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Occupy Hartford: Police Deliver Shock And Awe

Colin McEnroe

To Wit

December 11, 2011

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It has become clear what we must do to get the Hartford Police Department to marshal its resources and move swiftly and effectively against drug dealers, robbers and homicidal punks.

We must somehow persuade those evildoers to dress up in really stinky fleece and those dorky Andean hats with tasseled earflaps. We have to issue gang members some REI camping equipment and get them to heat up chickpea cutlets over a propane stove. And then all we have to do is stand back and watch the HPD kick some serious butt.

The Hartford police sometimes seem to struggle with, you know, fighting crime, and whenever people like me bring this up we are told that we cannot possibly imagine the degree to which police resources are stretched paper thin, so that life is one never-ending process of triage. Do we send the cruiser to get the guy smashing the window of a jewelry store to get a letter opener to kill his brother-in-law or the guy selling heroin at gunpoint to children inside a church?

Probably neither, if either scenario was unfolding on Tuesday. In order to drive out Occupy Hartford, the city assembled a paramilitary force sufficient to repel an invading army of orcs armed with grenade launchers. Every available patrol car, plus cops on horses, plus cops in riot gear, plus a special G66 Tactical Garbage Truck were needed to handle the threat posed by 15 vegetarians with sinus infections.

Hartford police surrounded the Occupy Hartford site on Tuesday with 20 or more cruisers in one of the most disproportionate cop-to-protester ratios in the history of dissent. If every single person living at Occupy Hartford were placed in a separate police car and driven to the Massachusetts line, there still would have been more than five police cars left that could be used to try to run over television reporter Bob Wilson and direct pedestrians off the sidewalk and into the path of cars and other vital police functions.

This may seem like overkill to those of you who lack criminal justice training. The Occupy Hartford people had signaled that this was an unstable situation by agreeing to cooperate fully with the police.

Police Chief Daryl Roberts said earlier in the day that the occupiers had "lost sight of their objective," which strikes me as unfair inasmuch as everybody kept complaining they didn't have a clear objective in the first place.

Toward the end of the day, as the 6 p.m. deadline approached and some of the park-dwellers were engaging in defiant acts of cooperation and submission, Hartford cops showed up in full riot gear with assault rifles, just in case some drippy-nosed Dayquil-head flipped out.

By Wednesday, the site had been restored to its proper state: a weedy vacant lot and former future home of the Pathways to Technology Magnet School.

Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez tried, in defiance of the state, to build a school there, driven by his commitment to education, his belief that the souls of contractors are enriched by meaningful work and his conviction that, if you build a school right in the midst of interstate ramps and major commuter arteries, the children who are still alive after five years will be the smart, agile ones who can create a new generation of leaders.

Eventually, a guy who owned a building in Windsor hired lawyer-lobbyist Tom Ritter, a former speaker of the House and a person whose influence in Connecticut makes Richelieu look like a lay chalicist in Chantilly. And that's how a planned Hartford magnet school came to be located somewhere else.

But don't lose your faith in government, people of the Occupy movement!. Just because you and your Tibetan blankets and your extremely wordy signs have been treated like the renascent Symbionese Liberation Army, that's no reason to descend into a dark place of unreasoning nihilism.

An exciting political season is about to unfold, and you have the opportunity to throw your newly acquired political clout behind Chris Murphy or Susan Bysiewicz or Linda McMahon or Lisa Wilson-Foley or Chris Donovan or …

Never mind.

Just try to get some antibiotics for that sinus thing, and we'll see you in the spring, OK?

Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://blogs.courant.com/to_wit. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.