This Is What A Police State Looks Like

Written by Scott Parkin

Topics: Profiles

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Ever seen the film Children of Men? Post-apocalyptic film where England is a police state and grayish activists represent an underground trying to overthrow the government and spark the revolution. All the media is state controlled and immigrants and dissidents are rounded up and put in walled cities to keep them away from “normal” society. At the end of the film is bloody street fighting between the underground and the police state.

In the end overwhelming force defeats the underground.

That was the scene in St. Paul at the Republican National Convention this week. I’ve been to many mobilizations and the police response seems to get just worse and worse.

Over the weekend, joint strike forces of local, county, state and federal authorities staged pre-emptive raids on the RNC Welcoming Committee’s convergence space and three homes looking for individuals and “dangerous” materials.

On Monday, during a 10,000 strong peace march, bands of direct action minded affinity groups spread out to “swarm, seize and stay” at various part of downtown St. Paul to crash and disrupt it, but like the underground in “Children of Men” police turned downtown St. Paul into a war zone and attacked and attacked. Honestly, for their part the affinity groups fought back, damaged property and disrupted business as usual in the Twin Cities.

But the police couldn’t cope with it on their own, so they brought in the National Guard. They fired concussion and flash grenades. They fired tear gas. They used their tasers and rubber bullets. And they used a hell of a lot of pepper spray.

Any media that got in the way were quickly arrested and assaulted along with the “masked criminals.” After two Democracy Now! producers and an AP photographer were arrested, D Now’s host Amy Goodman tried to find out why the police were arresting her colleagues for reporting the news and was arrested as well.

Video of Democracy Now! producer being arrested and attacked by St. Paul Police–here
Video of Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman being arrested–here

At the end of Monday about 280 people were in jail. Many of them charged with felony riot.

On Tuesday, the police canceled a Rage Against the Machine concert which sparked the band to lead the crowd off on a march to join the Poor People’s March chanting “Fuck You, I won’t do what you tell me!” The police attacked that march as well.

Today, it’s been reported that Twin Cities law enforcement is harassing activists doing a vigil outside the jail.

It’s also been reported that eight organizers are charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism”

I don’t always agree with mixing it up with the cops as an effective method of social change, but the police response has been out of proportion to activist plans.

17 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Dr.John F. Gay says:

    Alas, our country tontinues to slide into Totalitarianism and Facism. I know not what will happen if the Republicans retain control. I fear the USA is on its last legs both as a country and economically. And ALL respect from other countries has been lost.

  2. Ed Pleskovitch says:

    Anybody that shows the real news,the police taking away the rights of any press person.Is targeted and taken down so that we the people don’t know how bad this country is getting.The next step will be when Blackwater troops are in our major cities and beating and killing descenters.A sad day in the history of this country.

  3. Jane Hapgood says:

    This is unbelieveable….when news reporters are the targeted that makes an obvious statement about our country. We critisize other nations for doing less than this….we are having our civil rights taken away from us daily….. where is the REAL NEWS??????

  4. Jack Smith says:

    IN ST. PAUL, KNOWN TO BE A PROGRESSIVE CITY, IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE MAYOR MADE A DEAL TO GET THE RCN THERE. THE DEAL MAY HAVE STATED THAT, NO MATTER WHAT IT TOOK, THE CITY WOULD QUASH DISSENT OF ANY KIND DURING THE CONVENTION. PERHAPS OUR VOICES WERE THE COST TO BRING THE CONVENTION TO ST. PAUL. I HAVE NO BASIS EXCEPT FREE SPEECH REPRESSION HAPPENS TOO OFTEN IN THE NATION. Jack Smith

  5. Dan Wison says:

    I live in Valley County, Idaho, which is also a police state. The power of the law enforcement community has continued to excert itself in all phases of our lives. You are no longer considered innocent, in the eyes of the law. THEY love their power, and are proud to use it.

  6. Doug Ward says:

    Well as usual , it’s all talk and no dead pigs.
    Chanting and yelling F_U ? OOOOOO whe’re not gonna take it….pfft
    Break out the mini-14′s and straighten those Nazi’s out !
    McBush and the tramp are Eva and Hitler and those idiotic, semi-literate, brainwashed ” Christians” will let them have their way no matter what as long as “they aint no goddamn babee killrz and faggit luvvers”
    Idiot Nation. I’m glad I left.

  7. Officer Jones says:

    While I think parts of the police response have been a step in the wrong direction, it’s an exaggeration to call it Totalitarianism and Fascism. I’m a police officer in Maryland, a member of RAN, an Obama supporter, and I believe there’s no document in the world more important than the Bill of Rights.

    I’m sick of reading about police officers abusing powers or acting inappropriately. I’m ashamed of them and the dishonor they bring to our profession. But I’m also sick of people making blanket statements about us or giving completely one-sided assessments.

