Police Violence and Perpetual War

Why we shouldn't be surprised that police are using tools of violence against protestors.

The Atlantic‘s Alexis Madrigal has an interesting discussion of the ebbs and flows of police violence in crowd control situations in modern American history. Under the provocative headline “Why I Feel Bad for the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike,” he argues that it’s institutions, not individuals, who should receive most of the blame.

Our police forces have enshrined a paradigm of protest policing that turns local cops into paramilitary forces. Let’s not pretend that Pike is an independent bad actor. Too many incidents around the country attest to the widespread deployment of these tactics. If we vilify Pike, we let the institutions off way too easy.

That these changes in the police force have occurred is not in dispute. They’ve been sufficiently open that academics can write long papers detailing the changes in police responses to protests from the middle of the 20th century to today. They are described in one July 2011 paper by sociologist Patrick Gillham called, “Securitizing America.” During the 1960s, police used what was called “escalated force” to stop protesters.

“Police sought to maintain law and order often trampling on protesters’ First Amendment rights, and frequently resorted to mass and unprovoked arrests and the overwhelming and indiscriminate use of force,” Gillham writes and TV footage from the time attests. This was the water cannon stage of police response to protest.

But by the 1970s, that version of crowd control had given rise to all sorts of problems and various departments went in “search for an alternative approach.” What they landed on was a paradigm called “negotiated management.” Police forces, by and large, cooperated with protesters who were willing to give major concessions on when and where they’d march or demonstrate. “Police used as little force as necessary to protect people and property and used arrests only symbolically at the request of activists or as a last resort and only against those breaking the law,” Gillham writes.

That relatively cozy relationship between police and protesters was an uneasy compromise that was often tested by small groups of “transgressive” protesters who refused to cooperate with authorities. They often used decentralized leadership structures that were difficult to infiltrate, co-opt, or even talk with. Still, they seemed like small potatoes.

Then came the massive and much-disputed 1999 WTO protests. Negotiated management was seen to have totally failed and it cost the police chief his job and helped knock the mayor from office. “It can be reasonably argued that these protests, and the experiences of the Seattle Police Department in trying to manage them, have had a more profound effect on modern policing than any other single event prior to 9/11,” former Chicago police officer and Western Illinois professor Todd Lough argued.

No one wanted to be Seattle and police departments around the country began to change. “In Chicago for example, paramilitary gear such as that worn by the Seattle Police was quickly acquired and distributed to officers,” Lough continued, “and the use of force policy was amended to allow for the pepper spraying of passive resistors under certain circumstances.” (That emphasis is mine.)

9/11 put the final nail in the coffin of the previous protest-control regime. By the time of the Free Trade of the Americas anti-globalization protests in Miami broke out eight years ago this week, an entirely new model of taking on protests had emerged. People called it the Miami model. It was heavily militarized and very forceful. The police had armored personnel carriers.

That’s a generous excerpt but there’s a lot more at the link and I encourage you to read the whole thing. But I tend to agree: Pike’s blase spraying of peaceful college students with a chemical agent is a function of his socialization and training; he’s probably not a monster at all. As a former military officer, I’m both fully aware of the process of training decent human beings into trained killers and horrified at the notion that we’re applying the same techniques to domestic law enforcement forces.

Yesterday afternoon, Glenn Greenwald asserted, “There’s a common bond b/w those supporting drones to kill without due process & pepper-spraying peaceful protesters: #Authoritarianism.” I pushed back against this quite vigorously, because I simply view domestic law enforcement and warfighting to be completely separate matters with very different rulesets. Democracies have often been quite ruthless in the use of force against wartime enemies while respecting civil liberties at home.

While I’ve got some serious concerns about our use of drone warfare in Pakistan and elsewhere, it doesn’t concern me in nearly the same way that domestic police brutality does. The nature of the state is that the duty of the government to protects its citizens is high. That means bending over backwards to protecting their rights at home. And it sometimes requires being ruthless in the pursuit of enemies abroad. I’m a staunch advocate of the laws of war and the duty to protect non-combatants in war zones. But even the most staunch proponents of humane conduct of war recognize combat as a more permissive environment for violence than the fighting of crime at home.

But Keith Boyea interjected with a salient point: “unending wars can lead to war-like tactics at home.”

The United States has seldom not been at war since roughly 1940. We were in World War II well before Pearl Harbor and once our intervention began in earnest it had a tremendous domestic impact. WWII was quickly followed by Korea and then Vietnam. Moreover, the National Security Act of 1947 and the Cold War in general meant that we had a permanent national security state. We didn’t draw down our military force and accepted a wartime footing as background noise.

After the Cold War, this abated to some extent. But America’s professional soldiers–including its large reserve component that had previously been thought of as an emergency-only force–soon began a deployment tempo that outpaced what had been the norm in the Cold War with action in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and elsewhere. And then 9/11 kicked us into a war with no end in sight against “terrorists with a global reach.”

The upshot of all of this has indeed been a creeping authoritarianism. Police forces have become “first responders” whose Orders Must Be Obeyed. (Hell, we’ve done the same with airline flight attendants.) We’ve accepted all manner of indignities and intrusions on our liberty in the name of fighting terrorism and keeping the public safe. We dutifully stand in line to be searched in all manner of places now, emptying our pockets and taking off our jackets and shoes. And we’re quite literally not allowed to question any of this, lest we be detained. While we’re still innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we’re presumed guilty everywhere else and have to prove that we’re not terrorists or criminals.

UPDATE: Greenwald was apparently writing his extended analysis at the same time as I was this morning. In a posting titled “The roots of the UC-Davis pepper spraying,” he makes several salient points.

Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.

