Nov 8, 2011

A Critique of the Authoritarian "Peace Police" and How to Defend against Them

Having been attending street protests and other direct actions in the San Francisco Bay Area since I moved here, I thought I had a pretty good pulse on how thing went on the streets. Then the #occupytogether movement started. Suddenly the context and participants in street actions have changed dramatically.

The most notable development that has come with the rise of OccupySF  and Occupy Oakland is the presence of what have been termed "'peace' police," self-appointed protest marshals who try to stop people from "being violent." Their presence, in my opinion has been extremely disruptive and divisive to the movement, creating conflict between protesters at moments when unity is needed. I feel them to be an authoritarian force and a threat to the movement; as such we must learn to defend ourselves from the "'peace' police" and mitigate their harmful effects.

There has been much speculation as to whether or not the "'peace' police" are in fact police or acting on their behalf. To me this question in irrelevant, whatever their motives may be, their effect is the same, disruption and distraction; they turn people against each other in the streets, in the midst of the moment they sew confusion and chaos amongst the ranks of protesters

Also when activists start accusing each other of being "agent provocateurs," this only serves to create divisions and strife within the movement. COINTELPRO used this tactic to great effect. We don't need to do the pigs' job for them; don't accuse other activists of working with the cops unless you have evidence or eye-witness testimony.

The occupy movement is by design a leaderless, non-hierarchically organized movement. The "'peace' police" act in extremely authoritarian and often violent ways. These people have not been delegated the role of march marshal by any group or assembly; they are enforcing non-existent rules, effectively imposing their ideas on tactics and strategy on other protesters, simply because they feel as though they are right.

The "'peace' police" often claim to be enforcing a consensus decision on group adherence to non-violent tactics. Assuming this is true and that somehow people are bound by the consensus process of a GA they may not have attended, this does not mean that people can appoint themselves to be enforcers of that decision. Largely absent from the discussion and completely ignored in consensus at these assemblies are two important things: A) an agreed upon definition of violence and non violence and B)what are acceptable tactics under these agreed upon definitions.

These contradictions are played out on the streets. Here are some examplse of actions protesters have taken which others have deemed to be "violent," "dangerous," or "against the movement": use of snap and pop and party poppers during a march, being loud and boisterous, banging on trash can lids, yelling at cops and calling them names, using profanity, blocking police vehicles with bodies and barricades, graffiti.

While enforcing their imagined code of non-violence, these "'peace' police" often get very aggressive and even physically violent. I had a "'peace' pig" in one breath tell me not to be violent and in they next breath be in my face saying that if I wanted to be violent, he would kick my ass with martial arts. At the Oakland general strike, one protester kept attempting to defend windows from being smashed and at one point picked up a broken flag pole and swung it violently towards other protesters and media; in other words to defend this bank, to defend a corporation's property from "violence", this individual was willing to violently attack human life.

Simply put, the "'peace' police" are self appointed enforcers of rules that are poorly defined and non-binding in nature, in authoritarian and often violent ways.

People active in the moment who are dedicated to anti-authoritarianism and a diversity of tactics,  must learn to defend individuals and the movement against these divisive agents of "peace." There are a number of things I have found to be effective:

Don't allow them to provoke you. Once you engage them in argumentation, they have done their job. They have distracted you from whatever you were doing and created a hostile confrontation during the event.

Stick together. If you see a comrade being harassed by the "'peace' police," back them up. Stand with them and show solidarity. They often go after who they see as individuals being violent and are surprised that others support them and will back off then they become outnumbered.

Be assertive. If the "'peace' police" are getting in their face, stand your ground and assert your autonomy. If they start trying to physically move you or restrain you, yell  "Get your fucking hands off me!" or "You are in my face, YOU BACK UP!" If they tell you to stop being violent, respond "protecting corporations is violence!"


Good luck comrades! Stand together!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a 99% movement meaning that it is universal in nature.

As far as I know, the Black Bloc could not pass a resolution to allow vandalism, so instead they resort to passing "respect for a diversity of tactics" ahead of the general strike and used this generalized, vague terminology to conduct widespread vandalism.

I was a protester at Oakland and I am absolutely disgusted at the way the Black Bloc Anarchists deceptively tricked the rest of us protesters to be meat shields as they committed violent property destruction.

And yes, "violence" includes destruction of property. I don't care what Gandhi said about the word. Look it up in the dictionary or it's Etymological roots. Saying that a non-violent protest includes breaking windows is utter bullshit.

And that's the tragedy of this whole situation. We had this consensus that the protest was going to be non-violent. We stated this openly. Except a minority of people actually believe that "violence" has this special meaning and some language gave them a loophole to be violent.

> Here are some examplse of actions protesters have taken which others have deemed to be "violent," "dangerous," or "against the movement": use of snap and pop and party poppers during a march, being loud and boisterous, banging on trash can lids, yelling at cops and calling them names, using profanity, blocking police vehicles with bodies and barricades, graffiti.

I can't imagine anyone taking offense to these activities. They are all legitimate in a peaceful protest. No one is going to stop you in the streets for doing this.

But hey, congratulations on doing the dirty work for the police. The protest had constitutional protection as long as we were peaceful. I came in full body armor and gas mask so that I could film police brutality against peaceful protesters. Instead I had to put it on early and stop you guys from completely destroying everything that we worked for.

But now that we've proven that we can't be peaceful it gives the police the discretion to declare the occupation an unlawful assembly with no constitution protections.

What happened on Wednesday was an unequivocal disaster for the OWS movement. It harmed the message more than you can know and stripped away many of the legal protections. People are not "waking up" to your philosophy. They are trying to fight a more equal society. And you just burned the bridges to huge demographics sections including labor, the teachers union, the student union and not to mention the rest of us that were there that day.

If you intend to be vandals then fine, but put it up to a vote in clear language so that we can vote and come to a consensus on it.

~Guy With The Yellow Retard Helmet

Anonymous said...

... and from the other side of the story...

http://radioornot.com/site/?p=5181

The Red Son said...

GWTYRH-"I can't imagine anyone taking offense to these activities. They are all legitimate in a peaceful protest. No one is going to stop you in the streets for doing this."

Did you not read what I wrote or are you calling me a liar?

I have PERSONALLY seen people being stopped or talked to for all of those things.

The chap that I mention being threatened with martial arts by began talking to me because I was banging on a trash can and being boisterous and verbally aggressive to the police. He told me to stop being violent and that using the trash can as a drum was being violent.

I am not making this stuff up.

The discussion surrounding destruction of property is an entirely different one. You will notice that nowhere in the article do I advocate vandalism or the breaking of windows. I did that on purpose because I want to differentiate the two discussions.

The 1% want to focus attention on breaking windows, when the events of the day were so much more complex than that. The U.S. is bombing civilians around the world and people breaking bank windows are the criminals? People in oakland are being evicted and foreclosed on, forced into the streets and "Black block anarchists"are the dangerous ones?

Anonymous said...

Up with community autonomy and self-management! Down with state-capitalism and its apologists!