Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Crackdown on Occupy


Disturbing news from Occupy circles about NYPD practices these days — I mean, in addition to all those other NYPD practices we were already disturbed about.

David Graeber, a prominent anarchist involved with Occupy since its beginning, recounts seeing a woman friend in New York a few weeks ago, her hand in a cast. A cop had grabbed her breast, she said.

When she raised a fuss and screamed about the groping, the cops dragged her out of sight and started working her over. “Stop resisting!” they continued to shout, as they repeatedly slammed her body into the concrete. At some point she told them she was reaching over to get her glasses, which had come off in the scuffle. In the reptilian police mind, this justified pinning her hands behind her back and bending one wrist until it snapped.

Those familiar with police riots versus anti-globalization demonstrations and the more recent Occupy demonstrations, or who follows Radley Balko and CopBlock, is aware that sexual assault’s the only thing unusual about this case. As Graeber says, “arbitrary violence is nothing new. The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new.”

Of course sexual assault itself is hardly new as a weapon of social control, in historical terms. It appears in the arsenals of most authoritarian regimes — large-scale, premeditated use of rape for ethnic cleansing by Serbian forces in Bosnia, Egyptian troops using “virginity inspections” to humiliate female demonstrators taken into custody, and so on.

But it’s new in the recent American context. Graeber notes he heard no complaints of sexual assault by the NYPD before March 17; but there were several on that day (one woman reported being grabbed by five different officers), and they’ve continued since then. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a newly adopted “unofficial policy” of the police rank-and-file — just like covering badge numbers.

What we’re witnessing is the reality behind that Officer Friendly mask. This is what happens when the state perceives the general population as a threat, and drops the pretense that The Policeman is Your Friend.

People in predominantly black and Hispanic inner city neighborhoods — where police hardly bother to hide the fact that they see the local population as an occupied enemy that must be cowed by superior force — have seen this ugly face for decades. But in recent months, the radical upsurge in police violence at Occupy demonstrations, combined with ubiquitous cell phone video, have introduced the naked face of power to many in the white middle class public for the first time.

Lt. Pike of the UC Davis police force, methodically directing pepper spray into the upturned faces of peaceful (and predominantly white) college students, was a revelation to many in the burbs. But while it was the first sight for many, it won’t be the last. Because this is what the state looks like when it can no longer afford to maintain the facade of democracy. All that nasty stuff that used to happen to “those other people” beyond that Thin Blue Line — “It’s Giuliani time!” — is coming soon to “people like us.”

The American state has operated in a manner, if not lawful at least “regular,” toward most white middle-class folks most of the time, because it could afford to. It showed its nasty side to racial minorities and radicals, because they were less successfully socialized into consensus reality — and nobody “who counted” would listen to them anyway. But most of the public absorbed its conditioning in a more-or-less satisfactory manner. They believed this was a “free enterprise society” in which people with great wealth mostly earned it, giant corporations got that way through superior performance, the state represented all of us rather than some “ruling class,” and if you didn’t like the law you should work for change within the system — all that Pleasantville stuff. Constitutionalism and legality’s comparatively no-muss no-fuss — but only so long as the cultural reproduction apparatus successfully manufactures consent.

Now the conditioning’s starting to wear off. A dangerously increasing number of people understand that the system’s rigged in the interest of the 1%, and folks like us are playing in a crooked game. The state and the corporate ruling class that controls it have been stunned as measures that ten years ago would have gone through without a hitch, like SOPA and ACTA, suffered unexpected losses to networked movements. The system can’t work when too many people notice the man behind the curtain.

The state’s functionaries are beginning to realize how high the stakes really are. In response, its shock troops are dropping the Officer Friendly masks. So get ready: The state, before it’s over, will be as nasty as it has to be.

Kevin Carson is a research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society. his written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017