September 24, 2011~ Unarmed protesters, already trapped within a police barricade, are sprayed in the face with pepper spray.
October 11, 2011~ Over 50 people, many of whom were violently treated by police, are arrested.
Late October (24-28), 2011~ Police in full riot gear launch an attack against unarmed protesters; firing flash grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The attack lead to several injuries, including a skull fracture suffered by a war veteran.
November 4, 2011~ Unarmed, non-aggressive students are prodded and stuck with night-sticks, and many are violently thrown to the ground by police.
November 15, 2011~ An unarmed 84-year old woman and a pregnant 19-year old are among a crowd of people pepper sprayed.
November 18, 2011~ Unarmed students are pepper-sprayed at near point-blank range, as they sit, arms locked on the ground.
(The list is rather extensive, you can read more here and see more here and here)
Police violence in the news is nothing new, sadly. Since this past April we have watched as citizens around the globe, from Egypt to Greece, have been brutalized by the very forces whose sole purpose is to protect them. What is most shocking about the afore mentioned attacks, is that they are occurring right here in the US. All across the nation, American citizens from all walks of life and generations are being tear gassed, pepper sprayed, shot by rubber bullets, thrown to the ground, and arrested. Their crime? Nothing. Unless you consider it a crime to speak your mind and protest against an oligarchy that has impoverished the people by manipulating the system to enjoy exponential gains in wealth as we the people continue to lose income, and robbed us of our political power (see this video, and this one); if so, I suggest you read the Constitution and learn a bit about the American Revolution.
A few months ago I wrote a post entitled, “Is America Experiencing a Looming Police State,” in response to the ludicrous attacks against lemonade stands that occurred nationwide this past summer. Since then, as I listed above, police across the country have become increasingly forceful against the people whom they’re supposed to serve and protect. People who pay their salaries via the taxes they pay. People who are exercising their Constitutional rights to free-speech and peaceful assembly, and who are, themselves, unarmed.
I still maintain that not all police would behave in this manner; not only because I have known a few cops personally in my life, but because it would be a logical fallacy to claim that the behavior of some police is indicative of all. In fact, some of the protesters who have been brutalized are/have been police officers themselves. Nevertheless, there is a warning in all of this that must be heard and heeded: The Republic is in danger and how we the people choose to respond will make all the difference.
We must be careful to not return violence with violence. As you may have noticed from the videos linked above, as the students of UC Berkeley were battered by batons and those of UC Davis were pepper-sprayed at close range, they held their ground. They locked arms, they shouted for the police to stop, but they did not hit back. I know there are some of you who would want to hit back, but I tell you: DO NOT ENGAGE. They want you to lash out. They want you to hit back. Why? Because no one likes a bully. Instead, you must be willing to be the victim, people tend to love the victim.
I know, it sounds crazy to some of us, but this is how movements are elevated from being seen as a group temper tantrum to being a populous movement for social change. It’s a tactic that I like to call Manipulation of Victimization. The tactic is simple and, if you look back upon most of the movements that changed American history, it is a tactic that works. For the Manipulation of Victimization to work requires a bully and a victim. The goal here is to use the actions of authorities to paint them in the role of the bully. How is this done? Easy.
DO NOT RETURN VIOLENCE WITH VIOLENCE and DO NOT INCITE VIOLENCE.
The minute the people begin to hit back or act out is the minute we lose popular support. Notice how the Occupy Movement has grown as reports of police brutality and excessive force against unarmed, non-violent protesters increase. As more and more instances of abuses of power surface, Americans who were previously ambivalent or completely apathetic toward the Occupy Movement have begun to show support. Like I said above, no one likes the bully and right now the police, and better yet the system (and the oligarchs who run it) that the police are defending, are the bully. It is essential that they remain as such if we hope to continue to grow this movement and achieve the socio-political and economic change that we seek.
