It was inevitable that they would counter-attack.
After the exoneration of Darren Wilson (who killed Michael Brown) was announced, everybody from President Obama to the Wall St. Journal hoped that would be the end of it. Their line was that we are a nation of laws and that we must respect the legal process. Then the reaction set in. For weeks, thousands took to the streets, the freeways and the shopping centers to protest the non-prosecution of the cops who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Cop Supporters Silenced
The Wall St. Journal’s editors were silenced. Obama made some proposals about police wearing body cameras. (What good would that do? We already have enough videos of police brutality and murder and nothing is done.) Others, closer to ground zero, such as New York’s mayor de Blasio, actually met with some of the protesters. And with a few exceptions, the police were held in check to a degree. Throughout the country, protesters swarmed onto freeways to block them and, in general, they weren’t arrested. The Wall St. Journal (12/5/14) reported that “Police departments around the country are racing to develop new training rules on the use of force, a response that has gained urgency amid scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department and an emerging consensus that law-enforcement practices need to be reviewed and revamped.”
And in the face of these protests, the criminal (in)justice system was on the defensive. Even the mass media was starting to recognize the misdeeds of Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCullough, who knowingly allowed a “witness” to lie on the witness stand.
But it was never going to be that easy, and it’s not just a matter of the individual racists in the police departments throughout the United States. Ever since the campaign against “violent criminals” was inaugurated by the Nixon administration, “law and order” has been a staple of US politics. It’s used to confuse and divide tens of millions of workers. It’s used to strengthen the apparatus of government repression.
Fear and distrust, hostility and suspicion became a steady part of the US political diet, as seen from the politicians, the “news” media, and Hollywood. It is necessary in order to justify allowing millions to go hungry while a few wallow in wealth. It is necessary to turn private sector workers against their sisters and brothers in the public sector. It’s necessary to divide the unemployed from the employed. And given the traditions of US society, racism is a central and necessary part of this.
And the police, themselves, are a central part of the political system in the United States. As New York political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, a lobbyist and one of New York’s movers and shakers who has advised New York mayors from Michael Bloomberg to the current Bill de Blasio, said, “Mayors tend not to do well when the police department and its officers are not happy.”
“Thin Blue Line Between Us and Anarchy”
Police brutality in the United States is the logical and necessary outcome of this mentality that has been created by the corporate controlled media and the corporate controlled politicians. It is deeply rooted in US politics. As the head of the NYC police department put it, the police represent “that thin blue line between us and anarchy.” So following the shooting of the two New York City cops, the forces that have aided and abetted this brutality and murder returned to the offensive.
“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” said former New York mayor Rudy Giulani. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion. The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”
The former mayor also criticized President Barack Obama, Holder, and Al Sharpton for addressing the underlining racial tensions behind the failure to indict the white police officers who killed Garner and Mike Brown in Ferguson. “They have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities. For that, they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
Edward Mullins, president of New York City’s Sergeants Benovelant Association commented that “Mayor de Blasio, the blood of these two officers is clearly on your hands.”
The Wall St. Journal was even more rabid. Their editors wrote: “‘What do we want? Dead cops!” So chanted marchers at one of the protests organized in the last month against the failure of grand juries to indict white officers in the death of black crime suspects Michael Brown and Eric Garner. (This writer never heard such a chant.) On Saturday they got their wish… this double assassination is also a moment of clarity about how thin the line in any society is between order and anarchy. America is full of Brinsleys who no longer abide the norms of civilized behavior, if they even know what those norms are. They need but the slightest excuse to take justice into their own hands and go on a rampage.
“Especially in urban America, the police walk that line between civilization and mayhem every day. Yet since the Garner and Brown episodes, the progressive leaders in New York and Washington have talked and behaved as if the police are society’s main problem…. this double assassination is also a moment of clarity about how thin the line in any society is between order and anarchy. America is full of Brinsleys who no longer abide the norms of civilized behavior, if they even know what those norms are. They need but the slightest excuse to take justice into their own hands and go on a rampage.
“Especially in urban America, the police walk that line between civilization and mayhem every day. Yet since the Garner and Brown episodes, the progressive leaders in New York and Washington have talked and behaved as if the police are society’s main problem…. The progressive campaign against police must stop before it has even uglier consequences.”
De Blasio beat a hasty retreat, calling for an end to the protests.
Of course, all of this is pure hypocrisy. A nation of laws? What about the justification of torture of prisoners of war on the grounds that the ends justifies the means? What about the torture of children Where are those soldiers now? How many of them are on various police forces throughout the country?
The “thin blue line standing between ‘us’ and anarchy?” What are the police unleashing on black people and on poor people every day? What do you call it when they can get away with shooting a 12 year old child (Tamir Rice) or choking a man to death as he pleads for his life (Eric Garner)?
But hypocrisy and lies have never stopped Corporate America and their representatives, from the police to the elected politicians.
Up until now, in some ways the protest movement has been similar to the Occupy movement in that it has subsisted on a steady diet of militant protests and mass defiance of the law. This is a positive and necessary step, but no movement can survive on mobilization alone. Already the media is reporting that the protest size has been dwindling, at least in New York City. Where, then, does this movement against police brutality go from here?
That is what has to be decided, especially since it will be meeting with increased resistance and repression from here.