By Chris Murphy
Many people in the Occupy Wall Street movement believe the police are part of the 99%. They say that their friends and family have joined the force and are good union people who want to help the community and see Occupy succeed.
This article will attempt to show that the police are on the other side. We need to consider the police as an institution. Within the institution of law enforcement, a single police officer is not allowed to be an individual and cannot be swayed to join the side of the Occupy movement until he or she retires or quits the force. Just like other workers within the capitalist system, they must follow the orders of the boss. This article will argue that their boss is the 1%.
It is not just local police departments that have acted against Occupy and against the 99 percent, but a larger law enforcement spectrum of Homeland Security, ICE, Federal Protective Service, FBI, fusion centers and the CIA. Law enforcement has routinely been on the side that has committed violent and oppressive acts which violate civil liberties. For example, the Oakland police brutally attacked Occupy Oakland, critically injuring an Iraq War veteran. The LAPD has confirmed that, in the run-up to the raid on Occupy LA, dozens of undercover officers were gathering intelligence on site. In Occupy Providence, infrared cameras have been used to determine how many people were currently at the People’s Park.
The state repression leveled against OWS by law enforcement is something that communities of color face on a daily basis. This racism leads to the breaking up of families with two million people in jail, the majority people of color. In New York City, there is a well-known “Stop and Frisk” policy that overwhelmingly targets minorities. In 2011, according to the NYPD, there were so many “Stop and Frisk” searches of young black men that they exceeded the number of young black men actually living in the city! Within Rhode Island, it is also well known that the police search vehicles of black and Latino residents at a much higher percentage than white people, even though contraband is found in a higher percentage of the stops of white people.
The Obama administration deports over 1100 people a day through collaboration of local and federal police departments. Even U.S. citizens are increasingly being deported. A 14-year-old Texas girl who was missing for months was mistakenly deported to Colombia by immigration agents.
The Central Intelligence Agency works with the NYPD to illegally monitor and infiltrate mosques under the guise of “homeland security.” In the same week that Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a Boston Muslim-American pharmacist was convicted of material support for terrorism. The reason for his prosecution was that he refused to be an informant on the Arab and Muslim community for law enforcement.
Tens of millions of dollars goes to homeland security, but what resources address violence against women and children here in our country today? This is not a top priority. Officers also abuse power when interacting with women. For instance, the global Slutwalk protests began when a Toronto officer told a young woman “not to dress like sluts.”
Yes, it is agreed that police do respond to all types of calls. But, ultimately, to serve and protect whom? This author’s opinion is that their purpose is to make sure the status quo remains, and the status quo is about protecting the one percent’s property. For example, Goldman Sachs provided the NYPD with millions of dollars in funding during the beginning of OWS. At Occupy Providence’s Textron rally in downtown Providence, it was the police who ordered marchers off the steps of Textron’s headquarters.
Although Occupiers have chanted “The police are the 99%”, and tried to sway officers by saying “You are one of us, join us”, the evidence I’ve cited argues that law enforcement’s presence in our community is meant to act as a deterrent, in order to control people, hoping to limit the number of people who participate in struggle and who what is possible through their own collective power.
Now, you might say that law enforcement has been nice to us at Occupy Providence. However, we might consider other possible explanations for this situation. I would suggest that nobody in government wanted to take on OP: the new governor was reeling; the mayor had lost his “political capital” because of his decisions about his budget crisis; there was no acting police chief; and the public safety commissioner had coordinated a raid of the Narragansett tribe, a sovereign nation, not long ago. Given law enforcement’s spotty record of late, one would have to wonder.
By Chris Murphy