Law

The Elephant In The Room: Why Do People Hate The Police?

The police car Lawrence Campbell opened fire on. Campbell and one police officer were killed.

The police car Lawrence Campbell opened fire on. Campbell and one police officer were killed.

The Question Never Asked

The question of motives is one unasked to the point that its very absence is conspicuous. This is most evident in crimes involving law enforcement. When an individual attacks the police our first instinct should be to ask what their problem with the police was. This is the approach we take with all other crimes. If an individual kills his or her family, for example, we don’t hesitate to explore the motives. The exploration of motives typically includes the relationship the victimizer had with his or her victims. There is no hesitation in laying out family issues such as domestic abuse, infidelity, financial problems, mental illness or any other factors however remotely related they may be. The motives are not taken to justify, but to explain.

Yet, when it is the police who are targets the exploration of motives is simply not there. If a motive is sought it often sidesteps the critical question: why the police? Any attempt to raise this question is not met with impartiality, balance or a journalistic desire to explore the full story. Instead, it is quickly dismissed as “offensive.” In some cases to even raise the specter of this question is to incur the ire of police unions.

Below are three cases from this July. John Huggins is accused of planning to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station, Major Davis Jr. shot a police officer in what seems to be a state of agitation and Lawrence Campbell allegedly stole a firearm and ambushed the responders. The cases all share in common the fact that police officers were the targets. They also share in common the fact that an exploration of why police officers were the targets is either absent or deliberately obfuscated.

Huggins, Davis Jr. & Campbell

In Utah a man named John Huggins was arrested for plotting to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station. His plan was thwarted by an anonymous tip, a confidential information and an undercover FBI agent. The narrative cycled throughout the mainstream media has been shallow: Huggins built an explosive device and wanted to spark an anti-government uprising. Aside from that little has been said of his motives, beliefs, goals or ideology.

The Desert News, a Utah-based news service that interviewed Huggins’ ex-wife, made an exceptional nod toward addressing Huggins’ motives. Instead of examining the rationale or political beliefs of Huggins, however, it focused on his past military career and his “fascination” with explosives. The Desert News fell short of asking why Huggins targeted police officers.

A second recent event is the shooting of Officer Perry Renn of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Renn responded to a call of shots fired. When Renn and Davis Jr. encountered one another near a Renn family cookout they got into a gunfight. Renn was killed and Davis Jr. was wounded.

Davis Jr. had a history of nonviolent crime. Davis Jr.’s father, Major Davis Sr., had died while in police custody. A controversial article from WISH-TV hit social media. WISH-TV had dared to interview Davis Jr.’s family. Davis Jr.’s mother, Pamela Moornan, said that Davis Jr. had been scarred for life both by past treatment at the hands of the IMPD and the death of his father in IMPD custody.

The short interview with Davis Jr.’s mother quickly became one of WISH-TV’s most viewed and most controversial articles. Steve Bray, News Director for WISH-TV, did damage control. Bray amended the interview with an introduction that seems to be a mixture between a disclaimer and an apology. In the amendment prayers are extended to Renn’s family, Renn is called a hero, the “Thin Blue Line” is thanked, and Bray noted that the “vast majority” of WISH-TV’s coverage of the incident still “honors the fallen officer for his service.” A link was posted to a second article allowing the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief, Rick Hite, and the Public Safety Director, Troy Riggs, to respond to the interview with Davis Jr.’s family.

A Jersey City memorial placed by the community for Lawrence Campbell

A Jersey City memorial placed by the community for Lawrence Campbell

The final event is the shooting of Officer Melvin Santiago of New Jersey. Lawrence Campbell stole a firearm from a security guard, apologized to a witness, then waited for police officers to respond. Campbell shot and killed Santiago on arrival. Campbell was also killed in the shootout.

This story quickly attracted additional attention. Angelique Campbell, the wife of Lawrence Campbell, said that she wished Lawrence had killed more cops. Angelique also said she still loved Lawrence regardless of the shooting. And Angelique questioned why an ambulance was called for the wounded officer but not for her husband, Lawrence, who was on the ground for five hours. Campbell’s neighborhood in Jersey City erected a shrine memorializing the late Campbell.

The mayor of Jersey City, Steve Fulop, called Angelique Campbell “maniacal and crazy.” Fulop ordered that the memorial be removed. The police also removed a second memorial dedicated to an unrelated man who was shot by police, Lavon King. The city’s two police unions hired a PR firm to release a statement condemning both the memorial and Angelique’s statements. Angelique was eventually compelled to issue an apology under media pressure.

