Beyond the Spectacle of Police Brutality

Reflecting on the January 28 actions in Oakland (and responding to a recent Chris Hedges column critical of “black bloc” tactics), Jeb Purucker reflects on the role of police brutality in sustaining and motivating Occupy activists:

up until now Occupy has experienced its growth spurts as a result of confrontations with the police. The general strike in November was in large part made possible by the excessive force with which the police evicted the campers at Oscar Grant Plaza. Similarly public instances of brutality at UC Berkeley and UC Davis led to massive mobilizations on all campuses across the UC system. The basic premise underlying Saturday’s action was in keeping with this pattern. By picking a sufficiently ambitious target and casting the action in sufficiently antagonistic rhetoric, a confrontation was with cops was assured. …

The problem is that police forces can adapt. On Saturday there was no dramatic image that crystallized the brutality of the police state, just a whole lot of the standard violence that is inherent to the nature of policing. Even the teargassing of children is, by this point, more or less normal. Whether we admit it or not, we were implicitly relying on the spectacle of police brutality to catch national attention. …

When this narrative of victimization was not immediately forthcoming, we kicked into high gear to manufacture one. This is ultimately what underlies the focus on brutality.

Purucker takes this insight, as well as Hedges’ dismissive critique of anarchism, as an occasion to contemplate an adequate tactical response. Read the whole essay here.

Susie Cagle responds to Chris Hedges; so does David Graeber at n+1.

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  1. rb says:

    Important to think thru clever memes. OO does not rely on police using brutality. They rely on confrontation. That is what a protest is. The unleashing of police violence was inexcusable. Society needs to listen to the people in more imaginative and less inflexible ways.

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