LOS ANGELES, California—If the police lost their pensions, they would side with the protesters.
Several of the Occupy protesters, or Occupiers, felt this way at the Occupy Los Angeles (LA) raid on 30 November 2011. They shouted at police, beckoning them to lay down their batons and grab ahold of peace instead.
“They’re our friends,” one Occupier said, calming the intense crowd.
Though early in the night, another Occupier shouted that the police were part of the 1 percent, or the wealthy individuals who the Occupiers believe are economically, socially, and politically oppressing the 99 percent, or the masses.
As there have been increased police “crackdowns” on Occupy encampments, or occupations, nationwide, the question is being raised: to whom are the police loyal to?
Massive budget cuts in nearly every state have hit local police departments, causing layoffs and slashing pensions, with more expected to come if the national debt is not reduced.
Occupiers worldwide feel they are using their protests to directly address the negative causes and results of such debt.
The Occupy Movement started in New York City (NYC) and San Francisco in September 2011, inspired by the pro-democracy protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa in the spring of 2011.
Though their demands are broad and not “clear” and “articulate,” according to the mainstream media, the Occupiers are generally calling for changes to what they feel are global economic, social, and political injustices.
“Join us!” Occupiers screamed at the police, receiving shielded, straight faces and the threat of arrest as a response.
Police, the 99 percent?
Ms. Sara AbiBoutros, who is involved with the Occupy Wall Street group that started the Occupy Movement in New York, told the Viễn Đông that the police are definitely part of the 99 percent.
She continued, saying that police nationwide are doing their jobs and taking orders while having their salaries and pensions cut.
Despite this, retired police out of uniform are the only police she has seen joining the Occupiers in protest.
“They would have to be in uniform to make a statement,” she said, adding that at least 15 uniformed, even retired, police officers showing up to a protest in support the Occupiers would have a positive impact on the movement. “It would be a complete game changer.”
Former Orange County Sherriff’s Department (OCSD) Investigator Howard Harrell also told the Viễn Đông that he feels the police are part of the 99 percent.
However, he personally understands that the police have to do their jobs and that sometimes means doing things they might not necessarily be proud of.
He added that police officers are depending on their jobs to secure their livelihood and often the livelihood of their families.
The Viễn Đông contacted the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which conducted the Occupy LA raid, for comment on whether the department as a whole considers itself part of the 99 percent.
As of this article’s print, the LAPD has not returned comment.
Police, ignoring role as 99 percent?
Ms. AbiBoutros told the Viễn Đông about a conversation she had with an NYC police officer in November 2011 after the Zuccotti Park occupation was cleared and the area barricaded.
She continuously questioned him about why he was not on the other side of the barricade with the Occupiers.
“Don’t worry,” he told her, after avoiding her questions for a while. “When the time comes, I know what I have to do.”
Ms. AbiBoutros pointed at the officer and screamed, “This officer represents the 99 percent!”
She said that the other officers turned and looked at him “like he was the devil.”
Even if police officers think a fellow officer is sympathizing with the Occupiers, it is perceived as unacceptable within the force, she told the Viễn Đông.
She added that even police officers who might support the Occupiers probably feel they cannot voice such an opinion because they could receive backlash from their fellow officers.
When police decide to support the Occupiers, Ms. AbiBoutros said, the injustices that the Occupiers are fighting against would not necessarily end, yet the government would be forced to act on changing them.
“They won’t have anyone enforcing these so-called rules and laws,” she said.