Many of the supporters and enablers of the anti-police protest movement of recent months have insisted that it is overwhelmingly a peaceful movement largely made up of idealistic reformers and members of minority communities. They insist that it is not a “radical” movement with an animus against either the police or middle class society. That narrative has been undercut by the tragic shooting of two New York City Police officers last week and by a march in New York City a few days before that during which protesters chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now.”
There was another protest event on the Brooklyn Bridge a few weeks ago that should have been taken as a signal that the movement was spinning out of control from peaceful marches into violent confrontations with police. That event, along the arrests that followed, gives us a window into the inner character of the protest movement.
On the evening of December 13, several hundred supporters of the movement marched across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan for the purpose of staging protests at City Hall and other locations in the City. During that march across the walkway of the Bridge, one protestor picked up a garbage can and tried to throw it out on to the adjacent roadway and into the path of automobile traffic. Two police officers intervened to stop the man and to place him under arrest. At this moment, at least six other protestors came to the aid of their comrade, knocking the officers to the ground and then kicking and slugging them into submission. One officer suffered a broken nose in the melee. The assailants escaped into the night, but not before several witnesses used smart phones to film the attack. Police also recovered the backpack of the man who started the incident by trying to throw the garbage can on to the roadway.
Armed with this evidence, the NYPD was able to apprehend three men and two women on felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the incident. At least two of the protesters sought in the incident are still at large. The biographies of the individuals who were caught are revealing:
Cindy Gorn, 29, charged with assault, rioting, and resisting arrest, is a graduate student at Columbia University and a professor teaching courses in geography at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. According to the College’s website, Ms. Gorn studies geography from the perspective of Marxist philosophy, and is also interested in “social movements, autonomous labor movements, health, and the environment.” She is also a “healing arts practitioner.” She teaches one course titled, “Mapping the World: Critical Cartography and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for Social and Environmental Justice,” in which she uses maps to demonstrate to students “the inherent contradictions of capitalist society.” She also teaches at Hunter College, Columbia University, and Barnard College.
Erik Linkser, 29, who began the incident by throwing the garbage can onto the roadway, was charged with assault, rioting, resisting arrest, criminal possession of a weapon, and possession of marijuana. Mr. Linkser is an English professor at Baruch College in New York City where he teaches courses in writing and composition. He also teaches writing courses at Queens College. He holds degrees in English from the University of Iowa, and studied for a time at Harvard University. He writes and publishes poetry, including one interesting number that goes like this: “F--- the police/To rise as you/Disappear below current/Interpretations of observations/F--- the police!”
Zachary Campbell, 32, charged with riot and resisting arrest, is a Spanish instructor, graduate student, and “Transliteratures Fellow” at Rutgers University.
Marcia Garcia, 36, Campbell’s estranged wife, was similarly charged with riot and resisting arrest. She is a program coordinator at the Queens Museum of Art and up until last year worked as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
Robert Murray, 43, is charged with various counts of riot, assault, and resisting arrest that could easily land him in jail for a lengthy term. According to press reports, he tackled and slugged a police officer during the melee, breaking the officer’s nose. Murray is an organizer for the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) New York City, where (according to press reports) he is paid $105,000 per year. Murray was also a protester with Occupy Wall Street, and has been arrested during protests in the past, including once while demonstrating against the Republican National Convention in 2004.
The profiles of these individuals speak volumes about the real character of the protest movement. Three of the attackers are teachers, professors, and graduate students at colleges and universities in the Metropolitan area, in which capacity they transmit their radical views to students and colleagues. One is a union organizer and professional protestor—a “union thug” or “enforcer” in the description of more than one local newspaper. The fifth, the estranged wife of another assailant, is a museum administrator who has held jobs in two of the top art institutions in the City.
It appears that all are ideological radicals, opposed not only to the police but to “capitalism,” business, and middle class society. Their goal is revolution, not reform, and judging by this incident they are not shy about employing violence to get their way.
All five are highly educated, mostly with graduate degrees. They have passed muster with academic advisors and committees that have approved their degrees. Other academics have proceeded to hire them to go into the classroom to instruct students. In that sense, their political views reflect those of a significant slice of the higher education industry in New York City and nationwide.
All are white or “Caucasian,” not members of the minority communities that are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the protest movement. As highly educated teachers or “activists,” they are posing as “tribunes of the people.”
The collective biography of these individuals gives the lie to the claim that protest movement is some kind of peaceful and moderate enterprise devoted to “opening up a dialogue” or discussing practical reforms in police methods. It is a movement that has dragged in all sorts of disreputable elements that want to bring about chaos and cause as much trouble as they can not only for the police but for the rest of us as well.
No doubt when they were brought to police headquarters, the five who were charged in the incident assumed that they would depart and be greeted with a heroes welcome by comrades in their movement. The killing of the two police officers last week has upset that expectation. Now they can be seen more clearly as the bums that they are.