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When Official Brutality Gets Brazen

by Free Soil Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2001 at 9:29 AM

The Free Soil Party is appalled, though not surprised, at the continuing failure of most Italian and American leaders to denounce this escalation of terror tactics by reactionary security forces guarding the recent G8 summit in Genoa. We hope for a thorough investigation, including who authorized tactics like charging into demonstrators in the protest zone, beating people for no good reason, shooting to kill. If dissent is not respected in a democracy, there can be no democracy, no matter what hot air may say.

When Official Brutality Gets Brazen

The Free Soil Party is appalled, though not surprised, at the continuing failure of most Italian and American leaders to denounce this escalation of terror tactics by reactionary security forces guarding the recent G8 summit in Genoa. We hope for a thorough investigation, including who authorized tactics like charging into demonstrators in the protest zone, beating people for no good reason, shooting to kill. Italy is supposed to be a democracy, not a state where police rampage out of control. Yet crackdowns on globalization protests in Western democracies have intensified, to the point a young man armed with a fire extinguisher is shot down point-blank. A heavy object thrown in full view at a mobile vehicle is a minor threat, but no excuse for deadly force. Did the gunner panic? It appears he had plenty of time and options. Was there extra discretion to use maximum force to quell any threat? If this kind of evidence does not convince people of flagrant excess of official force, nothing will. That may be a reason why American media and politicians are so reluctant to confront messy ramifications of the police riot in Genoa.

At least some investigation goes on in Italy, and a few officials had to admit to excessive force, though not the man in charge, there or USA, whose experts trained some of those police rioters and hooligans in demonstration management. American politicians may believe they should not comment on internal Italian affairs, but if they stake America as leader of the free world, they ought to lead in condemning the mistreatment of these protestors. Their bind is, American security techniques are the model, that media tries to keep behind the scenes, so at least whites could pretend they had freedom to dissent. American authorities have long practice in sabotaging dissent and torturing powerless minorities.

This is not to imply a position on the heroism or wisdom of throwing things at police, or creating a personality cult around this martyr. The issue at hand is that police must use restraint and common sense, only shoot to kill when it is clearly kill or be killed. Contrary to mass media spin, the globalization protestors have demonstrated restraint consistently, unlike servants of the influential. They have solid principles in that respect. Carlo, shot down in cold blood or heat of battle, depending on loyalties, got no chance to throw, if that was his intention, since the alleged weapon landed far off target, on the ground. All property the real Black Bloc attacks is chosen for symbolic meaning. This coalition of movements is a refreshing contrast to the wayward hooligan image media created to describe it. Not to mention the powers that be, trying just about anything to discredit and demoralize the movement. This concerted public relations campaign includes murder; torture; ridicule, lies, boredom, and other spin from media and most politicians; and agent provocateurs disguised as Black Bloc hooligans and thugs, providing pretexts for police riots.

The quick murder was bad enough, but the mauling of protestors and journalists was a whole other matter, unprovoked by any necessity imaginable. The excuses are a bunch of static about demons called Black Bloc, more likely infiltrators, going on merry sprees of property destruction without apparent purpose. This is happening under the nose of police occupation, yet such antics are condemned by the protest movement in general, as well as anarchists and Black Bloc. These police riots get planned, to discredit the protest movement. This strategy is likely to backfire, but already people get badly injured for trying to exercise rights of free speech and assembly. If dissent is not respected in a democracy, there can be no democracy, no matter what hot air may say.

Expect more escalation of violence, more and worse injuries, maybe more death, until public pressure forces reluctant governments to at least restrain the police. The American antiwar movement got a wake-up call when the disastrous protest at Kent State ended the lives of four protestors. People are not expecting to be beaten, let alone killed, for publicly dissenting in democratic nations. The right of dissent is too valuable to threaten for some expert's notion of maintaining law and order during a demonstration. It is perilous to try reversing this trend after it gets brazen enough to be hard to deny, unlike more common incidents of police brutality against individual nonwhites. The Rodney King incident in Los Angeles should not have shocked anyone, but many people believed the police always use force responsibly, so the video of Rodney's ordeal had shock value for them.

Officials can fake any kind of rationalization for brutality or murder. If Italy's government hopes to retain any credibility, it may sacrifice a few figureheads and promise more restraint in the future. Promises mean nothing unless pressure gets through to complacent politicians. Once they think they can ravage protests with impunity, it is all over. Peaceful revolution would be next to impossible, and reform a worse joke. People should be skeptical, at least. Official nonsense abounds in self-proclaimed democracies, and it is getting ugly fast. Everyone is invited to help expose the official pretense of honor and authority. We all know there are better ways, but mass media prefers to dismiss ideas from outside their known envelope. That can only happen if enough people complacently go along, but the protest movement is growing.

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