Black Lives Matter; Kiwi Lives Matter.
In recent times we have seen a lot of police brutality on a global scale and especially in the US, and then last week we saw similar crimes in New Zealand with two separate incidents within a few days of men being shot by police – one, who was unarmed, died, and the other is in a critical condition.
There seems to be a culture developing among US police that this is a war and that the public are the enemy, especially if you are black and poor. This trend has been continuing for some time now and is steadily getting worse. We have seen many examples of police shooting and killing unarmed black people for no apparent reason and yet we have yet to see a police officer brought to justice. This year alone police in the US have shot 600 people. It is obvious from the actions of the police that they know they have complete impunity.
As someone who has been on the front line of pickets and protests I have seen this culture developing in NZ. While a lot of police are reasonable people I have witnessed an increase in the amount of thug-like behaviour by police in recent times and a reluctance by the authorities to address or even acknowledge it. In the US this has given rise to the 'black lives matter' movement which is becoming increasingly popular and is spreading to be a popular movement of the people with the involvement of many people of different ethnicities.
MILITARISATION OF THE POLICE
In recent times we have seen a militarization of the police with the use of military style weapons and military type vehicles being deployed at peaceful protests. I have read recently about US police doing training in Israel in the horrific and illegal methods used by the Israeli military to oppress, torture and murder Palestinians including women and children. It shows an attitude in policing that “treats minorities as enemies that must be pacified rather than citizens to be served” as Aljazeera America put it in a 2014 article about the Israel connection.http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/8/ferguson-police-violenceisraeliandusmilitarizedpolicies.html One must wonder what is behind all this.
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF THE RICH
In capitalist society the police are the main barrier between wealth and poverty. The privileged members of society, the 'one percent', could not exist in the form they do with vast inequality and extreme poverty if there was not this barrier to protect the property rights of the rich. The poor would simply take back what is rightfully theirs and that would be the end of it.
CRIMINALISATION OF THE POOR
We see in the US the criminalisation of the poor by the use of petty crimes to convict and imprison people, especially black people, and this is then being turned into an industry that is very profitable for large companies like Serco, which has recently taken over some of our prisons here in New Zealand.
The US is the most incarcerated country in the world. In spite of having a relatively small population, it has more people locked up than any other nation. This is no accident – it serves as a reminder to anyone who is considering civil disobedience or crime, in the same way that unemployment serves to remind workers of the consequences of not working hard enough or not being obedient subjects of their bosses and the ruling elite. This US trend is slowly creeping in here at the hands of right wing governments and their cronies and business owners.
In NZ in the last three to four decades we have seen an increase in the use of petty crime to collect large sums of money from poor people and to criminalise them and eventually incarcerate them. Often these people who end up in prison, apart from being disproportionately from the poor and working class, are members of society that are less docile, more rebellious and less submissive than the average, and by removing them from society it makes us more docile members a lot easier to control.
ORIGINS OF POLICING
The origins of policing in the US go back to early slave patrols and Native American police to keep the indigenous people in their place. They were basically necessary to keep an immoral practice of slavery operating without rebellion and were used to capture escaped slaves and punish them. In the south these patrols operated with a similar impunity that police officers seem to today.
In NZ we have a history of the police recruiting 'special oficers' from rural areas of the landed classes and using them as strike breakers to put down workers strikes, as in the case of Massey’s Cossacks during the great strike of 1913.
WHO PROTECTS US FROM THE PROTECTORS
One of the main excuses for having a police force in the first place is to "protect us" but I would say that to most poor black Americans the biggest danger would be the police themselves.
WHAT IT COULD BE LIKE
You may think that I am a bit of a Utopian fool but in my experience most of my encounters with the police have been very negative ones, usually costing me money and in the worst cases being physically attacked by them. I often wonder if we really need them at all. I think in my case I would have fared a lot better without them.
I think it is time we seriously looked at the role of the police, where they come from, who they are and what their purpose is. Do we need police to cruise around in vehicles handing out tickets intimidating people and generally causing trouble and misery or would communities be better off policing themselves? What if police only came out when a member of the public requested them to. It seems at the moment that is the only time they don't come out. Are the police here to protect us or do we, as in the case of the Black Panthers, need to have patrols to protect us from the police and other racist groups? Here is an example of a positive alternative. http://www.newsweek.com/police-norway-havent-killed-anyone-nearly-10-years-359074
I would like get back to the recent shootings of two New Zealanders by police. This is a very worrying development, although not entirely without precedent (there have been similar killings in the past). If there is not a full inquiry to this, and if those responsible are found guilty and not punished, then I think it is a very bad omen for NZ society and I would urge all people who care about freedom and justice to get out on the streets and tell the government that this is not good enough and we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour by police.