Ethan Persoff's coverage of the Democratic National Convention riot cops


Ethan Persoff is covering the activities of the DNC riot police on his blog. Here's an excerpt from Day 2:

It's at this moment that the 'early big moment' happened. Just to repeat: the cops were caging these kids in, tighter and tighter. So a tall guy makes what seems to be a break for it. And that's where I happened to be in a good place for a very clear view. Due to our alley detour I was standing about fifteen feet from what happened. And it happened in such a quick blink of an eye that you'd miss it if you sneezed. My excuse for not having a photo is because just as I hit the shutter I swallowed in a gulp of pepper spray that misted through the air forcing me to recoil and lose the shot. But I'll happily go in a court of law to say I saw a guy with no weapons run at a bunch of police, immediately get shot with rubber bullets, and then receive what looked very much like a pistol whipping. The sound of clattering metal billyclubs on the pavement, indicating missed shots, is something I don't think I'll ever forget either.

Later after the incident I spoke to another witness who confirmed my assessment, though he's more graphic. He was in the crowd: "Yeah I saw it right there. The guy, he just, is tackled. And the cop he turned his gun around and BAM BAM BAM, he just bashes this guy's head like five times with the butt of his gun. And then the horses show up and the cops on those, they get their shot with those metal canes.

DNC riot cops


  1. What world does this guy live in where he thinks running at a line of riot cops is a good idea? I’ll admit that the reaction described was out of hand, but what was this guy trying to accomplish? It’s almost as if he wanted to get beat down.

  2. Agreed.

    If you run from the cops, you will:
    a. get the shit beaten out of you.
    b. get the shit beaten out of you.
    c. get the shit beaten out of you.

  3. Aaaaaaaannndddd… nobody cares about excessive force unless it is on camera, and the guy really really didn’t “deserve it.”

    Welcoem to your New Amerikan Sentry.

    PS: What are your rights when you’re inside of an area that a group of riot police are caging in tighter and tighter? Are you actually free to leave, or are you under arrest even at that point?

  4. Also, having read the more lengthy description on Mr. Persoff’s site, this sounds like a single incident in the midst of a police riot, not “some dumb hippie running from/at the cops.” If sprayed in the face with pepper spray/tear gas, I’m not sure whether or not I’d listen to the nice man with the bullhorn indicating to get prone or bolt… and should I bolt, I have little confidence as to which direction I’d run in.

  5. Sadly, I believe blaming the victim (while tut-tutting about the “unfortunate overreaction” of those administering the beatdown)is also pretty much de rigeur.

  6. @#4:
    The victim in this case is the equivalent of someone standing in a dark alley yelling “Come mug me! Come mug me! I have a thick wallet and am stupid! Come mug me!”
    I agree if the tale is true that the reaction is harsh (f**k the police!) and if that happened to a bystander or an innocent person in their home as the result of a bad drug tip or address mistake, f**k the police!
    But to actually storm at already on guard cops, yeah, you get what you deserve.

  7. Mechphisto @ #8:

    I strongly suggest you read the linked article. This is not an appropriate response to jaywalking, nor does your metaphor hold within this context… unless you believe being a protester is sufficient provocation for a police response, which I strongly suspect is not your actual position.

  8. You know what the perfect weapon to use against these goons? Marbles ala Animal House. Frak’n stormtroopers. It is a sad day to be an American.

  9. Ok, I live and work in downtown Denver, and while the police presence here is a bit overbearing for the DNC, you really have to be acting the fool to get noticed by the cops. That very blurry picture is on the street inbetween the two sides of the Adam’s Mark hotel, and is about as far away from the actual DNC as you can get and still be in the downtown business district. You can protest all you want, pretty much anywhere you want, and as long as it’s not snarling traffic or putting the public in danger, the cops won’t care.

    It sounds to me like this guy was acting out along the lines of the “Don’t taze me bro!” guy, and paid for it. Bottom line, don’t run at a line of police in riot gear, what are you, stupid?

  10. And oh yeah, sorry for the double post, but Jaywalking is a sanctioned city pastime here. The police will not not even look in your direction for it. If you’ve walked around Denver for an hour, you know what I mean.

  11. Maybe we just hear about it a lot more thanks to modern communication but it seems the default reaction, by law enforcement, to any kind of stepping out of line is akin to the kind of thing Midnighter from The Authority would do.

  12. Has anyone actually BEEN to a large scale demonstration such as this? Essentially, how it works is that the police assume the worst of protesters and have a fine time cracking heads, corralling crowds, and arresting whomever they can get their horrible little flex-cuffs on.

    I also question whether the outrage on this board might be a bit louder if this were happening (and when this happens) at the RNC….

    They have attacked the cult of personality and must be pepper sprayed!

