THE REAL TARGET,
by Rafael Renteria
LOS ANGELES 8/13 - According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, John Sellars of the Ruckus Society targetted fellow activists for criticism in a statement made after his release from an unjust arrest on several misdemanor charges - charges that led to an outrageous bail of one million dollars.
"It wasn't very hard to tell who was smashing glass out here last Tuesday", Sellars said, acccording to the Inquirer. "If they wanted to arrest those people, they would have arrested those people. They chose to target nonviolent protesters,organizers, and folks who were standing in the street in acts of conscience."
A careful look at this statement shows us several things we should avoid. The first is that it implies the police could have done a better job in picking their targets, and that those who may have broken windows were legitimate targets for arrest.
It goes on to say the police didn't want to arrest legitimate targets, but instead targetted "non-violent" protesters and leading organizers such as Sellars himself. It also says the police targetted "folks standing in the streets in acts of conscience." We can assume that by "acts of conscience" Sellars means acts of civil disobedience.
The implication is that, although civil disobedience is as illegal in the eyes of the state as any act of vandalism, that those who partake in it have a "conscience" and should not be arrested, while those who use other tactics have "no conscience," and should have been arrested.
We should be careful not to adopt this line of reasoning..
Its first error is that in pointing toward certain protesters as legitimate targets for arrest, it validates the propaganda of a power structure that labelled Seattle as a "riot", and legitimizes the very system of injustice - and its enforcers- that we are protesting.
Its second error is that comments of this kind allow the system to drive wedges more deeply between people who are fundamentally on the side of justice- people on the same side- and helps create an atmosphere where all of us are more vulnerable to attacks by the police and the state security apparatus.
Its third error is in failing to grasp the actual intent and interests of the state in targetting activists for arrest. The main concern of the state isn't broken windows, or even a couple of cops getting bruised.
The reason police targetted the "non-violent" protesters along with the more openly rebellious, is that All those whose intent is to disrupt and "cause a ruckus" at events like the conventions represent the principle and most immediate threat to the interests of the ruling powers. This point is driven home very clearly in an article from the corporate media published earlier on this site, called "The Sound and Fury..."
The powers that be have to account for and undercut the ability of protesters to shut down official activities, lest they lose credibility. The one area where they can't afford to lose credibility, where no state can afford to lose credibility, is in their power to exert social control through force. If people, especially those on the bottom, lose their awe of the power of the state, then anything is possible.
That's why they call it the Seattle "riot", even though only a property damage was utterly minimal. But it's in Los Angeles that the motives of the state are most clearly expressed. A story in Friday's LA Times entitiled "Shadow of 92 Riots Shapes LAPD Stance on Protests" reveals a little something about this outlook.
'While protesters facing police in coming days may be fighting what has been called the Battle of Los Angeles 2000, many officers including [LAPD Commander Tom] Lorenzen and his team will be trying to redeem the recent, calamitous history of the LAPD.'
'The 1992 riots were their Vietnam. They won't let it happen again. "I said then that if I'm ever in a position to change what went on there, I would," Lorenzen said. "Well, here I am."
Other ruling class spokesmen have openly worried that the protests against the DNC could spark another post Rodney King style rebellion.
Its not a situation for now where a relative handful of people moving a car or breaking a window is likely to lead to a wider rebellion, if that's all that were happening. But if massive police violence were unable to re-establish social control, like in Seattle, where the combined tactics of the Teamsters, turtles, direct action activists and "anarchists" overwhelmed the police, and if the tear gas and the outrage spread to areas like Pico Union, which is next door to the site of the Democrat's convention - and which was a focal point of the 92 rebellion - then the results are unpredictable.
It's mass direct action at this point that could practically serve as the linchpin for the unfolding of the ruler's most feared scenario, so participants in direct action are among the primary targets for arrest, along with those in organizations that have the deepest roots among oppressed groups and other "disrupters".
In these scenarios, as always, the fundamental targets of the police are the dispossesed, and in this situation it is through the arrests of activists- the most potentially disruptive activists - that leverage is applied to keep the oppressed in their place.
No amount of fingering or blaming anarchists and other rebels is going to change that, and we have to avoid the kinds of divisions that the police are trying to suck us into with their "violence" baiting, at all costs.
The real deal is this- it's good when we are attacked by our enemies, when they unjustly target and attack protesters - its what they do to the the poor and those of us from the oppressed nationalities every day. When they attack, it shows that the power structure hates and fears us, that we have drawn a sharp line between justice and injustice, a line they cannot bear to see drawn. It shows we have done our job in exposing the brutal nature of the system, and that we have stood firmly and proudly with the people on the bottom in the hope of a new and better world.