The Fraternal Order of Police has announced that it plans to disrupt the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight, in response to comments made by Tarantino criticizing police violence and in conjunction with a planned boycott of the film by other police unions, officers, and their supporters. Police are often charged with suppressing or containing protesters in order to prevent them from disrupting “business as usual,” but in this case they will be participating in protest and disruption themselves. If the protest goes forward, it will be interesting to see how it plays out, how police officers act and frame their actions when the tables are turned and they are themselves the protesters, and as unlikely as it may seem, whether other police officers will be called to control the protesting officers.
Mass protests about civil rights and dissatisfaction with our current racialized system of mass incarceration (for a great resource see Alexander’s The New Jim Crow) are arising all over the country. Hamilton College is no exception. See here how a student sponsored protest unfolded through a series of phases.
Stage 1: The Preparation
Students confided on Tuesday they were planning a walk-out of classes on Thursday at 2:00. But they deliberately did not inform most faculty.
Stage 2: The Die-In
Students and some faculty stage a die-in on the school’s crosswalk in the center of campus.
Radley, Balko. 2013. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Public Affairs.
For the past several years the month of May has borne witness to The Purple Hatter’s Ball, a music festival at Suwanee River State Park, FL, that celebrates the life of Rachel Hoffman. Rachel is a relatively well known victim of the USA’s “war on drugs.” She was murdered in May, 2008 on a rural road in Tallahassee, FL by two young men who were not drug dealers, but had nonetheless been approached by Rachel because a friend had told her they could sell her $13,000 worth of drugs and guns. The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) had used a minor marijuana possession charge to pressure Rachel–who used, but did not sell drugs–to participate in this “sting” operation, and on that night in May she had $13,000 of U.S. taxpayer money in her possession. Her communication with the TPD’s officers running the sting failed, and the teenagers who had made no attempt to obtain either the drugs or guns they told Rachel they could provide her ended up shooting her, taking the money, and escaping (they were eventually arrested, several days later, as they began spending the cash). In short, the TPD created a drug buyer who did not exist, allowed her to locate drug dealers who weren’t, botched the electronics, and one person died while two petty teenage criminals became murderers, generating grieving and loss across three families, along with hundreds of friends. Continue reading
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got a copy of LeBon’s The Crowd that I keep meaning to read. Of course I’ve internalized what we all now think he was saying—protestors are crazy!—because social movement scholars have spent the last thirty years insisting that protestors are rational actors behaving in politically salient ways. But I’ve got this nagging curiosity that I keep meaning to do something about: Maybe LeBon was writing about a fundamentally different time. Maybe protests and protestors were different. That’s not what this post is about, because I’ve not pulled LeBon back down from the shelf.
Anyway, it was with this general line of curiosity that an article from the Times of India struck me broadside: Protestors against a proposed nuclear power station were made to undergo psychological counseling. What’s this now? Seriously? The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has been protesting for some time, but as best I can tell from a quick perusal of the web, this is the first time there’s been an attempt to brainwash them. Maybe it’s not brainwashing, maybe it’s less sinister. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has demanded an explanation from the Indian government. No other details seems to be publically available at this point. Also noteworthy: this psychological intervention follows on the heels of a government investigation of the possibility that PMANE’s work is supported by “foreign funds.” The investigation led to the detainment and deportation of a German national.
There’s no need to belabor the analysis here. India is truly a social movement society. I’ve never been to India when there wasn’t a bandt or strike or sit in or walkout or protest that effected trains, taxis, rickshaws, airplanes, government workers, women carrying water, men breaking stones, and a thousand other activities and sectors. So a protest against a new reactor is nothing new. But at a time when western security forces are developing more and more refined responses to large-scale protests, it seems that the Indian government is moving LeBon-ward. Diagnosing the protestor as patient and administering the cure.
Which brings us back to The Crowd. I wonder if LeBon got some things right about the world he lived in. Maybe, like the Fantastic Mr. Fox tells Rat, “certainly she lived, we all did. But it was a different time; let’s not use a double standard.” But then when I see the Indian government treating protest like a disorder I settle back into the conventional wisdom: LeBon was crazy. I guess I really should read his book.
It would be an exaggeration to claim that there has been a significant and visible mobilization against the war in Iraq for the past several years. The misinformation used to justify the war and the failure of any workable formula for the governance of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein rather quickly caused a broad segment of the public to adopt a quagmire frame. With the election of a President who was critical of the war and who promised to end it in an orderly fashion, the opportunity to mobilize any significant constituency to take collective action to end this war was essentially closed.
Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be drawn from this experience. Continue reading
It is widely recognized that police and protesters compete for the moral high ground, as the iconic image from the US civil rights reminds us.
Christian Davenport and I have begun a Civil Society and Democratic Expression research initiative that we hope will serve as a model for how we should collect data so that we can better study the street politics of social movements. Matt Baggetta kindly posted about the “within the protest” street portion of the project, and we will post soon about our effort to also document the police deployment “behind the scenes” during large events such as the recent march and rally in Chicago organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda.
Because the street politics of protest can be understood as a competition between protesters and police to earn the moral high ground we believe it is vital to study not only the interactions of protesters and police on the street, but also the resulting press coverage and public opinion. Continue reading
While at the anti-NATO protest I became especially intrigued by the clothes/costumes worn by the different activists – particularly those associated with the “Black Block”/Anarchists. Clearly, there are important elements of “dressing to impress” and identity formation at work. They do not all appear to be consistent but they likely never are.
Below are some of the interesting things we observed:
Below one sees that the NFL (National Football League) and MLB (Major League Baseball) are proud “sponsors” of anarchists, an essential component of any radical wardrobe. I wonder about the teams. There are also some uses of head scarves found in the Middle East (does anyone know what the light green one represents?)