Thursday, December 4, 2014

Shut It Down!

The irresponsible action of Grand Juries and prosecutors which fail to indict killer police has rent the fabric of society in ways that may not be possible to repair. Obviously something is very wrong. Systemic and institutional failures abound, but the continued killing with impunity by police all over the country has caused the public to reach a tipping point.

This has got to stop.

Grand Juries and prosecutors who enable police impunity are on the wrong side of history. The People have been saying "NO MORE!" for years, and the institutions of law and government have essentially said "Fuck you!" time and time again. The People have been patient, the People have been forbearing and long-suffering as the People will be, but as the chant says, "Ain't no power like the power of the People, 'cause the power of the People won't stop."

And today, as yesterday when the Grand Jury's decision not to indict Brave Officer Pantaleo for killing Eric Gardner was announced, the People arose and said, 

Shut It Down

And so it began. Large parts of New York and other cities came to a standstill, building on actions that have been taking place in many parts of the country for months, at least since the demonstrations in Albuquerque over the egregious shooting of a homeless, mentally ill camper, James Boyd, in the Sandia foothills in March. 

One of those protests included shutting down I-25 through the city, and in the continuing round of protests against police violence around the country, shutting down freeways and highways and major intersections has become a primary tactic. 

"Ain't no power like the power of the People, 'cause the power of the People won't stop."

Shopping malls are shut down. Traffic comes to a standstill. Students walk out of schools. Employees take to the streets. There is no other option at this point, because there are no functioning institutions for justice. Police are out of control, and there is no way (yet) for the government or the law to rein them in. 

The People have to do what they must, and that means they must shut it down until and unless those in power act responsibly, hold police to account, and rein in the murderous rampage they've been on. 

The whole damned system is guilty as hell. 
The failure is systemic, infecting police forces all over the country, some more amenable to reform than others, but almost all engaging in serious incidents of abuse of authority and murder under color of authority. It's a crisis that has had a particularly horrible effect on black men and communities of color.

Until and unless this crisis is addressed comprehensively and pro-actively, there will be extended protests and demonstrations which will effectively shut down "business as usual."

Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to change things around here.

When even some of the most reactionary interests in the country recognize that there's something deeply wrong with the way policing is done in this country, we know the tipping point has come.

The White House has declared its determination to "do something about" police militarization and to institute police reforms that will enable the more widespread use of body cameras by police. As many have pointed out, however, the Eric Gardner killing was videorecorded and has been available widely ever since. Apparently it mattered not at all to the Grand Jury which refused to find the officer culpable. However another Grand Jury did indict the man who recorded the incident. So there is that. It's not "justice" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an example of how the very concept has been twisted into meaninglessness.

Shutting things down is a necessary step under the circumstances. Making "business as usual" impossible in as many places as possible for as long as possible and ratcheting up the pressure day by day is a classic tactic of nonviolent resistance. It has already resulted in some movement by the Powers That Be. They are resistant, of course, to any change in the status quo. But when the People refuse to cooperate in their own oppression any longer, the Powers face a dilemma. They can try to suppress the protests with even more violence, or they can yield. Both have been attempted in various cities and in various ways.

Soon after the release of the DoJ report condemning the Albuquerque PD for its violence and unconstitutional policing, for example, there was a sudden upsurge in police killings. I think there were five in the weeks following the release of the report. Attempts were made to suppress the protest and prevent protesters from accessing the halls of government and power. The demonstrations continued, culminating with a march through the University area that involved thousands of demonstrators. 

Police and the city administration got the message: their continued killing spree had to stop. And it did. So far, the truce has held for months, and the APD has taken a serious PR approach to dealing with the public and the pain and outrage caused by their years of murder and mayhem. 

The shut down actions all over the country and in some places abroad are slated to continue until there is a comprehensive program in place to curb police murder and mayhem and to eliminate the impunity with which police have conducted their policing for far too long. 

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