Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pepper spraying NYPD commander disciplined

Cops passively keeping an eye on Wall Street demonstrators. Photo by David Shankbone

It's interesting how one's point of view can color one's perceptions of entire groups of people. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a case in point.

While there is generally a culture of accommodation most of the time right now between the occupiers and the police, in the beginning, while they were feeling one another out so to speak, things were more tenuous. And it may have been that lack of comfort that led to a police commander pepper spraying some women during a march. The commander has now been disciplined.

This essay, though, is more about the human nature of those who voice their opinions about the incident and less about the incident itself.

Some people tend to grab one or two anecdotal events, color them with a little bias, and cite those events as "evidence" or "proof" that their point of view is the correct one.

There are those who have been pointing to this confrontation as affirmation of their view that the 99 percenters are a mob. Others say it underscores their contention that the cops are out-of-control and not letting protesters exercise their First Amendment rights. Both views, in my opinion, suffer the flaw that they are so myopic as to ignore the whole.

Just as the infamous photo of a Wall Street protester defecating on a police car is representative only of that person's disgusting actions, so too are the YouTube videos of Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators reflective of his decisions and actions - not the NYPD as a whole.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is in a constant state of flux. Many Americans express their inability to understand its focus. My sense is that, as time goes on, either things will become clearer or, as some have suggested, the movement will peter out.

In the meantime, we should make the small effort to not judge the whole by the few. Whether we're talking about the protesters. Or the NYPD.

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