    In St. Paul, the majority of protesters went completely un-harassed by police officers. These were the protesters who acted peacefully, did not disrupt other citizens’ use of the public right-of-way, and did not destroy or attempt to destroy property. The problem is when you have groups of anarchists – some large, but some small and interspersed with otherwise peaceful protesters – destroying property and interfering with other citizens’ freedom of movement. To quote the libertarian motto: “Your rights end where others’ rights begin.” As is always the case, police cooperated beforehand with protest organizers to ensure that free speech and assembly rights were upheld without endangering the people of St. Paul. Anarchists and those who traveled with them violated that agreement when they decided to start blocking traffic, breaking windows, and slashing tires. I don’t see anywhere in any legal document granting you the right to do any of those things.

    As for the media being arrested . . . in some cases they’ve gone too far. I suspect that some officers targeted the “anti-cop” media folks particularly because they are “anti-cop”. As for other media arrests, I can’t be sure, and neither can you, because we weren’t there. But since I wasn’t I prefer to give both sides the benefit of doubt. Were they really legitimate media? Did they have press passes? Holding a camera or a microphone or a notebook does not make you “media.” I’m not saying in every case they were right; I saw Amy Goodman’s arrest and I’m pretty sure they should’ve known better; I’m just saying, it’s a very difficult situation to deal with and not every police officer is bad.

    The real problem, on both sides, is people like commenter Doug Ward, who use self-righteous, divisive language – and who advocate violence as a solution.

  8. Luke says:

    I think it’s important to remember that police officers themselves are not responsible for their deployment in defense of corporatism. They are encouraged to lie and abuse their power by the structure that surrounds them. I heard that this time the Republican party agreed to indemnify Minneapolis against the first ten million dollars in legal damages resulting from lawsuits against the city (for illegal police behavior), effectively commissioning ten million bucks’ worth of police brutality.

  9. Doug Ward says:

    Yes officer.
    I’m sorry officer.
    I’ve had problems with you clowns since back in the days where a Nazi shows up at my door and TELLS me that ” they” ( state of fl) were ” coming in to cut down my citrus due to canker” More Bs. No canker here in my trees.
    The trees are still there.
    Then I put a real estate sized sign ON PRIVATE PROPERTY, a gas station. One of your comrades came by and told me it was against the law to have ANY sign ANYWHERE but my own land or on a permitted billboard.
    Next.
    An old guy from the Keys was sitting in the same gas station parking lot selling shrimp and snapper out of the back of his truck ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.
    Guess what ? Nazi comrade wanted to fine him for not having a peddlers ” permit”. Once again I threatened the Nazi’s and they didn’t want to go through the trouble of a fight so the puddies left.
    Let’s talk about a $75 fine for a taillight out when the bulb was in a NAPA bag with a 2 hour old receipt in the front seat.

    Bigshot hall monitors. ALL.
    Superior to everyone and blind to reality by training-brainwashing.

  10. old fart says:

    I am once again disappointed even with comments made on this site about anarchists. If people only knew what they stood for, took the time to listen and I think they would be very surprised at what they would learn. If you think the RNC8 are terriorists then you really don’t know what a police state is. Look and dig a little deeper before passing judgement!

  11. Mary-Lee says:

    “Officer Jones,” I appreciate what you are saying. I think everyone knows that all police officers are not bad. Still, when one or two behave poorly, and in such a tense situation, it’s very easy for the good guys to assume that the bad way is the only way, or that if “he’s getting away with it,” why so will I. You know that police need to be very calm and clear when dealing with a mob, even a peaceful mob. Also, it doesn’t help to involve the National Guard, the FBI, or any other group in police work.

  12. BS says:

    There are more than enough public cases where cops push bs charges (disturbance of peace, assault, resisting, etc) just because they can, to intimidate people, because they know it’ll have no repercussions on them.

    Even this article seems to hint to more bs: “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism”. In furtherance of terrorism? FFS.

    Cops and law are losing credibility and community goodwill at breakneck pace. And when that hits rock bottom the only winners are the powertippers.

  13. beantown says:

    Seriously, are you frick’en kidding me, there is a big difference in protesting and Anarchy. And the self proclaimed Anarchy group was out of control. They also confiscated from their lodging materials for make shift molitoff cocktails.

  14. Luke says:

    beantown: IIRC, the cops confiscated some completely normal household substances and said that they were materials for Molotov cocktails.

  15. Officer Jones says:

    “old fart,” you’re absolutely right. I have had occasion to speak with some anarchists who were perfectly reasonable, peaceful, even scholarly folks. I disagree with them profoundly, but respect the intelligence of their opinions. I didn’t intend to lump them in with the folks who claim to be anarchists at most of these events; the black mask-wearing, window-smashing, spray-painting thugs. These guys are really more like nihilists. And it’s a shame that they show up at every large-scale protest, hoping to have a rampage and escape prosecution by hiding in the crowds. Because the police can’t just stand by and watch it happen, and it’s often the effort to stop those folks that causes the controversy. Anyway, anarchy as a school of thought really is not represented by them and I understand that.

