You may have heard or read about the protesters who were pepper sprayed at the Air and Space Museum yesterday. I went there to find out what really happened.
From statements made at the General Assembly by people who were inside the Air and Space Museum, some of the facts are conflicting. A few resonate as credible given the consistency of observations from people in a variety of places both inside and outside the Museum.
First, it is worth noting the intent of the protesters. The plan was to enter the Museum and go to the drone exhibit. They were going to drop a banner by the exhibit.
The plan was to go in randomly, not as a mob, not en masse. This plan went awry.
From witness accounts, there were some people already at the drone exhibit, ready to drop a banner. Others were entering, as individuals, or were about to enter, when something went horribly wrong.
Here is some related video from NoCureForThat.org:
One eyewitness that I spoke to said he saw a woman on the ground. he doesn’t know how she got there, guessing that it could have been the result of pepper spray or she could have been pushed down by one of the guards.
This same witness was sprayed in his face, in his hair, on his shirt. He was taken to a separate room to be question. The interrogators accused him of “invading” the Air and Space Museum. In fact, he was pushed through the doors, to be greeted with pepper spray. The man obviously was released from “custody” after which he was treated for the effects of the pepper spray by medical personal on site.
A second witness that I talked to was in a different location. He asserts there was no provocation on the part of the protesters. The police initiated action and sprayed without provocation. He acknowledges that while there were some protesters who were pepper sprayed a good part of the spray may have landed on the guards themselves or just gone through the air.
There is a rumor floating around, at least on Facebook) that tourists were evacuated from the Air and Space Museum and the police said that it was because there was a bomb. Based on eye witness accounts, the police did not say that. There was no bomb. There was no bomb threat. The police did not say there was a bomb threat. Rather, they asked tourists to leave without explanation.
A third witness that I spoke with was an elderly gentleman who was outside the Air and Space Museum, on the stairs. A woman came out, crying, and in obvious pain. She had been pepper sprayed without provocation. He tried to comfort her. He was feeling the effects of the pepper spray in his eyes, ever so slightly. The woman put her head on his shoulder. He said he could feel his shoulder burning from the effects of the pepper spray.
At best, one of the security officials may have been shoved. Does this warrant pushing people through the doors, pepper spraying them, then accusing them of “invading” the Museum? Does this warrant pepper spraying people directly in their faces, or spraying so much of the pepper spray that the Museum had to be evacuated.