Speaking of police brutality

7 Jun

A friend emailed yesterday, saying I hadn’t been posting much of late and wanting to know I’m OK. I’m not, as it happens. I’m depressed, a little frightened and very confused.

None of these states are bad things. They don’t feel good, sure, but when we momentarily drag ourselves from lives lived out for the most part as emotional junkies, we get to see that how we feel is seldom the most reliable of guides to reality. Feeling crap can be the best thing that ever happens, if we allow ourselves space and time to face into the why of it.

Not everyone has that luxury, but I do. Personal circumstances I’ve no intention of torturing you with have come into alignment with impersonal crises1 predictable but unprecedented in scale if not in kind. I’ll be taking time out. How much I really can’t say. I may be back at the keyboard tomorrow. I’m just not counting on it is all. Still less do I have any inkling of what I’ll be saying when I’m done with my meditations.

Meanwhile here’s one of my favourite bloggers, Caitlin Johnstone, on America burning. These days so many voices around me sound bombastic, motivated by point-scoring and needlessly abusive. Hers seldom does, and more often than not strikes a chord.

The Most Revealing Footage On Police Brutality Is These Cops Applauding Its Perpetrators

Among the constant deluge of police brutality footage flooding the internet as America’s armed goon patrol responds to the Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, there is one video which stands out above all the others in illustrating just how pervasively violent police culture is. Curiously enough, this video itself contains no police brutality.

The video clip in question shows the outside of the Buffalo City Courthouse, where members of the police and fire unions awaited the two officers who hospitalized a 75 year-old peace activist named Martin Gugino by shoving him to the ground.2 When the two officers exited the courthouse, released on their own recognizance, and were met with applause from the crowd.

“Two police officers were charged with felony assault during a protest in Buffalo, and they were applauded by their colleagues as they left the courthouse,” MSNBC reports as its footage shows a large gathering clapping and whistling enthusiastically.

This, right here, is a sign of a culture that cannot be redeemed. A police culture which makes no secret of the fact that cops as a collective will consistently support the most self-evidently unjustifiable acts of brutality committed by their own.3

This video emerges after 57 Buffalo police resigned from their department’s Emergency Response Team in protest of the suspension of the two officers who’d been recorded assaulting an old man without the slightest provocation. It emerges after the Buffalo Police Department was caught lying that Gugino had “tripped and fell” before footage surfaced showing Gugino being shoved hard and smashing his skull on the pavement. This police department could not possibly have made it more clear to the public that they unconditionally support one another in their viciousness and savagery.

This is far more damning than any of the many, many video clips circulating that demonstrate irrefutably how police and their apologists have already lost the debate on this matter. It makes a lie of the widespread narrative that this is just a minor problem caused by a few bad apples while the “vast majority” (to quote the 44th president) are good people who uphold their duty to protect and serve the community.

Clearly that is not the case. Clearly. The reality is that most police stand by other police, even when they are undeniably in the wrong. That is not what good people do. That is not what people who have any intention whatsoever of ever doing anything about police brutality do. That is what people who intend to perpetuate a violent and increasingly militarized police force forever do.


This isn’t working. Police culture cannot be saved, and has no interest in being saved. In the eyes of the armed goon patrol, it’s the people complaining about police brutality who are the problem. That’s why the response to them has been consistent and copious amounts of police brutality.

This is not a matter of passing a few more pieces of legislation. This is not a matter of giving police more workshops and seminars. This is not a matter of needing more police to take a knee during protests or march with them in solidarity. This is a matter of an entire police force, from sea to shining sea, which insists on the gratuitous use of violence and will defend any cop who uses it.

The problem, as we’ve discussed previously, is that those in power have no intention of ever departing with the violent goon patrol which gives them the ability to brutalize the public if they get out of line. Many of them are providing lip service to solidarity and listening and understanding right now, but make no mistake: the mainstream rank-and-file public awakening to the reality that they live in a militarized authoritarian police state was not in the script, and they are getting very nervous about its implications.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, to say the least.

* * *

  1. Of the ‘impersonal crises’ I have in mind, these are uppermost. One, CV-19 and a one-sided struggle (ignored in a theological and pointlessly toxic debate on whether this is the Big One epidemiologists have for decades said is a matter of when not if) to shape the terms on which lockdown ends. Two, a USA burning after George Floyd’s murder, and covered somewhat differently from the gilets jaunes protests. Three, war drums over China.
  2. Brits viewing Gugino’s treatment will be reminded of Ian Tomlinson, who died at the 2009 G20 Protests after being shoved by officer Simon Harwood. Harwood was dismissed and (unsuccessfully) prosecuted for manslaughter only because footage by protesters was published four days later by the Guardian. At the time the Police Federation was lobbying to have filming or photographing police officers at work outlawed. Meanwhile, back in the USA, fifteen states want police bodycam footage exempt under Freedom of Information laws. Note that Mesa Arizona PD was reluctant to reveal the chilling bodycam footage – linked in my reply to a comment below this post – of the 2016 murder of Daniel Shaver.
  3. “…cops … will consistently support … unjustifiable acts of brutality committed by their own”. This is not idle rhetoric. Of these 42 Shocking Police Brutality Statistics, note in particular points 4, 5, 6, 23 and 39.