The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed — or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet — many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant — to refrain from exercising their rights — out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

Now, I think this goes overstates the situation. Rather than a grand scheme to discourage protest, I see it mostly as a police force which sees themselves as warriors and “civilians” as the enemy, who must be bullied into submission. This comes from a variety of sources and is at least understandable, if still impermissible, for police accustomed to dealing with gang violence and a confronted by organized criminal activity hardly distinguishable from an insurgency from a fight-or-flight standpoint.

But there are far too many Americans, as illustrated by some of the comments below, who are under the impression that any infraction of any law–even misdemeanor disturbing the peace or trespass ordinances–can reasonably be met with police violence. This is an authoritarian mindset bordering on Fascism: if you’re not doing anything wrong, why, you have nothing to fear.

Pervasive police abuses and intimidation tactics applied to peaceful protesters — pepper-spray, assault rifles, tasers, tear gas and the rest — not only harm their victims but also the relationship of the citizenry to the government and the set of core political rights. Implanting fear of authorities in the heart of the citizenry is a far more effective means of tyranny than overtly denying rights.

Again, I don’t see this as part of a coordinated scheme in the way Greenwald seems to. But we’re in agreement that the primary harm here is the long lasting damage to society and the citizens’ relationship to its government than the incidental harm to individual protestors.

Where we depart most seriously, though, is in this conclusion:

This is the most important effect of the Occupy movement: acts of defiance, courage and conscience are contagious. Just as the Arab Spring clearly played some significant role in spawning, sustaining and growing the American Occupy movement, so too have the Occupy protesters emboldened one another and their fellow citizens. The protest movement is driving the proliferation of new forms of activism, citizen passion and courage, and — most important of all — a sense of possibility. For the first time in a long time, the use of force and other forms of state intimidation are not achieving their intended outcome of deterring meaningful (i.e., unsanctioned and unwanted) citizen activism, but are, instead, spurring it even more. The reaction to these protests are both highlighting pervasive abuses of power and generating the antidote: citizen resolve to no longer accept and tolerate it. This is why I hope to see the Occupy movement — even if it adopts specific demands — remain an outsider force rather than reduce itself into garden-variety partisan electioneering: in its current form, it is demanding and re-establishing the indispensable right of dissent, defiance of unjust authority, and sustained protest.

I truly hope Occupy doesn’t devolve into rioting. We’ve got real problems in this country with the scope of government power but this isn’t Mubarak’s Egypt. Here “authoritarian” is a tendency that we need to combat and that people like Greenwald and I can openly and forthrightly discuss without fear of reprisal and stronger than stupid comments from Internet trolls. Organized interests, particularly monied ones, have outsized influence in our system precisely because they care whereas most of us are apathetic most of the time. But there are still nonviolent political tools at our disposal and protests must be peaceful and, for the most part, law abiding.

There are times when civil disobedience is permissible, even necessary. The movement to end Jim Crow is a classic example. In that case, the laws themselves were unjust. Massive breaking of those laws–in a nonviolent manner–was necessary to bring attention to that injustice. Throngs of people being arrested for doing nothing more than sitting at the front of a public bus or trying to order lunch in a restaurant created a powerful image. That police often used violence against these peaceful protests only made the message more powerful.

It’s hard to make the same case about the right to set up permanent campsites in urban parks or the right to block access to buildings on a college campus. One can question the wisdom of breaking them up with police action; the authorities in Washington, DC have wisely, I think, looked the other way against technical violations of the law to avoid an unseemly conflict with demonstrators. But authorities have a right to demand that the law be enforced and police have a duty to professionally enforce it.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Best of OTB, Law and the Courts, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    If authoritarianism is the key, then isn’t is ironic that the OWS protestors are protesting for greater financial regulations, greater environmental regulation, greater economic regulations, greater transportation regulations, greater health regulations, and greater employment regulations at the same time that the blatantly disregard any local regulation that they find inconvenient.

    If protesters want a bigger government and more regulation, then they should follow the rules of others. If they do not want to obey, then they should not expect others to obey but to do just want is good from their own perspective.




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  2. john personna says:

    The United States has seldom not been at war since roughly 1940.

    We had no long-duration wars between Vietnam and Afghanistan. That was a big reaction to the Vietnam experience. The Gulf War (lasting 7 months) finally, 15 years later, changed the perception of war.

    I’m with Bacevich that the Gulf War success cleared the way for a new American militarism.




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  3. john personna says:

    (And I can still boggle that we created something called “Homeland Security” in the aftermath of 9/11.)




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  4. MarkedMan says:

    We trained a whole military generation of torturers. You have to wonder what happens when they come home and become cops.




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  5. Eric Florack says:

    If authoritarianism is the key, then isn’t is ironic that the OWS protestors are protesting for greater financial regulations, greater environmental regulation, greater economic regulations, greater transportation regulations, greater health regulations, and greater employment regulations at the same time that the blatantly disregard any local regulation that they find inconvenient.

    Indeed so.

    James; let’s be real about this. There is a point in time at which civil disobedience becomes criminal. Force is used against criminals every day of the year. In every kind of country including ours. Why, after months of this nonsense, is anyone… even Greenwald… quite possibly the least honest blogger out there, surprised that violence is finally used here? Sorry, I don’t feel his pain here.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: It’s true that Americans didn’t think of themselves at war post-Vietnam. But the national security state was there all along: A large standing military force, the president as perpetual commander-in-chief, constant low-level uses of military force without Congressional authorization, various intel black ops, etc.

    @Eric Florack: First, these protestors aren’t criminals in any meaningful sense of the word. Second, police are supposed to be allowed to use force only to protect themselves and innocents from imminent bodily harm. They’re not supposed to be allowed to use force to make people respect their authoritay.




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  7. Eric Florack says:

    James; Wrong.

    Look up the phrase “criminal trespass”.

    Also, I suppose Thoreau might have something to say to the remainder of your response particularly in light of the reports of criminality with been hearing coming out of those camps.




