[Virtually unnoticed in the cacophony of the Trumpian news cycle,
a bill to place more power in the hands of police slithered through
the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support...]
[https://portside.org/] 

 BEYOND REPAIR: WHILE REPUBLICANS & DEMOCRATS UNITE TO INCREASE POLICE
POWER, OTHERS POINT TO NEW WAY FORWARD  
[https://portside.org/2018-07-23/beyond-repair-while-republicans-democrats-unite-increase-police-power-others-point-new]


 

 Ricardo Levins Morales 
 June 30, 2018
Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio
[https://rlmartstudio.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/beyond-repair-while-republicans-democrats-unite-to-increase-police-power-other-voices-call-for-a-different-future/]


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 _ Virtually unnoticed in the cacophony of the Trumpian news cycle, a
bill to place more power in the hands of police slithered through the
House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support... _ 

 , Ricardo Levins Morales 

 

– including from such progressive Democratic luminaries as Luis
Gutierrez, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison. The “Serve and Protect
Act” (HR5698) comes packaged as a necessary measure to protect our
brave officers “who put on the badge every day to keep us safe”
from the dangers of an imaginary “War on Police.” Specifically, it
would impose prison terms of up to 10 years for harming or attempting
to harm officers of any local, state or federal agencies of what is
euphemistically called “law enforcement.” If convicted of carrying
out or attempting a kidnapping or killing of an officer, the accused
could be imprisoned for life. The Senate version even designates
police as an oppressed “protected class” under hate crime laws.

The legislation is actually designed to increase police power in
communities of color, strengthen the fortress of police impunity and
reinforce the plea-bargain-to-prison conveyor belt. Its targets are
anyone the police decide they want to see locked up. These are the
same police, after all, who routinely insist that children playing
with toys, young men shopping at Walmart, residents reaching for their
ID, teenagers trying to drive away, neighbors holding cell phones and
motorists calmly disclosing their legal firearm to police, are
aggressors poised to kill them. It should be noted that each of the
cases referred to above only became public thanks to the existence of
video footage. When there’s no video to contradict it, even the most
far-fetched police narrative about fearing for their lives is treated
as credible. In the police world, however, lying – by falsifying (or
not filing) incident reports, planting, tampering with or destroying
evidence and in perjured court testimony – is a routine practice.
This bill – which should be called the “Do Not Resist Act” –
serves notice on overpoliced communities that anything short of
complete obedience could net you many years in prison on the whim of a
cop (and even total submission cannot guarantee your safety).

Most significantly, H.R.5698 bolsters the plea-bargain-to-prison
pipeline – the express lane of mass incarceration. Over 90% of state
and federal “convictions” are obtained through plea bargains, not
trials. Under the system, a defendant pleads guilty of an offense to
avoid the prospect of a longer sentence should they lose in court. The
plea bargain pipeline feeds into the positive feedback loops of
racialized “justice.” Dark and poor people released from their
cages find their access to decent employment and housing opportunities
blocked, their voting rights revoked and their risk of being locked up
again enhanced by parole conditions that are easily tripped over.
Since jurors are drawn from the voter rolls, the systematic
disenfranchisement of black people results in a whiter jury pool,
further skewing the odds against dark defendants.

The Do Not Resist bill extends its protective cloak beyond municipal
police departments to encompass State, County, federal and “special
jurisdiction” police departments such as those in transit and park
systems, campuses, port authorities, airports, the FBI and,
importantly, ICE – the militarized federal immigration force
renowned for its contempt for legal niceties and human rights.

No one will be surprised at Republican enthusiasm for such a bill, but
what’s up with liberals and progressives climbing on board? Out of
193 Democrats only 24 voted no. The logic behind this calculation,
however, is deeply embedded in contemporary politics. It has to do
with the difference between gains and power. Liberal politicians and
the non-profits they align with are permitted to lobby for gains that
benefit their constituents while the corporate aristocracy plays for
power. Gains are temporary and reversible whereas power is cumulative,
resulting in a political and legal landscape steadily sliding
rightward.

The “gains-vs-power” formula reached its most absurd expression in
the second Obama administration. Gains for the masses would be paired
with related power transfers to the elite. Thus, the expansion of the
surveillance authority of the National Security Agency was followed by
a pardon for whistleblower Chelsea Manning; a junta of hedge fund and
banking predators given control over the people of Puerto Rico was
paired with the release of political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera; the
enlargement and militarization of ICE was “balanced” by the
temporary relief of DACA. I don’t doubt that if Obama had decided in
favor of the Dakota Access Pipeline he’d have pardoned Leonard
Peltier. The administration’s cardinal achievement, the Affordable
Care Act, delivered a truckload of gains for the public while
entrenching the insurance industry at the power center of the system
(from where it systematically set about to eliminate the gains). In
each case the gains achieved matter a great deal to the those most
affected but do not disturb the balance of power. The power increases
bestowed on the corporate class, in contrast, function as levers with
which to amass even more power.

