Gods bless Mr. Charles P. Pierce (he’ll need it):
Make no mistake about it: The actions of the police department in Oakland last night were a military assault on a legitimate political demonstration. That it was a milder military assault than it could have been, which is to say it wasn’t a massacre, is very much beside the point. There was no possible provocation that warranted this display of force. (Graffiti? Litter? Rodents? Is the Oakland PD now a SWAT team for the city’s health department?) If you are a police department in this country in 2011, this is something you do because you have the power and the technology and the license from society to do it. This is a problem that has been brewing for a long time. It predates the Occupy movement for more than a decade. It even predates the “war on terror,” although that has acted as what the arson squad would call an “accelerant” to the essential dynamic.
Basic law enforcement in this country is thoroughly, totally militarized. It is militarized at its most basic levels. (The “street crime units,” so beloved by, among other people, the Diallo family.) It is militarized at its highest command positions. It is militarized in its tactics, and its weaponry and, most important of all, in the attitude of the officers themselves, and in how they are trained. There is a vast militarized intelligence apparatus that leads, inevitably, to pre-emptive military actions, like the raids on protest organizations that were carried out in advance of the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Sooner or later, this militarized law enforcement was going to collide head-on with a movement of mass public protest, and the results were going to be ugly. (There already had been dry runs elsewhere, most notably in Miami, in 2003, during protests of a meeting of trade ministers.)
Meet Oakland, Singapore-by-the-Bay. There will be more of these. Depend on it. After all, they have fans out there…
And why shouldn’t the police be militarized? After all, we keep handing them “wars” to fight. A war on drugs. A war on terror. A war on graffiti. (Thanks, Rudy.) Wars are not properly fought with half-measures. Wars are fought over territory and wars are fought over power. You put enough war propaganda into the heads of young men, hand them weapons, and give them a license to use them, and they are not going to see fellow citizens through the visors on their helmets. They are going to see enemies. Wars have enemies. In Oakland last night, the police took action against enemies…
It’s time for the country to realize that something is dangerously out of control here, and that it’s not a bunch of people in sleeping bags in the public parks. There is a tradition of public protest in this country. Hell, this country is itself an act of public protest. Preserve that, or preserve nothing else, because there’s nothing else worth preserving. Police officers are public servants. They are not soldiers, facing down enemies. This is not a war. This is America.
Of course, Mr. Pierce grew up in Massachusetts, where we’re still proud of those dangerous, work-shy DFH rabble who started a decade-long war against public order and their property-owning betters by throwing rocks at duly authorized troops doing their jobs to “protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation.”