Last week I attended a gathering of social activists at the BC legislature so that we could talk about what solidarity with activists in Toronto might look like. The protesters and the journalists and the civilian passerbyers that were arrested or otherwise beaten and intimidated in Toronto last week have had their lives altered by the shortsightedness of the state and I for one am very interested in how to challenge that kind of use of force.
I’m also interested in challenging the very legitimacy of the Federal government, especially the Harper government, to negotiate on my behalf with the G8 or the G20. I hope there is a proper public investigation into the conduct of the police and government officials. Anyway, while at the solidarity gathering, I happened to be privy to a very interesting exchange between two articulate activists trying to form an analysis of police culture. Here’s how it went, more or less. For gender fun, I’ve made him pink, and her blue. And I’ve added some sad and smiley faces for extra precision.
Him: I know I should be working right now … but the police actions were so fucked up …
Her: Yeah, no, I’m pretty sure the police are supremely fucked up as well. There are dozens of videos coming out of events of the weekend. Those people don’t have to do those things but they do. So they are just as fucked up as the powers that enable them to.
Him: Yeah, that’s true too … I can imagine that it would be hard to not be caught up in the fucked up culture of the police, that special mix of power, entitlement and legitimized use of violence …
Her: Yeah but they chose to become cops in the first place. if they get caught up in the culture of policing, it’s because they chose to be police. What they’re doing here is no different, fundamentally, than what they do most of the rest of the time. it’s the logical conclusion. I just have zero sympathy for someone who finds themselves in that position. I have these moments watching the videos where I think, none of these people had second thoughts about this? are any of these cops going to come forward and speak out about how fucked up this is? probably not. even if they are there in all their gear, they don’t have to be beating people up but they do, over and over again. people don’t do things that they can’t justify to themselves one way or another. They think they’re right. Each of these individuals is making decisions at any given moment and they think they’re making the right decisions. no sympathy here. :(
Him: Yeah, I agree with all your points … I guess I just want to be able to find ways of connecting and understanding … after the revolution, if you know what I mean, they will be part of society too … it feels too easy to just write them off. That said, when it comes down to who I have in my life, I’m not sure that I could be intimate with anyone who had chosen to be a cop. I’m ambivalent about it, I guess. Although I don’t want that to get in the way of having an honest discussion and critique of what they are doing.
It also seems, in this case, that they were so directly empowered by the state to take the violence to this level, so we also need to be critiquing that part of what made the violence possible – not instead of, but as well as critiquing the police.
Her: right, i feel ya =)