By Vladimir Gladkov
One week before NATO’s annual conference which is due to be held in Chicago on May 22-24, the situation around the rallies which are timed to coincide with the conference is getting tenser.
It has already been discussed in the media that Chicago police spent more than one million dollars on weapons and riot gear, including acoustic cannons, the use of which is controversial. But it is more than this. There was a video in the internet showing policemen bullying potential protesters. The footage drew a wide public response.
On that video, policemen stopped a car for inspection. In the very beginning of the conversation one of them asks the passengers about their plans for next week. When one of the passengers says that they are going to attend the Occupy Chicago campaign the policemen start bullying the passengers. They remind them about the riots in Chicago in 1968, which were notorious for numerous arrests and tough measures used by the police. The policemen threaten the people in the car with a repetition of the 1968 events and say that they are going to really lay into them.
The video outraged the public and the media. The police administration tried to justify the actions of its subordinates saying that the video was deliberately edited to defame the police. But this statement was easily denied with the publication of the original 30-minute version of the video. But even after that Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy keeps on insisting that there was nothing illegal in the actions of the police officers who were just doing their job.
However, judging from the activities of the US policemen, it is easy to conclude that their work is all about threats and violence. It is enough to remember the tough suppression of the demonstration in Oakland, California, where as a result of the police violence a veteran of the war in Iraq was seriously injured, and the incident on the California university’s campus where policemen sprayed tear gas into the face of the participants of a peaceful student meeting. It is very naive to think that only participants of the rallies become victims of the police. Numerous incidents starting with the murder of a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia last year and the recent detention of a 6-year old girl, who was handcuffed and put in a prison cell show that today no one in America can feel 100% safe and protected from the police’s arbitrary behavior.
No doubt that the coming events in Chicago will bring new tough clashes between the citizens and police. Tens of thousands of demonstrators from the participants of the Occupy movement to trade unions’ representatives will come on Chicago to protest the annual NATO conference. The city authorities have spent more than one million dollars on buying equipment and riot gear.
The fact that apart from protective equipment they bought Long Range Acoustic Devices known asLRAD has provoked indignation of the rights activists and participants of the rallies. While LRAD’s manufacturers insist that this weapon is “humane” the experts state that its use causes irreversible damage to people’s health, which is proved by numerous complaints from the participants of the rally in Pittsburg where the acoustic cannons were used to disperse the crowd.
Although it seems strange, the US authorities are not ready to admit that American society won’t put up with arbitrariness any longer. The Occupy movement is rapidly growing despite the police violence and arrests. The continuation of this repressive policy may only undermine citizens’ trust in the US government making more Americans join protests movements.