Occupy Week, Part IV: Eric
In today’s post, I’ll be taking a brief break from speculating and talking about the movement as a whole, and will use this time to talk about Eric. While it may seem like a filler anecdote, I believe it illustrates not only the spirit of the movement, but also how the Occupy movement self-regulates and strives to maintain a consistent image and message.
Eric seemed, at first, to be like any other Occupier. Here was a man, angry at his current situation, looking for a way to express that frustration. However, he didn’t always express it in a peaceful manner. Eric was always the loudest yeller in the group, and always the first to confront someone who hurled insults at us.
At first, it was admirable. Soon, it got annoying. After a while, some were perceiving it as detrimental to the group. Each new insult would cause Eric to go into a frenzy, launching obscenities, and at one point, physically confronting the insulter.
After the Cardinals won the World Series, there was a huge crowd of people celebrating in the streets. A side effect of this was that traffic was horrible, with many intersections being just as full of cars as it was with people. As a result, the corner we were standing on–7th and Market–required traffic direction from a couple of police officers. After another half-hearted insult from one of the passersby, Eric lost it, and almost attacked the man.
One of the officers, who happened to be standing on the corner and saw the altercation, walked up to Eric, put his hand on Eric’s shoulder, and said something along the lines of, “Sir, you need to calm down and stay back on the grass.”
This set Eric off. He dropped his sign, and started hurling obscenities at the officer. A couple of Occupiers grabbed him and brought him back into the compound, probably to talk him down and get him out of the heat of the moment. A few minutes later, Eric was back in full force, screaming insults and obscenities at the officer, and flipping him the bird.
This went on for nearly an hour. Eric grew more and more angry at the officer as the time went by. Ten minutes in, some of the Occupiers realized that this guy was going to cast a negative image on a movement that is already viewed negatively. Someone went back into the compound, grabbed a spare piece of cardboard, and wrote, “Not With Us,” with an arrow pointing directly at Eric.
Eventually, the officers had enough of the abuse, and they tackled him to the ground and arrested him. We initially thought that that would be the end of it, but then the officer who was receiving the brunt of the abuse approached us.
“We did what we did,” he said, “because some people thought they saw something in his pocket. After we arrested him, we did find that he had a knife, and he did say it was his. We felt he posed an imminent threat to the public, and we used the amount of force we deemed necessary to subdue him.”
That’s fair, we collectively agreed.
“What we need right now,” continued the officer, “is someone to act as a witness for him hurling insults at the officers.”
Everyone in our group looked around at each other. No one was going to act as a witness, because no one saw anything. He wasn’t acting in the best interests of the Occupation, so we completely disowned and ignored him. The officer wasn’t happy, but that was the fact.
The Occupy movement has the interests of average Americans at it’s core, and fringe people like Eric were hurting the cause more than they were helping it. In today’s society, it’s all about image, and the Occupy movement wishes to keep as positive an image as it can in order to more effectively get its message across.