December 10th, 2014

Helicopters

For the past few days we've been hearing helicopters flying overhead, mostly at night. We can even see them sometimes, flying slowly in a circle or hovering over a single spot, as stationary as if they've been set on a table. The sound of the rotors stopping for a few hours and starting up again is disturbing, intrusive, like a dull headache, and that's even before you remember what they're doing up there -- watching, keeping track of the people protesting against police shootings of unarmed black men.

You'd think that Berkeley, with all its experience of the student protests in the sixties, would know how to deal with mostly peaceful demonstrators, but for some reason the police here have reacted all out of proportion, as this article shows. They bottled protesters in with no way of escaping, released smoke bombs and flash bangs, beat people with batons, shot rubber bullets, and even, according to this tweet, "raised their guns at ppl who weren't even involved in the protest, just lived in the neighborhood and were trying to get home." They also hid their badge numbers from the protesters, never a good sign.

And yes, protesters did break shop windows. But it's hard to believe that broken windows call for this kind of response.

And then there's the helicopters. Why do they need this kind of 24-hour surveillance? What are they expecting is going to happen? And it's not the first time helicopters were brought out -- they also used them for Occupy Oakland, and at that time too Oakland was one of the only places in the country that reported violence. Like I said, shouldn't the Bay Area know how to deal with protests by now?

Please, stay safe, everyone.