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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Eric Florack: Since when is trespass a reasonable provocation for state violence?




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  9. Eric Florack says:

    Look up “lawful order to disperse”




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  10. Eric Florack says:

    I happen to ahve up Delaware state law in this regard, because I was doing research on another matter.

    TITLE 11
    Crimes and Criminal Procedure
    Delaware Criminal Code
    CHAPTER 5. SPECIFIC OFFENSES
    Subchapter VII. Offenses Against Public Health, Order and Decency
    Subpart A. Riot, Disorderly Conduct and Related Offenses

    § 1301. Disorderly conduct; unclassified misdemeanor.

    A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when:

    (1) The person intentionally causes public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to any other person, or creates a risk thereof by:

    a. Engaging in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or

    b. Making an unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or addressing abusive language to any person present; or

    c. Disturbing any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority; or

    d. Obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or

    e. Congregating with other persons in a public place and refusing to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or

    f. Creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition which serves no legitimate purpose; or

    g. Congregating with other persons in a public place while wearing masks, hoods or other garments rendering their faces unrecognizable, for the purpose of and in a manner likely to imminently subject any person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States of America.

    (2) The person engages with at least 1 other person in a course of disorderly conduct as defined in paragraph (1) of this section which is likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, and refuses or knowingly fails to obey an order to disperse made by a peace officer to the participants.

    Disorderly conduct is an unclassified misdemeanor.

    11 Del. C. 1953, § 1301; 58 Del. Laws, c. 497, § 1; 59 Del. Laws, c. 203, §§ 23, 24; 63 Del. Laws, c. 305, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 130, § 8; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;




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  11. James in LA says:

    @Eric Florack: “Look up “lawful order to disperse””

    Eric why don’t you look up “LA LA LA LA!” followed by sticking your fingers in your ears. It would the more adult reaction than whatever else you have posted here today.

    We are just around the corner from another Kent State and you sound like you’d be just fine with that. Regrettably, your selfish mindset appears to be as popular as a root canal these days.

    If you truly have yours and don’t care about anyone else, I invite you to stop posting. Your script has grown tiresome.




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  12. James in LA says:

    @Eric Florack: “TITLE 11…”

    So what? What about it? Who cares what the law is in Delaware? People sitting on a sidewalk are not invitations for cops to mock them, shake cans of pepper spray like a lap dance, and spray peaceful, sitting demonstrators as though they were cockroaches.

    Eric, if you think this is going to end well for the cops, think again. This is no longer the age of Kodak. These truths can be known instantly from anywhere.

    Hide behind your precious “TITLE 11…” if you must. I am seeing the home addresses of police now being posted online and “TITLE 11…” is not going to stop people from occupying their front lawns and calling them out for the tiny-minded thugs they are.

    What goes around comes around, Eric. If you have yours and don’t care, so much the better. The look of surprise on your face will be worth it.

    There are not enough police to protect the 1%.




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  13. MBunge says:

    “There’s a common bond b/w those supporting drones to kill without due process & pepper-spraying peaceful protesters”

    As is often the case, Greenwald is correct but not at all in the way he thinks. What connects those two things isn’t the reaction of the public or the conduct of authorities. What links them is that civil libertarians who make complete asses of themselves lose their credibility and authority on real issues. If you’re going to insist that the United States military can’t take action against self-professed terrorists operating in lawless foreign lands until they’ve read them their Miranda rights, you can’t expect people to take you seriously when you complain about police pepper spraying non-violent protestors.

    Mike




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  14. MBunge says:

    @James in LA: “People sitting on a sidewalk are not invitations for cops to mock them”

    Thanks for the example of what I mean. It’s unprofessional behavior, but you can’t suggest that protestors have a right to be shielded from mockery and expect to be taken seriously.

    Mike




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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Making an unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or addressing abusive language to any person present; or

    Eric, by this definition, 90% of your posts would get you pepper sprayed.




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  16. James in LA says:

    I discovered this blog and many others via the Memeoradum. http://memeorandum.com/

    Having watched this index for some time now, the blogs which rise to the top are predictable based on the subject matter. The more partisan the article, the more predictable the following of blogs linking to it. The right-leaning blogs are utterly silent on this as of now.

    Except Professor William Jacobson , a prominent conservative blogger with whom I rarely agree and UC Davis was too much for even him.

    http://legalinsurrection.com/2011/11/does-anyone-have-water/

    If the response from the 1% is swaggering violence, they are going to get the same in return. Thems are the rules, laws be damned. Human nature will soon be taking over.




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  17. James in LA says:

    @MBunge: If the cops want to mock them, fine. When it is coupled with violence it demonstrates to all around, “THIS is how it’s done.” Which is the point I think you are trying to make.




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  18. michael reynolds says:

    Super and Eric revealing their inner Brown Shirts. It’s always there, for all the phony talk of liberty. Scratch a hard right-winger and you find a guy itching to get the order to bully someone.




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  19. Liberty60 says:

    I think its interesting that people assert that OWS are a bunch of anarchists, wanting chaos and disrespect for the rule of law.

    Yet as Superdestroyer points out, the main demands are that the 1% exist in a lawless world, able to act with impunity.

    Yet I find it laughable that in his mind, destroying the economy and defrauding millions of citizens and bringing misery and financial devastation is somehow not really a crime, or if it is, its not a REAL crime deserving of punishment, you know, like blocking a sidewalk.

    Erick Florack helpfully points out that the rule of law must be rigorously obeyed when we are talking about students blocking the sidewalk for a few minutes;
    Yet in all the Wall Street casino dealings that infected the marketplace with trillions of dollars of worthless bonds, no one is or has or every will be named, charged or even pepper sprayed.