Passive resistance is the method we must use. And Manipulation of Victimization is the tactic we must employ. There are several historical precedents in which these were utilized from which we can learn. For sake of time, I will briefly discuss three:
1) The Women’s Suffrage Movement. For over a century women struggled to gain the right to vote to no avail. In 1911, under the leadership of such women as Alice Paul, Women’s Suffragists began to organize mass demonstrations. For the next six years popular sentiment toward the women was predominately negative; like today’s Occupiers, these women were accused of making trouble where none was needed. It was not until reports of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of authorities were reported in the papers that public sentiments began to change. Then, in 1917, public support exploded when news that a group of women, who had been arrested for protesting at the White House and sent to the Occoquan Work House, were being abused and force-fed by prison authorities. Despite the many abuses endured by the suffragists, they maintained the method of passive resistance and used the abuses to their advantage by employing the tactic of Manipulation of Victimization. After being released from the workhouse, the women proceeded to share their stories with the newspapers; a number of them even went on a national tour on the “Prison Special” to share their experiences with their fellow Americans and grow support for the cause. The result of all of this, as we well know, was the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
2) The Civil Rights Movement. For much of the movement’s history, public support was limited. Most Americans were pretty much ambivalent to the plight of blacks; in part because of racism, but mostly because they were ignorant to the realities of the conditions in which blacks lived; especially in the South where Jim Crow laws forced American citizens to live in institutionalized segregation simply because of the color of their skin and voter restriction laws, such as poll taxes, prevented them from voting. Although we generally think of the Civil Rights Movement was having begun in the 1950s, it really began in the 19th century. Like women’s suffrage, Civil Rights took some time, mostly because of the restrictions placed on the free speech and movement of blacks, to become a unified movement. Initially the movement was comprised of isolated instances of resistance which only incensed hostile and racist sentiments toward blacks and resulted in the assassination of several leaders, church bombings, lynchings, and other acts of violence. The aim of the attacks was to end the movement once and for all by scaring blacks into submission; instead, it only caused the movement to grow as stories, such as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the murder of four innocent little girls, horrified the nation.
From 1954 to 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was finally passed, Civil Rights leaders and protesters utilized both passive resistance, from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts to the “sit-in” at “white’s only” lunch counters to the march across the Selma, Alabama bridge, and Manipulation of Victimization to encourage social change. For more than a decade Civil Rights Activists struggled against violence and resistance, mostly at the hands of police and law makers; all the while making only small to moderate strides, such as Brown vs the Board of Education (1954 case that ended segregation in public school) and Browder vs. Gayle (the1956 supreme court ruling that ended bus segregation). It wasn’t until America witnessed, via their television sets, the excessive force and brutal attacks wielded against young, unarmed, peaceful activists, in Birmingham that national sentiments toward civil rights turned from ambivalence to support. Unable to ignore it any longer, President Johnson and Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
3) Vietnam Protests and the Kent State Shooting. Like the afore mentioned movements, the anti-war movement was predominately a non-violent one, at least on the side of the protesters. Likewise, the activists and protesters were generally depicted in a negative light; labeled as “hippies,” they faced much hostility and opposition from older, middle-class Americans who, despite also not supporting the war, viewed the activists as trouble-makers. Nevertheless the movement, thanks to the violent actions of police against protesters being reported on the news, in both televised and print media, continued to gain the support of Americans, mostly among the young. Images of police brutalizing and beating students and protesters at Columbia University (watch footage from 1968, parts 1 and 2) and of the infamous shooting at Kent State that left four students dead and nine others wounded when the National Guard fired on the unarmed, non-violent demonstrators, increased anti-war sentiments nationwide. The high cost, in both money and lives, and the growing resistance and violence at home forced the US government to withdraw from Vietnam. By avoiding, for the most part, returning violence for violence, the anti-war movement not only engaged in passive resistance, they manipulated police violence to their advantage, thus painting themselves as the victim and the police as the bully, which only helped the movement to grow.
Each of these movements shares many common elements with today’s Occupy Movement.
1)They challenged to status quo and demanded an end to institutionalized marginalization based on race, sex, and class.
2) They challenged the power of the “authorities” and proved that, when united, the power of the people can overcome anything.
3) They raised awareness of the plight of the “other” by forcing the American power majorities to acknowledge and rectify the system to ensure that the nation lived up to the promises of its founding documents.
Each of these movements also have something to teach us. AVOID ACTING VIOLENTLY. Instead, return each blow, each spray, and each kick, with steady resolve. Manipulate the victimization to our favor at every turn. When they demand we disperse, stay. When they throw us to the ground, lay still. When they spray us in the face, scream but do not flail. When they try to arrest us, sit down and make them drag us away. But, no matter how angry they make us, we must remain the victim.
If we continue to play our cards right, there is a bright-side to all of the police violence: We now have a weapon; it is a weapon more powerful and more persuasive than any projectile or stick in their arsenal. Their abuse is our greatest weapon. And if we wield it right, if we employ the method of passive resistance and utilize the tactic of Manipulation of Victimization, then we shall overcome.