It's not the least bit surprising to me (although I wish it were) to learn that undercover police officers are posing as protesters, hoping to get close enough to people trying to express their opinions (not an illegal activity, by the way) so as to identify them as potential "suspects."
Some people are willing to give their law enforcement such overwhelming authority because they're convinced it will only be used against other people.
I'D WONDER HOW those people who are now defending the police at the University of Chicago if they found out that the police were hanging out amongst themselves -- trying to drag out details that could be twisted agaisnt them.
That is the scandal of choice these days at the Hyde Park neighborhood-based college. Protesters have been complaining about the hospital on campus, trying to get its use as a trauma center expanded for more people.
At a protest on that issue held last month, one of the "activists" turned out to be an officer with the university police department, according to the Chicago Maroon student newspaper.
The publication published photographs of the officer at the protest, showing him carrying picket signs and sending text messages.
IT'S ONE THING for police to be on hand at a protest or picket to watch over the crowd, ensure that it does not get out of hand in expressing its opinions, and also protecting them in the event that counter-demonstrators (or just troublemakers bored and looking for some mischief to cause) try to disrupt things.
During my time as a reporter-type person, I have seen various police responses. I have seen cases where protesters were thankful to have the police on hand because they felt it kept them safe to speak out from others who might have thought to use some sort of force to try to silence them.
So I don't wnat to hear that those other people are merely expressing their own opinion, and that we're all supposed to think it equal in value to that of protesters.
Other times, I have seen police at a protest who appeared bored and seemed to wish that everybody would just pipe down and go home so they could either go off to some other duty -- or perhaps finish their shift and go home themselves!
BUT THE ACTIVITY alleged by the university police? It borders on infiltration. It stinks. It really comes across as someone thinking that expression of opinions need to be silenced.
Perhaps somebody still thinks this is the 1960s, and identifies a little too closely with those who wanted to view all forms of protest as somehow subversive.
That is a scary concept, particularly since I can't envision the protester-types at the University of Chicago these days as being the type who want to overthrow anything.
They're more likely to be in training to BE a part of the establishment, than to want to take it down by force.
ALTHOUGH IT IS commendable that university officials told the Chicago Tribune this week that they will investigate the matter, although those same officials are saying they had no advance knowledge of the alleged police tactics.
We'll have to wait and see whether the university actually investigates, or is more concerned with bringing an end to any public disclosure of what happened at the hospital?