May 13, 2010

An Obama visit comes with a lot of baggage

Today Obama came to Buffalo. Today I was assaulted by a Buffalo cop. And today I managed to avoid being arrested by an out of control officer. They are related.

I got a late start going to photograph the Obama visit. I got caught up in the concrete pour at a corner park on the West Side. Nice people. Nice park. I thought I’d help. I didn’t do any of the hard work. The time went by fast.

Frank called and asked if I was at the Obama visit. He said he was unable to get to it since William Street was blocked off by the police. I hopped in my car so I could get over there to take some pictures for my blog and for the WNY Peace Center. Sure enough William Street was blocked to car traffic. I went down Metcalf so I wouldn’t have to walk so far since I was a little late. I parked a couple blocks from Derby and walked in.

There were police cars on all the corners blocking the road so cars couldn’t pass through. There were security vehicles off the roads along the way. I said hi to the cops on the corners and walked toward Derby. There was a large tent with demonstrators and signs on the property on the corner. I thought it might be the peace people, but it turned out to be tea partiers.

I’m walking down the street with only my camera when this Buffalo patrol car speeds up beside me, stops and slams the door into my hand. I said “ouch”, shook my hand and asked him why he did that. The nastiest cop I ever met in Buffalo came at me aggressively and shouted at me to turn around and get out of here. I said that I didn’t know I couldn’t walk down the street, there were no signs posted and none of the cops I passed said I couldn’t proceed. He got angrier and nastier and pulled out his handcuffs and threatened to arrest me if I said one more word. So I turned and left. I didn’t want this armed, out of control man smashing me or my camera.

After walking a short distance, I turned around and took a picture and then continued on. When I got to the corner some of the tea party people approached me and asked what happened. I told them about the cop smashing my hand and threatening me with arrest. Suddenly he pulls up and with the same anger he orders me to get out of here. He had nothing to say to all the others. The tea party people offered me refuge on their private property. But I explained that I needed to go.

My politics are radically different than theirs, but I appreciated their willingness to stand up and assist.

I have no idea why that cop went off on me. It reminded me of the people in Vietnam and the terror they lived with when our troops came to their village. The soldiers would burn down their homes, threaten them and their children, beat them and sometimes kill them. All the Vietnamese were doing was walking down a street in their home village.

I’ve watched videos and heard the stories from the soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan. They talked about the terror these people live with. I’ve seen the videos of US-backed Israeli soldiers tormenting, harassing and shooting Palestinians for trying to survive on their own land.

I’m not trying to compare my incident with the horrors these people experience as a daily way of life. It’s just that the situation reminded me of all this as I walked away down the road surrounded by armed vehicles and the only man I really met was out for me.

In the other direction was Obama telling the people that he was concerned and trying to create jobs. At the same time we spend 9.2 Billion dollars a month on the war in Afghanistan alone. Imagine the community jobs and services this money could provide. Instead Obama takes his cues from the wealthy in our country. He orchestrates the ongoing occupations and the crimes that go along with them. He increases the use of drones that kill innocent people every week. We all know about the huge ‘collateral damage’ caused by the drones. We stand by and allow Obama to order our gunmen to assassinate people we suspect of committing crimes. We all know about it. Most of have seen the videos. Yet we keep giving the military additional funds to increase the killing.

My hand is ok. Slightly bruised. It’s my mind that feels the pain. How can my regrets be rectified if the same atrocities keep happening over and over and over.

I keep wondering what caused that cop to go off. Is it because he was feeling part of the Obama spirit? If he treats people like that all the time he needs to turn in his weapon. If it was just an extraordinary misperception of the situation, he needs to sit down and talk with me about it.

I’m used to talking to people who have put aside violence. Peaceworkers, soldiers filled with regret for what they have seen and done and especially the war resisters. These men and women have given up so much so they don’t have to participate in this violence. Obama locks them up. Perhaps they are too humane for our mission and there is a risk of this spreading among the troops.

I did learn not to intentionally enter a hostile situation alone. And when there are that many armed vehicles in a small geographic area you should consider it hostile

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