  13. I suppose the inevitable will happen one day. Someone pushed too far will take a rifle and kill a cop from a distance. Then what?

  14. really? I was thinking more of a full-on police riot with automatic weapons and mass civilian casualties.

  15. 16&17: The Haymarket Riot happens, and the police fire live ammo indiscriminately into a crowd of demonstrators. Last time I checked, wikipedia had a fine page on it.

  16. …and we move even closer to the police state that we deserve. every cop i know lives for this shit.

  17. Actually, # 19, two Neo Nazis with high powered rifles and a load of meth made it to Denver with the intention of assassinating Obama. They got arrested.

    So if cops there are a bit jumpy, there might well be a reason.

  18. It may have seemed excessive but I can understand why the cops did it. The guy’s running at them with no apparent objective. This is maybe one of the few situations in which it’s actually kind of reasonable to think, “hey, this guy might have a bomb.”

  19. Lobster @ 25:

    The suggestion of Mr. Persoff is that the police did it -for fun- to relieve tension.

    Though Mr. Frauenfelder has only excerpted this one section, this was hardly the only beating at the scene. For example, Persoff goes on to describe a 16 year old who complied with police instructions to lie prone, but was subsequently struck forcefully and repeatedly with the officer’s baton.

  20. In wartimes, civilians have often been shot by mistake simply because they were running and never with rubber bullets. Is that a doll or a handgrenade that 3 year old is holding? Sometimes the answer isn’t clear.

    The most I can say is that the beatee in this case should have known better and that more than likely some of the police involved deserve to be reprimanded and personally sued. The police are supposed to be here for the protection of the public and had ample tools (pepper spray and tasers [I don’t approve of tasers, but you have to admit they DID have them.]), not to mention traditional training, experience, and body armor to subdue a single individual.

    This was a move intended to intimidate the crowd, a somewhat effective form of control, but not a method proscribed by the founding fathers.

    Dear Protesters,

    1. Half of you protest, the other half video tape.
    2. Practice Civil Disobedience and that way you can be effective (very) without having your head caved in.
    3. Don’t be a jerk, the police are just doing their jobs and they just want to go home to their spouses and kids at the end of the day.

    Thank you by the way for your continued attempts to represent some of my viewpoints (while completely misrepresenting others), I do appreciate the effort.

  21. From the blog:

    This was the first victory of the protesters in saying something of substance to the rest of the country.

    They did? They had one, unified message, and they got the country to listen?

    I must have missed it.

  22. The _only_ reason to behave as these idiots have is to provoke the cops into getting beat up then get into the news. They deserve the beat on.

    The Cops cannot afford to be nice to these idiots & at the same time be tough enough to prevent a repeat of Bobby Kennedy, Oklahoma City or worse. Those who assume (or worse pretend) otherwise deserve a beat on themselves.

    If you want respect, study Gandhi & MLK, & stop behaving like 2 year olds who think that the way to getting anything they want is to pull temper tantrums or play the (false) victims.

  23. Samsam @ 28:

    Their Message: they are unhappy with the status quo and feel vital civil liberties are being infringed.

  24. PMH @ 29:

    When have unarmed and nonviolent demonstrators presented a threat to the likes of Bobby Kennedy? Was it left anarchists who were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing? Why do you feel this has anything to do with that?

    It seems you are arguing that the only way to protect society is to create a police state. If I’ve misunderstood you, I invite you to clarify your position.

  25. The cops aren’t wearing their badges (or other identifiers) that they’re legally required to display. Accountability depends on this law.

    Anonymous beatings from cops ensue where accountability is nil. (And sometimes when it isn’t!)

    Thankfully, there are activists documenting, reporting, and investigating these violations of human rights.

  26. This whole thing is disgusting. There is never a reason for a cop to bash an unarmed person in the head with weapon. I don’t care if the victim was running at them like a crazy person, he was unarmed and they have riot gear. The disproportionality of the situation boggles the mind. I truly hope that those of you who posted that the victim was to blame are never on the receiving end of a non-procedurally practiced man-handling, or perhaps you should be?

  27. “In wartimes, civilians have often been shot by mistake simply because they were running and never with rubber bullets. ”

    This is not wartime.
    Cops ARE civilians. Cops are not soldiers. Who would the enemy be?
    Cops exist to protect people, not protect themselves from people.
    A soldier defends himself and his mission against all threats. A cop defends the people, and expends himself if need be.
    Cops are not an army in occupation against an enemy – us.

    Americans have accepted the idea that they are at war with liberals, and that the occasional beating or death is fun and fully warranted.

    “The United States of America has Gone Insane”. Indeed.

