Feathered Bastard

ALEC, Phoenix Cops, and Video of Demonstrators at the Westin Kierland

The Stones' "Street Fighting Man" comes to mind...

Intriguing video by activist/videographer Dennis Gilman of the fray at the ALEC conference between demonstrators and Phoenix police. While it's hardly the siege of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, some of the tactics of the police are certainly questionable.

The scene where the cops are pushing a piece of fencing onto nonviolent protesters, and in the case of one cop, kicking a protester, seems bizarre, counterproductive and unnecessary. 

The cops should be trained to deal with nonviolent demonstrators, and I do not imagine that kicking a sitting demonstrator would be part of such training.

Also, police in general are a little too liberal with the use of pepper spray. Gone (mostly) are the days when the cops would rush a crowd with clubs and bust some heads. A canister of pepper spray is the new cop baton.

I wouldn't want to deny the constabulary the option of using pepper spray, but it is a nasty chemical agent, one that affects the passive and the violent alike. It should be deployed only when necessary.

I wasn't present for this melee, so I'm not judging its use here. At the time, I was reporting inside the Westin Kierland, where the ALEC convention was underway. That afternoon, I walked out to observe the battle lines. It was mostly calm then.

The thing I didn't understand then, and don't understand now, is why, when the police said they were calling it a day around 5 p.m., the demonstrators decamped and said they would be back at 8 a.m. the next day.

As the cops withdrew, I remember looking at one kid, nodding to the Kierland, and joking, "There's the Winter Palace, ready to be stormed." He just laughed. 

But if the point, as the demonstrators maintained, was to shut down ALEC, rather than to just mix it up with the po-po, here was one more occasion where they missed their chance. Though, many of the redeemed themselves with the occupation of SRP, later that same week.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons