A few days ago, there was a wonderfully written diary titled Revolution Porn. The author cautioned everyone against indulging in fantasies of anger and violence. Since then, since the events in Times Square, we have all been reading diaries that express rage and indignation, purporting to show proof of police violence. I was not there, and have not watched every single video, but I do wish to share my reaction to what I did see.
Time to make sure that we all analyse what really happened, and not create a meme in which it's "us against the police," NYPD or other jurisdiction. Time to keep the eyes on the prize.
I first posted part of this as a comment to another blog, but then thought I needed to expand.....
One video purporting to show "police violence" caught my eye.
Appropriate Use of Force vs Excessive Force
No. sorry, folks, I don't quite think so. Many years ago a friend of mine was a person who consulted with police departments on the topic of avoiding brutality. His main qualification for the job, seemed to be that he'd been a well -known organizer and activist in the sixties, but that is another story altogether. This was waaaay before the Rodney King beating, waay before our current ability to live-stream reports of these confrontations on to the Web. My acquaintance actually did some international travel, to the Eastern Bloc countries, to train them on western techniques. In those days, the Eastern bloc countries had a reputation for human rights violations.
In those days, I was an ICU nurse, and occasionally called down to our hospital E.R. to obtain blood alcohol samples on people brought there by local law enforcement. Some other blog, I can tell a few war stories, such as the time the guy said he couldn't possibly submit to a blood alcohol test becasue he was too drunk to give consent. (he thought he had found a novel catch-22 on that one). In that role, I interfaced with many of our local law enforcement guys, as we obtained the sample. Usually in a peaceful way but sometimes holding the person down.
Any way, I recall a conversation in which I said to my friend the consultant " For me, I would never want to be a cop, because it is imperative that the cop always win each confrontation, if it gets to that level." He agreed and said "I am always aware that on the one-on-one level, when force is being used, it is not easy to tell when the line has been crossed."
And so we have it today. At the time of the Rodney King incident, there was another consultant on police violence who appeared on a talk show, I think it was 60 Minutes, demonstrating the appropriate and inappropriate use of a nightstick to subdue a person. For example, you can incapacitate somebody by striking the shins, and you should avoid hitting the head. when does hitting them become abuse? "When you start to enjoy it" was the answer - profound in it's own way.
I will leave the idea of tasers, apart for now.
I don't think so
But I digress. I view that video from the perspective of whether the techniques and the response seemed out of control. Yes, I am sure that the way the police acted, was a surprise to many who were present. I think they have lived sheltered lives til now.
Yes, there are lots of videos. Yes, we are excited, and trying to find ways to frame the experience. But the video, especially the one above, needs to be looked at from a tactical perspective.
In the interest of full disclosure, I personally do not like football although I was an athlete (water polo) in college, and I used to watch sports with my dad and brothers, growing up.
A good sports commentator will be able to watch the instant replay of something that happens on the field, and draw the X es and O s for the audience. Surely everyone has seen this somewhere along the way. This police action can be diagrammed in the same way, and described in the same terms you would employ to describe the action from the line of scrimmage.
Some of these videos, shot at night, were of very poor quality, but the one today with good lighting showed a clearly planned and well-executed response to crowd control, almost as if the police were the linemen of a football team. in fact, you could diagram what they were doing as if it were a sports play-by-play. The horses were in a phalanx, under control except for one incident in which a horse was momentarily spooked - I sure hope it was not due to having been assaulted by a protester.
Here is what I thought I saw on the video
the street patrolmen in front of the horses were maintaining an orderly line, and trying to reset the barricade despite the crowd. Yes, I did see them going at it, with a couple of the protesters. One in particular was a bald guy with a green jacket who was wearing a beret at first. the cop had a stick but did not hit him in the head; yes, I saw the cop in the video punch him, I think this was a two-way exchange. One cop in a white shirt and black necktie came over (a captain I guess) and you could see that the police made a conscious decision to pull the green shirted guy out of the line, through the police side, hustling him along on his way to getting arrested..... so, the police were able to execute an orderly process, almost a calm process, of separating out the ones they wanted, as evidenced by this video.
In other words, if you diagrammed the way the cops were acting in the video, it lends itself very well to X es and O s form a tactical point of view. They were executing a plan for which somewhere along the way, they must have drilled. Impressive. So, I think the police action overall was actually a success from the point-of-view of maintaining a sense of control; but as far as police over-reaction is concerned, I do not think there was any. I do think there were civilians who were getting carried away, and they were dealt with.
I think the accusations of police violence here, need to be toned down, and people who are going to be participating in these events as demonstrators, need to be better trained. I know there will be plenty of fired-up people who disagree. I have been disgusted by the talk about ways to retaliate against the police. That is not the way to win.
There is no Honor in this?
Now, I will also share my reaction to the Marine sergeant who spoke so eloquently to that group of officers. I agree with that man a hundred per cent - there is no honor in this. But I also noticed that the group of officers standing right there, also showed a lot of discipline in deciding not to respond in any way. Not even to speak. Admirable. And his words apply to the deomnstrators as well - there is no honor in attacking the police. Let's resist the urge to create revolution porn.
to be violent, or to respond to violence by getting carried away, to escalate, or even to espouse violence, is not the answer. it never is.
I have heard reports that the OWS collective has been training their people. I think that if these protests are to continue, everyone needs training, everyone needs to think of ways to stay calm and to focus on the issues, as opposed to getting carried away.
Open Thread on ways to educate yourself about crowd behavior during protests
SO - would you kindly do me a favor and cloudsource something for me? If you were the one trying to educate the future participants as to the way to act during a future protest, do you have a website, or a movie to recommend, or a book to read, or a story to tell?