The cop looks at the five of us standing – somewhat smiling – hands strapped behind our back – trying to force the monologues we have racing through our head into soundbites so that the reporter will quote us in their indy internet newspaper. He knows we’re human.
“You should be in the NBA.” he says to Jacob. Jacob is 6’5″ and tired of that statement. He never wanted to be pigeonholed into being a basketball player. You can tell by the look on his face. Or maybe he’s just tired from being arrested. It takes a lot out of you.
I spend most of my time in the occupy protests on the edge of the masses trying to talk to police officers to try to convince them that we are all human. They don’t respond because their freedom of speech has been infringed upon by their commanding officers who have their freedom of speech infringed upon by the commissioner who has his freedom of speech infringed upon by Mayor Bloomberg, but the cops can’t help but listen. I talk about sports, or food, or love. Not about the occupy wall street, or wealth inequality, or the right to peacefully assemble. They know I have thoughts on these issues, but they also need to know that I go home and eat tacos while I worry about my fantasy football team and worry that my girlfriend is ignoring my texts.
This is what the police officer is trying to do. He knows he’s arrested 5 people for irrational, immoral, and illegal reasons and wants us to know that behind the riot gear is a human who likes to joke around and wants to talk about sports, or food, or love.
But it’s not fair: Is how I immediately feel. We’re tied up – unable to gesticulate our feelings, and we’re scared that if we are to respond incorrectly further punishment will be enforced. When I try to joke around with the cops they still have the gun, baton, mace, and power and are therefore still able to respond.
But it’s not fair: Is what I realize after I write this. They’re hands are placed firmly on the baton that they have to hold out – unable to gesticulate their feelings, and they’re scared that if they are to respond incorrectly their boss will find punishment. When they try to joke around with us we have our full freedom of speech and are therefore still able to respond.
When Zuccotti Park was first closed and the police were forced to occupy it I was on the front lines again. I was standing next to a member of the National Lawyers Guild, crammed up against an unlawful barricade next to a police officer.
“Can I joke around with you for a bit?” The NLG guy asked the woman with weapons.
“You can say whatever you’d like.”
“You’re from Brooklyn North, right? Because it says BNPD on your uniform.”
“Do you ever give the Brooklyn South Police shit for being the BSPD?”
She laughed at first then a fellow police officer whispered something in her ear and she turned to avoid eye contact and stopped responding. There is no weapon like the weapon of free speech.