Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why the Testimony of Two White Guys Who Got Arrested in LA Matters at All

The reaction to Levine's and Lyle's arrests and the conditions of their detentions is interesting. Given the fact that close to 5,000 have been arrested and detained in the last few months as part of the National OWS Suppression Campaign, why these two should matter in the least is a question to ponder. Given the fact that hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of black and brown people in this country have been arrested and detained under similar if not worse conditions for many years "and nobody cared" why should these two privileged white boys matter? Why should anybody care what happens to them? This is America. You make your own future here, boys.

This is a typical authoritarian response to the arrest and detention of Yasha Levine that was penned by one "jmc" at Naked Capitalism:

Jeeze, this Levine guy, what a whiny little idiot.

Guess what? When the LAPD tell you to disperse, you disperse. It does not matter how self-righteous you are. The law is the law. Dont like it. Run for office and change it. Cannot persuade enough people to vote for you. Tough. Get over it.

This whole piece reeks of middle class arrogance and entitlement. How dare the police treat me just like anyone else when the get arrested after resisting the police and verbally abusing them.

Create a confrontational situation then dont be too surprised when those whose job it is to enforce the law dont go out of their way to be nice to you.

I don't mean to single it out for any particular reason. It's not exceptional at all. Practically every Internet Authoritarianist uses almost exactly the same declarative statements in their denunciation of anyone who has the temerity to report their experiences in the custody of police and suggest that something isn't right about it.

The absolute conformity of Authoritarianist propaganda (at least on the internet) about arrest, custody, and detention practices in this country is startling. It's as if these declarative statements are churned out by the gross -- on mimeograph machines! -- for distribution to the masses. Who is making these statements?

I found an interesting situation over at the LA Times. They posted a list of those who were arrested in the sweep following the eviction of the Occupy LA encampment. The story that was emerging in the comments, from people who were there and in many cases who were arrested -- including Tyler Lyle, whose testimony I found linked in the LA Times comments -- was very different than the Official Story (which of course was promulgated by the Mayor and his Police Chief at their news conference linked in a post below. A singular poster, calling himself "Jim Browne" and using the seal of the city of Los Angeles, was taking on any and all who had anything negative to say about the treatment arrestees testified to, mostly using the common Authoritarianist gambit quoted above. This went round and round and round yesterday.

When I checked the thread today, most of Mr. Browne's posts were gone, though responses to them remained. A few of Browne's comments remained, though, such as this:

Sue Basko you are clueless on the law and you are just talking shit out your ass and know NOTHING! You think that the Los Angeles Jailers falsify information so you can get a free Lawyer. i am not even going to explain why THAT is a stupid statement. You think that me using the city seal on FB is a felony. Another stupid statement. You show up to a protest with your idiot son where you KNOW people have been warned days prior to get out because it's illegal to be there or face arrest and then you claim you were not given time to leave? YOU KNEW YOU WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE FROM DAYS BEFORE! You're such an Idiot! If you were trying to leave the protest because of the warning then you would have been trying to leave days prior when THAT warning was given. You are a lying piece of shit. When you get arrested, you are treated accordingly. You say that Police attack when they are just making the most non violent arrests I have ever seen. I can go on about the stupid things you have said here.

Which provides a sense of the flavor of his other posts. I assume this one remained because it hadn't been deleted yet, either by the LA Times moderator or by Browne himself, since the comment thread is through Facebook and posters can modify or delete their own comments on Facebook.. well, so far as I know. I'm not really that up on the intricacies of the Facebook.

However, the level of innate cruelty and hostility toward protesters and protest on display in these two not exactly random -- but nevertheless highly representative -- posts is instructive. Animosity toward "rebels" of any kind is as integral to the internet as is media criticism. Denunciation of street protest is likewise hard-wired into the system and any discussion that arises therefrom. It is guaranteed to generate lots of comment, and that's what it's all about, né?

Whole internet careers are based on that very fact, after all.

But my point here is not that. Instead, I'm dealing with the necessity of testimony.

I've been surprised at the general lack of testimony -- about arrests and detentions especially -- during the first phase of the OWS Uprising. It was especially apparent to me after the arrests on September 24th and then after the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1. In fact, at the time, it seemed like the OWS Movement was trying to obscure the arrests and the nature and conditions of detention, and even seemed to be trying to airbrush the incidents of police brutality that were gaining immense notice around the world. I did not understand this delicacy about arrests, detention, and official brutality toward the protests and protesters, and I still don't. It didn't make sense at the time.

There are still very few testimonies from that time period.

As time passed, more and more people came forward with their testimony, but still very few in the context of the thousands upon thousands who have been arrested and the hundreds and hundreds who have been injured in the National Crackdown on OWS.

So when testimonies like those of Tyler Lyle and Yasha Levine are posted, I think they are important and necessary -- and to date, largely absent -- documentation of the nature of the Police State The Revolution is up against. The notion that critics like to spread, that "It's Not As Bad as Somewhere Else" is absurd on its face.

How bad it is somewhere else is another discussion altogether. What needs to be highlighted is how bad it is here and how much worse it is becoming, despite all the Happy Talk from officials about how they haven't actually killed anybody yet (at least no one that we know of.)

"But black and brown people have been treated this way for all of the history of this country...!" Yes, yes they have. Nobody denies that. "So you're just upset that white boys are getting a taste of what's been done to black and brown people since forever!" No, not at all. If there were testimony from black and brown people about what they have been subjected to -- in the context of the OWS Movement -- I would be featuring it, too. The fact is that testimony of any kind about what black and brown people are experiencing under arrest and in custody in connection with the OWS Movement is as rare as any other.

And we need more testimony.

Unless people hear about and understand the nature of the Police State that is being deployed against the OWS Movement, from the perspective of those who are being subjected to it, it is very difficult to grasp the overall nature of the Police State we live in.

So far, most of what people "know" about it and most of the information they have access to is from the perspective of the Police State itself.

We need more testimony from the victims.

And I say this as someone who has been dealing with these issues for decades.

It's not that A Couple of White Guys were arrested in LA the other night. It is that they have published -- and I was able to find -- their testimony.

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