I watched an interesting video yesterday, one that generally belies the claims of Phoenix anarchists that they were attacked by Phoenix cops and that the cops were being overly aggressive with them.
The video was reportedly taken by a supporter of the anarchist faction, who initially believed that it backed the anarchists' version of events leading up to numerous people being pepper-sprayed on January 16. It does not.
The video was shown to me in confidence, and I was not given a copy. However, I was able to obtain a screenshot of the anarchists surrounding the female officer on horseback. At least one of the anarchists can be clearly seen hitting the horse's hindquarters. Shortly after this, the officer deploys her pepper spray.
I wish I could show you the entire video, because then you would also witness the horse in sheer terror as it's surrounded and assaulted by anarchists. The anarchists insist that the horse charged the crowd. The video does not show this. They claim that the horse trampled people underfoot. The video does not reveal this either.
Could the officer have avoided using pepper spray? Perhaps at the risk of breaking her neck and the horse really hurting someone. I can only conceive of one alternative: For the officers standing behind her to have jumped into the fray and pulled the anarchists off her. Why they didn't do this, I don't know, save for the fact that we're talking about a situation that occurred within a manner of seconds. Maybe the cops didn't realize the seriousness of what was transpiring.
The remainder of the video shows police activity that seems relatively restrained. Anarchists claim the go-cart-like Polaris vehicle that one cop was operating was being driven recklessly into the crowd. But all of the videos I've seen show it driving very slowly to one side of the road, up until the anarchists block it with a banner.
In the aftermath, the female cop on horseback and two male cops position themselves in the middle of the street. They stay so still that one of Puente's security crew walks between them calmly.
The only other action seen in this video by Phoenix's mini-cavalry occurs when a black-hooded protester approaches one of the male officers on horseback and acts like he's going to hit the horse. The officer squirts him with pepper spray once and the potential conflict is over. I'm told that officers have different kinds they carry -- some that fog and some that squirt -- and that it's up to the officer as to which to deploy.
There are a lot of angry people milling around, and there are a couple of arrests made, but the cops are not wilding, by any stretch of the imagination. At one point they form a perimeter and face off a mob of angry protesters. But the cops just let them vent. There's no attempt to clear the crowd or stop the march. You do also see several people affected by the pepper spray that the female officer used, which was of the fog variety.
I have spoken with some anarchists, and none are willing to admit, at least to me, that there was any aggression or provocation coming from their side. Instead, they blame the cops for everything and feel that the cops were on them from jump.
Thing is, as the video evidence mounts, the anarchists seem less and less credible in regards to this incident. I'm keeping an open mind. If someone has video of the Phoenix police overreacting, I would like to see it. I just haven't seen it yet.
Finally, I see no rational explanation for why some anarchists assaulted a horse. And this is what caused the female officer to deploy her pepper spray. Yes, many innocent people were affected by that potent fog. But given the circumstances of what I've viewed so far, I'm at a loss as to what else she could have done.
She was moving at a walk into the crowd when the anarchists surrounded her, apparently going to the aid of the blocked Polaris. She does not chase people afterward and further use her pepper spray. She used a minimum amount of force to protect herself.
Personally, I think the anarchists have some 'splainin' to do. Do they really think hitting a horse carrying a police officer is justified? If they do, for what reason? Because the horse was in the crowd? Sorry, guys, that just doesn't cut it.
Note in response to SallyD: I've seen a lot of video of the incident. I'm always open to seeing more. If someone has video that backs up your claim or any of the other claims out there, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 1/20/10: The guy who took the video mentioned above contacted me today to request that I meet him and go over the video again, frame by frame. This thing is turning into the Zapruder film of the Phoenix anarchist movement. I encouraged him to post the video to a YouTube account, but he doesn't want to do that. I don't know why not. Put it up and let people yammer on endlessly about it.
The videographer believes that his video is exculpatory, so I'll let him make his case to me. As for the questions below as to the provenance of the screenshots used, I'll repeat what I stated in the text above:
"The video was shown to me in confidence, and I was not given a copy. However, I was able to obtain a screenshot of the anarchists surrounding the female officer on horseback."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
I still would like to have my own copy. Supposedly, several folks have copies, so feel free to burn me one, people.
Now, because of what the anarchists refer to as the "black bloc," I don't know the names of the folks surrounding the horse with flagpoles. My description of what I see in the video is my own, based on what I've eyeballed. If I see additional footage, I'll describe that as well, and post it if I can.
I've also requested all of the arrest reports and other reports and memos related to this incident from the Phoenix PD and the MCSO, and I'll share what I find out when I get them. I played phone tag with one activist who was arrested, but have not been able to speak with her yet.
It sure looks to me like the anarchists pictured above were having at the horse, but I'm not stating what people are or are not guilty of. (That's for a jury to decide. If it even gets that far.) I'm just describing what I'm seeing.