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Keith Olbermann, Current Countdown: Kelly Heresy on police violence at Occupy Wall Street protests

Kelly Heresy on police violence at Occupy Wall Street protests
by Keith Olbermann, September 26, 2011

Keith and Occupy Wall Street protester Kelly Heresy discuss the latest documentation of police brutality at the marches and a New York Times report that calls the movement “noble but fractured and airy.” Ten days into the occupation, Heresy — who was one of the first to be pepper sprayed — clarified that the protesters support police officers: “We are not against the cops — the cops are part of the 99 percent — the cops, we would like to believe, are on our side. Because we understand that they have families, they have children, and with budget cuts they could be losing their jobs and pensions as well.” Responding to media concerns that the protest isn’t focused, Heresy reminded viewers that this is a very new movement and “eventually we will be ready to address the media with specific things.”

transcript after fold

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, September 26th, 407 days until the 2012 presidential election.

It seems like a clear-cut case of police brutality by the New York police force. Four young women on the periphery of a peaceful march, part of the Occupy Wall Street protests, suddenly fenced in and — without warning — hit with a blast of pepper spray.

The police say the action was performed appropriately. Videotape suggests otherwise.

The fifth story on the “Countdown,” the Occupy Wall Street protests — now in their 10th day — had received minimal coverage from national and local media. Thousands have demonstrated against a corrupt financial system, unchecked corporate power and a divisive and ineffective political process. Hundreds have marched. And many have been arrested in a near-media blackout. That may be about to change.

Hundreds — perhaps as many as a thousand — protesters took the streets on Saturday, marching from their base in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district, north to a park that’s been the scene of many political rallies of all stripes for 150 years, Union Square.

Among the marchers, many who didn’t fit The New York Times description of a “noble but fractured and airy movement.”

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN #1: I’m a student. I have student debt. I worry about job prospects. And I’m also just generally concerned with the economic and political situation of our country.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I’m so tired of hearing about ‘the — the country is broke’ when it’s not broke. The oil companies are not broke, the CEOs are not broke.

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN #2: These guys are stealing money from the people. They’re criminals. And they belong in jail.

OLBERMANN: About 80 people were arrested along the way, charges including “disorderly conduct” and “impeding traffic,” along with “inciting riot” and “assaulting a police officer.”

However, no police officers were assaulted in the incident you’re about to see. Instead, a New York officer, dressed in the white shirt of a supervisor, walked up to four women — just penned into place by a plastic net — and deliberately fired a can of pepper spray into their faces. Two of the women say they were temporarily blinded. Medics poured milk into their eyes to flush out the spray.

One of the protestors, Chelsea Elliot, told the newspaper “The Village Voice”: “It was incredibly painful . . . like pouring a bottle of Tabasco all over your eyes and face.” Miss Elliot was not arrested. She says after the spray was fired, “The cops left. They moved the net.”

She also told The Village Voice, “Most of the time, the cops are really not like that. Most of the time, they’re with us.”

New York police spokesman Paul Brown told The New York Times, that “Pepper spray was used once, after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier — something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.”

You saw the video. There’s no evidence to support the contention of editing.

Presumably, spokesman Brown might be technically correct. Some other individuals, in some other place, might have confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying that netting. But those women clearly did not. And it is beyond disingenuous for the New York City Police Department to imply so.

To continue our coverage of Occupy Wall Street, I’m joined first by Kelly Heresy, one of the Occupy Wall Street protestors who took part in the march on Saturday, who was himself pepper sprayed by the police. Thanks for coming in.

HERESY: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

OLBERMANN: What happened to you?

HERESY: Well, in the video you saw — the women who were penned behind the orange net — I was on the opposite side of the street, and at that moment — just moments before that took place — a police officer violently threw a young African-American male onto the sidewalk and stepped on him and lifted his arms back above his head in a very awkward position and cuffed him.