    Apparently the laws that govern Wall Street are mysterious and complex and it is hard to detemine if any were broken.

    WHICH IS THE POINT OWS IS MAKING.

    When Wall Street literally gets to write the laws they are obliged to obey, and when they fund and elect the officials who are in charge of prosecuting , is it any wonder that the “law” in this case is somehow murky and mysterious and by gosh, hard to determine if anyone anywhere broke it?

    Its as if the Commission on Public Parks and Sidewalks were staffed entirely by OWS members, and the police chief and mayors had their elections funded by OWS.
    I am pretty sure in that case, sitting on the sidewalk would somehow be a mysterious hard to decipher event, not a crime really, but lets say “mistakes were made” and appoint a blue ribbon panel to determine what could have gone wrong to block the sidewalk.

    When you are poor, you obey the law; when you are rich, the law obeys you.




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  20. Stress N Strain says:

    Interesting that I read this post right before this one:
    http://www.theagitator.com/2011/11/19/another-isolated-incident-46/

    Violence and miliartism permeate U.S. police organizations.




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  21. WR says:

    “Pike’s blase spraying of peaceful college students with a chemical agent is a function of his socialization and training; he’s probably not a monster at all. As a former military officer, I’m both fully aware of the process of training decent human beings into trained killers and horrified at the notion that we’re applying the same techniques to domestic law enforcement forces.”
    One might have said exactly the same about Lt. William Calley. And yet at some point individual responsibility does kick in. Those who follow illegal or immoral orders do deserve our condemnation and punishment, even if we simultaneously feel some sympathy.

    Of course, the problem with our society is that those who follow the orders might get punished, while those who gave them are only rewarded.




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  22. Eric Florack says:

    Eric why don’t you look up “LA LA LA LA!” followed by sticking your fingers in your ears. It would the more adult reaction than whatever else you have posted here today.

    We are talking about spoiled brats here who’ve decided to graduate themselves to criminality. A violent response is exactly what these people want. Why is anyone surprised when after months of this nonsense they actually get what they ask for?




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  23. Eric Florack says:

    Super and Eric revealing their inner Brown Shirts.

    Not in the least.

    since you decided to dispense with Godwin, I dare to suggest to you that the OWS crowd are in fact the relative equivalent of the brown shirts. The only thing that’s missing is Ernst Rohm. The idea behind any such group is to create chaos. That is precisely what a OWS has been about since day one.




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  24. James in LA says:

    @Eric Florack: ” Why is anyone surprised when after months of this nonsense they actually get what they ask for?”

    This question proves you are completely lost. What student has said, “do violence unto me?” They are asking uncomfortable questions and you don’t like it, so you call in the heavy hand.

    The use of pepper spray was a choice. Just as your stubborn refusal to understand what is happening around you despite the evidence which rolls in on a daily basis. You do not understand that neither the law nor the police exist any longer to protect you, even if you follow the former and respect the latter; neither are required in 2011.

    The students are claiming they want a future America where it IS required, and respect is earned. And that is why your arguments are an utter and complete failure.




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  25. MBunge says:

    @James in LA: “When it is coupled with violence it demonstrates to all around, “THIS is how it’s done.” Which is the point I think you are trying to make.”

    The point I would make is this. There’s a difference between defending the rights of protestors and being on the side of protestors, just like there’s a difference between defending the rights of criminals and terrorists (both accused and convicted) and being on the side of people like that. Too many civil libertarians have, or at least work hard at giving the impression they have, forgotten that distinction.

    Mike




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  26. James in LA says:

    @Eric Florack: “The idea behind any such group is to create chaos. That is precisely what a OWS has been about since day one.”

    This is your ill-informed grumpy opinion of what OWS is trying to create. If you listen closely, they want the opposite. But you have already formed your opinions, long ago, and do not need any “new facts” gumming up your selfish works.




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  27. James Joyner says:

    @WR: I actually wrote a paper about Calley as a sophomore cadet. The bottom line is that he was a serial loser who should never have been allowed into the Army, much less commissioned as an officer. In the meat grinder that was Vietnam, though, the Army took pretty much all comers. Calley was the result.

    So, he was an individual criminal more-or-less held accountable for his crimes. But it was an institutional failure that not only put him in the position he was in but made him think it was all right to murder people because, well, you really couldn’t trust a gook.




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  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    As usual you know nothing about history. You also know nothing about OWS. Your brain is a crockpot full of Glen Beck brand stew.




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  29. de stijl says:

    @Eric Florack:

    C’mon, man up! Call the OWS protesters “vermin.” You know you want to. If you do, you’ll feel better.




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  30. James in LA says:

    @MBunge: ” Too many civil libertarians have, or at least work hard at giving the impression they have, forgotten that distinction.”

    Indeed. When I was a kid, I used to hear all the time, “I do not agree with you and I will defend to the complete extent of my own rights your right to express it.” I recall this notion always trumped the essence of the argument. I’m only 46, and this notion has since gone the way of mimeographs and “instant” cameras.

    Today, it’s all about MY way and if you don’t like it, no rights for you. OWS is the predictable response. And it will grow now, fed on pepper spray. Let us hope it is never fed actual bullets, though this is now more likely, not less.




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  31. de stijl says:

    @superdestroyer:

    If authoritarianism is the key, then isn’t is ironic that the OWS protestors are protesting for greater financial regulations…

    What is ironic is that you base your entire argument around authoritarianism while you clearly have utterly no idea what the word actually means.




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  32. concreteblue says:

    James in LA: Thank you for being a refreshing and eloquent voice on this mostly excretable blog.
    Great article, James J.




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  33. anjin-san says:

    Bithead’s strange Ernst Rohm obsession finds it’s way into yet another thread…




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  34. Eric Florack says:

    This question proves you are completely lost. What student has said, “do violence unto me?”

