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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

    “They irritated me, and they so irritated each other that I could see and understand why the policeman kept feeling of, weighing, and finally whirling nervously his long night stick, like a lion waving its tail. And just as he seemed about to haul off and belt the anarchist, as he called the picket – and, I’ll confess, just when I wished he would crack him one – the picket shouted, ‘Here’s my shop,’ and he broke away. …

    “‘They drive you crazy,’ the policeman said. ‘You and the public, you wonder why we fan these damned bums, crooks, and strikers with the stick. I’ll tell you that if you had to deal with them and their lies and their rights you would hit ‘em too.’”

    – “The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens”


Steffens, the great muckraker, was writing about picketers in lower east side Manhattan, relating his experiences as a cop reporter way back in 1892. Today, “Occupy” demonstrators proclaim their “rights” in the same way, still cry, “I wasn’t doing anything!” when arrested, and inspire the same feelings of irritation.

Contemporary demonstrators injured in any dust-up with the authorities always say they didn’t deserve the “police violence.” The gendarmes, on the other hand, no longer whack folks merely for being disrespectful or otherwise annoying – though they’d like to. The officers have undergone too much sensitivity training for too-liberal application of the nightstick, and they are always reminded that lawsuits follow any use of force.

Take the case of Scott Olsen, who was clocked by a tear-gas canister when police broke up a riot in Oakland, Calif. Olsen, an administratively discharged ex-Marine who once started a website called “I Hate the Marine Corps,” now is a hero of Occupy Oakland. Professional demonstrators who despise anything military began weeping that Olsen’s wounding was a terrible thing to do to a veteran.

A witness to the skull-cracking impact of the canister told the San Francisco Chronicle, “(Olsen) was standing perfectly still, provoking no one.” Who would argue that “standing perfectly still” when ordered by police to disperse is actual provocation? Oh. You would?

The lawsuit over Olsen’s injury hasn’t been filed, but the National Lawyers Guild is in the thick of things in Oakland (as in New York and anywhere else with a substantial Occupy demonstration). If it doesn’t provide Olsen an attorney, it will find him one.

National Lawyers Guild, which joined the battle for “progressive” change – socialist revolution – in 1937, so in its natural role as Occupy ally, it won a restraining order that briefly barred the City of New York from evicting occupiers from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Wondrously, the judge the guild found in the wee hours of the morning was Lucy Billings. She went to law school in Berkeley, then labored 25 years as an ACLU attorney before ascending to the bench.

The telephone conversation went something like this:

The judge (sleepily): “H … hello?”

NLG attorney: Judge! The City of New York is getting ready to violate the Occupy protesters’ First Amendment rights!

The judge: (snapping awake): What?! How?!

NLG attorney: They’re going to deny their right to peaceable assembly by saying they can’t camp out in Zuccotti Park!

The judge: I won’t stand for it! I’m issuing a restraining order right now! This will be my most important case since I ruled in favor of pothole victims!

Her honor really does boast of helping out “pothole victims,” but don’t snicker. If you’ve ever been in the Big Apple, you know this is no small matter. Still, we’re perplexed by the apparent contradiction posed by her rulings against “unsanitary conditions.” Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg had called the filth at Zuccotti Park “intolerable.”

No matter. Billings’ restraining order was promptly overruled, and the cops set about clearing the park, just as police did at Oakland’s Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Out came hoses and disinfectant.

If Bloomberg noticed rather late that the occupiers were trampling the rights of other citizens, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan hasn’t tumbled to the fact yet. When cops first cleared the plaza, she said she was “deeply saddened” and announced an investigation of the cops’ use of force.

Quan’s stance has been in line with the position of the National Lawyers Guild, which counsels demonstrators “to let the world know about the violent response by the police.” (However, the Guild admonishes them to be sure nothing they release is self-incriminating.)

This mayor, who plans to read the First Amendment sometime soon, apparently believes, with Judge Billings, that blocking streets, attacking businesses, camping out in parks and other disruptions are appropriate exercises of free speech.

So, the confrontations continue, egged on by left-wing lawyers and abetted by spineless municipal officials.

We’re pretty sure the cops’ impulse to belt somebody is only getting stronger. Until things calm down, we’d advise mayors Bloomberg and Quan to stay away from police in riot gear. They’d be top candidates for a baton tattoo.

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