The Occupy Police Blotter

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 11 2011 4:58 PM

The Occupy Police Blotter

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A young man with an Anonymous mask, wearing a military uniform, marches with Occupy Wall Street protesters on November 11, 2011 at Zuccotti Park in New York. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

National Review rather brilliantly captures the emerging anti-Occupier line -- These guys are violent crooks! -- by kicking off a blotter to track crimes that occur on Occupied turf. Smart, but a little ropey so far, with a lack of sourcing. And I fear the message might be getting muddled by the definition of what "crime" is. Riots in Oakland? Ugly, violent, sure. But this?

14 Arrested by NYPD in Marches Connected with Park Cleaning: Fourteen protesters arrested despite Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to halt the cleaning of the park.
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Arrested for what? We learn that some of the arrests were for offensing like "wearing masks of Guy Fawkes." (New York has a law against public mask-wearing, a useful relic of anti-KKK legislation.) Is the fact of an arrest qua justification for dismissing the movement as violent? Let's be careful. There is actual violence and tumult at some Occupy protests, such as the rape reported at Occupy Dallas. But civil disobedience? That's not violent. That's just often misused as a tactic.

The movement learned early on, after the October 1 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, that confronting police power would lead to media coverage. It sure does. But as the movement should have learned last weeked, when Occupiers protested Americans for Prosperity, the tendency is for coverage of arrests to subsume coverage of anything else going on. We haven't heard much discussion of the movement's demands for a while. The gonzo discussion of violence is swallowing that up.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.