Sunday, May 31, 2020

Anger Turns To Violence Against Oppressive, Brutal, Overly-Entitled Police Across America


Just over 4 decades ago-- May 1979-- a conservative court decided to let ex-policeman, ex-County Supervisor Dan White off the hook (the Twinkie defense) after he assassinated Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The ensuing violent riot wasn't about Moscone. The organizers intended to lead a peaceful protest march of a couple of hundred people up Market Street to City Hill. That didn't last and when the infuriated crowd reached City Hall, there were over 5,000 people-- mostly gay not absolutely not entirely so-- under no one's control and united more in anger than in grief... anger towards Dan White, towards Dianne Feinstein and, mostly, towards the police and their systematic abuse of the gay community.

That anger turned to violence very rapidly. I can't say I started it, but my gang-- punk rockers-- turned over the first police car and set it on fire. And the second and third. I think there were 6 or 7 police cars burned before the police who had barricaded themselves in City Hall-- along with the police chief-- were reenforced by a large continent of police looking to get even. They used tear gas and indiscriminately attacked everyone with night sticks. Just like yesterday, the police prepared for the battle by coving their badge numbers with black masking tape. The police were shocked that "the gays fought back" and several dozen police suffered the righteous indignation of decades of abuse from the department towards the community. Far more protestors/rioters were injured, but the official count of injured police was over 50. (None died... until October 1985 when Dan White was taken into custody by a small citizens' vigilante group and "committed suicide" in his garage.)

After the rioting petered out at City Hall, gangs of police headed to the Castro for revenge. The went to the most bourgeois gay bar in San Francisco, the Elephant Walk, the least likely place to find someone who had been to the City Hall riot. The clientele was... old fashioned drinkers of martinis and tropical drinks with fruit and paper umbrellas. The police went inside and beat everyone up brutally and smashed everything smashable, then spilled out onto the street and and beat up everyone they came across. The chief of police, Charlie Gain, rushed down to Castro Street and ordered the vicious cops off the street.

The cops celebrated their riot (and the deaths of Moscone and Milk and the tap on the wrist for White) but that was the beginning of the end of systemic police brutality towards the gay community in San Francisco. 100 of us were injured but that's what it costs for that kind of change. The following year, the police department started a campaign to heavily recruit-- successfully-- gays and lesbians to the force.

This morning, a team of reporters from L.A., Miami, Minneapolis, DC and Oakland wrote up last night's demonstrations and police reaction for The Guardian. "Tense protests," they began, "over the death of George Floyd and other police killings of black men spread across the US on Saturday night as mayors around the country imposed curfews and several governors called in the national guard amid scenes of violence, injuries and unrest. After a Friday night that saw anger at police brutality erupt into rioting and unrest in cities across the country, authorities appeared intent on re-establishing order through increased shows of force. Governors of six states, including Minnesota, where Floyd died on Monday, called out national guard troops. Many cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Louisville, Columbia, Denver, Portland, Milwaukee and Columbus, imposed curfews in anticipation of a restless night ahead... The violence happened across America from coast to coast and from big cities to small ones. Beyond the major metropolitan areas, protesters clashed with police in cities including Tulsa, Oklahoma; Little Rock, Arkansas; Albany, New York; Fargo, North Dakota; and Raleigh, North Carolina."

Where's Psycho?

The police seemed top prefer attacking peaceful demonstrators than confronting gangs of rioters. "Numerous media outlets, including CNN, Reuters and MSNBC," they wrote, "reported that their staff covering protests in the city had been hit by rubber bullets fired at them. Media outlets and journalists in numerous cities reported being targeted by police with chemical agents or less-lethal rounds, and several reporters were arrested."
Meanwhile, Donald Trump ignited tensions, lashing out at “anarchists” he blamed for stoking the deadly unrest and urging the Minneapolis mayor to act more forcefully against demonstrators there.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden struck a different tone, calling protests against police brutality “right and necessary” but urging an end to violence. “The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” he said in a statement.

Then and now

In Los Angeles, a protest started out peacefully in Pan Pacific Park before small groups of protesters set police cars on fire, and police fired rubber bullets in return. After the 8pm curfew, but before darkness had fallen, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles asked the governor to send up to 700 members of the national guard, according to the AP.

