- (Photo: Joshua Yospyn)
Transportation and the Occupy DC movement again intersected last Friday around 10 p.m. with a traffic collision right near the Convention Center. What exactly happened? No one is quite sure yet. The Post refers to "dueling accounts" from police and Occupy DC protesters on three pedestrians struck in an intersection by a silver Lexus with Maryland plates. The Occupy movement had gathered to protest the Defending the American Dream summit happening at the Center. Did the protesters intentionally step in front of traffic? Was the driver at fault? Was it appropriate that police gave citations to the pedestrians but let the driver off free of charge?
These are the questions at the heart of whatever occurred. In the age of the smartphone, we have many videos to consider both from the incident (which looks exceptionally hectic) and from some of the Occupy DC folks struck (which is compelling particularly because we're staring at a mother and her 13-year-old son).
What I advise is turning to some of the footage first and foremost and paying attention to exactly how these narratives are unfolding.
Both the people struck as well as police spokespeople articulate their knowledge of the incident in this video in favor of Occupy DC's case. "Police have refused to take our statements," said Heidi Sippel in the video. "We were never at any point violent or hitting cars or blocking it ... He threw his hands up at his steering wheel and gassed it." Sippel then describes seeing her son struck by the car. Her son describes the experience in turn.
Several videos from the November 4 night come to us from traffic engineer Andrew Bossi, a D.C. resident independent of the protesters and the police and who writes on his blog that "most protesters were friendly" and that "every single police officer I saw acted responsibly and with excellent regard for their duties, laws, and with respect to both the protesters as well as attendees of the American Dream Summit." He confirmed that at least one person and a dog were struck at what was apparently a different crash site but said that the driver, in that case, was not let go but privately escorted away by police).
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells also appeared on the scene and confirmed that the driver who struck the pedestrian and the dog, described by Bossi, was in custody.
Here's two of the many videos that Bossi shot Friday night:
Here's video from another source reportedly showing the aftermath of the collision, which suggests a fair amount of chaos as people struggled to understand and police struggled to maintain a semblance of order:
News agencies around the nation covered the car collision here in D.C. Here's the takes from the Associated Press as well as Russia Today:
As alarming as some of these events are, I'm glad, at the least, for the broader perception that the police officers acted fairly, as people such as Bossi, Wells, and others on the scene expressed, and that police are open to dialogue. Wells told the Post that police have said they have video of their version of events, which is also good to know. Policing so extensive a protest is a tough job, as many have pointed out. The protesters have, in many instances, displayed a similar cooperative spirit, from what I can tell. As no reader here has to learn, the road exposes vulnerabilities and it only becomes more dangerous when you add hot tempers, traffic, and hours of protest. I can imagine the anger that may have affected the driver. It's no surprise given the gridlock and frustration that normally accompanies D.C. traffic — though naturally that's no excuse for striking a pedestrian. If the District's bicyclists frustrate our drivers, then no wonder protesters would have the same riling effect for a select few, however unfair.
Yet the Occupy protesters are right to press on this incident, I feel, and should have a full understanding of why it happened in the way it did. Should a visiting mother and son have been hit? It's hard to understand how that happens and how they receive citations. Clearly many involved are not happy with how Friday night was handled.
"Last night the police state told us that it is not a crime to attack peaceful protesters with vehicles," Occupy D.C. protesters wrote on the movement's official blog this weekend.