My thoughts on #PoliceBrutality discussion at #OccupyLA General Assembly last night:
Called "the most contentious department,” and the only one labeled “not a real department” because it hasn’t been approved by the General Assembly, the "Stop Police Brutality" Committee gave a report at tonight's GA. The presentation seemed cool and appeared quite popular (lots of wavy fingers)... until the public comments, which brought some harsh denunciations and had people pretty worked up. As someone who’s not involved in the committee, or in the discussion thus far on the issue, here are the initial thoughts I had as an outside observer tonight:
1. This is Occupy LA, right? Police brutality is a real issue for Los Angeles. (you know, the home the Rodney King beating, the most famous case of police brutality in the world). Those who have grown up here in poor and immigrant communities (aka, the majority of LA) will all tell you stories of being harassed, abused, and sometimes brutalized by the police. Just last year hundreds of people from the MacArthur park area marched to the LAPD headquarters right across the street after a day laborer was shot in the head by the LAPD for no reason. Whether or not you've experienced police brutality yourself, it doesn't mean it's not an issue for the people of Los Angeles, which has one of the highest rates of police brutality in the country. If Occupy LA is the people of LA, it should raise the issues that most affect the people of LA.
2. The list of principles published by Occupy Wall Street, that we try to emulate, is read aloud at the beginning of every General Assembly. The third principle is "Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions"...
People get fussy when the issue of race comes up, but c'mon, when a young woman of color raises the issue of police brutality in the United States, and is immediately denounced (and told the police are actually on her side) by a white man, it doesn't seem at all like there's an understanding of how privilege influences interactions. Others who were so staunchly opposed to the “stop police brutality” committee, who don't come from communities that are nearly as statistically likely to deal with police brutality, should reflect on that principle and see if their own inherent privilege isn’t influencing their opinion and reaction.
3. On Sept. 30, Occupy Wall Street held a march of thousands specifically against police brutality. Just sayin’.
4. I don’t get it... are people for police brutality? Because that’s the only thing the committee is about.
5. All the committee did when their representative spoke was propose holding public classes on knowing your legal rights, how to defend yourself against police harassment, how to handle situations when your rights are being infringed on, and history classes on police brutality in America. All that sounds pretty sweet to me.
6. Police brutality is directed against poor communities. If we want to really stand for the 99%, that means standing especially with those at the bottom of that 99%, who's communities deal with this issue at the highest rates.
7. The New York City police just tried to smash Occupy Wall Street. A lot was said at the General Assembly tonight about the LAPD being so supportive, helping out, being on our side, etc. Also, that "we're not breaking any laws, so we've got nothing to worry about."
Maybe we should ask the 5,000 from Occupy Wall Street trapped by the NYPD on the Brooklyn Bridge, of whom over 700 peaceful protesters were unlawfully arrested, on Oct. 1. Just today those fellow occupiers filed a class action free speech lawsuit against the NYPD, describing the incident as "premeditated, planned, scripted, and calculated effort to sweep the streets of protesters and disrupt a growing protest movement." It may not be an issue for Occupy LA right now. But, if Occupy LA starts to grow and become successful (as we want it to, I’m assuming), that reality may change very quickly. What's wrong with keeping that in mind and being organized to respond properly if it happens? Maybe we should be learning the lessons of our brothers and sister at Occupy Wall Street, who are at the forefront of this movement.
(And, I know a lot of people there want to argue that "the police are the 99%," but without getting into a discussion on the role of the state, lets just look at history and see that we're not the first group from the 99% taking political action against the super-rich... and every single time there has been an upsurge of this type, the police have always come down on the side of the 1%. That's the only precedent for the situation we're in.)