Monday, December 15, 2014

Impunity vs Inconvenience

During the latest round of protests against police violence, murder and impunity, activists have repeatedly shut down freeways through many cities as well as taking over major intersections for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more.

There have been nearly constant complaints that these tactics of inconvenience are alienating would-be supporters. It may or may not be true, but the simple fact is that the inconveniences of freeway shut-downs and other roadway difficulties are commonplace, everyday occurrences. They're routinely caused by construction and reconstruction, wrecks, police chases, loose dogs or cattle, you name it. One's convenience is forever being messed with, and most people long ago came to grips with it.

Yet when protesters shut the freeways down or hold a die-in at the shopping mall or disrupt a meeting of the powerful to ensure their voices are heard, pearls are clutched and garments are extensively rent over the inconvenience these dambed protesters cause and how much trouble they're making to no object whatsoever.

It's bizarre. Especially in contrast to the complete impunity with which police and many of the high and mighty seem to operate. Compared to the injustice of that impunity, the inconvenience of a protest shut-down ("If we don't get it, shut it down!" "Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down!") is as nothing. Compared to the looting of the entire economy and everybody's pocketbooks conducted by the titans of finance, the sporadic and mostly targeted looting that took place in Ferguson and a few other places is nothing. Compared to the destruction of whole communities caused by both the police and the titans of finance, the arson that took place during some of the protests (attributed to the protesters but without evidence or proof) was nothing.

Impunity is the keyword here. Some people, agencies and institutions seem to have it. Others do not. The police get away with mayhem and murder all the time, and they are celebrated and praised for it. The financial sector loots with complete impunity -- and they are rewarded when they do something particularly outrageous particularly well.

The military seemed to set the standard in Iraq and Afghanistan for the use of force and impunity we see among police. In Iraq, any Iraqi seen with a weapon was subject to summary execution. Hundreds or thousands of Iraqi civilians attempting to protect their homes and property from the invaders or from criminals were shot on sight. In Iraq and Afghanistan, if a military transport was caught in traffic or a native-driven vehicle or pedestrian was in the way of a military transport, crushing the vehicle and everyone in it, running down the pedestrian, or what have you to get through to their destination was routine. Check-point murders were almost too frequent to count. If the Iraqi or Afghani native didn't instantly obey the commands of the checkpoint officers, and the officers perceived any kind of threat from the native, lethal force was authorized and employed with some relish. If there was a resistance attack on troops, troops were authorized to open fire on everyone in the vicinity, and in "clearing" buildings, everyone found inside, regardless of status, was subject to immediate execution. Every Iraqi and Afghani male between the ages of 16 and 60 was usually seen as a threat and a combatant, again, regardless of status, and many were killed simply because of their gender and age.

Iraqi and Afghani dogs and donkeys were considered existential threats and were often shot on sight. Wounded civilians and fighters were often left unattended, and in one particularly horrifying incident in Fallujah documented by Kevin Sites, a line of wounded men sitting against the wall of a mosque were shot to pieces by brave American soldiers, and one was shot dead lying on a stretcher as the hopped up troop who killed him screamed "He's faking he's dead!!!"

These and many, many other murders during the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were considered "justified" so long as those committing them were following the rules of engagement, rules that were never clearly articulated to the local population, rules that could always be invoked and interpreted to absolve the killers of culpability. Thus many thousands died most of them innocent of any transgression they knew of, and the troops committing the homicides got away with it.

The situation is not exactly analogous among domestic police forces, but it is very similar. Similar enough for the comparison between domestic police and an occupying army to be frequently noted.

The only time troops were seriously held to account was over sexual offenses and issues. And so it seems to be among domestic police forces as well. Those who are caught in sexually compromised situations may well wind up in court for their trouble, but let them kill someone or run them down, or otherwise leave a trail of blood behind them, and they might just get a medal and a parade. It's a totally screwed up institutional situation in which there is no justice -- at least no justice by any definition the victims and survivors would recognize.

And yet the perpetual injustices of a warped and insensitive system are somehow to be endured by the victims and survivors while a few minutes' inconvenience caused by those protesting this insanity is considered intrusive and alienating, even by many "good liberals."

It's bullshit.

People are dying and there is no justice. Individuals, families, and whole communities are being destroyed by police and by policies of those on high, and there is no justice.

The fact that someone might have to wait a while during a protest against injustice and impunity is just too damn bad. Deal with it.

"No justice, no peace! No racist police!"

From what I've seen, the protests have been remarkable in many ways. The numbers getting out into the streets to protest police impunity and injustice and demand police accountability are impressive. As I've said, we've -- finally -- reached the tipping point on the issue of police violence and murder, and changes will come.

How it will resolve is still something of a mystery, though, and I don't trust those in power and authority to do the right thing. They certainly won't do so on their own, and they will only do as little as possible under pressure. They seem to revel in the mock-military bloodshed they commit and do not want to give it up willingly. So we'll see.

In the meantime, abundant respect and praise to the protesters. Solidarity!

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