Tag Archive: Nonviolence

Nonviolence as Compliance

riot

Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.

From The Atlantic/ By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

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Learning from Ferguson: A World Without Police

love4policeFrom Counterpunch – by Peter Gelderloos

In two previous essay, I discussed the role of the Left in protecting the police through cautious reformism, and the effectiveness of a pacified, falsified—in a word disarmed—history of the Civil Rights movement to prevent us from learning from previous struggles and achieving a meaningful change in society.

The police are a racist, authoritarian institution that exists to protect the powerful in an unequal system. Past and present efforts to reform them have demonstrated that reformism can’t solve the problem, though it does serve to squander popular protests and advance the careers of professional activists. Faced with this situation, in which Left and Right unwittingly collude to prolong the problem, the extralegal path of rioting, seizing space, and fighting back against the police makes perfect sense. In fact, this phenomenon, denounced as “violence” by the media, the police, and many activists in unison, was not only the most significant feature of the Ferguson rebellion and the solidarity protests organized in hundreds of other cities, it was also the vital element that made everything else possible, that distinguished the killing of Michael Brown from a hundred other police murders. What’s more, self-defense against state violence (whether excercized by police or by tolerated paramilitaries like the Klan) is not an exceptional occurrence in a long historical perspective, but a tried and true form of resistance, and one of the only that has brought results, in the Civil Rights movement and earlier.

What remains is to speak about possibilities that are radically external to the self-regulating cycle of tragedy and reform. What remains is to speak loudly and clearly about a world without police.

We don’t want better police. We don’t want to fix the police. On the contrary, we understand that the police work quite well; they simply do not work for us and they never have. We want to get rid of the police entirely, and we want to live in a world where police are not necessary.

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On Cameras: breaches of respect and solidarity

toomanyExcerpted from The Failure of Nonviolence by Peter Gelderloos

The next big issue is the cameras. Everyone needs to realize that they are endangering fellow protesters by filming everything. We should also spread the criticism that if everyone has a camera, they are nothing but a passive spectator, and they are turning their own protest into a sheer spectacle. A camera in the hands is one less rock, one less sign, one less flag, one less can of spraypaint, or one less stack of flyers, and really, one less protester in any active sense of the word. While the question of spectacularization is important, the question of security is basic. Filming at a protest exposes anyone who chooses confrontational methods to arrest and imprisonment. That’s a major lack of mutual respect and solidarity. But filming and taking pictures endangers everyone else as well. The police aren’t there just to arrest lawbreakers. They are there to help make sure our movements fail. They surveil and keep files on everyone who they think might be a threat to authority.

            It has happened in many countries before and it will happen again that democratic governments are replaced by dictatorships, and the dictatorships use the lists of enemies of the state that the democratic governments had already compiled. Another reality is that immigrants who fall under surveillance in democratic countries are deported and face even heavier consequences in their home countries. As for the democratic governments, new technologies are quickly giving them a capacity for total surveillance, and they are not holding back. It is significant, given that Facebook has become one of the primary tools of law enforcement to collect data on social movements, that most of the people taking photos are only going to upload them on their idiotic Facebook pages.

            Many people believe that there is a need to use cameras as a tool against police brutality or for counterinformation and alternative media. But a camera is far more dangerous to protesters than a molotov cocktail. No one should be using one at a protest without knowing what they are doing. Until Cop Watch collectives, legal aid groups, and Indymedia or other counterinformation activists start organizing workshops on how to film without enabling police surveillance, how to edit images to erase people’s identifying features, when it’s okay to put protesters’ faces on the internet, how to safely store, upload, and delete images, they should not take cameras to a protest. At a protest, they should identify themselves so others know they are not cops or corporate journalists. And everyone else with a camera should be asked to put it away or leave. Of course, we cannot stop onlookers from filming or taking pictures, and in the end everyone must take responsibility for protecting their own identity if that is what they want to do, but we will have created an environment much more friendly for a diversity of tactics—or just an active, non-spectacular protest—and much less friendly for police surveillance, if we can discourage camera usage within the protest itself.

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The Failure of Nonviolence is available from Left Bank Books

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…)