    Oh, please.
    So, their actions impart no blame? Sorry, no sale.




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  35. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    How does pointing out that the OWS are a good example of statist and authoritarians make anyone a brown shirts. The OWS are ones acting like Moaist. The OWS had to be the decision makers and want the federal government to grow in order to increase the amount and extent of those orders.

    Once again, if the OWS cannot comply with the civil regulation on holding protests and if they insist on trespassing, then why should anyone take them seriously when they propose the federal government approving everyone homeloan, every medical procedure, and how everyone gets to work?




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  36. Eric Florack says:

    Partial list of crimes committed by Organize Wall Street gangs:

    Occupy Fort Collins – Member arrested, $10 million in damage
    Occupy Portland – Member arrested for throwing Molotov Cocktail
    Occupy Seattle – Suspicious fire at Bank of America 2.7 miles from camp
    Occupy Portland – Three men arrested with homemade grenades

    That is just the arson.

    DAre we call them domestic terrorists?




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  37. mantis says:

    Force is used against criminals every day of the year.

    I hope a cop bashes your skull in next time you’re caught speeding. Then you’ll see how great the fascism you embrace is.




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  38. Neil Hudelson says:

    Shorter Superdestroyer:

    Isn’t it ironic that these OWS kids want individual liberties AND they don’t want corporations to pollute the air, and financial firms to destroy the economy? I mean, how can those two ideas possibly coexist?




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  39. Liberty60 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Superdestroyer clearly stated that OWS wants more regulation, and that we are authoritarians and statists.

    Who want chaos and lawlessness and need to be beaten into submission.

    Somebody isn’t singing from the correct hymnal.




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  40. anjin-san says:

    It really can’t come as a surprise to anyone that bithead is eager to see some kids get their skulls caved in. I guess the 2 service vets that were sent to the ER by the Oakland police were not sufficient for him to get his Ya Yas off…




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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:
    You’r not “pointing out” anything. You’re making an asinine assertion. You’re siding with thug cops who are attacking peaceful protesters. Eventually you’ll find some way to connect it to African-Americans and Mexicans, because that’s who you are.




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  42. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Suspicious fire 2.7 miles away from Occupy?

    Dare we call them terrorists?

    Yes, we dare. If we’re f-cking idiots.




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  43. PD Shaw says:

    @Neil Hudelson:” Isn’t it ironic that these OWS kids want individual liberties AND they don’t want corporations to pollute the air, and financial firms to destroy the economy? I mean, how can those two ideas possibly coexist? ”

    Its consistent with the notion of ordered liberty, which ironically is why police forces were formed to control riots: “Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.”




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  44. James in LA says:

    @michael reynolds: “Dare we call them terrorists?”

    Michael, this is where it gets exceedingly dicey. Once we pull out the T-word, given we have already enabled our President to pluck us out of existence with no questions asked once so labeled, are we really ready and willing to erase unarmed, seated college students from history?

    So people like Florack and Superdestroyer can have their sick video game revenge fantasies played out in reality? Is this what we have become?

    Eric, were you giggling when you watched unarmed students get pepper sprayed? Will you laugh like a jolly idiot when one of them is killed? For sitting on a sidewalk?




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  45. Eric Florack says:

    Suspicious fire 2.7 miles away from Occupy?

    Dare we call them terrorists?

    Yes, we dare. If we’re f-cking idiots.

    So they can’t move out of tge camp site?
    How are they getting to the hotels?

    We’re watching Animal Farm, people.




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  46. anjin-san says:

    which ironically is why police forces were formed to control riots:

    What riot are you referring to? I saw some kids sitting down. That is passive resistance, not a riot.




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  47. anjin-san says:

    If we’re f-cking idiots.

    We’re watching Animal Farm, people

    Well, you wasted no time providing proof of concept…




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  48. ponce says:

    I pushed back against this quite vigorously, because I simply view domestic law enforcement and warfighting to be completely separate matters with very different rulesets.

    James,

    The obvious connection between the two is that Republicans believe that anyone who breaks the “rules” deserves any punishment they get, and the harsher the punishment the better.

    Take when you laughed at the pregnant women and the 13 year old boy getting run over by a car near the Washington, D.C. OWS protest as an example.

    This need to judge others and see them punished, no matter how unchristian, is the very heart of the modern Republican party.




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  49. MM says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Occupy Fort Collins – Member arrested, $10 million in damage

    A member has been charged with Arson, which may have been intentional, or may have been stupid homeless people trying to keep warm. The fire was also condemned by many members of Occupy Fort Collins.

    Dare we call you a dishonest person?




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  50. Neil Hudelson says:

    @anjin-san:

    I didn’t read PD’s words as a direct comment on the students. He wasn’t calling the students rioters. He was stating that, in a general sense, ordered liberty is why police forces are used to control/prevent riots.

    At least that’s how I read it.




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  51. rudderpedals says:

    James, I enjoyed the piece, Yesterday I was thinking Bull Conner tactics, yeah we’ve seen this before, but yours was the first piece I’d seen that made the point in print.

    Some of the responses above are horrifying. If you’re not repelled by images of American kids being maimed and brutalized for passive peaceful protesting then there’s something wrong with you.




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  52. @Eric Florack:

    Look up the phrase “criminal trespass”.

    Look up the phrase “justification”.

    If someone was sitting on your sidewalk and refused to move, and you responded by doing what that officer did, you’d be arrested for aggravated result regardless of their trespass. And contrary to popular opinion, being a police officer does not generally grant you special authority to assault other members of the public.




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  53. That’s a generous excerpt but there’s a lot more at the link and I encourage you to read the whole thing. But I tend to agree: Pike’s blase spraying of peaceful college students with a chemical agent is a function of his socialization and training; he’s probably not a monster at all. As a former military officer, I’m both fully aware of the process of training decent human beings into trained killers and horrified at the notion that we’re applying the same techniques to domestic law enforcement forces.

