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Occupy St. Louis "Hijacks" Walmart, Macy's; Police Captain Explains Tactics

Categories: Occupy STL
macys occupy.jpg
Tony D'Souza
Occupy STL protesters gather outside the Macy's at the Galleria yesterday.
Forcibly evicted from downtown's Kiener Plaza, Occupy St. Louis has taken its protest to area department stores. Yesterday afternoon, roughly 30 Occupiers held a meeting outside Macy's at the Galleria. Later, a few "mic-checked" -- using their collective voices as a human megaphone to shout anti-Macy's slogans -- and tossed fliers from the second-floor banisters to holiday shoppers. Though a larger mic-check had been Tweeted to supporters earlier in the day, the disruptive tactic (used recently against Michelle Bachman, Karl Rove, and President Obama) was scaled down due to police presence. Nearly a dozen mall security and Richmond Heights officers monitored the Occupiers as a police paddy wagon waited outside.

"They shouldn't be allowed," an elderly shopper complained angrily to a mall security officer as the Occupiers met.

paddy wagons galleria.jpg
Tony D'Souza
Police deployed a paddy wagon to the Galleria, just in case.
Sunday's event followed a Friday action at the Arnold Walmart where, according to one person involved, more than two dozen Occupiers mic-checked slogans just after 10 p.m. Anti-Walmart talking points were read to Black Friday shoppers over the store's "hijacked" PA system.

"People stopped and looked up," explained one source of Friday's Walmart action. "We couldn't let Black Friday go by without doing anything. Our camp is gone, but we're not. We all know we're taking risks, but I don't see it as something that is going to stop." Another Occupier, also asking not to be named, said yesterday, "We're Occupy St. Louis, the greater St. Louis area. This is about taking the movement wherever the movement is needed."

As he stood with his officers watching the Occupy meeting outside Macy's yesterday, Captain Rick Zweifel, field operations commander for the Richmond Heights police department, preferred not to comment, other than to say, "Everything's peaceful."

Though 51 Occupiers have been arrested since the movement began here on October 1st, St. Louis police have taken a notably hands-off approach. St. Louis has seen none of the street battles between riot officers and Occupiers that have occurred across the nation.

Captain Kenneth Kegel, commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's 4th District, who oversaw Occupy St. Louis eviction from Kiener Plaza on November 12, said in an interview with Daily RFT late last week, "When Occupy St. Louis began, I went on-line, read articles. Up in Chicago, their approach was a lot more hard line. We've been fortunate. Occupy had been down [in Kiener Plaza] for a few weeks, our bike unit opened up a dialogue with them. If you don't talk to each other, there's that mistrust. The dialogue made for more or less a peaceful conclusion."

kenneth kegel.jpg
Kenneth Kegel
Asked about the Kiener Plaza eviction, which saw the arrest of 27 Occupiers, Kegel offered details about how the SLMPD prepared its officers.

"Years ago we used to do abortion protests on a regular basis," said Kegel. "It's been awhile. We got all the officers together in a roll call, explained what could easily happen, people can get in your face. We made groups of four person arrest teams, went in as teams. The quicker you can get everyone into custody, the more everything can settle down. It only takes one person in that crowd to take it to the next step."

When the police pulled up to Kiener that night, the crowd of Occupiers briefly began yelling obscenities at them, something they hadn't previously done. Kegel said, "There's always that sense of anxiety when you pull up. The minute we got out of the car, you could sense a change. I was kind of surprised [at the obscenities]. You don't know these individuals. You have to stay really focused, can't take anything personal. If people yell and scream, that's not going to hurt you. You have to pay attention to people's hands. One individual was putting a laser pointer in the officers' eyes. We approached him, and he stopped."

A 32-year veteran of the police force, Kegel said that the last thing the St. Louis police department wants when dealing with the Occupiers is for anything to escalate into physical confrontation. His department made a decision to not deploy riot gear for that reason.

"We do have that capability, we can always back out and bring in officers who are better equipped. I don't know if it's a Midwest thing--we seem to have less physical confrontation."

Asked if the widespread use of cell phone cameras -- which recently recorded two officers at the University of California-Davis pepper spraying seated students and led to their suspension -- has had an effect on tactics, Kegel responded: "It's changed policing. You have to be aware that the cameras are there. It might be for the better. It might make officers a little bit smarter." "Our officers have handled our jobs very professionally," Kegel concluded. "I've had a lot of people come after [the Kiener Plaza eviction] and say that."

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12 comments
Sasha
Sasha

I agree that the St Louis police have done an excellent job in dealing the Occupiers. There is absolutely no need for the confrontational tactics that other police departments have used around the nation. We are just as wary of individuals who want to escalate a situation into violence. I firmly believe that this needs to be a non-violent movement, though one in which civil disobedience will play a large part. If such acts lead to arrest or detainment, then that is a price I willing pay. 