10 Replies to “Speaking of police brutality

  1. Don’t worry about taking time out, Philip. I have felt the same depression. For a while anger pushed me on quite a bit. But now I am at the point where I feel that right now there is little more to say. And even less to do. OffG has certainly been productive but it’s now becoming repetitive. I think that had they not painted themselves into such a narrow corner, they could have had a very lively argument going on.

    But I get a feeling of creeping …. apathy? despair? Confusion? Fatalism? I have come to feel that there is certainly no centralised conspiracy going on but a lot of desperate little ones. OffG, along with so many others, have noticed a certain inconsistency in the media apparently supporting the protests about G Floyd and the demand for social distancing. And that’s just one of the indications of chaos that are afoot. Perhaps the four horsemen are about to appear? Hope that’s cheered you up!

  2. Phil
    You will be pleased and hopefully heartened to know that there were three protest rallies in Sheffield. Two of them were organised by local communities were in Abbeyfield Park Burngreave and Meer brook Park and had a few hundred attending them. The third one was organised by young Black people, primarily students, at which there were around three thousand. I helped with latter and was proud to say how powerful, dynamic and moving the occasion was. There were mainly younger people majority Black and social distancing was a little relaxed but as one said “we cant breathe” and the state keeps killing us so what they have they got to lose. Its the first time in Sheffield I have seen so many Young Back people mobilised there was some coverage in the media but social media is buzzing with it

    In the light of articles by Craig Murray and even Peter Oborne in Middle East Eye pointing out extent of the sabotage and treachery that the official opposition faced from within and without particularly by the media ( Media Reform Coalition Report) its clear that it is highly unlikely if not impossible to elect a social democratic/Keynesian government. Mass mobilisation is back on the agenda and lets work together towards more of it !!!

    • Good to hear Jawed. I’m back from a BLM rally in Nottingham. My attitude to BLM is – as I hinted at by contrasting establishment response to such rallies with that to les gilets jaunes – complex and nuanced, but to stay away seems hopelessly sectarian.

  3. Here is a common occurrence for me: I followed OffG’s Twitter page which was asking question: “Who is currently promoting the grassroots, spontaneous #blm protest?” And I end up with a comment: “No such thing as a genuine grassroots movement.” And a link to a video titled “Stages of communist takeovers- Yuri Bezmenov (Leftists are useful IDIOTS)”

    So, here’s the problem: the one thing that everyone should be committed to i.e. the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of communism, is being portrayed as what the corporations want! This seems to me to signal the ultimate triumph of that American “switchover” view whereby capitalism and communism seem to swap places.

    • … the ultimate triumph of that American “switchover” view whereby capitalism and communism seem to swap places …

      I’m beginning to sense this as enabled by the same simplistic – not entirely false but simplistic – libertarian narrative on BLM I’ve detected on Covid-19.

      • There are a number of drawbacks against this idea that ALL protest movements are started, as it were, artificially:

        First, and most obviously, it suggests that there can be no change unless we have an appearance from some “heroic” individual with almost supernatural powers.

        Second, even if a protest movement is “phony”, it has to convince enough people that it is genuine and must therefore, to an extent, embody real grievances.

        Thirdly, and again assuming a “phony” movement: once created, it will attract those who are genuine protesters and will therefore tend to lead to developments not planned by the “controllers”.

        I think the key here is, as always, a dialectical point of view.

        • I think the key here is, as always, a dialectical point of view

          Agreed. I’m taking time out, but am contemplating both the strengths and weaknesses of BLM – and the motivation of those who deride it.

      • Libertarian complaints about the state are based on an assumption that the state is a kind of “add on” to the social/economic world i.e. as if this latter world can exist perfectly happily on its own. Thus, the state is something that always “interferes”. What is not seen is that the state is already there and provides the backbone of the entire socioeconomic world. We are already being supported by the state – some of us more than others. But this support is not merely the obvious matter of e.g. unemployment payments. The state must support the conditions necessary for capitalism to function. That is the true “invisible hand”.

        • Thanks for yet another insightful comment, George. It makes perfectly clear why left leaning libertarians so often wind up in bed with the right. When push comes to shove that mistrust of the state proves stronger than the assertion that, since homo sapiens sapiens is ill equipped for solo survival, there is indeed such a thing as society.

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