The Red & Black Cafe in Portland, an anarchist establishment, has been the center of controversy — and that’s an understatement — over its request that a police officer leave the premises. Seems that, given some questionable shootings involving local cops, he was making the clientele a little skittish.
Surveying reader comments in the various Internet venues where the story has been covered has been an enormous — if appalling — window on the authoritarianism of what passes for our political culture.
One commenter wrote, based on his observation of “vicious street crimes”: “You are fools living in a bubble for thinking we do not need the thin blue line.”
If anyone qualifies as a fool living in a bubble, it’s someone who seriously believes that the only people the police go after are those engaged in “vicious street crimes.”
Over the past thirty years, thanks to the War on Drugs and assorted other moral panics, mainstream police culture has been relentlessly militarized and the due process guarantees of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments turned into toilet paper. The entire Drug War culture is a corrupt empire built on civil forfeiture robbery, coerced testimony from jailhouse snitches, warrants obtained on perjured testimony, entrapment operations that should be illegal, planted evidence, and plea bargain blackmail.
Cops have become beasts of prey, viewing urban populations as an occupied enemy to be terrorized and intimidated into submission with shows of force. Urban cops openly brag about showing the general population who’s boss. You think it’s a coincidence that they’ve almost universally shifted to black Nazi Chic uniforms?
The cops and their sympathizers who commented on the Portland story have essentially admitted as much. Bruce, a 26-year police veteran, commented that all the allegations of excessive force in Portland involved someone who “was not complying with the Officers orders.” There you have it: either obey authority figures without question and to the letter, or you deserve to be killed.
Another reader, BuffaloDan, contributed this little gem: “‘Vegans’ who feel ‘persecuted’ probably have a bag of weed on them. Try obeying the laws and you won’t feel so ‘persecuted.'”
Or as they say at Bob Jones University, “the problem no doubt lies with you.” Because in Pleasantville, where The Policeman is Your Friend, Officer Friendly never goes after anyone who’s not clearly a “bad guy” (apparently with “lawbreaker” tattoed on his forehead, same as the folks in Arizona with those “illegal alien” tattoos). Now let’s all finish our tuna casserole and jello mold in time for Lawrence Welk!
I challenge anyone who shares these sentiments to subscribe to Radley Balko’s blog for a month. There are dozens or hundreds of SWAT raids every week all around the country, for simple possession, with the same kinds of unannounced 3AM breakins that used to be associated with the Gestapo and OGPU. You can read every week of people tasered to death or physically brutalized for “resisting arrest” when in fact they were in diabetic comas or having epileptic seizures. You can read of people (including grandmothers and little girls) beaten within an inch of their lives for “noncompliance,” despite posing absolutely no physical threat of any kind, simply because the alpha male cop went off on them like a pit bull on angel dust in the face of a lesser creature that refused to show its belly. And unless someone’s lucky enough to have clear video footage to prove the cops are lying each other up — and usually not even then — you can count on the worst happening to them being suspension with pay pending a pro forma finding that “all procedures were followed” and there was “no evidence of wrongdoing.”
Remember that quote from Martin Niemöller that starts out “First they came for the Jews …?” Keep telling yourself, if it makes it easier for you to go to sleep at night, that it will never happen to you so long as you’re a good, pink little citizen who keeps his nose clean, because the police are a thin blue line between your pink little suburb and chaos, that they only go after the “bad people” and “troublemakers.”
But you’re living in a bubble.