I agree with and support what is said in my last reblog. I understand the structural issues at play.
But I also understand that people are no longer being tear gassed, their homes are no longer being directly attacked, children will be able to go to school again, rubber and wooden bullets are no longer raining down on the neighborhood. So while, yes, structurally, theoretically, this is not a sign of “improvement” and it is still operating as a police state and real change does need to be made, but seriously, maybe consider how the folks marching in Ferguson right now might feel? To not be faced with constant tear gas and rubber bullets, to be able to leave their homes? Everything isn’t perfect, and their fight for justice—not just legal justice, but real justice—is far from over. But hey, maybe kids will be able to sleep better tonight? It isn’t over, far from it, but Ferguson is no longer a literal war zone and that’s not something to brush aside. Because we can talk about theory all we want, but at the end of the day they’re real people being affected. We should not let this be the end, say “oh well order restored, it’s over” because until there are real, concrete structural changes to the department(all departments across the nation really) nothing has really changed and it’s not something that gets solved overnight, but I’m just saying like, folks aren’t being relentlessly and violently attacked right now. And the folks in Ferguson seem to be in a much better place right now.
I think the problem is, however, that this logic is precisely the crux of the overall police strategy. The flow of events goes something like this:
- A black man is killed (or some other event acts as a trigger point.)
- A mass movement erupts saying that there needs to be substantive structural change to achieve justice (e.g. in this instance that police need to stop targeting black communities, that the cop needs to be prosecuted and face a sentence for his actions instead of being let off)
- Local police deal with the movement in a heavy handed fashion - gassing and shooting protesters, brutal repression. The beforehand peaceful/’respectable’ movement escalates tactics, or new elements arrive that escalate tactics, in response to the local police.
- Media spin it one of two ways: look at how awful these local police are, people are being brutally repressed. OR look at how awful these people are, the police are having trouble maintaining law and order.
- A higher body of police/authority are brought in to reconcile the situation.
- Things return to the status quo.
The key points here are 2 and 4. At the point of two, the demands are necessarily too far reaching to be simply reconciled. The point of fixation for the movement is too far reaching for the state to resolve it and still remain essentially the same state. Without the escalation at 3, the movement can continue to gain momentum (almost) indefinitely because the demands are reasonable and fair, but also hard to achieve.
With the entry of escalation at 3 and then the media spin at 4, the fixation shifts to protecting demonstrators and press/political freedoms. This is much easier to resolve because a) nobody wants to be brutalised or victimised by the police, and b) it’s relatively easy to change tactics to fulfil that desire. So the question becomes how invested those protesting are in sustaining the point of 2, and how invested the wider public perception is in keeping support for the demand at 2. The entire purpose of the strategy, as I see it, is to fixate mass support at point 4 so that the appeal to a higher authority can represent a resolution to the crisis and bring things back to the uneasy equilibria.
So rather than this being a coincidental flow of events, as a whole this is a repeated tactic employed that sustains the status quo. Of course, that isn’t to say there should be any expectations that individuals should be out there putting their lives at risk whilst I sit behind a laptop in a different country pontificating and people need to make their own decisions about what investment they’re able to make. But I do think it’s important to recognise that this is a strategy that’s repeatedly employed very successfully for decades in different places, by different police forces across the world.
Real breakthroughs tend to happen when either the attempt at redirection fails, and people can sustain demand for 2, or when the escalation spurs things completely out of control so that 5 doesn’t manage to achieve its intended purpose. Although I think it’s hard to predict when and why specific events end up the way they do and how that sort of activity can be sustained from the side of activists/protesters/demonstrators. This may also indicate the need to explore and begin to develop a range of tactics that have the chance of being effective which circumvent this dynamic of police suppression altogether.