And I saw it and I was completely appalled by what I was seeing, so I pulled out my camera phone and I went right up behind the police officer and I tried to snap a picture, but there was a lot of chaos going on. And then he noticed me there and he turned and sprayed me right in the eyes. And I was actually the first person to be pepper sprayed.

OLBERMANN: Was there any explanation for it or any warning or “Stop and I’ll spray you”?

HERESY: No, not at all. I was there and he just — he sprayed me in the face.

OLBERMANN: What — has this — I just read the quote from Chelsea Elliot that most of the cops have not been like that. They have not been doing this. This is not something where you’ve gone to essentially create this kind of environment so there’d be more attention to the march, that the police have largely confined themselves within their own rules. You agree with her assessment of that?

HERESY: Yeah, I would agree with that completely. And our position has been this entire time that we are not against the cops. The cops are part of the 99%. The cops, we would like to believe, are on our side, because we understand that they have families, they have children and — with budget cuts — they could be losing their jobs and pensions as well. So, we always try to tell the cops that we love them, we want them to be on our side, and we’ve always remained peaceful. But in tense situations like that, there — you know, sometimes people, human nature, you just don’t know how to react. And sometimes — it’s unfortunate that they responded violently in some cases.

OLBERMANN: Do you think there’s an issue about the protests and its focus? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. That, again, we’ve said this 1,000 times. If there were 20 tea party protesters dressed, almost identically, to the way you guys are — only carrying signs that had, you know, “No More Taxes” or “Fewer Taxes” or “Lower Taxes” — that, for good or for ill, and for whatever else cover they provide for other issues — they have an identifiable, easy-to-digest message for the people they are trying to get the point across to.

Do you worry if Occupy Wall Street is not focused enough in that way to make the kind of impact, say — just as an example, not to say you’re the liberal tea party or anything — but are you worried that you can’t make that kind of impact, because there are so many issues at hand here?

HERESY: I’m not worried at all. I think the message — the media right now is focusing on the fact that it seems — itappears to be unorganized, or there isn’t a concise message, but I think that’s our greatest strength. If — I think the most interesting thing about this movement is what’s happening in Liberty Plaza — or also known as Zuccotti Park, but we call it Liberty Plaza — what’s going on there is we’re having general assemblies, we’re having an open Democratic process, where anyone who wants to speak has an opportunity to speak. And we decide our actions by consensus. So, there’s a plurality of views. There’s many different opinions. And it’s a work in process. It’s a process right now.

And, you know, eventually, we will be ready to address the media with specific things, but right now, we’re very — we’re still a very young movement. And we’re growing. And eventually, we’ll be ready to share that.

OLBERMANN: Do you think you’re getting a little traction on this, as the politicians would say? I mean, you had — our friend Michael Moore is down there as we speak right now.

HERESY: That’s right.

OLBERMANN: Speaking to the assembled group. Do you get that sense that things are turning in terms of what you want to accomplish?

HERESY: Well, if we’re talking about public opinion, then absolutely. It’s like night and day with the media. We had very little exposure, but this afternoon there was cameras everywhere. I’ve been talking to the media all day long. And —

OLBERMANN: Welcome.

HERESY: It’s great. It’s too bad that we have to be arrested by the police and, you know, assaulted, in order to get any media exposure. But it would be nice if the media would focus on what we’re — the Democratic process that we have going. It’s really a beautiful thing.

OLBERMANN: But you don’t have any illusions about the value of one relative to the other, in terms of our media today, right? I mean, Gandhi — Gandhi was doing this 100 years ago. — 120 years ago in South Africa, let alone what he did in India. There is a way to get headlines.

HERESY: Right.

OLBERMANN: Right. So, in any event —

HERESY: We’ll do what we have to do.

OLBERMANN: Take what you have to do. Kelly Heresy, part of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest, pepper spray victim himself. Great, thanks for coming in.

HERESY: Thank you very much.

Watch “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” live each weeknight at 8/7c on Current TV. Click here to find the show in your area.

Related Links
The Nation: Correcting the Abysmal ‘New York Times’ Coverage of Occupy Wall Street

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