filling a moat with gasoline

August 26, 2010

I don’t particularly like people running through the streets smashing store windows and burning police cars.

I can, however, think of historical occasions
which would have justified at least the latter,
even ethically demanded it… but that is besides
the present point. (But, if you’re must know:
I’m very far from conviced that the
G-20 summit of 2010 belongs in such a list).

Those few days in Toronto’s past summer offers plenty get almost anyone ranting. (Not everyone, of course, outraged by the same things). Some were widely discussed in the mainstream: especially, why the *@#%^ was the summit held in downtown Toronto rather than x, y or z. (How about Pearson Airport where almost all delegates had arrived?)

What really got my goat was the decision use an estimated 10,000 police officers. Many of these were in riot gear (banging batons on shields: deliberately unnerving), and/or carrying tear gas, weapons (the “ARWEN-37”) which fires giant rubber bullets, and four ear-shattering “sound cannons”… plus officers on horses (a tactic often misunderstood as quaint, but rather appreciated for its intimidation-value)… plus plenty armed with handguns, tazers and a s.w.a.t. team or two.

Here’s the rub:

The primary target of “Black Bloc” activists is the authority of the state. You do not need to be an anarchist (I am not) to see the authority of the state as being propped up by public trust in limbs of power, the police probably above others.

Talking to myself this morning, I put it this way: “Sending a massive police (a great deal of it essentially paramilitary) to protect an event such as the G-20 summit is like filling a moat with gasoline in an effort to protect your home from an arsonist.”

To my eyes, what the state accomplished was this:

Black Bloc activists (thugs or whatever you like, it doesn’t matter) were given a golden opportunity. Seizing it, they succesfully goaded the police into over-reacting. Not so much against themselves (few in the public had much sympathy for them), but against unarmed protesters.

Especially the day after the main Black Bloc rampage, the police embarrassed themselves with alarming disgrace.  Were they acting out of frustration, under some misguided orders, or in a clumbsy attempt to accomplish the impossible (seizing a few Black Bloc activists – who had by now shed their trademark black clothing – from large crowds of stubborn protestors)? I don’t think it really matters. The (quite accurate) optics were that the police attacked peaceful protesters, looking like thugs of questionable competency.

Anarchists want to sell the idea that police (the state) do not deserve the right to use force. What better advertisment could they ask for?

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