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.

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism