On Monday, some might say the Occupy movement suffered its first fatality. Jennifer Fox claims she miscarried after having been kicked and pepper sprayed by the police at a peaceful protest in Seattle.
"I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in," she says. "I was screaming, 'I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.'" At that point, Fox continues, a Seattle police officer lifted his foot and it hit her in the stomach, and another officer pushed his bicycle into the crowd, again hitting Fox in the stomach. "Right before I turned, both cops lifted their pepper spray and sprayed me. My eyes puffed up and my eyes swelled shut," she says.
According to Fox, five days later she went for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. Allegedly, her doctor attributed the miscarriage to the trauma she sustained at the protest. Whether the whole story is true or not, the reaction to Jennifer speaks volumes.
The internet quickly lit up with disgust at the police and then, just as quickly, with anger at Fox for putting her unborn child at risk. Anonymous commenters compared her presence at the protest with binge drinking at a bar; someone else implied that she's probably a heroin addict -- apparently Occupy Seattle is lousy with them; and another person suggested, if her child were born rather than unborn, she would be guilty of child abuse for being there at all.
My favorite? One guy stated, "If you don't want to get hurt, why are you there?" Here's the thing, dude. The regular old people at Occupy Seattle and Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Missoula are there because they're hoping for a better future, because they believe a vast inequality has taken root in our country and, most of all, they believe they can make a difference.
And, you know what else? They're there because they can be. Because, in this country, we have the right to peaceful protest.
Trust me. They are not there because they want to get hurt.
This is a blame-the-victim of historic proportions. Sure, it's possible she would have lost the pregnancy anyway (though miscarriage at three months is pretty rare for young women). It's also possible that there were other contributing factors that had nothing with pepper spray and jackboots.
But, for the love of humanity, it seems she just lost a pregnancy. She's sad. And you suck for being mad at her.
Being in a car is actually the greatest risk you can take if you're woman under 35. Should she avoid that too?
Here's a shocking confession... I parasailed when I was seven months pregnant.
My husband surprised me with a babymoon to a cheap resort in the Bahamas. It was tacky and mediocre and so fun. At one point, he looked out at the people floating above the ocean, tethered to a parachute, and he was smitten. It seemed safe enough and yet not the kinda thing that's exactly recommended. I was sure that someone -- the resort lady, the boat driver, the harness guy -- was going to stop my protruding belly from launching into the ether, but no one seemed worried. Apparently liability concerns are a little less entrenched in the tropics.
And, I have to tell you, it was amazing. My daughter was floating inside my body, while I floated through the sky. Drifting through the warm ocean air, I was never scared, and it couldn't have gone smoother. I've had jerkier rides to the supermarket.
Of course there are reasonable precautions to take when you're pregnant -- no drugs, drinking, raw fish, or racecar driving. I've miscarried several times and it really, really sucks. If I were pregnant now, I would be insanely cautious. As lovely and harmless as it was, parasailing is probably off my list the next time around. But would I take part in a peaceful protest against systemic injustice? Absolutely.
It's misogynistic to ask a woman to live a different life because she's pregnant. It's also a complete misunderstanding of what is right for kids. Children should never bear the burden of having sucked the passion out of their parents.
It is, on the other hand, reasonable to ask our government to protect our right to assemble.
The Occupy movement has been endlessly criticized for its lack of focus. But for my money, it's our elected officials and police who have utterly lacked consistency. New York's Mayor Bloomberg grudgingly accepted the protestors for months and then summarily power-washed them out of Zucotti Park. Members of Oakland's city council, as well as the mayor, showed their support for the Occupy encampment. Two weeks later Scott Olsen, a veteran of the Iraq war, had a skull fracture thanks to the Oakland PD. And the day after the Seattle City Council passed a resolution in support of the Occupy movement's right to free speech, the police hospitalized an 84-year-old protestor named Dorli Rainey and and yes, pepper-sprayed Jennifer Fox.
We deserve better than this. Be outraged by the pusillanimous elected officials who do nothing to protect our rights, not by a young woman peacefully marching for her beliefs.
Follow Tessa Blake on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tessablake