Originally this small argument began as an open letter to one of the local occupations. Fortunately since its beginning iteration, Occupy Santa Ana has seemingly addressed this concern. That said, we feel that it is still important to reiterate one of the concerns originally held by some critics. And so I write about one of the major critiques of the occupation: the support of police officers.
Before going any further I would like to note that I am only going into the role of police in the Occupy movement as the role of the police in the U.S. would be much too big of a topic to capture in such a small amount of words. Many other pieces have examined that the police are not the allies of the people, which has been obvious for people from the working class, people of color and community organizations struggling for economic, social and ecological justice. In just a recent overview of the situation in Santa Ana we have an example of the police being set apart from the so-called 99% by enacting local policies which steal vehicles from undocumented drivers and personal property from homeless people. The general criminalization as well as specific local attacks against some 12 million migrants in the U.S. is another example of police attacking the working class and people of color. Multiple cities in O.C. criminalize and/or seek to prevent day laborers from finding employment. Any discussion of the role of police – whether locally or nationally – must consider the historical context of political repression and brutality disproportionately used against the working class and people of color. From here, let us look at police and the occupy movement’s 99%.
To repeat the title, the police are not part of the so-called 99%. Though many police officers do come from working class or middle class backgrounds, the role of the police is to protect the wants and desires of the 1%. One only needs to look at the actions of the police in recent occupations in Chapel Hill, New York City, Oakland as well as campus occupations such as UC Davis and UCLA. The police have been constantly asked to remove protestors and occupiers at the behest of the local governments who themselves are part of the elite known as the 1%. These multiple entanglements have shown it is not merely a few bad apples within these agencies, but a systematic representation of ideals held by police officers. Let us not forget that the pledge to protecting and serving does not include to protect and serve the community members or individuals of the city, but rather the ambiguous idea of the city as whole, which is run by the 1%. These removals have often included the use of unwarranted force such as the use of chemical weapons, clubbing with batons, and specialized sonic weapons.
Some may argue that the police are merely doing their job to enforce order. However, the amount of chaos caused by the police by trying to disperse non-violent and peaceful assemblies begs the question, order of what? In many cases occupations have their own organizers making sure the camps are at peace within themselves and the locals. Some may then say the police are then following their duties and upholding the law. We then have to ask which laws are they upholding and for whom? With protestors being evicted and pepper-sprayed when speaking out against the economic foes of a country, the police are certainly not defending the right to free speech. When the police take the tents and belongings of occupiers they are certainly not upholding the law that protects against unwarranted searches and seizures. On top of that, many of the laws and policies enacted were pushed forth by local and federal members of the 1%. Let’s not forget that Mayor Bloomberg of New York is also one of the richest men in the country. Some may say that the police are merely doing their job. However, as we’ve seen with the protestors’ injuries in Oakland and the pepper-spraying of students in Davis, we must ask when their job included violently attacking non-resisting members of society? In retrospect, during the Free of Speech Movement in Berkley during the Sixties we saw that it was possible for police to drag occupiers away without first brutalizing them. Some may also say we must include them in a hope to gain them to our cause. This is a grave tactical error to believe those fighting against us will join us. It is nice to believe that our humanity would unite us to resist our oppressors. However take into consideration whose survival they depend upon. It is not ours, that of the 99% in which they serve, but that of the 1%. The 1% gives them payment that allows them to live as well as a purpose to fulfill. On top of which, we, as a group as a whole, are often portrayed as mindless law-breakers that have to be put down. Most of them would not join our cause even if they were paid.
Finally the question of whom the police are protecting is clearly answered. They are fighting for the top 1% of the economically endowed and against the bottom 99%. Therefore they are not part of the 99%.