I’ve written often about the systemic lack of police accountability, a problem which has cost the lives of hundreds of people in 2015 alone. But what tactics should be taken to combat police brutality? What do we do to counter this lack of accountability?
Genevieve Huizar has protested peacefully for the last three years and asked herself a lot of these same questions. She decided early on that in order to get justice she needed to urge her fellow protesters to keep things peaceful.
She has been protesting for so long because her son, Manuel Diaz, was shot by the police in July of 2012. The police justified the shooting saying that, though Diaz was unarmed, he was a well known gang member and was trying to hide drugs from them. While chasing Diaz, one of the officers shot him in one of his legs which brought him to his knees. At that point, another police office named Nick Bennallack executed Diaz by shooting him in the head.
Not long after this happened, protesters gathered around the area where Diaz was shot and, at first, peacefully protested. Eventually, too many protesters gathered and the police asked them to disperse which made some of them angry. Those same protesters began rioting and getting violent. The police responded with non-lethal suppression like shooting bean bags into the crowd. Unfortunately, a dog was also accidentally let off its leash, according to the police, and attacked several people of its own accord. That particular incident was supposed to be investigated.
But when another alleged gang member was shot (this time while armed) the next day riots started and continued for the next ten days. At one point during this Huizar said that “[The violence] is wrong and needs to stop on both sides…”
It’s been three years and neither of the officers who shot Diaz have been brought to court, nor has anyone else in law enforcement been prosecuted for the crimes during the peaceful protesting or through the ten days of riots. Instead, the officers were put on “paid leave”.
Through this experience Huizar has recently concluded that she was wrong to call for peace, saying that, “I regret calling for peace because maybe if there would have been more of an uprising there wouldn’t have had to be Baltimore. … Too many murders, too many families suffering. Never forget, Never stop fighting. Even in the courts, don’t stop fighting.”
Sometimes riots achieve results that can’t be gained by peaceful protests. That doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, think property damage or physical violence is a good strategy. But it can hardly be denied that the riots in Ferguson are at least part of the reason why the Department of Justice issued its report on Ferguson police corruption.
While I agree with Huizar that we cannot stop fighting, as an anarchist, I must dispute her methods. There is far too much on the line and the police should never be able to get a good night’s sleep. But that doesn’t mean we should use the courts as a primary means of redress. The courts are, after all, one arm of the same state system that the police are embedded in. And so it often turns out much like IBM setting up a judicial committee to “investigate” whether its technology sector has done something wrong.
We should be building our own institutions and groups based on an ethos of reciprocity, equality of authority, solidarity and liberty. We should look to community defense organizations both contemporary and historical such as the Black Panthers and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club. And we should instead try to create a cultural climate of disrespect and disobedience towards the police by focusing more on neighborhood autonomy and self-governance.
There’ll be no justice and no peace until we abolish the police.
Translations for this article:
- Italian, La Polizia non Merita Pace.