I don’t know how to break it to you, but police brutality in the service of the one-percent has always been the institution’s reason-for-being in the United States of America. One need only look at the history of policing in America to arrive at the realization that fealty to the rich has been ingrained in the institution since it’s inception. Just trace the arc as policing moved from a function of the community to a function of the state — and that move was in service to rich people.
There has always been a mechanism for maintaining the status quo. We won’t go all the way back to England and the middle ages and the evolution of policing from tythings and the tythingman that was charged with keeping order among his group of ten families in agrarian settlements.
In colonial America, the community was charged with policing itself, and the punishment was geared toward humiliation of the offender, employing methods like stocks, dunking stools and scarlet letters to shame to rule-breaker. But as cities grew and industrialization emerged, populations grew too large to be controlled by constables and community mores. This paralleled the emergence of the wealthy industrialist and political classes that desired protection from the masses they exploited in order to gain their wealth and power in the first place. This is what the textbooks refer to as the political era of policing and it emerged in the crowded urban centers of the northeast in the decade between 1830 and 1840, and uniformed police were the norm in every established urban center in the country by 1850.
From the outset they worked for the one percent, and private forces — emphasis on “force” — worked right along side the commissioned police officers of the era to break strikes and keep the rabble in line. Pinkertons, the favorite of the rich industrialist that wanted to — ahem — “discourage” unions from organizing famously called in the Pinkertons to bust heads along with unions, and in a pinch they could be counted on to offer falst testimony against troublemakers so they could be dispatched on the gallows, under the color of law. The most infamous case of this was the breaking of the Pennsylvania Miner’s Union in 1876. Twenty miners were accused of terrorism; allegedly for being members of the Molly Maguires, a militant Irish group. None were members, but the testimony of a Pinkerton agent got them sentenced to hang, and the negative publicity from the case effectively killed unionizing in Pennsylvania for two decades.
The so-called “tea party” was allowed to brandish weapons and hold up signs that proclaimed violence (“If Brown can’t stop it, a Browning can” at an anti-healthcare-reform rally) because they were, in effect, demanding the status quo remain unchanged.
But every time the status quo is threatened, the police are deployed against the masses by their masters.
We see it when we look at the unionization era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The massive violence against unions and working people — the 99% — is bookended by the Pennsylvania Miner’s Union organizers I mentioned above and the Matewan Massacre in West Virginia in 1920, when the police joined the miners who were fighting back. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, seven union-busting hired guns from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency lay dead, including the two brothers who were in charge of the contingent; along with four townspeople, among them the mayor.
Matewan was the turning point. It also took the better part of five decades to arrive at that point, and the road went through Haymarket Square in Chicago and Ludlow, Colorado.
We saw the same sort of police violence directed at Suffragettes as we saw directed at unions. Why? What did these peaceful women do to deserve the brutality directed at them?
They threatened the status quo. They threatened the white, male power structure. If women were granted the vote and a say in how things were done, the power of the ruling class would be diluted.
We saw it in the sixties with the civil rights movement…
…and the anti-war movement.
We see police brutality every time the status quo is threatened. And the 99%/Occupy Wall Street movement are a threat the likes of which the status quo hasn’t faced in decades, if ever.
The fear of the 1% is evident in the violence they are eager to unleash their uniformed thugs to perpetrate.
And that is what underlies the bold and arrogant nature of the police as they attack protesters.
We saw it from the beginning when the white-shirt Tony Baloney maced women who were penned behind orange mesh and posing no threat.
We saw it in Oakland when police beat protesters…
…and fired rubber-covered bullets at them.
We saw it in Seattle last week.
And we saw it at UC Davis yesterday, when a so-called “public servant” walked down a row of peaceful protesters, who were no threat to anyone, they were sitting on the ground, for fucks sake, and sprayed them directly in the face with police-grade pepper spray…then something amazing happened:
After the blatant, criminal assault against peaceful American citizens — who were committing no crime, merely exercising their First Amendment Right to peacably assemble and ask for redress of their grievances, the very citizens that had just been brutalized with chemical weapons encircled them chanting “shame on you” and “Whose University? Our University!”
But that’s not the amazing part. The amazing part happens when they use the People’s Mic to tell the police “We are willing to give you a brief moment of peace so that you may take your weapons and your friends and go. Please do not return.”
And they do.
The police, who moments before had been pointing firearms at the students take their toys and go.