Around the world police have been dismantling tents as they shut down Occupy protest sites, and this week Occupiers in Melbourne, Australia came up with an original way to stand up to authorities: They turned their tents into costumes. Judging from a report by CNN's Jeanne Moos, the "Occupy Tent Monsters" are just the latest bit of silliness to come of of this ridiculous, childish movement. Though as she punned, "arguments between police eand protesters over tents have at time been in-'tents'" — kind of like how one of the women shown in CNN's cutesy Tent Monster video wound up being stripped by police and left in a field in nothing but her underwear.
To be fair, the lighthearted video used by CNN was posted to YouTube by a protester, and when the segment was put together the network probably wasn't aware of what happened next. However, the contrast with the fluffy coverage only makes the video of the police response more disturbing.
In this footage, a 20-year-old woman identified only as Sarah is shown having her tent cut off of her with a knife by police. She isn't wearing clothing underneath and tells officers that what they're doing isn't consensual. After ripping the tent off, the police walk away with it, leaving her sitting in the grass in her underwear with no other clothing.
According to the Hearld Sun, police launched an investigation of the incident after receiving a complaint. They said, ''The Ethical Standards Department has subsequently received a physical assault complaint in relation to this incident and is investigating. As this investigation is ongoing we will not be commenting further.'' Police say the Tent Monsters were told what police were about to do and given time to dress before their tents were taken. ''Three of the four protesters co-operated and evacuated their tents. The fourth, a female, refused to comply with direction," they added.
Tal Slome, an Occupy Melbourne spokesperson says that the incident was, a "completely unnecessary form of brutality. Who decides what constitutes clothing in our society?" Though the protesters had declared their tents were clothing, the incident isn't exactly the same as an officer walking up to a woman and pulling her shirt off. The YouTube video that portrays the wacky, fun side of the Tent Monsters' protest shows Sarah pursuing a group of police officers as they leave the park and antagonizing them on a street corner. The protesters were definitely looking to get a rise out of the police, and erecting a tent on a sidewalk isn't necessarily legal just because you've poked your head through the top.
However, the incident was still horribly mishandled by police. Even if it was imperative that Sarah remove her bulky costume, there's a way to deal with the situation that doesn't leave her crumpled on the ground with nothing to cover herself. At the very least, they should have been worried about appearing in online slideshows for the next few months next to photos of people getting pepper sprayed at UC Davis.