And while the evils of capitalism are many, much good is possible as well, but not as long as the capitalist system is dominated by multi-national corporations that have even less respect for law and order than we do. They manipulate governments and citizens on a daily basis, and create arbitrary barriers for those who would like to participate in that system to start their own business, buy property, raise a family. If capitalists want their system to succeed,.more need to join the movement - any many occupiers are capitalists, and many are socialists, anarchists, libertarians and nearly every ideology. 

We are anything but monolithic, but we are united in our belief that far too few have far too much - economic power, political power, social power, and warp any system - capitalist, socialist, or anarchist - to serve only their own wants at the expense of all others.

KITTY
KITTY

Nobody paid attention to those dirt bag Occupiers when they trashed and stunk up Kiener Plaza. Now they want to ruin everyone's Christmas shopping at the Galleria and other places sure to come. The management of the Galleria should have had them removed, by force if necessary. Their right to free assembly pertains to public property. Even though the Galleria is open to the public, it is private property and their rights to assemble stop at the front door. So, as Lee Iacocca famously said "Throw the bums out!"

Nikki Vacant
Nikki Vacant

Capitalism is definitely part of the problem. Corporations buying and selling our politicians is worse. It affects everyone. No one is safe. The entire American political system revolves around money, imperialism, and greed.

Kenny Red Leader Schmied
Kenny Red Leader Schmied

I agree with the sentiments of OWS and I wish they wouldn't have been kicked out of Keiner, but this isn't the way to drum up public support. Capitalism in itself isn't anything bad - and these people spending money at the malls? It's helping our economy - not hurting. What OWS is against is unchecked crony capitalism, corporate greed, and corporate money controlling our politics - not every day shoppers at the malls. I understand they need a forum to express themselves, but sticking their loud foots right in front of holiday shoppers isn't really the way to go about this. They'll make more enemies than friends - even of people who otherwise would support their cause.

Tristan Norris
Tristan Norris

i really wish that Occupy protesters woudl be given a chance to express what they belive to the public. If the tea party had held a protest in Freedom square the police would not have evicted them.

CJL
CJL

Wow . . .you really have a lot of hatred in your heart for a group of people you obviously have never met. If you HAD met them, you would actually realize that the majority of them are like myself; educated, working two jobs, and sick of seeing my country ripped apart by special interest. As for your assertion that the right to assembly stops at the front door of 'private property' as you've labeled the Galleria, you are incorrect. The Galleria is what they call a public/private space. This means that people have the right to assemble up to the point that the 'authority' asks them to leave. If you don't believe me, you can go to the Galleria and ask security about it. I took it upon myself to ask them, and that was their response.

Guy Who Replies To Kenny
Guy Who Replies To Kenny

I think you're oversimplifying things.  It's hard to hear, but capitalism itself is actually the problem.

Think about this. Our economy is structured so that if people aren't constantly consuming things, we fall into a recession. That's a terrible structure. It necessitates waste and gluttony.

Capitalism is also a system in which capital=power. It's literally impossible to run a government where wealth doesn't equal power, when in a capitalist society. Capitalism can only beget oligarchy. That's what it's designed to do. It consolidates capital in the hands of the few.

Corporate Greed is actually kind of a funny thing to bring up. Corporations are designed to be greed machines. You're asking them to actively go against the system that spawned them.

All of these problems we have, huge greedy corporations, money in politics, corporate police, these are all symptoms of capitalism. you can try and put bandages on, but really, the root issue will still be there.

KittyLitterKing
KittyLitterKing

So two months of protesting 24 hours a day in Kiener was ample opportunity to "express what they believe to the public?"  

The vast majority of the population doesn't care what Occupy has to say.  If they were the "99%," the protests would have grown, not petered out.

KITTY
KITTY

I have no hatred for the Occupiers. They have the right to protest just as I have the right to complain about them. Occupiers who wants to destroy our capitalistic society and replace it with good old Soviet style communism - re-distribute the wealth of all and destroy our financial system - are not only woefully misguided but generally fucked up. The Soviets finally fell into the ash heap of civilization and the Occupiers are not far behind. Get a life CJL, the great majority of Americans don't really give a fuck about the Occupiers or their anti-American agenda.

Vick
Vick

Absolutely right.  The camping was a joke.  The message isn't clear.  They're less organized than they think they are.  99% of everyone else could care less.

Give it up Occupy.  You're the 1%.

KITTY
KITTY

I may no know anything, but I am a helluva lot smarter that all you union thug lovin socialists. If you dont like out capitalistic society then take your sorry ass to N. Korea.

JP
JP

Goddamn you Republicans know absolutely nothing.

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