A: Attack police officers.
B: Sue police after they arrest you, claiming “victim” status.
C: Win suit.
D: Collect thousands in damages.
E: Gain “hero” status among fellow Occupiers.
One of the underreported aspects of the ostensibly non-violent “Occupy” movement was the violence displayed toward police and other symbols of authority by its scruffy supporters.
While the major media was portraying them as well-meaning young people demonstrating on behalf of the downtrodden, most of those outlets ignored the violent underside of that movement. According to the group Occupy Wall Street Exposed, the movement was responsible for a dozen deaths, including three murders, as well as more than a dozen rapes and dozens of cases of indecent exposure, such as the case of an Occupier who chose to defecate on a police car.
Whatever thin moral justification the movement still claimed went up in smoke when five members of the Cleveland Occupy movement were arrested on May Day for plotting to blow up a bridge used by commuters.
But you didn’t read much about any of that in the mainstream media, which often was more interested in reporting on so-called cases of “police violence” allegedly provoked by the demonstrators.
And that brings us back to Ms. Barnes.
The self-professed Occupy member was pedaling her bicycle down Austell Road on Easter Sunday when she happened to see a pair of Cobb Police officers questioning two teenagers outside a convenience store. Apparently taking the approach that “the cops are guilty” — and despite having no knowledge of why the two kids had been stopped — she flipped off the police and shouted the f-word at them as well.
Not a wise idea. Cussing police and making obscene gestures at them might pass for stylish entertainment at Occupy encampments in Lower Manhattan, but not in south Cobb.
They followed her and arrested her a few blocks away. She was charged with disorderly conduct and by her account spent 23 hours in jail, six of them in solitary confinement — which she equates with torture.
She now has procured an attorney and is planning to file a federal lawsuit. She apparently is inspired not only by the Occupy movement, but by the experience of Smyrna’s Mary Kirkendoll, who last week settled her First Amendment lawsuit against the City of Smyrna for $85,000. Kirkendoll had been arrested after using a curse word in frustration at City Hall after a Council meeting back in 2009.
Barnes said she was told she was arrested not for cursing the police, but for making a lewd gesture in front of children. That might in fact have been the case, or it could just be an after-the-fact attempt at justification by the police. There’s no way at this point for the public to know.
And Barnes’ lawyer is correct that the police cannot just chase down and arrest someone who says something impolite or hurts their feelings. The First Amendment protects nearly all speech in this country, whether articulate and well-reasoned or inarticulate and mean-spirited, as in Ms. Barnes’ case.
But Ms. Barnes cleverly is trying to have it both ways: provoking police on the one hand, then after that didn’t work out so well, posing as a champion of free speech.
She’s putting Cobb taxpayers on the hook while painting herself as the hero and the police as the bad guys. But then, that’s what the Occupy Movement is all about, isn’t it?