Occupy Wall Street activist Shawn Carrié always dreamed of becoming a classical pianist, and he was on his way, with a full music scholarship to New York University. That all changed on March 17, 2012, when, during a demonstration at Zuccotti Park, a New York City police officer pulled his thumb back and back and back until it broke. Six other cops kicked him until he bled from his ears, according to Shawn. He told me that while he was held at the Midtown South Precinct an officer named Perez tore a splint the hospital had given him from his finger and said, “You fucking Occupiers. Every time you come back, we’re going to kick your ass.”
Shawn would never play piano at a professional level again.
In December 2013, New York City paid Shawn (whose birth name is Shawn Schrader) an $82,500 settlement as compensation for the beatings and for arresting him on an old warrant meant for a different person named Shawn Carrié. But the officers themselves paid not a cent. Nor were they arrested, as civilians who break peoples’ fingers might be. They admitted no wrongdoing. They suffered no consequences at all. Instead, New York City taxpayers bore the cost.
Shawn’s lawsuit could be considered a success. But it did nothing to dissuade the cops who attacked him from attacking others. When we spoke in my living room, his pale eyes flashed with anger. “Justice might as well be a cotton-candy castle in the sky,” he said. “I’ve never seen it.”
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Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer in New York. She is the author of two books, Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun, (with Marwan Hisham). Her reportage has been published in the New York Times, New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere. She has been the recipient of a Yale Poynter Fellowship, a Front Page Award, and shortlisted for a Frontline Print Journalism Award. She is often asked to discuss her work chronicling the conflicts of the 21st Century, and has appeared on All In with Chris Hayes, Amanpour, NPR, BBC News, and more. Her art is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the United States Library of Congress and the New York Historical Society.
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