“Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.” – Voltaire
Two reports have surfaced recently, pretty close together, that has me concerned about the state of the police force in NY City. The first comes from a neighborhood news blog called DNAinfo.com New York about a young couple – Matthew Swaye, 35, and his partner Christina Gonzalez, 25 – who see themselves as “peace activists” and are engaged in going about the city video taping police officers as they enact “search and frisk” measures on people who they feel look suspicious. In doing this Swaye and Gonzalez have incurred the ire of the NYPD by posting what clearly looked like a criminal “wanted poster” of Matthew and Christina, seen in this YouTube video taken by the young couple.
“Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators,” read the flyer, which bears the NYPD shield and a seal of the NYPD‘s Intelligence Division. It also gave the home address of the couple.
“Above subjects MO is that they video tape officers performing routine stops and post on YouTube,” the sign said. “Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and to deter officers from conducting there [sic] responsibilities.” SOURCE
Though the claim that Swaye and Gonzalez are attempting to prevent law enforcement officials from doing their job appears serious, NYPD has taken no action to charge them with a crime or arrest them, which leaves reasonable people to believe that the two have done nothing illegal. After this video went public the wanted poster came down.
Apparently both Mr. Swaye and Ms. Gonzalez were previously arrested in a protest of NY city’s beefed-up “search and frisk” practicealong with several others including author and political activist Dr. Cornell West. Ms. Gonzales allegedly took a swipe at one of the officers at this protest and was charged with 2nd degree assault. In a separate incident Ms. Gonzalez was also held on a contempt charge in Rikers Island jail after refusing to apologize for calling “controversial and conservative Brooklyn Judge John H. Wilson a ‘white racist pig.’”
A couple of videos recorded by the couple show they are in-your-face style activists which can come across as annoying. Here’s one of Matthew dogging NYC police commissioner Raymond Kelly leaving a building and another of Christina chastising officers for taking a woman out of a court building, face down in a bag after she allegedly was “beaten for asking to use the rest restroom” according to Ms. Gonzalez. The video is at night so there is no light to surmise if what Ms. Gonzalez is telling us is in fact what’s occurring. Though I found both of these video’s a little unsettling in how these peace activists go about their task, I saw no violence and property damage on their part.
It’s understandable why some of the city’s men and women in blue would view Gonzalez and Swaye as “agitators”. In their zeal the young couple are abrasive, no matter how justifiable their concerns may be. Add to this the daily friction police officers endure dealing with the public. Police officers, who have a suicide rate that is twice that of the general population, have one of the most stressful occupations on the planet according to Hans Selye, one of the foremost researchers in stress-related activities. But their training should teach them how to deal with “agitators” and prevent them from stepping over the line, doing things that are clearly unprofessional and which only enhance further animosity.
What makes this action taken against Swaye and Gonzalez by the NYPD look even more egregious is the second story I came across shortly afterwards.
Investigators have connected DNA evidence from the scene of Sarah Fox’s murder in Inwood Hill Park eight years ago to DNA collected at the scene of an Occupy Wall Street subway station vandalism in March.
Fox, 21, was found nude and strangled in the park in May 2004, days after she disappeared during a daytime jog. Investigators recovered her pink CD player in the woods just yards from her body.
Sources said Tuesday the DNA found on the CD player is linked to DNA found on a chain left by Occupy Wall Street protesters at the Beverly Road subway station in East Flatbush on March 28, 2012.
That Wednesday morning, protesters chained open emergency gates and taped up turnstiles in eight subway stations and posted fliers encouraging riders to enter for free. SOURCE
The story headline and part of the story display a bit of professional bias, conspicuously connecting the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement with the protest where the chain with the incriminating DNA was found. The reporters who broke this story for New York’s NBC affiliate said the chain found with the DNA on it was one “used in a recent Occupy Wall Street protest.” Yet deeper into their story they cite the communique from the The Rank and File Initiative that informed viewers of how “teams of activists, many from Occupy Wall Street, in conjunction with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union, opened up more than 20 stations across the city for free entry.”