  28. some of the cops enjoy smashing the skulls of other humans. Some of them go along to keep their jobs. Some of them are scared shitless and smash skulls because they think their skull might be next. In any case, anyone wearing riot armour is going to smash in skulls. That is what they are for.

  29. @26 The story that you’re referring to, was related to him, he did not see/witness it first hand. Infact from what it looks like from the website, the only crazy violence that Mr. Persoff witnessed was the guy bum rushing the cops. Now don’t get me wrong, do I think think the cops could have gotten overzealous? absolutely, but I also would take 2nd hand accounts with a grain of salt.

  30. @Catbeller @34:

    An excellent post, but I’d like to take exception to one point. Many of these protesters are further left than the New York Times– thus, not liberals… as the Gray Lady is the “this far and no further” line in the sand of the mainstream, as Chomsky has written about at great length.

  31. has anyone done a proper study of sexual deviancy in relation to riot squad/SWAT team volunteers? Are these people “normal”? It’s obvious what kind are attracted to the DEA, is anyone looking into protecting the general public from dangerous psycho-sexual offenders in uniform? I mean, what kind of person actually WANTS this kind of duty? Why aren’t they forcibly drafted from the so-called normal ranks to ensure the sick ones don’t get into positions where they can indulge their perversions? Isn’t that how the military protects itself from internal subversion?

  32. CALL CALL CALL your elected Democratic Representative or Senator and demand action. We can talk change and hope all we want… but actions speak far more loudly than words. I know both parties are the same, but hold them to their rhetoric. Demand they act now to prove themselves sincere.

  33. I think people saying he was stupid and deserved are rationalizing because they need some kind of assurance that someday the same thing won’t happen to them.

  34. These side stories to the DNC are a real disaster for the democrats. Stories of anti-capitalism protesters, assassination attempts (even if they turn out to be nothing), protester cages, riot police… All of this nonsense is taking media attention away from what the democrats actually want to be news. I don’t think people have yet realized what a disaster this is.

  35. Takuan @ 38:

    I believe the results of the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments (google and wiki-able) suggest that ordinary people cast in unusual roles behave in unusual manners. While it is not the case that any person would do this if they were equipped and trained as a police officer, it is the case that most would, and when the mob mentality of the police conducting the beatings is considered, I’m sure the number who’d object falls even lower. Self-justifications then follow, until this becomes a pattern of behavior. I think this is a problem of a sick system, not just one of sick people.

  36. Just to add a little more perspective to the DNC protesting thing, There were ~30 gulf war vets on the 16th street pedestrian mall during the lunch hour today, and they were running around acting like they were actually in combat. Doing shooting poses, laying prone, etc. They had a support crew of about 15 people handing out flyers and shouting. It was one of the more enthusiastic protests I’ve seen. The trouble was that while they were doing all this, the veterans were laying in the mall shuttle lane that runs down the pedestrian mall, which end up grinding any movement for two block for about 15 minutes. All in all I’d say the crowd grew to about 500 people, with 5 motorcycle cops, 5 bicycle cops, two cop cars and at least 10 police officers in full riot gear standing there. These people were laying down (accidently I hope) in front of moving buses and there was no police involvement except for when the police stopped the buses from rolling down the street to where they were laying.

    What did the people that were tear gassed and beaten do to get such treatment? It makes you wonder.

  37. If you are in a situation where you’re confronted with a bunch of amped up guys in full SWAT gear on full alert, DO NOT BREAK AWAY FROM THE CROWD AND RUN DIRECTLY AT THEM.

    Honestly. You want to be as non-confrontational as physically possible in this situation. Unless of course your goal is to get filmed being beaten up by cops.

    That’s not to say that the cops behavior was justified, but this is the real world and when confronted with a situation like this, the end result was inevitable.

  38. @ 44:

    When surrounded, which way did you expect them to run?

    The linked article indicates those who complied with police instructions were still beaten, though not as badly as the subject of this excerpt.

  39. “Escalation”. Remember what Gordon said to Batman? The cops become anonymous batmen, all to cow protestors, the “war” escalates. In this case, the escalation is a figment of American’s imaginations, but it is all too real in practice. The man “running right at them” will be the excuse to bring even more armored batmen next time, then of course the sonic cannon, the mandatory ID checks, the Faraday lightning cannon, the gas, the Batmobiles, and finally, just making protest illegal. Which pretty much has happened.

    I mind the Haymarket false flag operation of the 19th century, where one anonymous bomb was used as an excuse for Marshall Field and the others to round up and execute all the anarchist and socialist leaders. I remember the oh-so-convenient “rioters” at the WTO in Seattle, which remarkably and not surprisingly immediately triggered the present regime of armored monsters and the de facto repeal of the Constitution.