    This seems completely inconsistent with your arguing on the Penn State scandal last week. If we are (rightly) going to condemn Joe Paterno for his failure to break out of institutional thinking, particularly when his failure was an act of omission, how exactly can we excuse Lt. Pike for a deliberate choice to act?




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  54. anjin-san says:

    Dare we call you a dishonest person?

    Bald faced liar is more like it. A while back bit referred to Obama’s friend and mentor Jerry Kellman as “an avowed communist”, which is a fairly serious charge (in reality, Kellman works for a church planning educational retreats).

    I have asked bit a number of times to back up his claim about Kellman, which of course he can’t. He is simply committing libel to smear one of Obama’s associates…




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  55. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: Since when right-wingers want it to be. Not all Tea Party protests had permits and government permission; those who didn’t were criminal trespassers.

    I’d also point out that amazingly few right-wingers are so law-and-orderish when it comes to, oh, crashing the world’s economy.




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  56. Barry says:

    @Eric Florack: “TITLE 11…”

    @James in LA:

    “So what? What about it? ”

    His explanation was probably in the lost comment where he reads statutes on criminal fraud (very relevant, since many corps are HQ’d in Delaware), and praises violence against corporate crime.




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  57. James in LA says:

    @Barry: “I’d also point out that amazingly few right-wingers are so law-and-orderish when it comes to, oh, crashing the world’s economy.”

    Or ordering torture and then gloating about it on national T.V., giving people like Eric Florack and Superdestroyer the role model of their wet dreams.




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  58. Barry says:

    @Stormy Dragon: This is an excellent point, James.

    And (asserting here) big-time college football and basketball programs are no stranger to the rape of adult women. It’s common to declare that a player is not an employee, but a student, on ‘scholarship’. If this ‘student’ is injured to the point of not being able to play football, their ‘scholarship’ is frequently yanked. Which, IMHO, is not the case for real scholarships.

    Given that level of corruption, covering up child rape is just a continuation, not something which stands apart.




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  59. WR says:

    @James Joyner: While I bow to your superior knowledge, there does seem to be credible evidence, although disputed, that the massacre was ordered from above. And certainly the lenient treatment Calley was given shows an institutional indifference, at least, to mass murder.




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  60. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: Oh, goodie. It’s Animal Farm again.

    Why is it that every wingnut only makes reference to three books — 1984, Animal Farm and Atlas Shrugged — and they’re all books almost everyone reads in high school?

    Is it possible that wingnuts simply never read a book once they leave high school?




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  61. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    OWS believes that it does not have to get permits to have large, organized demonstration. OWS does not believe that it has to respect private property rights if it does not want to.

    If OWS wants Wall Street to play by the current rules and espeically some new set of very strict rules, then shouldn’t ithe OWS people also follow the rules to the letter.

    And when did individual liberty mean that the rules apply to others?




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  62. ponce says:

    If OWS wants Wall Street to play by the current rules and espeically some new set of very strict rules, then shouldn’t ithe OWS people also follow the rules to the letter.

    Remember when Republicans used to abhor moral equivalences?

    Now they wallow in them.




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  63. Barry says:

    I’d like to point out something, James (a commenter on another blog pointed this out).

    This was not a ‘heat of the moment’ action; it was premeditated and quite deliberate.




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  64. reid says:

    @WR: Don’t forget selective portions of the bible.




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  65. Gustopher says:

    @superdestroyer: One of the things that has changed over the past 50 years in America is that permits are now required for any meaningful assembly. This was a reaction to the protests of the 1960s, and is designed to limit free speech and keep it conveniently tucked away in “free speech zones” far away.

    Screw permits. Free speech is a more important value than stupid little local ordinances.




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  66. Gustopher says:

    And on the subject of the original post — why can’t we deplore Lt. John Pike and the Department, and the overarching militarization of the police in general? Is our contempt somehow limited?

    I believe some of the commenters at OTB have demonstrated that there are no practical limits to their contempt, and I suggest that we look to them for inspiration. There’s plenty of contempt to go around.

    To address police brutality we have to get to the point where it is routine that the brutal cops be sued, along with the officers in charge of them, and their departments — at least every time there is good video evidence.

    Pursuing criminal charges isn’t going to work except in the most exceptional cases — the DAs aren’t going to press charges, the other police will happily perjure themselves to protect the thugs, and the burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is incredibly high.

    Civil judgements have a much lower standard — preponderance of evidence — and they will begin to force the departments to actually train their police.




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  67. michael reynolds says:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The only part of the Bill of Rights the right wing really believes in is the second amendment. That one they believe needs to be so strictly interpreted it should allow goobers to own tanks and anti-aircraft weapons. But the first amendment, well, that one not so much.

    See, the one allows them to strut around fantasizing about shooting people. The other one has nothing much to do with fantasies of race war and right-wing score-settling, so not really of much interest to wanna-be Brown Shirts like Erik and Super.




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  68. anjin-san says:

    It’s also worth noting the roaring silence from the right about the obvious lie that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza is hiding behind to justify this act of police brutality against students.

    UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said officers used force out of concern for their own safety after they were surrounded by students.

    Where is the code of conduct and integrity that supposedly some along with the uniform, the authority and a leadership position?




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  69. Eric Florack says:

    If someone was sitting on your sidewalk and refused to move, and you responded by doing what that officer did, you’d be arrested for aggravated result regardless of their trespass.

    That makes about as much sense as arresting border INS folks for doing their job.




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  70. @Gustopher:

    To address police brutality we have to get to the point where it is routine that the brutal cops be sued, along with the officers in charge of them, and their departments — at least every time there is good video evidence.

