Occupy Wall Street: Protester defecating on a Police Car
I took a photograph this Friday gone at the Occupy Wall Street protest in downtown Manhattan that seems to have caused quite a stir. A number of questions and conspiracy theories have developed and I thought it might be useful if a put a few words out there, that are free from any slanted editorial or political bias. Twitter is great but still limited as a means of expression and communication.
My day started with a call from my editor asking me to go down to the protest site at Zuccotti Park to see what if any developments there might be. The momentum of the protest has been certainly building and interest from the mainstream media in both the UK and US is peaking.
There have been suggestions primarily by the land owners that due to the sites growth in population that there might be sanitation issues, and while I was there could I take note of anything relevant to these claims.
I spent a few hours walking round, reading signs, taking snaps and chit chatting with various people. The organisation of the protest site is without doubt impressive. The area within the park has been divided up into zones with an excellent food service area, a medical area and a Press table.
As I made my way around I took pictures of everything that I saw. On the south side there was a rag tag band banging out a drum beat, and a woman was entertaining passers-by and children with hula hoops. All very positive and fun on what was a bright and warm Friday afternoon.
Sadly there was also a growing pile of rubbish bags and a used mattress that if you stood within 3 metres wasn't the most pleasant smelling. I witnessed and photographed protesters sweeping up, bagging up litter and adding to the pile. There was an element of responsibility being undertaken by some members of the protest, that can't be denied. But it was apparent that a growing movement, means a growing waste problem.
Around 4ish I decided to head to the office of the Mail Online and file my pictures. As I left the north side of the park I heard a man running to catch up with two police officers, who where walking in the opposite direction to me, yelling: “Officer, you've got do something, there's a guy taking a shit on a patrol car”. In less that 10 strides from the park facing the McDonalds was indeed what appeared to be a middle aged man emptying himself with no great haste, up against the back end of an NYPD police car.
The two Police Officers who had been dutifully informed by a member of the public simply shrugged their shoulders and walked away. I ducked into a phone box and snatched a few shots of the scene playing out before me. The defecating man, oblivious to my presence, then wiped himself accordingly and strolled into the Mcdonalds as if nothing was the matter.
I was expecting a Police response any second, but it never came.
I'll start by saying this wasn't a set up. I didn't hire some random guy to pebble dash a patrol car. This isn't a cut and paste photoshop job. This isn't staged in any way. And this isn't a right wing/Tea Party conspiracy. Seriously! The bare fact is a grown man of his own accord, really did empty his bowels on a Police car in broad day light on the peripheral of a political protest. And by sad coincidence I was there to capture it. (The time of the incident was approximately 4.30pm)
So, what is there to suggest that this was an Occupy Wall Street protester and not just a random homeless guy?
Given the unwashed aesthetics of the protesters sleeping rough in a park for 3 weeks, visually I don't think there is much to distinguish them apart. All the people sleeping in the park kind of look scruffy and homeless to me. That's what sleeping rough does to a person. I can say I'd definitely seen him in the park already that day. And I saw him again, asleep in the park later that evening.
Furthermore, were he homeless and in need of a toilet, he could have simply used the toilet facilities of McDonalds that were right in front of him, like the majority of those camped in the park.
Also, of all the cars parked along that curbside, he chose a cop car to prop himself up against. I feel like that is statement enough of his intent.
I'm not stupid enough to think he represents the majority of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and it will be sad to see should this image be hijacked as the poster boy for all those opposed or unsympathetic to the Occupy movement.
I do strive to be an objective photographer, it is my job to take pictures of everything. The good and the bad. I gave my editor a well rounded edit of images that represented everything I saw that afternoon, which in this instance included a man jettisoning faecal matter upside a cop car.
Further to my explanation I've still received criticism regarding my assumption over whether the man was or wasn't a protester involved in the Occupy Wall Street. It has been suggested I should have asked him questions.
I do appreciate the point that journalism should be based on facts not assumptions. Perhaps I should have chased after him and asked if this was a right or left wing dirty protest, but unfortunately I was stood downwind from his grand spectacular and was fighting my own gag reflex.
However, having personally witnessed him in the park, walking, standing, sleeping, mingling over a number of hours in and amongst other protesters at the specific location of a protest rally. I felt the assumption and conclusion that he too was engaged in protest was fair. It is my interpretation that his defiling a cop car is an act of protest unto itself. I am therefore free to conclude he was a protester.
Homeless or not.
I understand that the majority of legitimate protesters will want to distance themselves as far away as possible from this guy and that this image will in some way damage their cause. But as I've already said: I'm not stupid enough to think he represents the majority of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.