The gruesome violence against unarmed protesters in Oakland by the police made me think of a recent and potentially similar situation in Times Square. In the Times Square situation, a single man, former Marine Sergeant Shamar Thomas, spoke the truth loudly to the police, made them see for just a moment that what they were doing was un-American and without honor, faced them down, caused them to leave the area, and defused the situation before violence occurred.
This happened on October 15, two weeks ago this upcoming Saturday. A group of the Occupy Wall Street protesters had marched from Zucotti Park to Times Square. The police, who were out in large numbers had separated them into several smaller groups and were firmly trying to force them back. The protesters were trying to rejoin together, but the police were preventing this. There was no violence this time, but there were some arrests.
Sergeant Thomas was in one of the smaller groups which was slowly falling back under pressure from the police. Thomas was himself moving toward the police. When he was face to face with them, he started. If you haven’t seen this video, watch it. If you have, watch it again. We need more Sergeant Thomases.
Transcript — it’s a crowd on a street at night with parked police vehicle and at least three kinds of cops, hatted black uniforms, hatted white shirts with megaphones, and helmeted black uniforms, all milling and coming and going, some gathering around, some engaging Sgt. Thomas, eventually walking away from him, defusing the situation.
MARINE SGT. SHAMAR THOMAS wearing camos, walking up the street towards clump of people, cops, calling back over his shoulder: Have a good night, guys. (laughs) See it, baby. They don’t lie. (stopping, holding his chest ribbons out for the cops to see) They don’t lie. They don’t lie. They don’t lie, tough guy. This is not a war zone. This is not a war zone. These are unarmed people. It doesn’t make you tough to hurt these people. It doesn’t make you tough to hurt these people. It doesn’t.
(camera pans around to black-uniformed cops, at least five standing facing him, one has his hand on his nightstick, one has his hand on his holstered gun, one reaches over to put his hand on his holstered gun) (somebody yells something to Sgt. Thomas) I don’t care! I don’t care about these people. I put in my work. It doesn’t lie. (again holding his shirt, schooling the cops) It does not make you tough to hurt these people. There’s nothing tough about it. Nothing. If you want to go fight, go to Iraq and Afghanistan. (camera pans again, it’s eight cops in this clump) But you want to be here, huh? U.S. citizens. Where is that in the contract? Where is that in the contract? Leave these people alone. They’re U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens! U. – S. – citizens! U.S.! It does not make any sense to do this to them! It doesn’t. Stop hurting these people, man! Why are y’all doing this to our people? I been to Iraq 14 months for MY PEOPLE! You don’t get to hurt them! They don’t have guns! They – don’t – have – guns! They don’t! Why are you hurting these people? It doesn’t make any sense! It doesn’t make any sense! How do you sleep at night? There is no honor in this! There is no honor in this! There is no honor in this, man! There is no honor in this shit! There is no honor in this shit! There is no honor! In what you’re doing! Chase people! No honor!
How do you do this to people? How do you do this to people? How do you sleep at night doing this to people? Why do you do this to people? Huh? You’re here to protect them! You’re here to protect them! Protect us! Why are you hurting U.S. citizens? This is the United States of America! Why are you hurting people? If you want to go kill Iraqis, go to Iraq. Why are you hurting U.S. citizens? Why? What’s that do, make you? Do you get honor out of this? You get honor out of hitting these people with batons? Is that what you get? (cop upstreet to his side gestures in our direction, says “Let’s go,” walks toward us, past Sgt. Thomas and camera) Why are you doing this to people? (Now white-shirted officer facing him talks in megaphone, gestures with hand like traffic cop directing people to move away. Cops are in a loose ring around Sgt. Thomas, crowd of people with cameras gather beyond them)
This is unbelievable, that y’all are doing this to people. That y’all are doing this to people. (Camera faces cops, you see their faces, taking it in. “Come on. Let’s go people.”) Why are y’all doing this to people? (One young cop walks up to Sgt. Thomas and says something quietly. Sgt. Thomas is speaking now, not yelling.) No, I know that everybody’s not bad, but why are y’all doing this to people? Y’all walk around and why … this is a war?! (screaming again) These people don’t have guns! (lots of cops and officers are gathered, milling, watching… “crazy”) Okay, maybe I’m crazy … you people … y’all protect … ! (cops say something to him, “back up”) No … me, protecting this country! I under– but I’m not out here trying to hurt these people, I’m not walking around trying to hurt – (Cops are gathered tighter around him — “just keep moving” “but your history doesn’t” “I was in Iraq with you”) So why, so why do you allow this? (“What?”) Why are you walking around trying to hurt people? (camera is tight on cops, conversation officer taking pushy steps toward Sgt. Thomas, “keep walking”, megaphone officer to crowd “Please … just walk down the block please”) And I can’t speak, y’all want to shut me up. Y’all want to shut me up. (Camera pans around again, milling cops and crowd, one cop is filming Sgt. Thomas)
Why are you all walking like there’s a war going on? Nobody has guns! (camera pans and you can see bunch of helmeted cops coming up, stop) Why are y’all treating people like this? This is America! Why are y’all treating people like this? Why are y’all gearing up like this is war? (“… sir, move back”) This is not war! (“Let’s go folks … ”) This is not war! Why are y’all acting like this? No one has guns. It takes a tough guy to act like this. (“Let’s go folks … ”) … put away your guns. Nobody’s trying to hurt you guys. There are no bullets flying out here. (“Folks … “) There are no bullets flying! How tough are you? How tough are you? (three white-shirt megaphone officers meet beyond Sgt. Thomas, turn away, gesture others)
SGT. THOMAS addressing people gathered around, no cops now: There is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians.
FILMING GUY: What did you see today that bothered you?
SGT. THOMAS: I was here October 5th. I saw them beating people – people that had nothing to do with anything, just grabbed them from out of the crowd. There is no honor in that. My mom, my father, everybody has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, where I did 14 months in Iraq. My father was in Afghanistan. My mother did a year in Iraq. We fought for this country. I don’t come home – I’m in New York City! I am from New York City and these cops are hurting people that I fought to protect. There is no reason for this. There’s no rea– There is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians and I won’t let it happen. Have a good night.
LADY WITH CAMERA: What’s your name? What’s your name? What’s your name? What’s your name?
SGT. THOMAS: Sgt. Shamar Thomas. I was born in New York. Sgt. Shamar Thomas. I was born in New York.
MAN: … President!
SGT. THOMAS answering guy with camera, gestures down the street: Huh? I don’t know what they’re doing. They walked away. They’re scared.
Sgt. Thomas walks up the street to cheers and handshakes, hugs a guy in a red hoodie.
SGT THOMAS: Did you see that?
For more information on this story, including an interview Sergeant Thomas had with Keith Olbermann a couple of nights later, please refer to The Daily Kos at Marine vet scolds/puts NYPD in their place(AMZNG VID!)Now w/Olbermann interview!