The UC Davis police’s use of pepper spray a few days ago upon quietly sitting students (including holding students' mouths open and shooting the spray down their throats, producing repeated vomiting) is one of the latest examples of many of police use of excessive and unnecessary force against non-violent dissent from the Occupy movement. The Oakland, Seattle, and Berkeley police, NYPD, and so on, are part of this growing list, which includes the fracturing of Iraq Vet Scott Olsen’s skull by teargas canister in Oakland and the pepper spraying of an 84 year old woman, Dorli Rainey, in Seattle.
Some wonder why authorities and police are using such tactics.
Here is the problem that is being played out: when people, especially a lot of people, engage in direct action, which is the very essence of democracy (voting doesn’t even come close) and they demand answers and ask uncomfortable, embarrassing, and unanswerable questions of authority and institutions, these institutions and authorities have no real answers to offer.
Authorities cannot win through reason and cannot offer rational arguments to defend what they do and how the institutional processes routinely and by their very nature produce unjust outcomes. Authorities will initially try to dispel dissenters with false promises, failing that, insults, failing that, verbal and physical attacks, or some combination of all of the preceding.
To put this another way: when the ordinary channels that the system offers people for redress of grievances no longer either exist and/or the people come to believe that those channels are worthless and the system is rigged against them, then the people will, sooner or later, resort to taking things into their own hands and acting on the ground.
When the people do this, the system is in serious trouble because the system cannot avoid using excessive force. Why? First of all, the system itself is unjust and those who are its order enforcers – the police and other law enforcement – are not trained primarily to serve the public. They are trained to protect the 1%. That is their real job. That is how they are socialized and that is how they carry out their day-to-day duties. While there are a few individual police who are good people, their social role is to act on behalf of the 1%.
Second, when they are called upon to protect authorities (such as the Chancellor or the Mayor or some other grand pooh-bah), they don’t know how other than to use excessive force to subdue people and silence them. This is their job and they develop, nearly one and all of them (with a few exceptions), the mentality that goes along with that of contempt for the people. They can’t use force upon the people without an accompanying set of rationales to justify their use of force.
Therein lies the nub of the problem for authorities: they cannot help but make “mistakes” even when and if they’re trying to calibrate their responses, because they cannot hold onto their power simply through the force of reason and appeals to fairness. Their only real answer to people freely assembling and speaking out is coercion. And when they use excessive force, they radicalize more people who come to see that the system and its authorities are not what they thought they were, that the system is much, much uglier than they ever thought.
At least this is what those among the middle strata start to see. For those among the lower strata, they have never thought that the system was fair and they have only been kept in line by authorities’ routine use of heavy force and intimidation. So when a process begins of the people from the middle and lower strata acting in the streets and the system provides its only possible response, then begins the revolutionary dynamic.
Causes Dennis Loo Supports
World Can't Wait, Occupy, War Criminals Watch, Doctors without Borders, Wikileaks, We Are Not Your Soldiers