Tag Archive: analysis

In Defense of Looting

lootingFrom The New Inquiry

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. It also seems that there were as many protesters (if not more) in the streets of Ferguson working to prevent looting as there were people going about it. While I disagree with this tactic, I understand that they acted out of care for the struggle, and I want to honor all the brave and inspiring actions they’ve taken over the last weeks.

Some politicians on the ground in Ferguson, like alderman Antonio French and members of the New Black Panther Party, block looting specifically in order to maintain leadership for themselves and dampen resistance, but there are many more who do so out of a commitment to advancing the ethical and politically advantageous position. It is in solidarity with these latter protesters–along with those who loot–and against politicians and de-escalators everywhere that I offer this critique, as a way of invigorating discussion amongst those engaged in anti-oppression struggle, in Ferguson and anywhere else the police violently perpetuate white supremacy and settler colonialism. In other words, anywhere in America. (more…)

Ex-Worker #27: Anti-Police Riots in Ferguson

fergusoncrimethinc.From Crimethinc.

#27: Anti-Police Riots in Ferguson – Since the murder of Mike Brown by police on August 9th, Ferguson, Missouri has been the site of intense riots, looting, and clashes with police. In this episode, we share first-hand accounts from participants and reflections on the rebellion, as well as an analysis which unpacks the designation of “outside agitators.” Two texts discussing other recent anti-police uprisings appear on the Chopping Block: “Unfinished Acts” a discussion of the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland, and “Unforgiving and Inconsolable”, a collection of texts about the response to the death of Chuy Huerta in Durham, North Carolina. Supporters of Luke O’Donovan update us on his trial and how to show solidarity. Clara and Alanis share a slew of listener feedback, exploring the origins of the term feminism, correcting some mistakes about the IWW, and getting into a testy debate over the politics of sports. News, prisoner birthdays, Contradictionary terms, and upcoming events round out another packed episode.

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The Making of “Outside Agitators”

This illustration is available in poster form from artist Corina Dross, to raise funds for arrestees in Ferguson.

This illustration is available in poster form from artist Corina Dross, to raise funds for arrestees in Ferguson.

From Crimethinc.

On August 19, ten days after police murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a slew of corporate media stories appeared charging that“criminals” and “outside agitators” were responsible for clashes during the protests. CNN alleged that “all sides agree there are a select number of people—distinct from the majority of protesters—who are fomenting violence,” quoting a State Highway Patrol Captain, a State Senator, and a former FBI assistant director to confirm this.

Today’s militarized police understand that they are operating on two different battlefields at once: not only the battlefield of the streets, but also the battlefield of discourse. So long as most people remain passive, the police can harass, beat, arrest, and even kill people with impunity—certain people, anyway. But sometimes protests get “out of hand,” which is to say, they actually impact the authorities’ ability to keep the population under control. Then, without fail, police and politicians proceed to the second strategy in their playbook: they declare that they support the protesters and are there to defend their rights, but a few bad apples are spoiling the bunch. In this new narrative, the enemies of the protesters are not the police who are gassing and shooting people, but those who resist the police and their violence. When this strategy works, it enables the police to go back to harassing, beating, arresting, and killing people with impunity—certain people, anyway.

Sure enough, a few hours after these articles about “criminals” and “outside agitators” appeared, the St. Louis police killed another man less than three miles from Ferguson. Here we see how defining people as “criminals” and “outsiders” is itself an act of violence, setting the stage for further violence. You can predict police behavior at protests with a fair degree of accuracy based on the rhetoric they deploy in advance to prepare the terrain.

So when we hear them say “outside agitators,” we know the authorities are getting ready to spill blood. All the better, from their perspective, if people buy into this rhetoric and police themselves so no officer has to get his hands dirty. This is often called for in the name of avoiding violence, but self-policing returns us to the same passivity that enables police violence to occur in the first place. How many people would have even heard about Michael Brown if not for the “criminals” and “agitators” who brought his death to our attention? Self-policing also preserves the impression that we all choose this state of affairs of our own free will, reinforcing the impression that anyone who does not is anoutsider. (more…)

What They Mean when They Say Peace

policestateFrom Crimethinc.

The Forces of Peace and Justice

“I’m committed to making sure the forces of peace and justice prevail,”Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in Ferguson on Saturday, August 16, after a week of conflicts sparked by the police murder of teenager Michael Brown. “If we’re going to achieve justice, we first must have and maintain peace.”

Is that how it works—first you impose peace, then you achieve justice? And what does that mean, the forces of peace and justice? What kind of peace and justice are we talking about here?

As everyone knows, if it weren’t for the riots in Ferguson, most people would never have heard about the murder of Michael Brown. White police officers kill over a hundred black men every year without most of us hearing anything about it. That silence—the absence of protest and disruption—is the peace which Governor Nixon wants us to believe will produce justice.

This is the same narrative we always hear from the authorities. First, we must submit to their control; then they will address our concerns. All the problems we face, they insist, are caused by our refusal to cooperate. This argument sounds most persuasive when it is dressed up in the rhetoric of democracy: those are “our” laws we should shut up and obey—“our” cops who are shooting and gassing us—“our” politicians and leaders begging us to return to business as usual. But to return to business as usual is to step daintily over the bodies of countless Michael Browns, consigning them to the cemetery and oblivion.

Governor Nixon’s peace is what happens after people have been forcefully pacified. His justice is whatever it takes to hoodwink us into accepting peace on those terms—petitions that go directly into the recycle bin, lawsuits that never produce more than a slap on the wrist for the killers in uniform, campaigns that may advance the career of an activist or politician but will never put an end to the killing of unarmed black men. (more…)