    As another writer noted here, all the real killers were right-wing loners and the victims were all liberal reformers. Yet the constant assumption held by all is that the HIPPIES are the ones we need to pound into bloody steaks.

  40. It looks like the Huffington Post is reporting on this or a related story based on a “somewhat biased” AP release… the police are claiming “demonstrators charged them with rocks.”

    They’re also claiming not to have used rubber bullets…

  41. So just how does this differ from any other time in history? Politics belongs to the strong. And it has to, because only the strong can protect us from the evil terrorists. Get over it.

  42. Wow! There are so many commenters who consider the victim as the culprit that BoingBoing should open a sideblog called BOING-BOING:FREEDOM for people who need to refresh what freedom and living in a (non) police state means…

  43. Takuan, I am tellin u brudda, 99% of the cops there in riot gear actually GET OFF on busting the heads of those they disagree with. they FUCKING LOVE IT! some of them are my clients so i hear the depraved and disgusting stories constantly. it’s enough to make one hurl.

  44. @#47

    The protesters ALWAYS charge them with rocks. Or slingshots, or signposts, or balloons filled with urine, or paving stones, or metal bolts, or supersoakers filled with bleach or any number of offensive items that somehow fail to show up on any video taken during the protest. Of course by that time the mainstream media has repeated the allegations of protester violence verbatim (despite any lack of evidence and/or presence of evidence to the contrary) and then everyone knows those people deserved a beatdown because, well, the cops SAID they deserved it.

    Honestly, this wouldn’t be half as sad if these police tales of evil violent protesters didn’t keep working.

  45. My wife and I were in the general area of the protesters as they gathered early in the evening. When they didn’t begin to protest or march, we left to find something actually happening. Less than an hour later we saw police in riot gear — helmets on, nightsticks drawn and pepper spray at the ready — running in the direction of the protest staging area. We immediately followed and were stopped short of the park by a block or two. Though nothing much happens, the following video was taken there.

  46. Frankiez writes:

    Wow! There are so many commenters who consider the victim as the culprit…

    Yeah, usually that sort of talk is distressing, but did you read the blog post about this?

    Ethan Persoff writes:

    [The protestors] managed the big one: they had gotten this terrifying oversized militarized force to react. PHYSICALLY and ABUSIVELY.

    I’m not sure what the protestors actually wanted to do, but Mr. Persoff sure seems to think that this is the result the protestors were trying to achieve. Mission accomplished?

    Ethan Persoff also writes:

    In a suit designed to repel bullets and knives they’re worried about a slap or a shove?

    Err, yeah. They’re worried about their arms, hands, faces, legs, feet. That equipment reduces the liklihood that they’ll die when they run into the situation you’re running away from, but what kind of moron wouldn’t be concerned about another person standing in front of them, slapping them, shoving them. Our blogger, Mr. Persoff, sure seems to think this kind of thing is a horrible experience. It’s a human rights violation! So, yeah — cops are worried about being slapped and shoved.

    Catbeller writes:

    A cop defends the people, and expends himself if need be.

    No. Feel free to throw yourself on all the grenades you want — it doesn’t matter how much you pay anyone else, you don’t ever get to expect this of another person.

  47. While I cannot say what the goal of the majority of those protesters was, I can tell you that as I walked past protesters before the action started, I distinctly overheard at least two different conversations that suggested violence was at least on the minds of the protesters. In one, for example, a woman mentioned to a man that she would talk to him later, unless things got violent.

    There atmosphere before the protest began was much different from the atmosphere before any of the other protests I saw. It was relatively quiet, and seemed more somber than other gatherings. It seemed like people were preparing for something big, and that some of them might be up to no good.

    That’s just how it appeared to me, and not necessarily the reality of the situation.

  48. #41:

    These side stories to the DNC are a real disaster for the democrats. Stories of anti-capitalism protesters, assassination attempts (even if they turn out to be nothing), protester cages, riot police… All of this nonsense is taking media attention away from what the democrats actually want to be news. I don’t think people have yet realized what a disaster this is.

    This is just like the first quote I posted, where a protester was saying that this was the first “victory” in saying something of substance to the rest of the country.

    I don’t understand. Do people think that the rest of the world spends its time reading BoingBoing for its news?

    There has been barely any coverage at all of these protests in the MSM. The Times has virtually nothing on it, except for a couple blog postings referring to “a few minor protests.” Washington Post, nothing. CNN, nothing. Fox News, nothing.

    No one outside the bubble is listening. No one cares. These protests haven’t been a blip on anyone consciousness. This hasn’t been a victory in getting the world to listen. This isn’t a disaster for the Democrats.

  49. i think this may be the kid you are talking about hes a friend of mine and my brother and boyfriend
    go here and watch the video

Comments are closed.