Occupy Bloomington: New Years' Eve arrests jeopardize the camp

Occupy Bloomington, two months ago

Update, January 3, 2012: I’m happy to report that today’s local Herald-Times sports a piece, also top story on front page, though this time squeezed to the right into one column, with this head: ” Occupiers say 3 were ‘violently arrested’: Bloomington group says New Year’s even was a dance party, not a march.” It goes on to pretty much detail the conflicting stories as I did here below, and says that since city offices were closed yesterday, the mayor has yet to review “the facts.” All three arrested have been released, with bail donated by other Occupiers. A number of on-line comments about this incident compared apparent police violence on New Year’s Eve towards Occupiers with the hands’ off attitude of police to drunken revelry and destruction of property downtown several weeks ago after IU basketball beat Kentucky.

On the day that I took granddaughter Kiera out for her special Christmas lunch with Grannie Annie, we stopped into the Occupy Bloomington camp for a few minutes. As usual, new tent arrangements, with an increased focus on winterization. Even a big old wood stove! As usual, someone was preparing a meal, and I felt guilty declining his invitation to eat with them, knowing that we were soon to be seated in a heated, sparklingly clean restaurant with fabulous Afghani food.

As we walked away, I wondered what the camp is actually accomplishing at this point, now that we’ve hit the dead of winter, and despite army tents and heat, its occupants must be increasingly uncomfortable. Well . . .

Next thing I know there’s a press release last night about an arrest of three people after a New Year’s Eve action. And, on schedule, a big breaking top story on it in the local Herald-Times that blared “Arrests may jeopardize Occupy camp” with a photo of the mayor saying “The only two ‘conditions’ I placed on the occupation of People’s Park were that the protest remain peaceful and that protesters remain respectful of other people’s property. Both these unwritten understandings have been violated.”

I could almost feel the glee in the newsroom as this story was put together. And how different in tone from the press release of the occupiers. Here’s an excerpt from that release:

“After roving through downtown Bloomington, they descended upon the Monroe County Jail where they danced in the new year and spoke out against the Prison Industrial Complex.

“A bullhorn blared a message of solidarity.

“Those incarcerated responded with drumming and flashing of lights. A banner reading “Break Your Chains” appeared off the top of the Hilton Garden Inn, and at the stroke of midnight fireworks brightened the sky.

“Shortly thereafter, the party continued to College and 3rd where the patrons from nearby bars emptied into the streets.

“Around 1 am the crowd began to disperse and a small group of people were targeted by Bloomington Police Department. Three individuals were tackled from behind and violently arrested. Force was used by officers despite compliant behavior.”

In the Herald-Times news account, the three men “reportedly harassed police officers, stepped on a squad car and threw a bottle at a second-story window during a chaotic Occupy Bloomington march that lasted almost two hours. Three police officers were hurt during the arrests, and one required medical attention.”

There’s some kind of disconnect going on here. I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce is rooting for the mayor to shut the Occupy camp down, and now he has an excuse to do it. Or does he? Was the account int he paper factual? The mayor says he’s “going to review the facts to make sure they are fact.” Good. Perhaps videos from witnesses will help. Here’s a poster sent out on the Occupy Bloomington Facebook page.

Stay tuned. And see the next post, an offering by Charles Eisenstein on various occupations that don’t depend on camping.

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