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Brad @ Burning Man
David Graeber of nakedcapitalism.com has made what ought to be a devastating accusation against the New York Police Department: "New Police Strategy in New York -- Sexual Assault against Peaceful Protesters." After interviewing many of the participants in the Occupy Wall Street protests of March 17th of this year, Graeber has concluded that NYPD officers are deliberately sexually assaulting female protesters, in plain sight of nearby male protesters, in hopes of provoking a violent reaction, that can then be used to justify torturing the protesters (boot-stomping already-restrained protesters in the head, hands, wrists, and ribs in order to cripple them) for the crime of "interfering with a law enforcement officer."

Graeber says that his interviews with the targeted protesters, many of whom have been with OWS since last fall, say that this cannot be the work of a few rogue officers, because it didn't happen with any regularity until March 17th, and then on the 17th it became something that multiple cops, widely separated from each other, all started to do at the same time. Graeber argues that the only way that's possible is if the effort was intentional and coordinated, meaning either something the officers conspired among themselves to do, or that they were ordered to do by someone above all of those officers in the chain of command. Either way, it's a criminal conspiracy. But so what?

I've been reading a lot of history lately, mostly related to the peak industrialization years of 1870 to 1950, and I'm starting to realize that there are ideas that I take for granted because of when I was born that are the product of a weird, and possibly unsustainable, anomaly in American history. Prior to the late 1950s, the idea that anything in the US Constitution, or that anything in written law anywhere, would be applied in such a way as to inconvenience a law enforcement officer who was doing his duty, was unthinkable.

And the duty of any cop or sheriff was not, prior to that time, "enforcing the law." His duty was making the complaints of land-owners and employers go away. And the main tool they had for making those complaints go away was to go to the person being complained about, tell them to stop doing whatever it is that the land-owner or employer is complaining about, and if they don't stop, hit them with a big stick. Whether what they were doing was legal or not was of no interest whatsoever to the police and sheriffs because, frankly, no court and no legislature was going to care. Any cop or sheriff who said to a land-owner or an employer, "I can't stop that person from annoying you, what they're doing is legal," was going to find himself unemployed and permanently unemployable. Land-owners and employers have always had plenty of power to make non-compliant cops' lives miserable.

The mass mobilization, and mass propaganda, that accompanied US entry into WW2, followed by the horror at the discovery of the Holocaust, left the "Greatest Generation" with a revulsion against arbitrary authority and a reverence for the rule of law that is entirely anomalous in human history. And the GI Bill made a lot of them into lawyers. As those law-school grads rose to power, from around 1955 on, they passed some really unpopular laws and some even more unpopular court rulings that can be summarized as, "I don't care what land-owners and employers want, if people aren't doing anything illegal, cops can't hit them with sticks."

A big part of what the 1980 election was about was an all-out revolt by everybody in America who owns even a tiny bit of land, or who employs even a couple of people, against those court rulings. And it's only aging liberals like me who take those court rulings as scriptural, because we were raised in the only generation of Americans who were told that "we are a nation ruled by laws, not men" isn't just an aspirational slogan, it's enforceable. Nobody before us was told this; since my generation were kids, fewer people have been told this every year. If you were born after around 1970, you were probably told what every American born before 1920 was told: if a land-owner or an employer tells a cop to stop you from doing something, the cop should pass that order along, and if you don't obey the cop, then whatever happens next is not the cop's fault or the land-owner's fault or the employer's fault, it's something you deserved for not doing what you were told.

But this isn't just hitting people with sticks. This is sexual assault and torture as an anti-protest tactic and, as Graeber points out in his article, that's something we saw recently used against people who were raised with no expectation of fair and impartial rule of law: the Egyptian anti-fascist, anti-secularist, anti-corruption protesters of Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring. The Egyptian army and its closely-allied national cops made it clear to the protesters: bring your women into this, and we'll rape them, and then we'll torture you for defending them. They thought that would stop the protests, but it was so outrageously over the top that the revulsion against it was a major propaganda tool that the Islamists used to sweep the generals' hand-picked President from power, and it's revulsion that has lasted long enough that, if I'm interpreting the latest polls correctly, it looks like it's going to sweep a moderate Islamist into power there, as the accusation of sexual assault and torture as an anti-protest tactic has tainted even secularists who weren't directly involved.

