The NYPD are up to something a little more vile and tricky than ordering baton-wielding police goons to charge recklessly up Manhattan streets, beating every man, woman and child in their path. 'Snatch and Grab' operations are currently being employed against Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park.
"They keep pushing into the crowd in formations, grabbing people, and then withdrawing," said Eric, a college student who wished not to share his last name, from Zuccotti Park over the phone. "They've done it three more times since you left."
During the police operations he spoke of, Eric was struck in the groin, pushed to the ground and cracked across the shin with a nightstick. "I had my open hands in the air the whole time," he said. " I wasn't threatening anyone. They just beat everyone unfortunate enough to be around this one guy until they drug him out."
These operations do not strike me as random. What the police are engaging in looks like a military crowd control tactic called 'snatch and grab,' something I practiced in training on various occasions in the military. It consists of a dual process of intelligence gathering and target extraction. Leaders or agitators within the crowd are identified, after which a line of soldiers, usually in a diamond wedge, push into the crowd so that one or two soldiers in the rear can grab the identified agitators and remove them, thus ripening a crowd for dispersal. Often times, cameras are used to identify potential targets.
As a veteran of street demonstrations in New York, I'm no stranger to police surveillance at protests. However, this morning was the first time I felt these cameras were part of a real-time tactical strategy.
When we blocked the intersection at Williams and Exchange, I noticed the police cameras waving to and fro across the face of the crowd; what I usually expect out of them. They're gathering video evidence to be used at the trials of anyone arrested. Such tapes have prior been used to convict me of civil disobedience in court. But later, when they began hauling people away in handcuffs, I noticed the cameras weren't trained on the arrests as they usually are. They were zeroing in on individuals still in the crowd.
A brother whose name I did not catch first alerted me that I was being singled out by the police cameras while we were confronting police brutality together at the corner of Hanover and Wall St. The police had compressed an arrested elderly woman's handcuffs to the point that her hands were turning blue. Not only were they ignoring our pleas to aide her, they were laughing in our faces. I shouted at the top of my lungs, "You'd beat your own grandmothers for that paycheck, wouldn't you!?"
"Dude, they're scoping you out," said a fellow protester, and pointed to a police group in the rear of the police line. A few white shirts... and a few others. One had a camera pointed right at me. I felt pointedly threatened, like they'd recognized me and I'd been marked. When the 'snatch and grabs' began at Zuccotti, I knew I couldn't stick around.
From what Eric tells me, I'm not the only one. "A lot of people have left. I think people are really freaked out by the police violence, and they don't feel safe in Zuccotti. They're also demonstrating in other places around the city. Hopefully, they'll come back after the unions show up this evening."
Be careful brothers and sisters in the streets today, and every other day. Remember, the police are not your friends. We need not incite them, but we must certainly rest assured, they are plotting our downfall and considering military tactics when doing so. Protect yourself at all times when around them. The NYPD has declared war on the 99%.