On Sunday afternoon, around twenty-five police in full riot gear stormed an abandoned car dealership on Franklin Street and arrested a group of demonstrators who had been occupying the building. The occupation was “not orchestrated by Occupy Chapel Hill,” according to a flyer handed out to passersby, but was rather an “experiment,” and an extension of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Wielding assault rifles, officers rushed the building at about 4:30 pm, and pointed those weapons at people standing outside, ordering them to put their faces on the ground.
In a statement Sunday night, police said they had been monitoring the building since Saturday night when they learned attendees of an anarchist book fair held this weekend were aligning themselves with Occupy Chapel Hill and that about 70 people had entered the former car dealership.
“Officers also learned that strategies used by anarchists in other communities included barricading themselves in buildings, placing traps in buildings, and otherwise destroying property,” said the statement released by Sgt. Josh Mecimore. “The group in the…building used large banners to obscure the windows to the business and strategically placed members on the roof as look-outs.”
The raid at Chapel Hill illustrates a few interesting aspects that have become systemic to the entire police response to the Occupy movement.
First, there is the conflation of damage to property with “violence,” and it’s unclear how these “traps” or barricades actually damaged the property value of an already abandoned car dealership, but let’s set aside that vague accusation for the time being.
Even if the demonstrators were damaging property, “violence” is usually only considered dire when it’s directed at human beings, not at an abandoned car dealership. If society was to get really serious about “violence” applying to inanimate objects and the environment, then every multinational conglomerate on the face of the earth could be charged as being criminally liable.
Consider major companies that seek to seize private property under eminent domain laws. For example, right now in Nebraska lawmakers are debating tightening eminent domain rules for procuring land during discussions related to the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline. Here we have a major company, TransCanada Corp, proposing destroying property owners’ land, not to mention the environment. Put another way, it’s like dynamiting a billion car dealerships simultaneously. But since the criminals wear suits instead of bandanas across their faces, the police ignore such crimes.
Or ponder the major banks and financial institutions that treated the US economy like a casino over the past few decades. Chopping up crap mortgages and reselling them with stellar ratings resulted in millions of people losing their homes, which now sit on the market, unsold, rotting away. Some might consider that damage to property, too.