The Prologue to Dario Fo’s 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist
explains that in late 1969 there were a number of bomb incidents in Italian cities.
Milan police arrested an anarchist and accused him of the crime. At a certain point in his interrogation, the anarchist flew out the window of the police station. Something similar occurred in New York in 1921, when the anarchist Salsedo flew out the window of a police station, around the same time that Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for a crime never proven against them. From these stories we can conclude that many anarchists are obsessed by the urge to jump out of the window, because they believe they are able to fly.
It is an illusion of theirs that when they're two or three yards from the ground, they merely have to open their arms and move their feet to fly up again. Some observers have suspected that anarchists are able to fly, but they are also so underhanded that they smash themselves to the ground, just to incriminate the police and other state institutions by dying.
The case of the kamikaze anarchists helps explain similar events, such as the asymmetrical warfare of prisoners at Guantanamo
, and the recent propensity of American college students
to throw themselves repeatedly in front of TASERS
. Only time will tell if we are at the beginning of a similar wave of middle-aged women strangling themselves with their handcuffs
Kristian Williams has argued
that the modern
police system was not created in response to spiraling crime rates, but developed as a means of social control by which an emerging dominant class could impose their values on the larger population.
Organized police forces arose specifically when traditional, informal, or community-maintained means of social control broke down. This breakdown was always prompted by a larger social change, often by a change which some part of the community resisted with violence, such as the creation of a state, colonization, or the enslavement of a subject people. In other words, it was at the point where authority was met with resistance that the organized application of force became necessary.
As Naomi Klein has pointed out
, the dominance of neoliberalism is not the result of a lack of alternatives but of the violent suppression of alternatives.
But if the recent increased visibility of police brutality is a consequence of expanding
corporate power, dismantling or privatizing social and government
services, giving away the commons
, deregulating and polluting food air water and land
, spiraling inequality
of income, and all of the other things which may be making previously docile segments of the population more restive--it’s still the case that police violence most particularly targets the racial and economic groups traditionally most subject to it.
Consider, for instance, Susie Day's report in Counterpunch
about an incident in which Cops shot yet another Rich White Man
Hours before he was to be married, a wealthy Caucasian man leaving his bachelor party at a country club in East Hampton was shot and killed in a hail of police bullets. Two of his friends were wounded, one critically. Witnesses at the scene expressed shock and outrage, one of the club's patrons voicing the pervasive sentiment: "Why, oh why is it always rich white people who suffer at the hands of bigoted, trigger-happy cops?"
With emotions swirling around this case, and a long history of no criminal indictments for police who kill rich white people, legal experts say it will be difficult to determine if the shootings were justified. "Let's be honest," said district attorney Roger Gray, "As an affluent white male, Mr. Bellwether was part of a minority community. Those people don't trust us. They don't understand that cops confront danger every day and have to react in seconds. And if cops happen to shoot the same minority people from the same minority community again and again, that's a simple mistake--not a systemic pattern of brutality and injustice." Mr. Gray went on to say that reporters and investigators would be barred from questioning the officers, "to give them time to get their story straight."
The investigation into this case will likely prove controversial. At a time of growing social division, any appearance of police carelessness or bias could set off civic unrest. "And when white people get mad, it's really scary," said police commissioner Patrick O'Reyes. "That's why the department has maximized equal-opportunity. With our new, fully-armed multi-ethnic teams, we've got it fixed so nobody can say we're racist--even if we only shoot white people." The commissioner then ordered his multi-ethnic officers to roughly interrogate witnesses and family members of the victims, and ransack their homes for anything incriminating. "It's routine," he added.
Although civil rights leaders concede that social awareness has improved in recent years, some say more progress is needed. "The negative stereotype of the 'well-healed honky' is rampant in this case," proclaimed activist Martha Stewart at a press conference today. "But I think we can get it out with a touch of white vinegar."
On-the-street interviews, however, indicate that this prejudice might be harder to eradicate.
"Face it, prosperous white people own the corporations; they break unions; they're behind environmental degradation; they got us into Iraq--they're nothing but little Eichmanns," declared a professor of Equality and Justice Studies at Red Hook Community College. Victim advocates say this mentality has wormed its way into the police force.
One of the plainclothes officers who had been working undercover at the country club on the night of the shooting spoke on condition of anonymity. He said he thought there might be trouble when he saw several of the revelers wearing their black, navy blue, and beige "gang colors." Noticing hushed voices and some numbers being scratched onto cocktail napkins, the officer suspected that another hostile corporate takeover was being planned. "I couldn't stand to see more people suffer because of lost jobs, lowered salaries, the privatization of our infrastructure," the officer stated. "That's why I joined the police force--I wanted to help."
For more information on the problem and how you can help—and defend yourself and your community against police violence, check the links here:
National Day of Action to Stop Police Brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation: The October 22nd Coalition
See also Portland Copwatch
on Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody through August 2007.
See also Prison Planet
. The ACLU website offers A Community Action Manual on Fighting Police Abuse.
Listen to this Well-Read Red and the Whole Old Mole at the Old Mole Variety Hour