“Why I Am Not Protesting”

Ayesha Kazmi of the blog American Paki explains why she is not protesting at Occupy:

Over the past decade, the very system that has been used to stir up fear and suspicion against Muslims, Muslims, on the other side of the coin, have had their fears and suspicions stirred up against that same system. I don’t protest at Occupy because I know that my name has long existed on some intelligence database and I do not know what on earth it will be used for and how I will be targeted because of it – especially if I begin to show my face more regularly protesting at my local encampment.

Kazmi refers also to the account of Hannah, an American Muslim woman arrested with Occupy Wall Street protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in October:

You may have heard from other sources how the events of this day played out. NYPD allowed protestors to march on the Brooklyn Bridge, and then trapped over 800 of us on the Bridge for almost two hours by blocking off the Brooklyn and Manhattan exits. They then began to systematically arrest every single person on the Bridge. I was one of the very last people to be arrested. When the police finally reached me and my friends, we did not resist the arrest. . . . But before the handcuffs were put on me a man came up to me, clamped his hand down on my shoulder, and led me away from everyone else. He was wearing a long black trench coat. This detail sounds comically villainous, but I specifically recall it because it worried me that he was not wearing a police uniform. The first thing he said to me was that he was “not a cop”. I knew immediately that these were not reassuring words to hear, and later my suspicions were confirmed when my lawyers told me that this likely meant he was an FBI agent. This man isolated me from my friends to interrogate me, threaten me, and attempt to intimidate me into answering his questions, which were all along the lines of, “Who are you and what are you doing on the Bridge?” His manner made it clear he assumed that I was on the Bridge for a reason other than participating in a peaceful protest.

and to Elon James White’s observation that “police brutality experienced by the movement is nothing new in the black community.”

While the Occupiers were dealing with such abuse, during civil disobedience, communities of color suffer these type of injustices simply because it’s Wednesday, and they may look like someone else. That’s what happens to us — and it’s accepted as if it were just a day of the week. Monday, Tuesday, abuse at the hands of police officers, Thursday, Friday … So as I hopped on a plane heading back to NYC, I sent out this tweet: “Oh? The NYPD are treating you badly? Violent for no reason? Weird.” — Black People

As the Occupy movement moves forward, the tensions between unity and difference, in experiences, histories, and interests, among the “99%” will likely become even more salient.

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