Sunday, August 31, 2008

Code Pink: Policing the Police!

After a successful experience at the DNC, Code Pink's unconventional women have arrived in Minneapolis, where we are hoping for another week of peaceful, positive dissent and friendly interaction with the public -- and with the police... we hope.

Only that might be easier said than done...

Police. Cops. Coppers. Officers. Pigs. Stormtroopers. Jack-booted thugs. The Boys in Blue. First responders.

How do you refer to our friends in law enforcement? Probably, like most anyone else, it depends on your opinion of their conduct -- especially with respect to YOU.

In Denver we met all types.

Code Pinkers at a myriad of venues described a massive police presence, frequent professionalism, some courtesy, some friendliness, some glaring silence, some excessive forcefulness, and, in one instance that I'm aware of, a taste of brutality:

Our little Alicia -- diminutive, bold, energetic, and idealistic -- said the wrong thing to the wrong cop and took a club to the chest, knocking her to the ground. I'm sorry, but I've seen the video (link above), and I can't imagine any context that would have justified such a violent response on the part of this officer... especially against one so physically non-threatening as Alicia (I have seen the smallest and most skittish of creatures on this earth stroll right up to Alicia, yawn, stretch, and curl up against her... chipmunks, birds, butterflies, Dick Cheney's conscience, you name it).

...and when the coppers dragged her away, it seemed obvious that the only purpose behind that action was to prevent her from telling the media her story -- otherwise, why wouldn't they have arrested her at the time they knocked her to the ground, if she had committed some terrible offense? (No, it was only after she started giving an interview in front of a camera that she became Public Enemy No. 1...)

Probably the most disturbing report from Denver, however, was the fact that so many of the police were unadorned with name tags, badge numbers, or any visible form of identification. If this is the case, as has been reported, then I don't know just what kind of police presence our government desires at America's political conventions: Nameless, faceless riot cops who are able to club folks and let fly with the pepper spray with impunity, knowing they can't be identified?

That doesn't sound too much like America to me. I prefer an America where no one is above the law, where the police at least attempt to be exemplars of the laws they enforce, and where dissent doesn't get you clobbered by some overzealous testosterone case who has seen too many Steven Segall flicks.*

But that regrettable incident was by no means representative of Code Pink's entire experience with the police in Denver.

Several Pinkies reported pleasant, peaceful, friendly interactions with Denver's finest, characteristic of the types of interactions we are accustomed to having with the police here in DC, who regularly talk with us and even enjoy a laugh with us.

Having had a chance to get to know us, the Capital Police know that Code Pink is made up of friendly, non-violent, everyday Americans with reasonable concerns about our government. They also know that we're willing to work with them and that we respect their authority, especially when they are acting in accordance with the law and not just acting like bullies (mostly it's the new, young, inexperienced cops who fit the latter description).

[Code Pink with some of our cycling enthusiast friends on the force in Denver]

With peace in our hearts, a song in our chest, and bright pink stickers in our bags, Code Pink always hopes for the best -- and usually that's what we bring out in people -- but Minneapolis sounds like it is going to be difficult to negotiate... even for peace-loving peaceniks like ourselves.

Already, Code Pinkers are reporting massive police presence and aggressive, even hostile, actions on the part of the police. Unlike Denver, the police in Minneapolis are apparently arresting progressives PREEMPTIVELY, and holding them for days -- before they even get the chance to protest.

Already, stories are emerging of police pulling over vehicles and dragging out their hapless occupants with guns drawn and pointed at their heads!

And totally peaceful activists, we've been told, have had their homes raided by police who have also pointed their guns at the heads of those they are arresting!

The police in Minneapolis have descended on the convergence center set up for protesters and arrested several people without any apparent cause, seizing laptops and other electronics. They have closed off the entire perimeter of the convention center to bicycles and even strollers. And they are holding people for days without charge.

These are the kinds of actions that get police labeled “stormtroopers” and “thugs.” (I mean I know that the Republicans are coming to town, but hey, I thought President Bush was leaving office come January and that John McCain, like Senator Obama, was running on a “Change” platform -- this sounds like more of the worst of the same!)

*(How many Segall flicks is “too many?” you ask. The answer, my cinema-phile friends, is one-tenth of ONE.)


CODEPINK said...

I've watched quite a few hours of IVAW testimony and much of what's already taken place in Minneapolis sounds quite similar to what has taken place in the villages in Iraq where soldiers storm in holding guns in the faces of totally innocent civilians before carting them off to holding pens.

The irony of this story is so many of the proponents of Bush and Co. use the same tired line to all dissenters: "If you hate America so much, move to Iraq". Well, looks like Minneapolis is close enough. They're bringing Iraq to America. Way to go Bushies.

Great post, JOD.
Peace baby

cpadude said...

Those "pigs" allow for you to do what you do. In other countries, you'd be in work camps or worse. Crawl under a fence when told not to, you get arrested. Waaah.