Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Revolution This Time -- Sheep vs Dogs

These young people who are leading the protests and demonstrations and the Movement against police violence, murder and impunity that is growing and spreading like wildfire around the country and now over parts of the world are truly impressive. They've shown themselves to be among the most clearheaded, determined, and able organizers and strategists that have arisen during our times of trouble (those times go back a long way now, don't they?)  and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.

Occupy and its descendants are deeply involved with the current cycle of Movement building, disruption and dissent. It is in some ways more rebellious than Occupy's encampment phase was, but the Occupy element is taking a backseat to the young black and brown men and very many women of color who are the organizational motors for the current Movement. This is strategic wisdom, given the frequent complaints during Occupy's encampment phase that the Movement was overly solicitous to and dominated by white men -- who weren't necessarily God's Gift to Teh Revolution anyway.

And there was another thing too, which I worry about in connection with the current Movement: infiltration and subversion by agents provocateur and worse whose goal is and was disruption of the Movement and ultimately its destruction. In the case of Occupy, disruption was a daily occurrence, and it was fairly obviously a coordinated effort undertaken by agents of both the public and the private sectors.

Part of the problem with Occupy, of course, was that so many people were spontaneously attracted to the Movement, and there wasn't enough time for them to get to know one another, let alone for them to learn the intricacies of direct democracy, horizontalism, and to become grounded in the various strains of anti-capitalist and anarchist thought and philosophy that had given birth to Occupy as if from Zeus's Brow. There just wasn't time. The encampments themselves were difficult environments for this process to take place, and the massed police presence which lurked on the perimeters was not particularly reassuring. When the coordinated and frequently violent and destructive crackdowns came the Movement sputtered and the flame almost went out.

But it didn't go out entirely. Instead, it went underground where it spread essentially from hand to hand, among like-minded people who found one another through their mutual interests in building a better future, repairing the earth, and being kind to one another.

It's a beautiful thing. Occupy is now deeply integrated into hundreds of communities throughout the land and abroad. Those communities of mutual interest have spawned many more, in a very organic process of growth. In turn these communities are built on such strong foundations of mutual aid that an enormous effort like Occupy Sandy could spontaneously arise when the need was greatest and could provide succor and services to the survivors of the Hurricane that the traditional disaster relief institutions either couldn't or wouldn't. The tragedy of our failed institutions was overcome through the voluntary efforts of individuals working on behalf of a common cause.

The Occupy Movement has been building an alternative infrastructure to the more and more incapable, incompetent, corrupt and failed government agencies and private sector institutions that Americans previously relied on. We can't rely on government or the private sector, or on schools, charities, churches, police, the military or what have you to routinely do the right thing in the public's interest. Not anymore -- if we ever really could. There might have been a time when the public interests and the institutional interests were aligned, but those times have long since passed.

Over and over again, the People have learned that we cannot control the actions of government or the corporate sector which has captured the government, Not more than marginally and infrequently at any rate. Government governs contrary to the public interest as one of its fundamental principles, it seems.

And then there are the police.

Oh, the Po Po.

The problem of killer cops and their impunity has been around a long time, and the People have been objecting for just as long. In the past, the issue was localized, however. Individualized. Made into an aberration, attributed to the bad apples which any force will have, yada, yada, and it was difficult or impossible to build a movement around opposition to police violence and murder and their impunity.

It was commonly believed that the incidents were rare and that by and large, the victims "needed killing" anyway because of their behavior, their past problems with the law, their drug or alcohol use/abuse, their mental condition or disability, the color of their skin, their threatening gender, their supposed gang affiliation or their poverty and homelessness. If occasionally mistakes were made and someone who shouldn't have been killed was caught in the crossfire or was targeted erroneously, oh well. Too bad so sad. The courts would order a substantial payout to the survivors from the public purse and that would be that. Until the next time, and then the cycle would repeat.

