Tattoos: They've been applied and acquired throughout history for a wide range of purposes. Beauty, status, rites of passage, rebellion, fashion, gang affiliation and remembrance of deceased loved ones are just some of the historical and present-day motivations for tattooing one's skin. However, not everyone who bears a tattoo underwent the procedure voluntarily. The most obvious example is, of course, Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust being branded with tattooed identification numbers. And in more recent times the power of permanently marking another's flesh has ended up in the wrong hands more than a few times, always with disturbing results. But never in my life did I think I would learn that police, the supposed peacekeepers and protectors of the innocent, were forcibly "tattooing" peaceful protestors from the Occupy Movement. Alarming, non?
Now, let me begin this discussion by saying that I've scoured the web for hard evidence that this story is true, and have come up empty handed. Thus, I must admit that it could very well be a fabricated tale told by an angry Occupy protestor looking to demonize law officials. Either way, here we go.
At this time only one individual, a girl named Nina Haigh, has come forward in stating that she was "branded" with a UV reactive "tattoo" after being arrested during the eviction of an Occupy Montreal encampment in late November. This statement originally appeared on her Facebook page, lending little credibility to the claim, yet other protestors are reportedly considering a civil suit against the officers as a result of the incident. To me this suggests that her accusations may actually hold some verity.
According to Haigh, officers used UV reactive ink to mark her and other protestors who were detained following the raid, but they didn't stop at a mere marker swipe. "They wrote on my hand with a permanent marker, and then after I felt something pointy and metallic scraping across my skin," says Haigh. She claims that once she was released from custody there appeared to be no ink on her skin, and it was not until the following morning that she realized the ink used had been UV reactive and that officers had apparently embedded the ink in her skin using the sharp object she recalled being scratched with. As many of you may already know, the use of UV reactive ink in tattoos is a hotly debated practice amongst tattoo artists and the medical community, with many arguing that such ink is unsafe and may cause irritation, blistering, and even an increased risk of some types of cancer. Indeed, Haigh reported in her original message as well as in response to follow-up questions that the ink had caused an allergic reaction on her hand which lasted for multiple days.
If what this girl claims happened truly did occur, I am for one outraged that police would go so far as to breach the sanctity of a peaceful protestor's skin as a means of later identifying her should she return. A person's body is sacred, not to be violated for any reason, and especially not by a police officer. I understand that police are authorized to use some types of force if protestors "actively resist" being moved along, but embedding ink into their skin (with who knows what makeshift tools) simply has no place. It seems that every time I pick up the paper I read about law-abiding citizens exercising their Constitutional rights and subsequently being treated like the enemy. Speaking out against the government could get you labeled as one of the "associated forces" referred to in the National Defense Authorization Act that just passed through Congress and is poised to be signed by Obama unless some miracle can prevent it. With bills like this one appearing on Obama's desk it's no wonder that police have been treating protestors like low-level terrorists, ignoring their most basic human rights and throwing compassion to the wind. We're on our way to the disturbing reality of a police state, and I pray that our cries for sanity and mercy will be heeded before it's too late. When the unregulated scratcher tattooist in the back of a white van giving sketchy UV tattoos is actually a police officer...something is definitely very wrong.