So Graeber's accusation is a powerful and important one, one that you'd think that powerful people in New York City cannot dare ignore. It's an accusation that, once made, cannot be allowed to stand; if it can be refuted, the person who made it must be humiliated, and if it can't, then scapegoats must be found fast before political contagion spreads. (Although scapegoating cops is a dangerous tactic for people who can only stay in power through the loyalty of the cops.) When the New York Times was contacted by Graeber, and shown his evidence, the NYT reporter took that evidence to an editor. The reporter then told Graeber that the story got spiked. Why? "Because it's not news." That's what it's come to: police in America's largest city using a policy of widespread sexual assault and widespread torture isn't even news-worthy any more.

And why would it be? Occupy Wall Street annoyed land-owners and employers. Those land-owners and employers used the time-honored counter-tactic of making cops' lives miserable, and threatening their livelihood, until the cops used the time-honored tactic of telling them to stop annoying land-owners and employers, and when they wouldn't stop annoying the land-owners and employers, they hit them with sticks. Hitting them with sticks wasn't enough to stop them, and the land-owners and employers are complaining louder than ever. To any American born before around 1920, or after around 1970, what happened after that, if it happened? Probably isn't really news, at that.

Comments

( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
silk_noir
May. 5th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
May I share this?
bradhicks
May. 5th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
Yes.
radiumhead
May. 5th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC)
Sounds like bullshit to me. I believe a few cops could do some shit like this, but its not a fuckin conspiracy.
radiumhead
May. 5th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
There is something to be said for past experience and common sense. If you read a second hand account on some unknown website, and no mention of it anywhere else, that doesnt mean its definately bullshit, but it usually is.
bradhicks
May. 5th, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
There is more to be said for independent eye-witness accounts, photographs, and video evidence. If Graeber musters that much evidence that it happens, and your only counter-evidence is "I don't believe it," then http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/personal-incredulity
chessdev
May. 5th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
Is there some video of this?

There were numerous video feeds and tons of people with cameras and
phones at these things... what is the likelihood of not seeing these videos
anywhere?

No offense, but the article you linked has lots of allegations and even video of other incidents
but very little evidence of these assaults -- which is even more amazing considering the extensive news
coverage these protests received from multiple channels, multiple angles and multiple sources

So where is a video showing these assaults?
jonathankorman
May. 5th, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see further reporting legwork on this as well, but I take David Graeber to be a reliable enough source that we should take this initial report seriously.
chessdev
May. 5th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
You can take the report seriously -- but you still need more than just allegations. Reading through some of the comments I'm seeing comparisons to Nazi, etc... based on just allegations.

Just as bad I watched some of the video where "anarchists" were running through the town smashing up windows and cars. It's easy for people to try to classify the Occupy Movement as those guys...

likewise, I'm reading allegations but seeing very little evidence of these coordinated assaults happening, or that such attacks (so far, unsubstantiated) were beyond the actions of 1 or 2.


These are serious allegations and some legwork needs to be done here and I'm seeing lots of people jumping to conclusions but very little substantiation happening

drewkitty
May. 5th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
Cops would never:

- block a bridge and shoot refugees trying to cross it, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danziger_Bridge_shootings

- go door to door to confiscate legally owned firearms from homes, http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-New-Orleans-Grab/dp/0970981333

- conspire in unlawful shootings, bank robbery, beatings, theft of drugs and planting of evidence, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rampart_scandal
radiumhead
May. 5th, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Are any of those nyc? Its louisiana and l.a.
siege
May. 5th, 2012 02:52 pm (UTC)
Does that mean New York cops are all clean and perfect heroes?
radiumhead
May. 5th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
No....any time you have a police force youre gonna have assholes-but we do have one of the more professional police forces in the country-i doubt their boss actually TOLD them to do this shit. too many people would know about it, even if most of the cops went along with it, somebody would rat, or theyd let it slip to someone who would.
nebris
May. 5th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
The Gestapo and The KGB were also very 'professional'.

~M~
chaotic_nipple
May. 5th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Of course they didn't explicitly TELL anyone to grope and harass protestors. They just 'subtly' indicated that they wanted it done, a la "Boy, it would sure serve those damn hippies right if someone would (insert misdeed here), but of course WE wouldn't do that." Winking and nudging is purely optional.
dd_b
May. 5th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
So you think places called "LA" in one way or another are fundamentally different from the place called "NYC"? Interesting theory, any evidence for it?
radiumhead
May. 5th, 2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
So youre gonna say cops everywhere are exactly the same? I live in nyc. I know the cops here are much less fucked up than the ones in LA. If i wanted to bother im sure i could find stats to back that up, too. But im lazy.
fiat_knox
May. 5th, 2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
Pretty much, yeah. There's an old saying from round these parts, from when cops who served in the Eighties had to beat up their own family on the picket lines during the Miners' Strike of 1984/85 - "Once a policeman, never again a man."
nebris
May. 5th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
How about some anal rape with a broom handle? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abner_Louima

~M~
ionotter
May. 5th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
*ahem* Life-time Long Islander, here. You are full of horse-puckey.