    I also absolutely agree that the National Guard should never be included in these sorts of things. If the local PD doesn’t have enough manpower (they almost never do), then they can borrow manpower from neighboring PDs. To put soldiers on the street, who are trained to follow orders blindly (police officers are /supposed/ to act according to their own judgment rather than just orders) and know absolutely nothing about civil rights, criminal law, and the intersection thereof, is incredibly foolish.

    “BS,” sometimes cops do press BS charges for BS reasons, ie they didn’t like a guy’s attitude. Sometimes, though, a “BS” charge (like disturbance of peace, public nuisance) is used against someone who is a “bad actor” but for whom no other, more appropriate charges, can be proven. It’s not always just a power trip.

    As for “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism”… I agree, it sounds ridiculous. It lumps those folks into the same bag as Osama bin Laden, which I’m sure was the intent when legislators wrote the law. From a purely denotation standpoint, much rioting is in fact terrorism – “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.” Of course you’d have to prove the rioting was politically motivated, and chances are the people doing the actual destruction aren’t very politically aware. Anyway, the police just arrested some people destroying property. The prosecutors press the charges, which the legislators write.

  16. D. Mahan says:

    Response to Officer Jones:

    While I commend your enlightened political stance Officer Jones, and would generally agree that not making unfounded accusations / assessments is a commendable aspiration, I believe you are either naive or willfully ignorant of the state of police-citizen relations.

    I have personally been involved in protests both in the US and abroad. I have witnessed the violation of our rights here and of decency abroad by armed, scared, and angry police (militia).

    While I was not in St. Paul and I do not know what took place I do not find it a leap of faith to imagine the police were looking for a “reason”. Having grown up in inner city Detroit the police are ALWAYS looking for a reason.

    I am an investment banker, with an MBA. I speak 3 languages, and yet when I cross the border in my home town with a woman of color I am harassed. When I travel in the suburbs with friends of color, I am harassed, but never when alone are with another “acceptable” member of society.

    While you are commended for having the courage to think for yourself and stand apart from the “blue shield” your desire to think that your comrades in arms are anything less than militarized armed agents of our increasingly totalitarian fascist government (phone tap anyone, patriot act??).

    While these issues are still below the surface when white republicans, nascar fans, and christians start having their rights affected I hope people will awaken to the fact that we as a society have shopped, ate, and drank in a grotesque glutinous orgy while the very document that we tout around the world as proof of our superiority was fed through a shredder.

    “There is no greater evil then the indifference of decent men (people)”

  17. Officer Jones says:

    To D. Mahan:

    I’m fully aware of police-citizen relations. I would argue that I’m more aware of them than most people. There’s an us/them divide, supported by police officers and non-police citizens, that keeps people from empathizing and reaching conclusions rationally. People come to the party with pre-conceived notions, and whatever supports their notions is emphasized while what does not is ignored. Police are no exception, so they arrive at the protest with the attitude that it’s a great big unruly mob of “dirty hippies” (I use the quotes because it’s used as a derogatory term, but not by me… my parents were hippies, I have nothing against them) and nihilists who are just waiting to break out into a violent riot. The protesters, on the other hand, regard the police as an army of goose-stepping fascists just waiting to repress the righteous down-trodden masses. Now what do you think is going to happen when these two groups of people determined to press their viewpoint meet? Peace is nearly impossible.

    I’ve been to protests and riots as an officer, as a protester, and as an observer. I’ve seen officers attack protesters without provocation. And I’ve certainly seen protesters attack officers without provocation. Police officers are as much a cross-section of society as the protesters are, and neither side is all bad or all good.

    I understand that people have bad run-ins with police officers. Everyone’s got an anecdote or two. Some of them are truly cases of bad cops, I’m not going to defend them. Many of them are not. Either way, they result from a failure (or refusal) by one or both sides to attempt to view the situation from the other’s perspective. Because God forbid we experience a little bit of psychological dissonance.

    Nothing’s going to change while people maintain their divisive attitudes. You can’t just get rid of all the police, all the “white Republicans,” all the “nascar fans,” and all the “christians.” And you can’t change things in a democracy without them. Like it or not, you have a minority worldview no matter who you are. And nobody else is going to take you seriously when you’re calling them fascists, Nazis, pigs, white trash, bigots, etc.

    I can’t speak for all groups you are opposed to, but I can tell you that police officers are people to and that if you treat them as such things will go better for everyone. Many of us share the same beliefs that you do. Many of us are as much victims of police subculture as you are. But it gets tiring being attacked from both sides, believe me. Every time you make blanket statements about police officers or use derogatory, unnecessarily vicious language, you’re burning bridges where you should be building them. You’re giving that young officer more reason to turn to the worldview of his jaded, hardened superiors.

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