These are non-health policy thoughts so I am getting outside of my area of expertise. I want to make a few assumptions and then follow them to some conclusions
- Police officers are not cheap on an hourly basis
- Police officers are really not cheap when they are getting time and a half or double time
- Municipalities and states have massive COVID related revenue shortfalls at this time
- Any new federal appropriations need to have Nancy Pelosi sign off on major elements.
- Labor Force Participation rate has crashed in April and May due to COVID
There are a few leverage points right now that I see emerge from these assumptions.
The first is that cities and states are broke and they will need a second round of federal relief sometime soon. Federal anti-brutality policies can be a price tag. A well organized demand for anti-brutality measures will present Republicans with the choice to agree or block a bill that will put the Senate seat from Wyoming in play. Right now, the Republican Party is not getting hammered for a horrendous economy partially because the CARES Act for all of its flaws, has generated mass cash transfers that have smoothed out job losses for most people.
A wild Personal Income report for April:
Real disposable personal income: +13.4%, largest on record
Real personal consumption expenditures: -13.2%, largest on record
Personal saving rate up 20.3pp to 33%, both the highest on recordhttps://t.co/M2HGFpxikm
— Jason Furman (@jasonfurman) May 29, 2020
The second leverage point is time.
The opportunity cost to protest today is far lower than the opportunity cost to protest in June 2019. Huge swathes of 18-30 year olds are neither employed nor in class at the moment. Well organized, community led protests can stay in the streets for a long while. There is a huge pool of individuals where the current alternative for their time is Animal Crossing not work nor school. That same dynamic is not at play for city and state payrolls trying to pay police for eighty or hundred hour weeks for weeks on end.
If this assumption is true, then a potential strategy is to put further pressure on the budgets of municipalities whose police forces want to massively overreact. This means spreading out protests in time and space. If the police department is going to come down on 10 protesters with overwhelming numbers just like they are coming down on 100 or 1,000 protesters, spread out to multiple 10 person protests.
A corollary to this approach is for communities with large pro-basic humanity political control to not send their police forces outside of the community.
Alexandria Arlington County, Virginia police usually will assist Washington DC police for major events. Their political leadership has pulled Alexandria Arlington County police out of the District and across the river. This makes the costs of repression higher within the district — given that the Feds are paying for a show of force, that won’t matter for DC but it will matter elsewhere. So if you are on a town or city council, denying repressive municipalities mutual aid to crush peaceful protests increases the direct fiscal costs of those actions.
These are some of the pressure points. I think time is on the side of protesters as state and local money won’t be available in quantities needed to fund mass repression.
Be safe, be brave.