The Bellingham police should be ashamed of themselves. Oh, not for clearing Maritime Heritage Park of the Occupy Bellingham encampment Wednesday afternoon—the police were only following orders. It's Mayor Dan Pike who's responsible for that decision, not the police.
No, the police should be ashamed of themselves for clearing the Occupiers in full riot gear.
"I was heartbroken when the police in riot gear showed up. It was so unnecessary," said protester Tee King. "We have been nothing but peaceful and they know that."
And yet despite Occupy's dedication to nonviolence, this is how police nationwide have generally shown up to evict Occupy encampments, as if they were dealing with rioters, or terrorists, or worse. It's more than a sign of disrespect (although it's certainly that too). It's an intentional provocation. By showing up dressed for a violent confrontation, the police are asking for one. And, by having their officers dress for battle, commanders are encouraging their officers to play the part.
Your everyday police officer—with his baton and his pepper spray and his firearm—is an asymmetric show of force that's intimidating enough. But to dress your officers like stormtroopers to confront unarmed, nonviolent protesters, can only be understood as an insult and a provocation.