking Images Show Escalating Violence Against OWS

OWS Film Shows Support For Iraq Vet Attacked At Protest

NYPD Forcibly Evict OWS Protesters, Destroy Property [Video]

Image Credit: Flickr – Tulane Public Relations

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9:53PM PST on Dec 7, 2011

I write for John Gray (of John Gray Sea Canoe) a man who is not noted for his care of others opinion when they are sooo wrong and he was unable to put into words how he felt about this but I have shared it with his community of readers for his personal blog - thank you.

5:08PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

Cops are acting like they are above the law.

1:43PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

Those police act like clones. They need to be incarcerated, and tried for treason, for attacking Americans on American soil.

Perhaps we are getting to where we must all arm ourselves: "An armed society is a polite society" and "An armed man (adult person) is a citizen, and unarmed man (adult citizen) is a subject" are popular phrases for a good reason: past experience!

9:00PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

Those cops were out of control.

8:05PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

there is, unfortunately, a long history of this sort of thing, in so called free nations.

7:24PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

We are at a crossroads. Due to financial pressure, either drug war jails will be emptied and wars will be stopped. We will make massive and positive changes in our society such as legalizing and taxing all drugs (like Prohibition during Depression) and start giving people more power via taxpayer funded elections, OR.......

We will go down the road of Nazi Germany, 'eliminating' all objectionable people in our society with a 'permanent' and cheap solution; extermination. Anyone opposing this 1% friendly solution will be escorted to the camps, for 'reeducation'. The 1% will gain even MORE control over government, possibly by force, or with false flag attacks on the US, and then take over 100%, with military rule, as Hitler did after burning the Reichstag, and blaming 'terrorists'.

At the same time, since the attention needs to be taken off of the extermination camps, more global wars will have to be started (with lies) of course, in order to justify the further buildup of the private for profit war machine. The goal will be world domination (a la exporting 'freedom' and 'democracy'.

The corporate controlled propoganda news can keep distracting everyone from what is going on in the camps and glorifying the wars, very few will even realize what is happening. Most people will keep watching all of the minutia, like dancing stars, walzing puppets, trials of murderers, and more 'dirty hippie' yellow journalism.

7:21PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

Just so sad.... I thought our Bill of Rights meant something. Our citizens don't have any rights anymore or just those that don't make enough?

6:09PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

I could be just paranoid, but, it really seems so intentional and irrational what these cops are doing, that there seems to be another reason for why they're being so brutal.
Just a feeling mind you, but, it seems that they are trying to cause altercations. Trying to instigate retaliations that, then they could use the media to point the finger at O.W.S. for being violent and non-pieceful.
Big business is behind it. They have the tools to subdue, repress, opress, destroy, incriminate, imprison and torture, at they're finger tips.
This isn't the 60's. This is far more comprehensive and I'm sure more people are at the very least somewhat aware of the kind of threats our internal law enforcment pose to all of us at any given moment.

6:03PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

"The idea of creating systems designed to threaten, coerce, and kill, and to imbue such agencies with principled legitimacy, and not expect them to lead to wars, genocides, and other tyrannical practices, expresses an innocence we can no longer afford to indulge." - Butler D. Shaffer Professor, Southwestern University School of Law June 9, 2003

5:27PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

It is disgusting that these issues keep escalating into violence, when it is technically possible to resolve such things through peaceful negotiations. However I'm afraid I can't agree with this comment from the article:

"A country built on the idea that ANYONE, no matter what they believe, could live here and be safe."

This has never been true, because the Native American peoples who lived here before Columbus shed a horrifying amount of blood simply because they were a) "different," and b) faced with the "unbridled greed" of their invaders. This country was not created peacefully, and so I don't really think its earlier years were a shining example for civil liberties, for us to nostalgically look back on and try to return to. We are doing slightly better now than we were back then.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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