Friday, December 5, 2014

Not Quite Ready

Saw some of the Shut It Down actions in New York via JamesFromTheInternet's livestream last night, and I was impressed by the size of the crowds -- estimated at 15,000 or more --  by the time I had to head to bed. This is good.


The decision to hold off on Shutting Shit Down until after the workday ended for many/most New Yorkers is somewhat puzzling. The police themselves shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and other sites to prevent the protesters from doing so. And the police have adopted tactics that split the crowds of marchers and protesters into numerous rather easily controlled elements which they then lead either in circles or into dead ends, causing a kind of "natural dispersal."

NYPD is skilled at these tactics. They used them against Occupy as well. They work to dissipate the energy of crowds of protesters and limit the effectiveness of actions. So far, it appears that demonstrators in New York have not found successful countermeasures, though it's obvious that they are aware of the tactics used against them.

Meanwhile I was catching up on some of the actions in St. Louis and watched an archived video shot by Rebelutionary_Z at Webster University in Webster Groves. A contingent of students gathered and marched on campus (one I'm somewhat familiar with, though obviously it's changed in the last 30 years), police and campus security in the lead. This happened at St. Louis University one time too. All of a sudden the march stopped and confusion reigned. Something had happened. There were outbreaks of anger, police lines were formed to prevent resumption and progress of the march, and there was considerable tussling in the crowd as they attempted to find out/figure out what was going on.

Eventually, the cause of the disruption became known. Someone had been arrested at the back of the march. It was one of the banner-carriers, a banner that reads "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" -- a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. This banner has been used in a number of actions and demonstrations in the St. Louis area.

According to reports from witnesses, the arrest had been a "snatch and grab" -- another anti-protester tactic widely used by police these days, and often seen during G-20s and other Big Gatherings of the Mighty, as well as during Occupy's hey-day in the public eye. "Snatch and grabs" are a form of kidnapping in which putative leaders are targeted by police and removed suddenly, often dramatically dragged away by a phalanx of police. Other times, random protesters are similarly targeted and dragged away. Almost always, the only pretext for the arrest of these individuals is that they are strategically placed where the effect of their kidnapping/detention will have the greatest impact on the crowds. This is a link to a video of a similar kind of police action in San Francisco during the #Ferguson protests in which a man who vocally challenged an officer is suddenly grabbed and thrown down, arrested basically for mouthing off. It is a nasty and ought to be an illegal tactic, as charges against snatch and grab victims are rarely pursued. The point is to disrupt and discourage the protesters, and it often works.

It worked in Webster Groves in that the march on campus immediately stopped and the participants then spent twenty or thirty minutes wondering what was going on and/or arguing with police. Eventually, the police said that the man who had been arrested would be released on no bond, provided that the crowd abandoned the march and dispersed. They did so.

Whether the man was ever released, I don't know, but I read this morning about another incident that demonstrates the level of contempt police have for those who are engaged in protest against police violence, and the lengths they are prepared to go to stifle dissent.

Yesterday, a member of the Ferguson Commission who attended a meeting with the President at the White House on Tuesday was arrested by St. Louis Metropolitan Police and charged with assault for his participation in an action at St. Louis City Hall. This was clearly a targeted arrest aimed at intimidating the young man, Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. He's been very vocal about the issue of police abuse in St. Louis, and has participated in numerous demonstrations since the killing of Mike Brown in August. He's also received a lot of press and media coverage, especially after he was appointed to the Ferguson Commission.

His arrest comes on the heels of the failure of the St. Louis County Grand Jury to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown and the failure of the Staten Island Grand Jury to indict Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner in July. It's worth noting (again) that the man who recorded the video of Eric Garner's take-down and arrest, Ramsey Orta, the man who provided the video proof that Pantaleo used an unauthorized chokehold in the take-down, leading directly to Garner's death, was indicted by another Staten Island Grand Jury on unrelated weapons charges, and his wife was arrested shortly thereafter. 

The issue here is the tactic of "making life miserable" for troublemakers. It's a tactic widely by police and Authority in general to silence dissent.

These are not random incidents or coincidences, these are dissent suppressing tactics on full display.

Even the appointment of commissions and meetings at the White House are strategic elements in a cynical campaign by Power to curb and disrupt dissent, protest, and uprisings of all kinds.

They work.

These tactics can be countered, and the disruption of protests and other actions can be thwarted, but it doesn't appear that the organizers of some of the current protests and actions are attempting to do so. I don't know whether it's a strategic choice to let events unfold as they will, or it is a lack of preparedness to counter the kinds of disruptions the police are engaging in.

My sense is that we are still in the "precursor" stage of a potential rebellion and revolution. Activists and Americans in general are not quite ready...

It could be decades before they are "ready." We won't know the day, the how, or the why until it comes.

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