One thing I think no one who sees the video will deny is that Scott Olsen seemed to be peacefully refusing to leave the scene of Occupy Oakland as police told the protestors to disperse. In the video taken just before he was felled, Olsen was merely standing passively, and not even chanting.
Moments later he was on the ground, critically wounded, from what appears to have been a “less-lethal” round fired into his head, fracturing his skull. As he lay bleeding on the ground and his fellow protestors tried to assist him, a law enforcement officer in riot gear purposefully threw a small flash-bang grenade or similar device into the crowd, the device detonating within inches of Olsen’s body.
Occupy protestors, including Olsen, refused to obey a repeated lawful order to leave the area. That allowed, no law enforcement officer is justified in pointing a weapon at the head-level of protestors at any time or distance, nor do I suspect there is legally-defensible justification for throwing a flash-bang onto or beside the body of wounded protestors and those trying to help him. These actions almost certainly violated use-of-force guidelines and nearly killed a man.
I was greatly relieved when I saw that Olsen’s condition had been upgraded from critical to fair, but while Olsen’s condition appears to be approving, the mood of certain protestors is turning grim and combative towards police, particularly an outspoken group claiming to be Marines.
Anyone can claim to be anyone else on the Internet, it is true, but odds are that the majority of outraged souls claiming to be Marine veterans are precisely who they say they are, and as Mediabistro almost gleefully announces, could be in the mood to become combative against the police.
If online reaction is any indication, it’s not a stretch to think Olsen’s injury could be the start of something very big. We have a lot of military combat veterans in this country who haven’t been treated very well since they left the service. No job prospects. Inadequate medical coverage. If they take their anger offline and into the streets, the OWS movement will become an extremely potent, and WELL TRAINED force.
If you read some of the hundreds of comments of the Mediabistro post you get a sense that the anger is genuine and building on both sides, and that both the protestors and the anti-protestors would like to claim the support of the military in an increasingly divided country.
The simple fact of the matter is that neither side can claim the military as their own. While they share brotherhood, they are individuals, and and attempts to call the other side’s protestors “chickenhawks” in an attempt to demean their level of service or non-service will ultimately do nothing but make the divisions that much deeper.
Update: As if things aren’t tense enough already, someone is passing around fliers at Occupy Phoenix goading protestors to shoot police for any number of imagined slights.
The first question I had after reading this was whether or not the rhetoric on the fliers was similar to the rhetoric from the armed neo-Nazis that were there claiming to offer the Occupy protestors protection from the police.