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?
Image Credit: Flickr – Tulane Public Relations