Yes, Virginia, There is a Police State

Hyperbole?  You decide if this is how you believe the police should behave when citizens are exercising their constitutional right to free speech.

On Monday, December 16, 16 people were arrested at two different locations on Hwy 26 outside John Day, OR.  They were there in response to Omega Morgan Company moving a heat condenser from the port of Umatilla to the Tar Sands site of the XL pipeline in Canada.  This mega-load is so wide that it takes up two lanes of traffic, is 18 feet high, 376 feet long and weighs 450 tons.  A similar load was unstable enough to tip over the next day and snarl up traffic on I-205 for hours.

Four of the protesters put disabled vehicles on the highway to block the mega-load and bravely locked themselves to the cars.  Their action is to protest the devastation of the Athabascan First Nations lands and waters in Alberta that have been destroyed by the mining of the dirty Tar Sands.  Additionally, they protest the fact that if all the oil is mined and burned, it will release more carbon than scientists say the planet can tolerate without baking.  The protesters were acting to protect all of us.

The police responded by arresting not only the four, but also 12 support people (including one minor) who were standing off on the side of the road. Officers issued no warning.  Various items were taken from the protesters leaving them exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for 45 minutes.  Some of the activists who were locked down to the vehicles were dragged across the asphalt while still locked to the vehicles, literally a risk to limbs if not lives.  They were taken to waiting ambulances and inside these vehicles, which are intended to provide medical care to people, officers used pain compliance to force protesters to comply with various demands.  In some countries this is called torture.

Earlier this month some of these same protesters were on hand across the street from the $32,000 per couple fundraiser that President Obama held in Seattle.  They were again peacefully trying to reach the President through banners asking him to cancel the XL pipeline.  Secret Service ran jamming devices so that all cell phones in the area went straight to voice mail but could not connect, again interfering with protesters’ (and uninvolved neighbors’) ability to communicate with each other and the press, and thus with their right to free speech.  An intimidating armored vehicle was also parked on the street and swat team members in bullet-proof vests, carrying assault weapons, paraded around.  Well, we need to protect the President you say? Agreed, but this over-the-top show of force is just a waste of taxpayers money and also violates civil liberties.

During Occupy, in city after city the “riot control” squads came out to control crowds of completely non-violent protesters. Swat teams were clad in all black “Darth Vader outfits” with smoked visor helmets that render them faceless.  They do not have their names listed on their jackets like regular police, and act anonymously, with impunity.  We learned at that time that squads in every major city had been given special military training, which includes the tactics of disorientation,  “pain compliance” techniques used last Monday in John Day, and tear gas sprayed directly into people’s face (which can be life threatening if someone has asthma).  Why would we militarize police who deal with American civilians?  Is this how we want our citizenry treated?  Is this what we want done with our tax dollars?

So maybe climate change is not your cause.  But whatever your favorite cause, is this how you would like to be treated if you came out to simply demonstrate your thoughts?  I think there was wisdom in the founding father’s desire to protect dissent, regardless of the cause, which they saw as critical to true democracy.

Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Seattle, is a lifelong peace activist, a mother, therapist, and writes for PeaceVoice.

More articles by:
March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us