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What has happened to our constitutional rights in America?
The brutal police response of pepper-spraying peaceful Occupy protests across the country violates American rights to assemble and protest.
What happened to the Iraq war veteran at Occupy Oakland is wrong.
What happened to the 84-year-old woman at Occupy Seattle is wrong.
What happened to students at the University of California at Davis is wrong.
What gives city and campus police the right to pepper spray our citizens? Especially since they are protesting peacefully?
These are crimes against humanity, but good luck finding a court that will be sympathetic.
It’s one thing to use pepper spray for self-defense, but who was being attacked? The heavy-handed police officers, dressed in riot gear, were the aggressors.
What is pepper spray? It is a chemical compound that irritates the eyes and causes tears, pain and temporary blindness, giving the attacker a huge advantage to subdue the target. Though pepper spray, comprised of chemicals drawn from chilis and other peppers, is not considered lethal, it has caused death in some instances and is considered very dangerous to use.
Videos from the UC-Davis police’s pepper-spraying of students were shocking. Riot-clad campus police boldly sprayed students seated on the ground, and some victims had it sprayed down their throats in an inexplicable abuse of police authority.
One student reportedly coughed up blood for almost an hour after the ugly incident. Other students were hospitalized from the toxic chemical.
The pepper spray doesn’t just wash away. The victims suffer for several hours as the effects slowly subside. People with health issues, particularly respiratory problems such as asthma, can face further problems.
Riot-control agents such as pepper spray are banned in warfare, according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but permitted for use in law enforcement. This is pretty outrageous, if you think about it.
When did we become a police state?
What is also deeply troubling is that the police response nationwide to the Occupy movement is apparently being coordinated by a private police agency that seems to be operating outside of government control.
The mere idea of a private police agency, not unlike the notorious Blackwater group, conjures up the frightful images of a paramilitary unit operating without impunity in Iran or China or Colombia or Syria.
The undying curse of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. is that Congress and the George W. Bush Administration totally overreacted and established a massive bureaucracy called Homeland Security, which now employs more than 200,000 people and has an annual budget of about $55 billion.
Congress also established the USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym stands for Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism. This was supposed to be a temporary law that infringed on constitutional rights, but even President Barack Obama on May 26, 2011, signed a four-year extension on three important provisions of the act.
Under this reign of fear over terrorism, America turned its back on principles near and dear to its citizens. The Bush Administration allowed waterboarding and torture, ignoring international treaties and global legal standards. One of President Obama's first presidential orders in 2009 was to ban the use of waterboarding.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security began arming America's local police agencies with weapons worthy of war, not public safety. Local police agencies are as well-equipped as some armies in small countries, providing powerful tools under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
But all of this comes full circle in witnessing how America’s police are dealing with the Occupy movement, treating them like terrorists instead of citizens with guaranteed civil liberties.
When I was in New York City last month and visited the Occupy Wall Street in Liberty Square, aka Zuccotti Park, the NYPD was in full force, though not in riot gear. The officers monitored all the activity in the large square with officers patrolling on foot or sitting in a mobile observation tower that loomed high over the “public space,” ironically owned by a private corporation.
The Occupy movement representing the 99% is America’s answer to the Arab Spring. It is ordinary American citizens saying that they are tired of the economic inequities and massive unemployment, of a government corrupted by obscene amounts of campaign contributions from the greedy 1% and corporations, and the growing fear that the American dream belongs in the obituaries.
The ironies continue. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, part of the über wealthy 1%, orders his NYPD, part of the 99%, to evict the protesters from Liberty Square. Police under the pretense of protecting public safety instead instigate trouble by pepper-spraying peaceful protesters.
It is time that Americans stand up and tell our government and its leaders that we demand our complete civil liberties that were guaranteed by our Founding Fathers.