The Democratic progressives who voted for this latest power grab are
often passionate advocates of local police reforms. Such reforms, like
more police training, requiring cops to live in the cities they
patrol, having other police agencies investigate officer misdeeds and
an endless procession of civilian review boards, are either
ineffective from the start or are effectively neutralized within a few
years. These are “gains,” suitable for calming outraged
communities but useless as remedies for police abuse. Police officials
and unions push back against them on principle but they are more
annoyed by them than alarmed.

It is a liberal article of faith that police brutality and racial
profiling are failures, rather than features, of the system. This
belief is instilled through an endless drumbeat of pro-police
propaganda, not based on actual historical analysis. In fact,
enforcing the racial order and destroying social movements are the
only constants throughout police history. Police had a role in the
restructuring of white supremacy in the aftermath of Emancipation,
often participating in white mob violence and wielding the racist
Black Laws to sweep large numbers of recently freed workers into the
prisons from where they were leased out to labor on plantations and in
factories. This was the dystopian future Frederick Douglass had
foreseen in 1863. “…as another mode of escaping the claims of
absolute justice,” he warned. “the white people may Emancipate the
slaves in form yet retain them as slaves in fact… or then may free
them from individual masters, only to make them slaves to the
community.”

The template set in place at that time – and still in operation
today – treats whites as collectively innocent – even though
individuals may commit crimes, while blacks are collectively guilty
– whether the individual has done anything wrong or not. This helps
indoctrinate white people with the perception that blacks are a
constant threat, thus cementing their loyalty to the police. Firmly
anchored on this ideological foundation, and enjoying a secure base of
support, the police system has defeated every reform placed in its
path for the last hundred years.

No politician can afford to understand this reality, however. They
might object to specific police abuses but reliably soften their
criticism with expressions of appreciation for the police as a whole.
Moreover, with mid-term elections approaching, any Democrat seen to be
“anti-police” would be considered a liability by their party
leaders.

Douglass had little patience for the liberal evasions of his day.
“The apologists for slavery often speak of the abuses of slavery”
he fumed. “ And they tell us that they are as much opposed to those
abuses as we are; and that they would go as far to correct those
abuses and to ameliorate the condition of the slave as anybody. The
answer to that view is, that slavery is itself an abuse; that it lives
by abuse; and dies by the absence of abuse.”

Populations denied their basic human needs and rights respond in three
predictable ways: crime, protest and mental health crises. Police have
been tasked with enforcing unsustainable conditions on large segments
of society – kept divided along racial lines – to safeguard the
accelerating flow of wealth into the gated communities of the rich. It
is against this backdrop that we encounter the absurdity of mayors
demanding police “accountability” while calling for more cops, and
Congresspeople denouncing police killings while handing the cops more
power to abuse.

Approximately $105 billion are poured into police departments each
year. Another $90-120 billion (the lower estimates don’t account for
court costs) are spent to imprison more than two million inmates and
manage close to five million people on probation or parole. These vast
sums are being used, in effect, to punish people for having needs.
What if they were invested instead in meeting those needs? The
question itself is highly destabilizing to a system devoted to the
concentration wealth in ever-fewer hands, not expanding access to it.

Local jurisdictions often have laws allowing for the demolition
“nuisance properties,” homes that are the scene of so much violent
or antisocial activity they are deemed unsalvageable. The edifice of
the US police system is such a structure, generating, protecting and
justifying abuse on such a scale and so consistently that repair is
not feasible. The only viable solution is its complete demolition and
its replacement with tested and new forms of mutual aid, community
empowerment and conflict resolution.

This perspective – known as police abolition – is experiencing a
rapid transformation from utopian fantasy to urgent necessity. The
courage to give it voice will not come from the offices of mayors, the
halls of Congress or the wishful thinking of reform-minded police
chiefs, invested as they all are in the legitimacy of the status quo.
It is emerging, instead, from multiple locations in the educational,
social service, community and street protest arenas, with its
epicenter in the very communities that police occupation, surveillance
and harassment are intended to immobilize. Police abolition is a piece
of the unfinished business of Frederick Douglass and Harriet
Tubman’s generation. It’s time to wrap it up.

_Ricardo Levins Morales_

_I am an artist by trade, a healer by temperament and a troublemaker
by necessity. My art and my writing both grow out of my relationships
with communities and movements in struggle for a more livable world. I
also offer support and reflection for organizers and others facing the
dilemmas of trying to create a future out of materials from the past._

_My art can be viewed and purchased at these web sites:_

_RLM Art Studio, (https://www.rlmartstudio.com
[https://www.rlmartstudio.com]/). This is my main site which displays
my available posters, cards and buttons. The work is intentionally
priced so as to be as accessible as possible. Framing and
shrink-wrapping options are available._

_Ricardo Levins Morales Fine Art site. Hosted by Fine Art America
(http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/ricardo-levins-morales.html
[http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/ricardo-levins-morales.html]), on
this site you can order many of my works on canvas, metal and other
surfaces - and at a variety of sizes._

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