I know what NY cops are like. I had one for an uncle, and I heard this sort of crap all...the...time. My own father, God rest his soul, once sold a handgun to a friend of his who was a cop. He'd been given the gun by one of his elderly customers who wanted to get rid of it. My dad was going to turn it in, but his friend said, "I can buy it off you? I'm a cop, I can take care of it."

Dad was only too happy to have it gone. He was well known in the town as a founding member of the rifle and pistol club, and nobody would give him any trouble over it? But doing it right was still a hassle. So this looked both right and easy. (Which should have been a warning sign, if you think about it.) After he sold it, he asked his friend how he was going to get it registered. "Oh, I'm not going to register this one. This is my 'nigger gun'."

Dad didn't get it and asked, "Your what?" His friend laughed and said, "Yeah, it's my nigger gun. If I end up shooting a nigger, I just pull this out and put it on him."

Dad lost a friend that day. And I learned a very valuable lesson.

Edited at 2012-05-05 11:56 pm (UTC)
chessdev
May. 5th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
The question is not that cops would never do this... but rather
do we have more than allegations of this?
nancylebov
May. 5th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
Another police abuse, perhaps of particular interest to geeks. I'm mentioning it here because someone in (now closed) comments mentioned that it might help if that sort of thing happened to politicians. There was a reply that it did happen to a politician, and police involved weren't punished. I have another link of the same sort handy.

If this problem can be solved at all, it won't be through routine politics.
dd_b
May. 5th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Just hitting my friends list from multiple angles this morning -- http://phoenixwoman.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/pinch-the-boo/
silveradept
May. 5th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
This wouldn't count as news - the public pretty well shrugged when it came to robo-signing and the rocket dockets that are basically pushing through the demands of the land owners and employers, regardless of whether it was legal or not.

After that flagrant disregard for the law was exposed and everyone yawned, that the next step into physically assaulting protesters who weren't doing anything like what they would be accused of seems like a much more easy one to take.
sylphslider
May. 6th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for recognizing that the cops aren't here to save us.

I have two degrees in US history and I teach it. The idea that the cops are around to protect ordinary people from criminals is largely laughable - it has very little historical basis.

The more I learned, the more I came to dislike police officers as a class. However, I'm white, and when I tell other white people I don't like cops, they look at me funny.

"The cops are here to protect us," they say. But I reply, "No, they're here to protect property." And since I have none, they're not here to protect me.
bradhicks
May. 6th, 2012 03:02 pm (UTC)
I learned, a long time ago, that in terms of allocation of time and resources, the priorities of every police department in history go something like this: #1 protect property values, #2 prevent or reverse the perception of anarchy, #3 placate politically dangerous complainers, #4 raise police department revenue, and, distantly, #5 grudgingly enforce written law.
nancylebov
May. 6th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
"Property values" (real estate?) is clearer than "property"-- the government doesn't knock itself out to protect people from various sorts of theft and fraud.

Even the property values model doesn't cover the way the banks were permitted to engage in fraudulent foreclosures.
bradhicks
May. 7th, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
Because rent-a-cops mostly work for the rich, and rent-a-cops outnumber real cops by 3 to 1 in the US. If a cop got complaints from small-holders and proprietors that Len Blankenfein's business practices were wrecking property values in their neighborhood, and that cop even tried to go to Len Blankenfein and tell him, "if you don't stop dumping these NINJa teaser-rate loans into my neighborhood, I'll hit you with a stick," he wouldn't even get close enough to talk to him before Len Blankenfein's private cops stopped him.

Which is merely emblematic of something I left out, above, in the name of brevity: it has also never, ever, ever been the duty of ordinary police and sheriffs to do anything to (as opposed to "for") nobility. Police and sheriffs police disputes among the landless poor and the lower middle class, period. Think I'm being unnecessarily, obsoletely medieval here? Observe how rare it is, to this very day, that police get sent to the home of a rich criminal to collect him when he's indicted; rich criminals are instructed to turn themselves in, and typically given at least one working day to do so. Now, as then, the person of a nobleman is sacrosanct; he must be stripped of his nobility before the grubby hands of a policeman may be placed upon him.
livejournal
May. 7th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
Another station of news and politics - 30 April - 6 May 02012
User silveradept referenced to your post from Another station of news and politics - 30 April - 6 May 02012 saying: [...] of whether or not it's legal, and if you don&aps;t, then whatever happens to you is your fault [...]
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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