The head of the union representing New York City police sergeants wants Occupy Wall Street protesters to know that he'll pursue legal action against anyone who harms police.
, Ed Mullins, president of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association, writes that he respects the ideas of free speech and assembly that have empowered the Wall Street movement. But cops should not be injured trying to keep the peace.
"What has gone mostly unreported is the number of uniformed NYPD members who have been injured while trying to maintain order at these demonstrations," Mullins wrote. "To date, at least 20 officers have been hurt during flare-ups with protesters whose actions are becoming increasingly hostile and aggressive."
Mullins writes that NYPD officers assigned to ensure safety at the demonstrations are trained to endure potential verbal onslaughts from protesters, but they are not expected to engage in physical fights.
"For that reason, I ordered our attorneys to prepare to personally sue any protester responsible for injuring an NYPD sergeant," the op-ed read.
In theory, protesters who hurt police would likely be arrested. But amid scores of arrests over the course of the six-week movement, charges against Occupy defendants appear to have flooded the system.
Charges against hundreds of protesters who were arrested in demonstrations on the Brooklyn Bridge or at Manhattan's Union Square, for example, could be dropped if the protesters accept a deal from the district attorney.
Defense lawyer Martin Stolar says many of them will likely reject the deal because it is void if they are arrested again and might chill their ability to continue protesting. The district attorney's office declined to comment.
Mullins' statement Thursday came as violence has escalated in the movement around the country.
In Oakland, Calif., skirmishes have broken out with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing rocks and bottles. A 24-year-old Iraq War veteran was in critical condition with a fractured skull. It's not clear what struck him.
The movement started in New York and has been largely peaceful. Mullins said he wants demonstrators to know that assaulting an officer is a crime. He hopes no violence breaks out in New York.