2011-11-30 "A message to Occupy Philly: The police are not ‘our friends’" by "Philadelphia Workers World Party/Partido Mundo Obrero"
Nov. 30 - Some members of Occupy Philly want to keep insisting that “the police are our friends.” They are “our relatives,” some say.
Some of our relatives may be right-wingers who support what the 1 percent does. That makes them politically “right” but not correct — just relatives. There is nothing one can do about who you’re connected to by blood — but any thinking person can choose whom you consider “friends.”
Friends do not beat up on other friends. Friends do not open cans of pepper spray into the faces and throats of their friends. Friends do not trample each other purposely on horseback. Friends do not stab one another. Friends do not arrest one another. Friends do not bring one another to court — or threaten to imprison one another. Friends do not purposely injure each other so severely that it leads to hospitalization.
When you say “We did nothing to provoke the police,” couldn’t this be interpreted in the oppressed communities that they “did something” to provoke the police? Is this the message the Occupy movement, which claims to stand for social change, really wants to convey?
We ask you to consider how this sounds to members of the Black and other oppressed communities, who also may have relatives who are police, but who have repeatedly been victims of police brutality. These communities are also part of the 99 percent — mostly on the bottom economic rungs.
Some members of Occupy Philly say that “Police are part of the 99%” or that they are “union members.” The Fraternal Order of Police claims to be a “union” representing police. But police have never functioned on behalf of the economically disadvantaged. That is not part of their history. Their role has been, and remains. one of protecting the private property interests of the 1 percent. Failing to do this, they would be fired.
The police have systematically been used to break strikes of other unions, thus calling into question the validity of their “union” status. It does not matter what class or economic strata an individual comes from. What matters is which class or economic strata they serve. The FOP has long ago given up the right to be classified as a “union.” Just ask Black police officers who have been forced to file charges of racism against this organization.
The police department in Philadelphia was formed in the 1800s by organizing gangs of Irish immigrants to be used against the growing Abolitionist movement and later freed Black people moving to the North. This racist history carries forth into the 20th century and to the present.
Black movements targeted by police -
During Frank Rizzo's tenure as police commissioner in the 1970s, the predominantly white police force was feared and hated in the Black and Latina/o communities because of its brutality and racism.
Police attacks on the Black Panther Party, the MOVE Organization and the public led to many demonstrations. This period is chronicled in the documentary film "Black and Blue."
Black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote about many of these cases. Abu-Jamal was also targeted by the police. In December 1981 he was shot, kicked and beaten by cops and subsequently sent to death row for allegedly killing police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal continues to maintain his innocence. Millions of supporters around the world maintain that he was framed by the cops, who were desperate to silence his "voice of the voiceless."
During a 1978 confrontation with police in Powelton Village, four cops dragged MOVE member Delbert Africa by his hair, then kicked him in the head, kidneys and groin. This brutality was captured on video and later led to the indictment of three officers on assault charges. In February 1981, a judge acquitted the cops. Delbert Africa was subsequently arrested and is now one of the MOVE 9, prisoners serving a 30-to-100-year term. The three acquitted cops went on to participate in the murderous assault on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue on May 16, 1985. A bomb was dropped on the house, killing 11 children, women and men and burning down the entire block.
Philadelphia police are not only brutal. They are notorious repeat offenders.
From 1989 to 1995, there were 2,000 documented citizen complaints against the Philadelphia Police Department. During a two-year period in the mid-1990s the city paid $20 million in damages to 225 people who were beaten, shot, harassed or otherwise mistreated by police. The 39th Police District scandal in 1995 led to the dismissal of 1,400 criminal cases where cops ignored suspects' rights and sometimes framed them outright.
In 2009, a group of Black Philadelphia police officers filed a federal lawsuit against their department, alleging an online forum geared toward city police is "infested with racist, white supremacist, and anti-African-American content.”
Early in the morning of November 30, 2011, hundreds of cops, some on horses, evicted Occupy Philly from City Hall after midnight. Some police violence occurred, with 50 arrested. The video can be seen here: [http://occupyphillymedia.org/video/police-attack-occupy-philly]
Similar raids and attacks took place in Los Angeles this morning. This is not by accident. Yes, the police could have demonstrated more brutality, as they have in numerous other cities where the Occupy movement has come under attack. That Philly and LA showed even limited “restraint” had more to do with the images that the two cities, which are most identified with police brutality, hoped to project, than any other factor.
Had this been a “protest” called by the right-wing Tea Party, there would never have been a police presence. The police would have looked the other way — as they have repeatedly when Tea Party activists show up in public bearing arms.
If the Occupy movement is serious about standing up for the rights of the majority of people whose living standards have been pushed down under the weight of a global economic crisis — which has only benefited the very wealthy — then we also have to be serious about the role played by the state apparatus that protects and defends the economic system that allowed this to happen.
While we were focusing our energy on the arrests of our friends, a piece of legislation passed the U.S. Senate today that should have all of us up in arms.
The Senate voted on a bill that would define the whole of the United States as a “battlefield” and allow the U.S. military to arrest and imprison “American citizens” in their own backyard without charges or trial. This should be sounding an alarm with every Occupy participant across the U.S. because this is directed against the movement we are part of.