In which I am pepper sprayed in the face by police at #OccupySeattle

Just a few comments: I don’t think it’s all that productive to curse at the cops. I tried to be an observer – I wasn’t saying anything or holding a sign, and I complied with all police orders. Some protesters did not immediately clear the intersection once the order to disperse was given. But when the police advanced in formation with pepper spray, protesters did peacefully clear the intersection.

For all their hyperbole, the guys yelling at the cops were accurate in pointing out that people were, at that point, standing on the sidewalk. When one protester seemed to puff his chest out, face-to-face with a cop, they grabbed him behind their police line and seemed to pile on top of him. As I tried to get it on camera, I was hit with a blast of pepper spray directly to the face. I saw it as it reached my eyes.

The protesters were well organized in helping me wash my eyes out (I feel they should have been better organized in communicating the objective of occupying the intersection to the public, but if anyone forgets what this is all about, see here). I wandered in a daze over to the “triage” area, where my eyes were doused a few more times, providing fleeting relief from the pain. But I couldn’t see much of anything and my whole upper body felt like it was on fire for a good 40 minutes, with a recurrence earlier this evening. Not my best look.

I hate to imagine the suffering that this 84-year-old woman went through after being sprayed. SPD’s use of pepper spray tonight was reckless and unnecessary and it surely has the effect, whether intentionally or not, of intimidating people from joining or even being near the Occupy movement.

Seattle, I’ve missed you.

Update 11/17: A couple things to add here. The NYT Lede blog posted this video in a round-up of Occupy news with the following observation. I think they’re right.

The police spokesman’s account said: “At one point a 17-year-old female suspect swung a stick at an officer but failed to strike him. As officers moved in to arrest the female suspect the officers were hindered in their efforts. Officers deployed pepper spray to move subjects away from them so they could affect the arrest of the female suspect.”

It seems possible that the protester seized by police officers and hurled to the ground in Mr. Herz’s video might have been a young woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt, rather than a man. If that is the arrest described in the police statement, the footage does not support the written account, since there was no sign of anyone swinging a stick, and the initial volley of pepper spray was fired well before the police moved to take that person into custody.

Whatever the motivation, it is hard not to be struck by the sheer volume of pepper spray used by the Seattle police officers.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement after the photo of the incredible 84-year-old Dorli Rainey went viral. “To those engaged in peaceful protest, I am sorry that you were pepper sprayed.”

Still smarting from the pepper spray, I engaged police officers, including a Sergeant, in conversations later Tuesday night. I told them I had essentially been assaulted while obeying police orders and exercising my rights. They had failed to do their jobs. The officers were polite – one even offered me some chocolates – but none of them apologized or admitted any fault at the time.

The KOMO radio host who interviewed me on Wednesday has egg on his face, after telling me that Seattle police have acted with the utmost professionalism and respect towards the protesters. And this KING 5 journalist’s report from that night is atrocious. He unabashedly took the police side and demonized all protesters as unruly and antagonistic. The reporter went on to say, “All demonstrations come at a price.” That sounds completely un-American to me.

Finally, here’s a quick interview a protester filmed with me right after I was sprayed in the face, in case there were any doubts about what happened. Again, not my best look.

When I find some time I will be contacting the police and my city council members to file a complaint, as well as attending future Occupy events.

21 thoughts on “In which I am pepper sprayed in the face by police at #OccupySeattle”

  1. Au contraire. Police action against protesters frequently energizes people to join movements. What they did to us tonight was DISGUSTING, but I suspect that this movement will continue to grow, not despite, but BECAUSE of the ridiculous actions taken by the SPD tonight.

  2. We can curse at the police all we want, they work for us. It might not be polite or even decent but those police officers have a DUTY to SERVE and PROTECT not abuse citizens. This shit is happening all over the country and is that same shit that always happens. It’s time to change the entire culture of police forces and what it means to be a police officer in the United States.

    1. Of course you can curse the police all you want. Question is whether that’s an intelligent thing to choose to do, tactically, as a protester.

      1. How is it mayhem to protest peacefully on the side walk? Violence was initiated by the police. He got very aggressive with the police because it is difficult to remain calm and collected if you’re being pepper sprayed in the face. I don’t know if you’ve ever been exposed to pepper spray but trust me it hurts! In fact I’m surprised the protesters showed so much restraint.

      2. Sorry Ansel, my last comment was not directed at you, I accidentally replied to the wrong person. It was meant for Ted who is siding with the police.

    2. Oh, so if you hire somebody to do a job for you, it’s ok to curse at them, disrespect them, treat them like you are better than them? Really? I don’t think that is a very good attitude. I think it is rude to curse at anybody, especially if you feel you are in the position of being an “employer”. So did you curse at your teachers when you were in school. Do you curse at your doctor, do you curse at store clerks? They are there to “serve” you. And by being a patron at their businesses, you are in essence, employing them. Does that give you the right to abuse them?

      1. Usually teachers, doctors, and store clerks are not pepper spraying you while they are serving you. But if they did, don’t you think you WOULD curse them or even worse?

        1. If I was abused by someone hired to serve me, I would take the proper steps to make sure that they were reprimanded and fired. We cannot continue to act out against each other like naughty children. Just because somebody acts poorly does not mean we should act the same. Be the bigger person. Karma eventually reaches everyone.

          1. Yes “humbleservent”, I am so sure that your FIRST reaction to being PEPPER SPRAYED by a store clerk would be to demand to see their manager.

            It is very easy to sit behind your computer and talk a bunch a crap about how diplomatic you would be, when in reality, you don’t know HOW you would respond in the moment because it is just that: in the MOMENT. When your skin is burning and you are suffocating, I doubt very seriously if the first thought that comes to your head is “let me speak to your supervisor!” So please, spare me your KUMBAYA malarkey!

  3. Thank you for shooting and posting this. I agree with you about the cursing of the police. Not appropriate, completely counterproductive. The whole world is watching. Wielding mountain bikes as shields to push people back – I’ve never seen that before.

  4. I don’t get it. The “protesters” were not complying with police orders to move back. One guy got very aggressive with police and they took him down. What’s the big deal? I guess it’s “ok” when a mob gets out of hand and starts causing mayhem, but police maintaining control is somehow an outrage??

  5. Hi. I’m working on a story tonight about what went down with Occupy Seattle last night. Are you available to talk?

    Thanks for taking the time to respond,
    Monique Ming Laven
    KIRO7 Anchor/Reporter

  6. LOL sweet vid brah, that one hippie really got what he deserved. The smug grin on that cop’s face is priceless! I’ve watched the video five times so far, really satisfying and hilarious.

  7. Mr Herz, my name is Dave nd I am the one in the back pea coat to the “stage right” of the protestor who got pulled behind the police. Officer R. Martinez of the Seattle PD was the officer to grab the Asian female and drag her to his comrads. I have his name on HDDV. He could have just as easly have grabbed me, but I’m a solid 8 inches taller and 75 pound heavier…he made the right choice for himself. Anyway, I was filming also and have the entire incident on film from my perspective…I also have the original pepper shooter and the simultaneous volley of three that followed. Amazing shit.

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