    You generally can’t sue the cops because of qualified immunity and they don’t really care if the department gets sued since that doesn’t come out of their pockets. A similar pattern repeats with regard to prosecutorial misconduct.




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  71. MM says:

    @Eric Florack:

    That makes about as much sense as arresting border INS folks for doing their job.

    That is a non-answer.




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  72. de stijl says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Shorter superdestroyer: people should obey the laws of the land or get the boot and the lash, laws like

    Alien and Sedition Acts
    Fugitive Slave Law
    Dred Scott decision
    The “Black Codes”
    Anti-miscegenation laws
    etc.




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  73. @Eric Florack:

    That makes about as much sense as arresting border INS folks for doing their job.

    The idea that you’re not allowed to a wrong with a completely disproportionate use of force makes perfect sense if you’re not a sociopath.




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  74. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: The key word there is “abridge.” The courts have ruled, from the earliest days of our public, that free assembly can be reasonably restricted as to time, place, and manner to safeguard other rights.




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  75. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: I’m not saying we can’t deplore individual transgressors. I’m saying that this is a systemic/institutional problem, which is more dangerous than simply a few bad apples.




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  76. Jay says:

    @anjin-san: Which right wing sources have you read to confirm a lack of response?

    Frankly I think it’s weird to turn this into a partisan issue. The systemic militarization of our police force has flourished during Dem and Rep administrations, but I’m not sure that that concept applies here anyway. The cop used pepper spray (not a gun or an armored car) on college protesters (not suspected terrorists/drug suspects/airplane passengers). The militarization of our police forces involves the subsidization and equipping of cops to further federal enforcement goals. The PD’s lack of crowd control/protest training is a different animal.

    If anyone is interested in militarization issues, The Agitator blog is a great resource (http://www.theagitator.com/)




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  77. @James Joyner:

    I’m not saying we can’t deplore individual transgressors.

    When people are publishing essays about how they feel sorry for Lt. Pike and you agree with them and chastise us not to think of him as a monster, you are saying we can’t deplore individuals transgressors. Institutions may have made Lt. Pike what he is, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s a man who stood in front of a group of unarmed college students that posed no threat to him and deliberately began spraying enormous amounts of pepperspray into their faces from point blank range and did so without even a hint of anguish. Indeed, he practically looks bored by the goings on. Such a man IS a monster, and whatever the institution’s responsibility for creating that monster is, he deserves to be called a monster.




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  78. James says:

    @Eric Florack:

    That makes about as much sense as arresting border INS folks for doing their job.

    This is Chewbacca.




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  79. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James:

    You win this thread.




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  80. anjin-san says:

    @Jay

    Which right wing sources have you read to confirm a lack of response?

    3 or 4… Please feel free to prove me wrong. I see a lot of condemnation FTL about events in Davis, and a reacting ranging from “tsk, tsk” to outright cheerleading for police brutality from the right.




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  81. Dave Schuler says:

    A couple of drive-by observations. First, I don’t know what things are like in the rest of the country but here in Chicago the prerequisites for becoming a police officer are either you can have a four year college degree, you can be a high school graduate with a certain level of military service, or you can have an associates degree and a little less military service. Unsurprisingly, most Chicago cops are high school only.

    I think that people tend to do what they’re trained to do, especially in stressful situations. If you’re trained to give a forceful response, that’s probably what you’ll do. I can also recall reading studies that found that the more education a police officer had the greater his or her ability to defuse potentially dangerous situations without violence.

    Also, one of my college roommates became a police officer and over the years I attended a number of parties in which most of the attendees were police officers. An apparently common belief among police officers in my experience is that the job of the police is to preserve order rather than to enforce the law. I think the response of the police to situations like the Occupy protests can be viewed in that light.




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  82. Dave,

    I think those standards are nearly universal among metropolitan police forces, or police forces in large population areas. It’s certainly the standard here in the large population counties in Northern Virginia from what I know.

    I think the real problem is one that has been touched on here at OTB before, and extensively by Radley Balko at his own blog and his work at Reason and now at HuffPo. The police forces in this country have become increasingly militarized, largely in response to the War On Drugs, but now also in response to the post 9/11 world.

    In the world I was raised in in suburban New Jersey, we were raised with the idea of the policeman being your friend. It feels like we’re entering a world where that’s no longer true anymore, if it ever really was.




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  83. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In the world I was raised in in suburban New Jersey, we were raised with the idea of the policeman being your friend. It feels like we’re entering a world where that’s no longer true anymore, if it ever really was.

    This is one of the really sad effects of this police thuggery. I raise my kids, as most parents do, to trust the police and rely on them. That simple message has been rather compromised. My politicized son now sees the police as the enemy. 40 years of gradual rapprochement between people who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and the police is being thrown out of the window.

    But you’re right, this militarization has been worsening for years, and it is the direct result of this country’s criminally stupid war on drugs.




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  84. Jay says:

    @anjin-san: I don’t think this has anything to do with Red State-Blue State at all, but here you go…

    The first Rep site I went to was the WSJ, you can read the comments: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203699404577048680645518086.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5

    The second was the WashTimes, again the comments show 50/50 support for protesters: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/20/officers-pepper-spray-incident-uc-davis-placed-lea/?page=2

    And saying “prove me wrong” would make more sense if you provided sources, but anyway, you get my point…we’re seeing a video of police aggression, and all the partisans can do is turn this into an argument about how much the other side is evil. It’s just not a productive line of argument.




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  85. anjin-san says:

    @ Jay

    In both cases, you have linked to news coverage, not editorial opinion. The WSJ story was picked up from AP, it did not originate at WSJ. I see no condemnation of the actions of police and their superiors. No calls for accountability. Not sure what the point of your links is.

    The right has been hysterical about OWS from the very beginning. My sense is a lot of Republicans don’t mind seeing protestors getting their asses kicked by people that are supposedly being paid to protect us. In my mind, that is a topic that merits discussion.




