Occupy

22 November 2011 at 12:49 (Uncategorized)

(disclosure: I’m an Aussie who only takes an intermittent and fleeting interest in US politics).

I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”
- Barack Obama, January 28, 2011

I’ve watched the footage of police spraying the student protestors at the University of California, Davis, several times – Andy Baio has put together a nice compilation here.

The peaceful protest carried out by these students is uplifting. The response by the police is tyrannical. There have been dozens of other reports of police assaulting people during these protests. I have a few concerns:

  • Are the police being militarised? Is it beneficial?
  • Will the police be held accountable? I think this accountability should start with a discussion regarding whether the police were intending to incite a riot at UC Davis.
  • As Glenn Greenwald outlines, hostility like this will limit the public’s willingness to exercise their rights.
  • It is also abundantly clear that the system is rigged to look after the rich. The police aren’t protecting the people; the people are still being exploited by the “1%” (who control the police and the politics).

    The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
    ― Frank Zappa

    Last year we saw Bradley Manning arrested and tortured by his government. We’ve also seen the powers-that-be do what they can to destroy wikileaks, Julian Assange and finally Charlie Veitch. They’re a bunch of bullies.

    It will be interesting to see what happens. I wonder how the police would behave if these people where exercising their second amendment rights (not that I support that idea, but it does always strike me as bizarre that for a society which largely values peace, we instil it with the barrel of a gun). Speaking of which, I thought this post on veterans today was also worthwhile.

    7 Comments

    1. Bill said,

      It is terrifying to see the callousness of those in charge. Are we not men?

    2. nimeton said,

      hrmmm. The US has too many different police jurisdictions (and private rent-a-cops) and too little accountability. The interference of politics in their justice system is also a problem and results in much of the corruption and class divide.

      remind me to tell you a story about police resourcing next time i see you.

    3. asleep person said,

      Sorry, long comment. Police really need to be held closely accountable for their use of legally-authorized violence in cases like this (even if they had dragged the protestors away instead, which would have been better). I don’t have a problem with police as such (or them being authorized to use force if necessary, even to break up protests, which sometimes do need to be ended, although I don’t know the details in this case), but spraying people like that doesn’t seem necessary. In this case it looks terribly brutal. Hopefully the policemen and decision makers involved are, to use a pretty cliched expression, brought to justice. And if there aren’t laws and authorities in place to do that, then the system urgently needs fixing.

      And yeah, having private or semi-private groups like “university police” seems absurd on the face of it. IMHO policing serves too important a role for society for it to be run by anyone other than the government, and almost-directly accountable to the representatives of the people.

      Taking a broader view at this and Occupy in general, I think much of the problem here is disenfranchisement. It doesn’t seem like the people in the USA feel they are represented fairly in government. I don’t think that problem extends here anywhere near so much. I think our politicians give a big weight to the views of the “99%” over the “1%”, just look at the way they pander to the opinion polls. I’m not sure how much it’s like that in the USA. And here they wield more power than the elected representatives in the USA do, given the nature of the the cabinet here, etc. Maybe compulsory voting, despite all its flaws, is more than just a good idea.

      I don’t like the way people are calling for “revolution”. Revolution is an ugly thing which usually results in causing just as much injustice and pain as it set out to remove. And revolutions tend to lurch way out of control and lead to war, often civil war. There needs to be a really good reason and as bad as the GFC and such police brutality as you link to is, it isn’t true tyranny (look in a history book or read the news stories from Afghanistan or Libya for that). On the other hand looking at things like Randall Munroe’s comparison of CEO vs worker pay between 1965 vs 2011 is disgusting (http://xkcd.com/980 ) and makes it impossible for me to disagree with Occupy at its heart. There needs to be reform, serious reform. But I like to think it’s better to try and carry out that reform from within the system.

    4. monototo said,

      It was my understanding that police were being equipped with devices such as pepper spray so that they could use them as an alternative to lethal force. This was not a situation which required lethal force. If this was to become the norm we’d need to reassess ‘legally-authorised’ violence. From my point of view the correct way to deal with this would’ve been to ask the protesters to move. When they didn’t instead of threatening to shoot them and then spraying them in the faces – simply tell them that you’re placing them under arrest (for obstructing an officer of the law – or something to that effect). If they continue to refuse to cooperate _then_ forcefully detain them and add a charge of resisting arrest.

      I agree that in Australia our politicians spend more time looking after the 99% – it doesn’t seem that corruption is such a big problem. I think that some of the same flaws are present in our system; specifically, too few control too much of the conversation. But the impact isn’t the same, I think mainly because our electoral system is better, our social welfare is saner and there are fewer dollars to drive the corruption. So although it isn’t such a big deal, I still think it’s worth keeping an eye on.

      I think the calls for revolution run right to the heart of the movement and the heart of adbusters. That was always the end game. But it’s hard to tell if such a proposal would have majority support by OWS. It’s like the neo-con/anti-semitism, I’m curious how well supported it is within Adbusters (I admit I’ve never really understood where they’re coming from). I think the aim for OWS is more humble – but it’s possible that they’ll lose their cool and some disenchanted individuals will try something more forceful.

      Ever since you first introduced me to adbusters I have been attracted to the idea of a dystopian future – but I like it the same say I like Zombie fiction or the words of Tyler towards the end of FightClub : “In the world I see – you’re stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.” There’s a sense of liberty in those words. But really there’s nothing stopping anyone from adopting this “freedom”, we don’t need to take down society to embrace it. Robert Long and his family are doing it in New Zealand, Jaimie Mantzel is doing it in Vermont. I think it says something about how much comfort we get from “the system” – we choose to remain here, and some people will always be more comfortable to remain in it and protest for change rather than going rogue. Ultimately I don’t mind the system, I’d definitely like some changes but I’m not calling for a revolution.

    5. asleep person said,

      We are in agreement! Nicely put.

    6. monototo said,

      Thanks :)

      I just awoke from a dream involving the survival of an apocalyptic flood. My primary focus during the the event was to look after my phone.

      How sad.

    7. asleep person said,

      “some disenchanted individuals will try something more forceful”

      I was watching footage of the London riots today and thought back to this discussion. Such riots are in large part the very reason that police have weapons and the legal authority to use them. I think it’s fair to say that when anyone is injured or killed in a riot, such as happened in London, then the police have failed, in a comparable way to that in which they failed at UC Davis. They have a difficult job! (not that that’s any kind of excuse, I’m just presenting context).

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