Last Sunday three people were killed in Las Vegas. Two were police officers on their break at Cici’s Pizza. Rather than being a day to celebrate the death of two agents of the state as a win in the fight for freedom, it is a day to reconsider the foundations of our beliefs and the tactics we employ. The strategy of cop killers will lead us down the path of more statism and more violence, not peace and liberty.
Cops are, generally speaking, the enemy. They are a terrorizing, occupying force who preserve the culture of statism and violence. However, individual police officers are also human beings. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They have family and friends just like you and I. This is why the notion of violence against state agents puts anarchists in such a precarious situation. While we recognize the state is a monolithic, terrorist organization, it’s not obvious that every individual who works for the state is our enemy. I know a number of cops. I know their families and friends. I would never consider killing or even harming them.
Putting aside the awkward question of who is or isn’t our enemy, what is strategically effective? The problem with utilizing violence against the state is that the state won’t back down. Violence begets violence. The more cops are killed, the more cops are hired. The more funding they will get. The more and more powerful arms they will purchase. The more they will be trained to shoot first. Any significant campaign of violence against the police will be met with an even more violent and brutal campaign against civilians.
There will be no shortage of goons, thugs and guns for the state to use to achieve its goals. And if it is met with violence by liberty lovers, you can be sure the state will respond with violence of its own. This strategy is short-sighted and misguided. Coercion is almost always a bad way to solve problems — this is one reason why the state is undesirable in the first place. Trying to fight the state with its own tools and its own methods is doomed to fail. It will only escalate the problem and put civilians in more harm’s way than they are already in.
So what is an anarchist supposed to do? Just as violence won’t get us what we want, the opposite, peace, will. We don’t need to fall to the state’s level of using violence and terrorism. We can transcend what the state is doing. We must. The only way to a free society is through peaceful discussion. Our fight lies on the battlefield of ideas. And our battle plan is to win hearts and minds through engaging our fellow humans as conversation partners. Though building relationships predicated on peace and mutual aid, not violence. Our beliefs are fundamentally about peaceful cooperation and the rejection of the initiation of violence. Let’s act like it.
Are cops the enemy? Yes. But not in the traditional way of looking at things. They are not an enemy we must crush or destroy. It is the institutions we must do that to. Rather, they are an enemy we must convince and persuade. Agents of the state must be brought over to the side of liberty, not killed. They don’t deserve it and we certainly don’t deserve the trauma inherent in using that kind of tactic. Liberty is too important a project to be left to violence.
Today is a day to recognize that the death of these police officers was a detriment, not a triumph, in the fight for freedom: An example of sinking to the level of statism. We must be better than that. We are better than that. So instead of shooting a cop when he’s grabbing some pizza, join him. Pick up a slice and talk with him about why liberty is so important. Pizza and ideas: Those are the keys to freedom.