This routine went on for years and years and years. The police would commit some atrocity or other, either of abuse or murder, there would be an outcry, the police would smear the victim(s) as deserving their sorry fate, there would be a cursory "investigation" which would almost always absolve the Brave Officers of culpability (because the abuse/killing would almost always be determined to be "justified," ie: within policy) and that would be the end of it.

Everyone knew the routine. No matter what they did, the police would not be held to account. Justice would not be done.

The protests and demonstrations against police abuse were highly localized. No one actually knew the statistics of police killings or the pervasiveness of police abuse. There were no comprehensive published data. People who were attuned or involved sensed the problem was widespread enough to be considered universal, but without firm data it was -- and still is -- difficult to show.

A catalyst was needed, and it came with the egregious police execution of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of this year. Police helmet cam video of Boyd's execution was released by the APD as evidence of "justification" for killing him, but the public strenuously disagreed. The man was mentally impaired, harming no one, and he was surrendering when he was shot multiple times, bean bag rounds were then fired and a dog was set on his paralyzed and mortally wounded body. It was absurd. More than that, it was obscene.

Boyd was literally executed, with neither trial nor conviction, for "failure to obey" correctly and swiftly enough for his killers' satisfaction. That was it, period.

The public outrage was swift and the protests were intense, but it was all built on a long history of police abuse and murder of the innocent, on a well-known police culture of violence and brutality. Police in Albuquerque were out of control, and practically everyone knew it. The killings were frequent, often outrageous, and complaints and protests were already almost nonstop by the time Boyd was executed.

The outrageousness of Boyd's execution merely escalated the public outcry and protest against police misconduct and murder that was already underway.

There were large and sustained protests, the freeway through town was even shut down briefly in protest, and the police trotted out their military gear to suppress protesters with threats and teargas and grenades, in a rather striking prelude to the current episode of protest against police violence. Protests that spread nationwide after the egregious killings of Eric Garner John Crawford III, Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Darrien Hunt, and on and on and on and on and on and on.

This has got to stop.

It wasn't just that there was so much killing by police, it was also that the police were almost never held to account for their abuse and killing. Time after time, as the protests this summer went on, district attorneys and grand juries refused to find officers culpable in any way for their actions when they abused or killed citizens. As always, almost every killing and act of violence committed by police was deemed "justified" (ie: within policy.)

Meanwhile the dead pile up. A website called Killed By Police began tracking media accounts of police killings in May of last year. The numbers were startling. So startling, and so divergent from the "official" statistics put out by the FBI that many people refused to accept them, just as many news organizations continue to ignore them. As of today, the number of deaths caused by police since last May is up to at least 1,808. At least 1,050 have been killed so far this year. The statistics the FBI releases annually list "only" about 400 killed by police. This is not just an error, it's a gross error, and many think it is a deliberate undercount.

So far, Killed by Police is the only resource that tracks reports of police killings in almost real time. The statistics are horrifying; the annual death toll of civilians at the hands of police is greater than the death toll of soldiers in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we're starting to get an idea of how often civilians are assaulted and/or wounded by police in the US as well. The numbers are shocking: hundreds of thousands of assaults by police annually. Hundreds. Of. Thousands.

The police are engaged in war against civilians. There's no other way to put it.

It's a war in which the rules of engagement are simplicity itself: civilians must comply with police commands instantly or suffer the frequently lethal consequences; any Negro with a gun -- or thought to have a gun or other weapon -- is to be shot on sight. That is all.

Simple, direct and to the point.

According to the cult of police, civilians are sheep, the police are sheepdogs, and by definition those they kill or abuse are wolves, predators to be guarded against and killed. The problem is and has been that the police are killing a lot of "sheep" in their quest to protect the flock against supposed wolves.

The sheep have had enough.

They're not going to take it anymore.

They've risen up against the dogs that are harassing and killing them.

