Posted 5 years ago on March 20, 2012, 11:32 a.m. EST by weOccupy
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
I am not a cop.
Since the earliest days of Occupy Wall Street, I have been as active as I could. I have a family – a wife and children – and so I could not sleep it the park or spend all my time there but I have been immensely thankful for those who could. The issues of Occupy are issues that have impassioned me for as long as I can remember. It took the strength and courage of those willing to uproot themselves and move into public space to turn those issues into action. For that I am thankful and proud.
Unfortunately, a trend has developed which threatens my ability to participate in Occupy NYC events. I have been increasingly accused by other occupiers of being an undercover cop. Perhaps it is because of my age (I am in my late 30s) or maybe it is my style (I do not wear skinny jeans or ride a fixed gear bicycle). More likely, the accusations are the result of the immaturity, naivety and arrogance of my accusers. Whatever the reason, these accusations have become more frequent, more abusive and more threatening.
Outraged at the conduct of the NYPD on #M17, I left my family after dinner on #M18 and went down to march in solidarity with those who had been arrested the day before. Within minutes of my arrival, the accusations began. To my first accuser, I showed my work id (not law enforcement of course), I asked if he was satisfied and whether he now trusted me, his response – “I don’t trust anyone, I don’t event trust myself.” To my second accuser, I explained that I was not a cop and described what I do for a living, his response – “and last week you were a fireman, and the week before that you were a doctor”. To another accuser I went so far as to show on my phone a video clip of local press coverage including an interview with me from my local suburban Occupy’s #F29 ALEC action, her response – “I still think you’re a cop”.
I asked one of my accusers what I needed to do to show him that I was not a cop, his - response, “go push one of them over” as he pointed to a group of uniformed cops. So to satisfy this guy that I was not a cop, I needed to be arrested. Another accuser told me that in order to prove I was not a cop I needed to point to two other people in the crowd who I knew. Is this the barrier to entry? Is that what it takes to be a member of Occupy Wall Street? Is that the secret handshake I need to know to be let in the club? If so, the continuous call I hear in my social media outlets for people to come down and support the movement are hallow and illusory. How can newcomers participate if they are not allowed in?
I grew up in this city - not in the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan where Occupiers confront isolated incidents of police overreaching - I grew up in the Bronx, in a neighborhood where these tactics are a reality of everyday life. It’s with little merit that someone who is likely just now discovering police abuse will lecture me on the deceptive tactics of the NYPD. I was here in the 70s when corruption infected every precinct, I was here in the 80s when police turned a blind eye to the safety of our neighborhoods, I was here in the 90s during Giuliani’s oppressive “quality of life campaign”, and I was here after 9/11 when our liberty was sacrificed for the illusive perception of our security. Judging by their age, I am confident my accusers lived through none of this. What they know about police abuses they have only just learned since September 17, 2011.
I have immense responsibilities – a family and a small business to run. I am the 99% this movement has rallied behind. So while my accusers retreat to the relative safety of their dorm rooms, I return to the reality of my 99% -layoffs, foreclosure, the cost of healthcare, the $80 it costs to fill my gas tank, bills I cannot afford to pay and an uncertain future for my children. Don’t decry the abuses of the 99% when you yourself are unwilling or incapable of recognizing what a member of the 99% might look like. The preconceived notions my accusers have threatens the inclusiveness the movement claims as its foundation.
Forgetting for a moment the personal objection I feel, casually accusing your neighbor of being your enemy suggests a much larger problem within the NYC Occupy movement – paranoia has struck deep and my accusers have handed a victory to those who seek to divide us. It is their intent to pit us against each other and dilute our solidarity. This is just what my accusers have done.
I am not the only one. I have seen others, similar to me, accused by fellow Occupiers of being a cop. The danger is, one person says it and five people hear it, then they tell it to five other people and then maybe a live-streamer points his camera at you and he too calls you a cop. The accusations are threatening and intimidating and may cause us not to participate. If that is the case, if those of us who look like the 99% are not welcome, then who do you represent? For whom are you marching?
Carelessly accusing those who don’t fit your image of an Occupier is hostile, violent and abusive. No doubt there are undercovers amongst us, but painting with a broad brush is precisely what the opponents of Occupy have done to you. The stroke of your brush alienates those who otherwise want nothing more than to stand with you. Occupy Wall Street is the most important movement in generations. Those that carry its banner carry with it a tremendous amount of responsibility; they ought to do so carefully.