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Mandatory Compliance

« November 2011 »


Here's the deal, America. If you want to be shocked at the casual pepper-spraying of seated protesters over the weekend at UC Davis, you can. Under one condition. You need to realize that what you're actually shocked by is the sudden realization that we've spent the last decade building the kind of authoritarian police state where something like that can happen.

What's that? You don't like me telling you what to do and think? Could have fucking fooled me. Remember the Don't Tase Me Bro, guy? Oh, how we laughed. Four years later, and we all remember "Don't tase me, bro!" guy. What we don't remember is why he got tased. He got tased because he insisted on asking John Kerry a question at a public event after the allotted questioning time had run out, and then, after being allowed to ask his question, using the word "blowjob" in the question.

So four years after someone jot a 50,000 volt stun-gun for being impolite to John Kerry, a bunch of students get maced for the crime of not standing up when asked to, and you're fucking surprised? You're angry? Welcome to the ranks of people paying attention. Now go do some research on the past decade of non-lethal weapon abuse and get back to me when you're done.

What happened at UC Davis wasn't an attack on free speech. It wasn't an attempt to derail the Occupy Movement because it's being too successful. That may well be what's been happening in Oakland and New York, but not here. No, what happened here was standard police procedure, in the form it's evolved into after over a decade of creeping authoritarianism and indoctrinated police sociopathy. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them."

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure," Kelly said.

I usually don't do long quotes with paragraph breaks, but all that, from the Associated Press story about the officers involved being placed on leave? That's the problem. Not the incident itself, not the protests.

First and foremost, the idea of a "compliance tool" in the first place. I know we're inured to Orwellian turns of phrase these days, but COMPLIANCE TOOL ought to send a chill right down your deadened, freedom-loving spine. Second, the idea of a burning chemical sprayed in the eyes being used as that "compliance tool". Not in self-defense, but just because it's easier for police than lifting people off the ground. That is nightmare fuel. And the way Kelly justifies it as a way to avoid "hurting people". You're hosing them down with pepper spray because "people don't have handles". Marvelous.

And the next thing that should keep you awake at night? Kelly's official definition of what qualifies as you, an American citizen, "actively resisting" the authorities. If you pull your arm away from them when they grab you, you're actively resisting. When you curl up into a ball, you're actively resisting. And that means cops can mace you, hit you with a stick, and go after your pressure points.

Let's say this one more time. If a cop grabs your arm, and you pull your arm away, that cop can HIT YOU WITH A STICK. That's where the rules of engagement leave you. That's where the Constitution leaves you. Beaten with a baton because you pulled your arm away from a designated enforcer of the governing authority. Don't like it? Think it's not how America should be? Well, you lost that fight years ago.

"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure."

Yes, it is. Has been for years. If you haven't noticed, well, that's a bit understandable. If the media covers police excess at all, it does so rarely and treats them as isolated incidents. There's no followup, there's rarely any attempt to connect the pieces into a larger narrative. I know this because I've been reading Digby for years, and she's been both drawing the dots and connecting them for as long as I can remember.

The thing about Tasers and pepper spray and even the sound cannons they've been rolling out against the Occupy movement is that they're intended to be alternatives to lethal force. They're supposed to be used in place of lethal force, and have the same result as lethal force except for the lethal part. Which means that when you hear about a cop hosing a bunch of seated college students down with pepper spray, what you should ask yourself is, "would he have hosed them down with a machine gun? Would I be OK with that?"

When a bro gets tased for saying "blowjob" to John Kerry, what you should ask yourself is, "Would I have been comfortable with them shooting him in the face? How many times would I have watched that on YouTube? Would I have hung out with my friends, shouted 'Don't shoot me, bro!', mimicked having my brains blown out, then had a laugh about it?"

If your answer to these questions is "no", then you're no longer comfortable with the police state you've been living in for the past decade. And if your answer to these questions is still "yes", then you're one of the modern-day troglodytes who cheer on every instance of excessive force, as long as it's aimed at people they don't like. And by now, you're probably in the majority.

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