The police and those they serve are in a bind, to say the least. Note is made of the fact that the police don't serve the people, they serve their masters, the High and the Mighty, which until now have been content to let the police do whatever they want to civilians, kill them if they want, it doesn't matter to those the police serve, so long as the police don't interfere with or attack them -- and so long as the People, the sheep, don't rise up sufficiently for the High and Mighty to notice.

The prelude to the current nation-wide rebellion against the "sheepdogs" in Albuquerque this spring and summer demonstrated that the High and Mighty would be forced to notice. The Department of Justice released a scathing report against the Albuquerque Police Department's pattern and practice of violence, unjustified use of force, incompetence and unconstitutional policing. The city and police department have entered into an enforceable consent decree that reforms some of the department's practices and requires extensive reporting. There has not been a police killing in Albuquerque since August [see update below], though there have been a number of incidents which in the past would have led to summary execution.

Police killings continue in the rest of the country, many of them as outrageous as that of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. The protests against them have gained strength, largely through the efforts of those young people who have spearheaded the Movement since the killing of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO, in August.

The protests have involved a growing array of Americans, from lawyers and medical professionals staging die-ins, to students walking out of schools, to professional sports players signaling their dismay with police conduct through various means like tee-shirts and "hands up" gestures. Even congressional staffers and DC city workers have walked off the job and expressed their sympathy with the protesters.

Tens of thousands march against police murder and brutality in cities all over the country. Over 600,000 Americans are said to have participated in the demonstrations last Saturday.

The protests continue every day. The Oakland, CA, police headquarters was blockaded for over four hours on Monday, vigils are held constantly,  traffic on freeways and city streets is brought to a halt by protests routinely, the all-important Christmas shopping season is disrupted, Chanukah this year is dedicated to the idea expressed everywhere in the protests: "Black Lives Matter." Jews and Muslims march together against police violence.

We may soon see Christian clerics saying "Enough" and joining the Movement.


Stop the killing. Black lives matter. Stop. Cease fire. End the murder. End the madness.

The focus on Black lives is due to the fact that throughout the country, Black people have long been the main targets of police abuse and murder, and due to the fact that so many of those killed by police have been Black men who are instantly executed like Tamir Rice was or John Crawford. Police got word of a "Negro with a gun." That's all they need. Rice and Crawford were shot on sight, simply because of reports that they were armed and Negro. No other reason at all. And of course, like almost all cases of summary execution by police, their killers were absolved by DA/Grand Jury. The Brave Officers feared for their lives... they can't be held to account when they're so frightened. Right? As everybody knows. a Negro with a gun is an existential threat to all mankind. Right? Must kill on sight. Right?

Well, no.

The people say no.

The sheep are corralling the dogs.

The revolution this time is a revolution of conscience and consciousness. There is no resolution yet, but it will come. The pressure on authority cannot be resisted forever.
[Re: Police killing in Albuquerque update. ]

 Last night, a man was shot and killed in Albuquerque by a Bernalillo County Sheriff Deputy. This was not an APD shooting/killing. BCSO has long had a better reputation for use of force -- at least in the field if not at the jail -- than APD, so this incident is something of a surprise, even an anomaly. Accounts of what happened differ of course, but apparently the deputy stopped a car driven by Adam Padilla for expired tags. His girlfriend was a passenger. After the stop, Padilla was allowed to go -- whether a citation was issued is not clear. Padilla was stopped by the same deputy shortly afterwards, and when he got out of his car to speak to the deputy, the deputy used a taser on him. At some point, the deputy claims that Padilla struggled with him, and the deputy believed Padilla had a gun and his life was in danger. The deputy then shot Padilla multiple times. When his girlfriend attempted to go to Padilla's aid, the deputy threatened to shoot her, too. Padilla was seriously wounded and was transported to the hospital where he died.

From what little has been said about the incident it's impossible to know why the deputy killed Padilla. But it was the first officer-involved killing in Albuquerque (but not New Mexico) since August.

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