Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Pipedream of Demilitarizing U.S Police

by

“What are we gonna do about the men in blue? What’re we gonna do?”

– Youth Brigade

Since the circles consuming left journalism are bound to access the same popular media and leftist discourses on current events, I am not going to bother you with a rundown of details and analysis surrounding Michael Brown’s murder. I’m going to assume this readership has been following it closely. What I want to do instead is challenge one of the most disturbing new ideologies to emerge out of the events of Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere. It is now a widely accepted idea that yes, police “can go too far,” and that they need to now be reined in or “demilitarized” before more people get murdered, tear-gassed, rubber-bulleted, profiled in streets, and harassed on their own property.  The only problem?  You can’t demilitarize a militaristic organization.

One view of U.S. policing is that it shares, with occupying U.S. forces abroad, the joint project of protecting the ruling class interests of a white supremacist global order.  This point was made well by radical movements in the 60’s and 70’s—including the Panthers and the American Indian Movement. When we begin to see things this way, we are less likely to settle for a governing plan that has police—and Ferguson’s aesthetically militarized “desert state troopers”– tucking camouflage away in favor of the good old blue uniforms or the more amped up old school riot wear. As I see it, bringing the camo onto the streets reveals policing and militarism’s shared interests; but people, especially people of color, had cop problems long before cops inherited hand me downs from ongoing foreign occupations.

We don’t simply want demilitarization; we, in fact, don’t want policing.  A few years ago when a brilliant comrade, who now unfortunately calls one of California’s finest gulags his home, and I wrote about how U.S. policing was becoming militarized after 9/11, we coined the phrase “PIC/MIC” to capture the continuum of institutions, ideologies, individuals and equipment shared between what we so commonly call the “prison industrial” and “military industrial” complexes. (We also liked that “PIC/MIC” implies the opposite of a people’s “picnic”.) We dreamed of activists making swift connections between foreign and domestic occupations, and how authoritarian rule (perfected by the US empire and its satellite societies, like Israel) protects a transnational ruling class. This is the reigning ethos of our day, everywhere.

We felt these connections would sensitize anti-war activists to prison abolitionism, rekindling the kinds of unlikely political alliances that made the anti Vietnam War era so threatening to the powers that be. In many respects, these connections are made, most recently during Occupy, as both military and policing cultures are criticized as racist, sexist and extremely brutal/ murderous.

As I write, these connections are being forced on the U.S. at gunpoint, eerily, immediately after Israel tore Gaza up again and news circulates that Ferguson police trained in Israel. But, instead of any critical examination of the authoritarian rule of property, extracting human labor power and natural resources for capitalist profit, we have a pseudo-progressive neo-liberal discourse about “demilitarizing” police–a position endorsed by the New York Times. Since self-interest is the rule of the day, corporate media engages in sensationalist “Alien Invader Cops Gone Wild” coverage—while remaining vacuous in the analysis department. This is not surprising. What’s more disappointing is that Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman hosted a staid August 15, 2014 discussion about how people feel way better in Ferguson, and the goal is to “demilitarize” police so they can get back to their real missions to protect and serve.  The National Guard is now moving into Ferguson after Michael Brown’s autopsy reveals he was shot six times: feeling better still?  No justice, no peace.

Meanwhile, far away from Ferguson, Mo., in the stop and frisk metropolis of New York City, we saw police in their Benny Hill style dorky blue uniforms—goofy hats included– as they arrested protesters in August 14, 2014’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Ferguson solidarity event. But be very weary of alien invaders in blue uniforms, too. Subduing their vehicles, weaponry, uniforms, and maybe even instituting new speech codes and behavior guidelines—“Must not call protesters ‘animals’” and “Must not stick guns in reporters’ faces”—won’t stop the racist police brutality/ murder that is my generation’s (I’m 40 something) Vietnam, so to speak. Police are foreign occupiers.  Veterans become cops, former correctional officers become military personnel, and hand me down programs, including well worn desert fatigues,will proceed accordingly despite cries to demilitarize police.

Just like they say about war, police are good for “nothing, absolutely nothing.” The PIC/MIC is ruining everybody’s picnic.

Michelle Renee Matisons, Ph.D. can be reached at michrenee@gmail.com.

Michelle Renee Matisons, Ph.D. can be reached at michrenee@gmail.com.

More articles by:

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

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]