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  86. anjin-san says:
  87. @anjin-san:

    The right has been hysterical about OWS from the very beginning. My sense is a lot of Republicans don’t mind seeing protestors getting their asses kicked by people that are supposedly being paid to protect us. In my mind, that is a topic that merits discussion.

    You can be opposed to OWS’s policy platform and still be upset that they’re being brutalized by the police.




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  88. Robert C. says:

    @MBunge: If you’re going to insist that the United States military can’t take action against self-professed terrorists operating in lawless foreign lands until they’ve read them their Miranda rights, you can’t expect people to take you seriously when you complain about police pepper spraying non-violent protestors.

    Wrong you bonehead. Just because someone says they hate America, or says they want to put a bomb at the base of the Washington Monument doesn’t mean they have the capability to do this act. Further, just because they claim these things doesn’t give the US Gov’t the right to “take them out”. The use by the US Gov’t of drones amounts to non-judicial killing by ant definition. In addition, many of these adrone attacks are not by the “US Military”, but in fact are run by the CIA, which operates without Congressional oversight..(not that that would matter).




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  89. Robert C. says:

    @Eric Florack:” Partial list of crimes committed by Organize Wall Street gangs:”

    Partiel list of crimes by Tea Baggers: shot US Congresswomen in head, killed numerous others at said shooting, including children.

    RC




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  90. de stijl says:

    @Robert C.:

    but in fact are run by the CIA, which operates without Congressional oversight

    Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
    House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
    The Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Foreign Affairs Committees
    The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense
    Select Intelligence Oversight Panel




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  91. James Joyner says:

    @Robert C.: While such exercises are silly, it’s not true that the Gabby Giffords shooter was a Tea Party type.

    Loughner’s best friend, Zach Osler, said, “He did not watch TV; he disliked the news; he didn’t listen to political radio; he didn’t take sides; he wasn’t on the Left; he wasn’t on the Right.” Osler also noted that conspiracy theories had a profound effect on Loughner, particularly the online conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist: The Movie, which friends claimed Loughner held an obsession with.[28][32] He was a member of the conspiracy theory message board, “Above Top Secret,” although members of the site did not respond warmly to his posts.[33][34][35] Loughner espoused such controversial ideas as: the United States Government was responsible for the September 11 attacks;[30] a New World Order would bring about a one world currency; there would be a 2012 apocalypse; NASA had faked spaceflights; and that the government was using mind control and grammar to brainwash people (who are unaware that “nothing is real”). Reports appearing after the shooting noted similarities between the statements made by Loughner (concerning grammar and mind control) and the views of conspiracy theorist, David Wynn Miller.[36][37][38]

    He’s just your average, garden variety, loser nutball.




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  92. James Joyner says:

    @Barry: I would concur. This looks to me to be SOP for dealing with this situation rather than a rash action by an out of bounds individual. That the perpetrator was a lieutenant–i.e., a fairly senior leader in the force–makes that even more likely.

    @WR: My recollection is fuzzy but as I recall there was a permissive environment in the Americal division generally and that Calley’s CO, a Captain Medina, was especially gung ho about shooting first and asking questions later. The village in question had been the operating base of a sniper or some such and had killed some of the unit’s men, so the mood was especially unforgiving. It was Calley who rounded up innocents and had them thrown into a ditch and slaughtered but there was an environment created by the command climate that made that seem okay.




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  93. Barry says:

    @Gustopher: “One of the things that has changed over the past 50 years in America is that permits are now required for any meaningful assembly. ”

    What would amaze me, if I were stupid, is that the Tea Party rallies didn’t seem to have such trouble. Odd, that a movement against the vast corruption in government would have such an easy time getting government permission….




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  94. Barry says:

    @Jay: “Frankly I think it’s weird to turn this into a partisan issue.”

    Because the right loves brutal repression. If the Tea Party had been treated as it deserved (which I don’t support), the right would have whipped out the First Amendment.




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  95. anjin-san says:

    You can be opposed to OWS’s policy platform and still be upset that they’re being brutalized by the police.

    Of course you can, but I am not seeing much in the way that shows this is happening. More like “the dirty hippies got what was coming to them”.




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  96. cleotis says:

    @James Joyner: and covered up by C Powell




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  97. Eric Florack says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Most certainly they would, if the government involved is run by liberals. See, therein lies the problem; liberals apparently don’t seem to have any problems with governmental force being used in support of liberal ideas and ideals. When the tables get turned however they scream bloody murder. It’s been happening throughout my lifetime.

    @Robert C.:

    Partiel list of crimes by Tea Baggers: shot US Congresswomen in head, killed numerous others at said shooting, including children.

    The shooter…Loughner I think his name was… Tell me… Why do people blame the Tea Party for Loughner’s actions; despite the fact he was a fan of Karl Marx, didn’t vote, and stalked Giffords for years?

    Do try again.

    And credit to James for his response there as well.




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  98. fabio says:

    @ Stormy Dragon
    “aggravated result”…..*face palm*




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  99. fabio says:

    Am I on the internet?




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  100. epador says:

    James, I stopped by because of your dreadful loss. The tone and attitude of much of the site and your comment-ors is sadly rife with the narcissistic narrative of those who have no intention of attempting objectivity or re-evaluating their perspectives.

    Police violence – the police use various forms of violence every day in dealing with those who violate the law. Being “peaceful” while protesting, but willfully violating the law to provoke a police reaction, obstructing the police and the general public, is objectively no different than a flash mob robbing a 7-11 and then encircling the police car that responds. Wringing your keyboards hysterically about militarism of the police in response to this orchestrated by the protestors event is complicity with their agenda, not to protest Wall Street greed, but to challenge the structure of our society.

    Please wake up!




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