Participants with Occupy Wall Street have said since the beginning that their movement is a leaderless one.
One unlikely video of a disgruntled American vet sharing some words with the NYPD during last week’s Times Square stand-off has made him an unlikely spokesperson, however.
Sgt. Shamar Thomas became an Internet celebrity nearly a month into the Occupy Wall Street movement after a video of a fiery diatribe unleashed on Big Apple police officers went viral on the Internet. In the past week, the passionate speech he delivered before New York’s boys in blue has garnered around 2 million hits. Why does his voice resonate so strongly with the rest of America?
“I’m just one person,” Sgt. Thomas tells RT. “I’m just part of the 99 percent. I just want to inspire people and veterans to go out and protect these people.”
When armed cops surrounded Occupy Wall Street protesters last weekend in New York, demonstrators were shocked that their non-violent movement warranted such aggressive action from the NYPD — an ongoing motif of their strife that largely became evident when a video surfaced weeks earlier of an officer using pepper-spray on peaceful, female protesters.
When former enlisted Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas saw the scene himself in Times Square, he was quick to voice his objecting to how the cops were acting, with their weapons ready and protesters perturbed.
“It’s not a war zone,” Thomas is heard yelling to the NYPD. “These are unarmed people.”
Thomas repeatedly tells the cops, “These are US citizens. Leave these people alone.”
Sgt. Thomas says that he took an oath to protect and serve his country as a member of the US military, and adds that it is not an oath that he has taken lightly.
“What made me angry was to see the police hurting unarmed protesters that I haven’t seen become violent with the police or dangerous to anybody else that was in the populace,” he says. Much like the oath he took to serve and protect as a member of the US military, Sgt. Thomas says that the officers of the NYPD have a job to look after their fellow Americans domestically. When he saw them taking on peaceful protesters with weapons, however, it made him question what is good and just about America.
“This country has an ongoing war that I don’t necessarily agree with,” says Thomas, “but to hurt the citizens that you swear to protect is kind of a contradiction to the oath that you take as a police officer to be courteous and professional.”
Thomson adds that while serving for his country in Iraq, his force was once pelted with rocks by Iraqis. “After the rock throwing was done,” he says, “we didn’t go into the crowd and start beating and arresting people. To come back to my country and see the police doing this to the people . . . I’m not going to stand for it.”
As Sgt. Thomas made a stand last week, he said other veterans should follow suit if they believe in continuing their protection over the American people.
“As part of the 99 percent, I think it’s my duty as a leader, as somebody who chose to serve and protect my country, to continue my job,” he says.
And for those that are just civilians, Sgt. Thomas adds that they should also be willing to voice themselves before it is too late.
“This is our opportunity our opinions and people need to take this opportunity and go support their local occupation because we cant leave it into the hands of senators and congressman…to one day wake up and fix everything. We have to use our voices,” he says.
Though the Occupy movement will go on to be leaderless as participants rally together as once, Thomas may not be their figurehead but he has become a respected member who is helping lend a voice, and a big one, to a growing movement.