The fact that other groups were involved, perhaps to the same degree, should have prevented an honest journalist from using only the more popular OWS group in their headline as the one’s associated with where the chain was found. It’s still unclear why the NYC police department would be checking for DNA at such an event, unless they had some investigative data that linked one of the protesters of any of the groups with Ms. Fox’s murder in 2004. Congratulations might have been in order for the great forensic work the police have done here but a follow-up story by NBC New York suggests that it was perhaps after all a simple case of contamination by a city laboratory technician.
But knowing that there has been animosity between the police and the Manhattan OWS movement for months and in view of the culpability of some within the NYPD to try and discredit them – as they clearly did with Matthew Swaye and Christina Gonzalez – raises the uncomfortable feeling that the DNA that was surprisingly discovered, to a crime eight years earlier, may have been a set-up to further discredit a movement that many of the city’s well-healed citizens have disparaged openly since their first sit-in back in September, 2011. The Occupy movement is once again brought into a bad public light to further vilify them after a possible mistake that some poor slug at the lower echelons has to take the blame for. This whole thing has dubious considerations to ponder.
I would love to ask “Emmy-award winning reporter” Jonathan Dienst who shared this story with his NBC 4 producer, Shimon Prokupecz what motivated them to put OccupyWallStreet in their headline. NBC, which is a part of NBCUniversal Media, LLC, is owned by both media conglomerate Comcast and the multi-national corporation of General Electric. Corporate-owned media in this country owns the vast resources of which gives us our news on the air waves, on-line and now on social media. It’s always been feared by some that with this relatively new arrangement, many of the stories that reflect poorly on the wealthy and the businesses they own often get white-washed or omitted completely as a result of back room deals between the corporate ownership and the news departments they own. The Occupy movement has been a thorn in the side of wealthy corporate interests from day one.
I don’t want to be any part of allegations that unjustifiably tries to portray as villains those who fight crime in this country and provide a thin blue line of defense between the criminal and their potential victims. Though clearly there are always those who fail to live up to their role as a law enforcement officer, it is often the result of someone who has given a lifetime of service that seldom gets the recognition they feel they deserve, leading them to take matters into their own hands. Coupled with this are the abuses by some within law enforcement who have developed some higher notion of authority that allows them to act outrageously through some sense of “the greater good.” I honestly don’t think anyone deliberately goes into to law enforcement to bully those who annoy the plutocrats in this country.
It’s important that when such abuses occur within the police department that a vigilant citizenry and their governmental representatives act swiftly and with clear thinking to ensure that the elements within who hurt the larger department are weeded out before it taints all others who courageously put their lives on the line for all of us everyday. But there is every reason to believe that powerful people utilize the police to protect their special interests and are not beyond using tactics that push the civil rights envelope. Idealistic men and women who join police departments in large urban areas to fight crime are often unaware they are the pawns of people who pull the strings in government. People who depend upon this relationship do so to shield themselves from prosecution by an outraged public.
Discord between poor minorities and those who “serve and protect” the public has always been an area of concern for both policy makers and citizen groups who work to achieve harmony in communities where poverty and crime breed. When either side takes action that enhances this disharmony it only makes it that much more difficult to accomplish productive goals.
Public awareness is key here and ideological differences should not overtake the importance of what is at stake. Stories like these need to be viewed rationally and methodically and absent any “them versus us” contingent we all seem to harbor. But they also need to be weighed in terms of what kind of message are the power brokers at the top sending the little people below them? It has become crystal clear that white-collar crime doesn’t seem to attract the ire of our judicial system in this country as much as it used to and when something does occur by a member of the wealthy 1%, they usually pay what appears to most people as a healthy fine but hardly breaks a sweat from the violator, all while they remain free rather than serving time.
Evidence of this was laid out by Matt Taibi, a real journalist who duly noted that following the financial crisis that brought our economy to its knees, “one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — … nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.”
I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it. – George Carlin