Sunday, November 20, 2011

"See the violence inherent in the system"

Previously, I described how some of the Occupy tactics were inherently radical and were an open challenge to the authority of the established system of power (i.e. law enforcement). In such a situation, the protesters should expect a forceful response. However, that does not mean that I believe that they deserved what they got. A humane (and self-confident) system should not resort to such violence in order to enforce its laws on non-violent resisters.

One of the main distinctions that I made was between breaking the law and obstructing law-enforcement. Law breaking is not radical, especially if the law-breakers passively accept being arrested; obstructing law-enforcement is radical. While I think that the Nov 9 protests at UC Berkeley fall into the later category, the Nov 18 protests at UC Davis seem to be a simple act of law-breaking, yet it was met with a similar level of violence (update below). Here's the video:

Given the brutal responses to these Occupy Cal protests, and other Occupy protests around the country, the public mood is starting to change (at least, mine is). William Lind provides an interesting comment on the tactical achievements of these protests. James Fallows offers some well-worded comments from the mainstream liberal perspective.
this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population... And by the way, when did we accept the idea that local police forces would always dress up in riot gear that used to be associated with storm troopers and dystopian sci-fi movies?
Now brutal police tactics are becoming the issue. Public outrage over police behavior can move in two directions -- reform or revolution. Of course, reform is what mainstream liberals (and probably most of the student protestors) are hoping for; they want a system that is basically like today's, but a little more sensitive to people's rights and needs. The alternative is a radical restructuring of our social relations, which is probably the desired outcome for some of the protesters. The non-violent protests of Nov 9 were bound to provoke some sort of forceful response -- yet they were still not violent. They force observers to ask themselves whether "the system" is worth this sort of violence. My preferred outcome is a little of each -- that we strongly question the law enforcement mandates (such as drug prohibition) that have enlarged our police forces and created constant conflict between law enforcement and much of the public (a hope echoed by E.D. Kain)

It all brings to mind a scene the comic/satirical classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- when some peasants refuse to recognize the authority King Aurthur and are subsequently manhandled into submission:

Come, see the violence inherent in the system.

Update: I found another video of the UC Davis event that shows a broader perspective, and it looks like the line of students were blocking the cops who were trying to leave with a protestor who they had arrested. So these students were obstructing law-enforcement.

Update 2: This 3-part video shows the whole confrontation. In part 2, around 6 minutes, you can see the crowd encircling the cops yelling "set them free" after which a "mic check" is held and someone announces that they cops will be allowed to leave only if they release the people who they had arrested (for setting up camps, or something).

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