In what may be a glaring example of the class divisions being played out during the Occupy Wall Street protests, commanding New York City police officers are abusing their powers more than the rank and file officers.
“You would think it would be the other way around,” said activist Patrick Bruner in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Monday. “You would think it would be the cops with the least experience.”
“In almost every instance of police brutality we’ve seen, it is the white-collared supervisors doing the abusing. The blue shirt police officers have mostly been on our side.”
The videos confirm his statements.
Bruner, one of the spokespeople for the group, also said that commanding officers have been targeting videographers and photographers.
“We’re not sure if the superior officers have an order or at least a tactical understanding to eliminate any ability for us to get the word out, but it’s obvious that they are specifically targeting the people running our live stream,” he said.
On Saturday, right before the protesters began their march from Zuccotti Park to Union Square, police officers arrested two videographers who were live streaming for their site.
A white-shirted supervisor initiated those arrests, he said.
The Occupy Wall Street site also stated they “received unconfirmed reports that over one hundred blue-collar police refused to come into work in solidarity with our movement.”
The most obvious incident of supervisory police abuse so far was committed by NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, a 29-year veteran caught on video pepper spraying a pair of women who were already detained and not resisting (watch the above video).
The women were standing behind an orange barricade held in place by blue-uniformed officers when Bologna snuck up behind the officers and shot a stream of pepper spray towards the women before disappearing into the crowd again.
The spray even struck at least two of the blue-uniformed officers, who were pretty upset at him.
“They did not look happy,” said David, a photographer who was standing on the outside of the barrier, who asked that his last name not be used when contacted today by PINAC.
“They yelled his name out after he walked away. They looked upset and were rubbing their eyes.
“They looked as if they wanted to help the women who had gotten sprayed but they couldn’t because they had to keep holding the fence.”
In fact, the white-shirted supervisors would reach over the barricades and grab whomever they thought was a leader in the group and pull them out to arrest them, he said.
David, who lives in the city, said he has been photographing the protests for four days and agreed that it was the white-shirted supervisors abusing their powers.
“I would stand and talk to some of the officers in blue and thank them for protecting us,” he said. “They seemed open to what we were doing and appreciated it.
“But the cops in the white shirts were the ones giving the orders, yelling into the microphones, telling them who to arrest.”
It was David who first identified Bologna by comparing videos and zooming in on his name tag, then posting his findings on his website.
After that, the hacker group Anonymous exposed his full identity, including his addresses and the fact that he was listed in a civil suit in 2005.
The Guardian then dug deeper and discovered that the lawsuit stems from the 2004 Republican National Convention in which he was accused of abusing his power by arresting protesters with no due cause.
Bologna, who was profiled in a 2005 Villager article, was described as an honest cop who worked his way up the ranks, including a stint in internal affairs.
In February 1993 he began working as an internal investigator in the chief of patrol’s office. “It was my first taste of internal investigation and it opened my eyes to the darker side of police work,” Bologna said.
“You read in the papers about cops doing things that you can’t believe because you think everybody’s like you.”
It's hard to imagine any of those cops ever received the exposure Bologna is currently receiving.
Arrested for video recording
David also photographed police leading away a handcuffed woman who was arrested for video recording.
Marisa Holmes was recording a man who was kneeling in the street in front of the bank that had repossessed his parents’ home.
Robert Stephens, a law student, was yelling his story, telling the cops to arrest him. He would place his hands on his head and behind his back, just waiting for them to handcuff him.
But for more than two minutes, groups of blue-uniformed cops would walk by him, ignoring him as hordes of protesters would photograph and record him.
It was finally a white-shirted cop – who looks a lot like Bologna – who grabs his arm, initiating the arrest.
Then, another white-shirted cop wearing a red jacket gets into Holmes face, ordering her away, telling her to get off the street.
But the street was already blocked off to traffic with barricades, said David.
Holmes moved in to get closer to Stephen’s arrest when the supervisor with the red jacket grabbed her. She was able to hand off her camera to another protester, who continued recording.
David snapped this photo as she was being led away.
Boston Review reporter also gets pepper sprayed
Jeanne Mansfield, a writer for the Boston Review, said she got caught up in the melee before the Bologna incident and video recorded even more aggressive acts from the white-shirted cops, including them pulling people from behind the corral to arrest them.
She also confirms that it is the white-shirted cops escalating the tensions.
A new group of police officers arrives in white shirts, as opposed to dark blue. These guys are completely undiscerning in their aggression. If someone gets in their way, they shove them headfirst into the nearest parked car, at which point the officers are immediately surrounded by camera phones and shouts of “Shame! Shame!”
Up until this point, Frank and I have managed to stay ahead of the nets, but as we hit what I think is 12th Street, they’ve caught up. The blue-shirts aren’t being too forceful, so we manage to run free, but stay behind to see what happens. Then things go nuts.
The white-shirted cops are shouting at us to get off the street as they corral us onto the sidewalk. One African American man gets on the curb but refuses to be pushed up against the wall of the building; they throw him into the street, and five cops tackle him. As he’s being cuffed, a white kid with a video camera asks him “What’s your name?! What’s your name?!” One of the blue-shirted cops thinks he’s too close and gives him a little shove. A white-shirt sees this, grabs the kid and without hesitation billy-clubs him in the stomach.
Here is her video.
More reports of photographers getting arrested
Gothamist has also been reporting on the arrests of photographers.
Times' Up! photographer Barbara Ross tells us that as she was filming Saturday's march down Broadway to Union Square, a white-shirted NYPD officer repeatedly warned her that she would be arrested unless she started marching with the demonstrators. "I was standing off to the side so I could document what was going on—you couldn't really see much from within the group," Ross says, "And he kept saying, 'You either join them or I'll arrest you.' I wasn't blocking traffic or harming anything, it was obvious it was because I was holding a camera."
Jim Kiernan, who was shooting Saturday's protests for Gothamist, said that NYPD officers were "definitely" zeroing in on anyone with a camera. At around 12th Street and Fifth Avenue, Kiernan saw a large black SUV pull up next to a few police supervisors. "It was Ray Kelly. He rolled down his window and I had a perfect shot but I knew if I pointed my camera at him I'd get arrested on the spot." Moments later, "a videographer who I had seen all day, who didn't seem to be part of the protest was arrested. One officer took her camera, another cuffed her," Kiernan said. "A few seconds later, another photographer next to her gets arrested—no provocation whatsoever. That's when I decided I was done for the day."
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Below are even more videos that show the white-shirted cops as the aggressors. In the second video, the action begins right after 4:15.
In some of the videos, there is a man walking around in a full suit with blondish hair and a mustache that appears to be calling the shots. I wonder who he is.
There is also a group of protesters gathering in Pershing Square in Los Angeles with a live stream.