In New York, bottles were hurled at police officers attempting to push back marchers in Times Square, while hundreds more protesters gathered in the East Village. Protests had broken out in different neighborhoods across New York, fires were set on streets and police were seen beating protesters with batons.

“We will not tolerate actions like these against New York City police officers,” the city’s police department said in a tweet announcing the arrest of “multiple people” for throwing molotov cocktails at police vehicles. The US attorney’s office subsequently announced that it had filed federal charges against three people over the incidents.

Elsewhere in the city, a video of two police vehicles driving through protesters blocking a road quickly went viral. Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the action of the police driving the cars, further angering New Yorkers. “If those protesters had just gotten out of the way we wouldn’t be talking about this situation,” he said. “I’m not going to blame officers who were trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation.”

In Atlanta, where three officers were injured and 71 people arrested in violence early Saturday, up to 1,500 national guard troops were deployed throughout the city at the order of the [Trumpist] governor, Brian Kemp.

...In Detroit, Michigan, a 21-year-man was shot and killed during protests on Friday night when an unknown person fired into a crowd from a vehicle.

Nonetheless, expect the mass media to paint a basically one-sided picture, featuring the valiant police protecting "us" and, especially, our property from the unruly, dangerous mob. But there are two sides to this story. That side and the real side. The battle against oppression was also being waged online-- and very effectively so.

They-- presumably Anonymous-- crashed the Minneapolis Police Department website Saturday and today "users were asked to complete a captcha to ensure they were not automated bots orchestrating a DDoS attack."

Where's Psycho II?

Meanwhile, how much coronavirus was spread from these protests this weekend? Plenty of masks, thank God, but not much social distancing. In a related article-- Social Distancing Strictures Fall Away As Crowds Gather To Party And Protest-- Karen DeYoung, Chelsea Janes, Greg Schneider and Scott Farwell wrote that "Crowds of another sort gathered in a number of cities, where thousands took to the streets, at times amid violence, in protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by white police in Minneapolis."
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) reminded demonstrators in a news conference where he announced the full mobilization of the state National Guard to control the violent unrest.

Warning that hospitals were “on the verge of being overrun,” Walz said “demonstrators should wear masks and try to practice social distancing.”

One of my favorite pandemic binge-worthy tv series so far has been Bosch, a Los Angeles police-friendly detective production... but I was the very proud executive producer of this track by Ice-T's metal band, Bodycount. Have you listened to "Cop Killer?" Lately?

And I'll close with a few hopeful words from Forbes' Lisette Voytko. "Some [police] some squads joined in with Saturday protesters to express their stance against police brutality, and to show solidarity with the anti-racism movement.
“We want to be with y’all, for real. I took my helmet off, laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest,” Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson was seen telling protesters in Flint, Michigan, before he joined the assembled crowd to march, eliciting cheers.
Officers in Camden, New Jersey, helped carry a banner reading “Standing in Solidarity,” and seemed to join in with the crowd chanting “no justice, no peace.”
In Santa Cruz, California, Police Chief Andy Mills took a knee with protesters in the pose made famous by Colin Kaepernick, with the department tweeting it was “in memory of George Floyd & bringing attention to police violence against Black people.”
Two Kansas City, Missouri, police officers-- one white man, one black man-- were photographed holding aloft a sign reading “end police brutality.”
In Fargo, North Dakota, an officer was seen clasping hands with protest organizers while holding up a sign reading “We are one race... The HUMAN race.”
Officers in Ferguson, Missouri, participated in a nine and-a-half minute kneel in Floyd’s memory, with cheers erupting from the crowd.
Despite the moments of solidarity, conflict broke out between protesters and police in Kansas City, Fargo and Ferguson.

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At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great writing!

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You no longer have the right to peaceably assemble or to protest against grievances. Party leaders overrule the decisions of voting members. Elected officials completely ignore the will of the people. The police -the Praetorian Guard of the economic elites- are allowed summary justice power, including summary execution.

No true democracy remains in this fascist paradise. The rest of the world will soon have this happen to them if they don't obey Uncle Scam.

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Anonymous rocks!


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