A memorial placed for Lavon King, an unrelated man who was also shot by the police in jersey City.

A memorial placed for Lavon King, an unrelated man who was also shot by the police in jersey City.

An Exploration Of Motives

In revisiting the case of John Huggins we still do not know why he wanted to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station. All we know is that he wanted to spark a revolution. Yet this could apply to any number of groups. The goal of “revolution” does not mean the same thing across the board. Was he a white supremacist, a member of a far-right “Patriot” group, or a left-wing anarchist? His political motives are largely unknown.

It is an indictment of the existing media coverage that we don’t know what Huggins’ political motives were. This is because his plot was explicitly political. To fixate on his personality, as the Desert News did in its interview with his ex-wife, is nonsensical. We don’t fixate on the personality traits of Islamic extremists. Instead, we explore their political beliefs and motives regardless of if we agree with them.

We are even able to realize at this point that terrorism is caused in part by foreign military intervention. Terrorism is not solely rooted in extremist belief, but also fostered by a sense that extremist attacks are a direct response to a war that the West has declared. Regardless of the validity of this belief, that is a real motive in the minds of extremists. Why, then, would we not expect the exact same behavior domestically from individuals who feel they have been abused by the police?

The family of Major Davis Jr. gave us an insight into what may have been going through his head. Davis Jr. was himself a victim of the drug war. His father died while in police custody. Is that not enough to explain why he might decide to shoot a cop instead of submitting? No one has to agree with or approve of his motive. But to ignore the motive, to pussyfoot around it, is intellectually dishonest.

When an entire community rallies around a man who killed a police officer, as in the case of Lawrence Campbell, we have to start asking why. When Campbell’s wife says she wished that Campbell had killed more police she is not speaking alone. She is expressing a sentiment that many people in her community share. It is hard to seriously dismiss an entire neighborhood as “insane” as we do with the individual. The tactic used to marginalize the individual doesn’t work to marginalize an entire community.

Perhaps we should state the reality. Many people within the most impoverished communities in the United States of America have been the repeat victims of police officers. Almost all of these individuals have been, or know someone who has been, victimized by the police. Most victimizations involve drug crimes. And some of these victims cheer in their hearts, if not out loud, when they see a police officer get killed. They feel they are in the midst of a war. Decades of drug war rhetoric further validates this belief. We can’t be surprised, then, if they react to a dead police officer the way some Americans react to a dead insurgent in Iraq: celebration.

We don’t have to agree with how they feel, but it is intentional blindness to ignore how they feel. We don’t have to like it, but that’s the real motive.

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Half Of Police Shootings Involve Dogs

Half of intentional shootings by police involve dogs, study says

There has never been a documented case of a dog killing a police officer.

The same can’t be said for police killing dogs.

Every year, hundreds — if not thousands — of animals, mostly canines, are killed by police or animal-control officers. According to the National Canine Research Council, up to half of the intentional shootings by police involve dogs.

“Fighting Words” On Police Facebook Lead to Arrest, Conviction & Appeal

I found this story over at The Free Thought Project. In 2012 a man was charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computerized communication system for writing these bad words on the Facebook wall of the Arena Police Department in the Village of Arena, Wisconsin:

Fuck the fucking cops they ant shit but fucking racist basturds an fucking all of y’all who is racist

Fuck them nigers policy bitchs wat the you got on us not a darn thing so fuck off dicks

It was ruled that this was not legal free speech. Instead, it constituted “fighting words.” The man was convicted. He later won an appeal in 2014.

Lest it be thought that his appeal righted a wrong, or vindicates the legal process, don’t forget that he suffered. This is a systemic flaw wherein the arbitrary whim of a law enforcement officer, even if aware that a charge may not “stick,” is able to enact a punishment or silence dissent by making an arrest. Despite the slogan of innocent until proven guilty or the legal burden of proof, in practice the defendant must go to extensive lengths to protect him or herself in court.

Law enforcement is thus able to penalize individuals regardless of guilt or innocence. By the time an outcome is decided the defendant will have experienced violence, confinement, stress, as well as a loss of time and money. This is a natural part of the current criminal justice system. It is not an aberration, not a simple error that can be reformed, but an integral part of the modern law enforcement model. And this all takes place before guilt is determined.

July 5th: Revolution As Crime, Then And Now

We just missed an American holiday, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. This is a day when Americans memorialize a capital crime: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Fifty-six (56) men, including two who would become President and ten who would sit in the United States Congress, signed the document. All of these men were — I say this in the legal sense and not as a slur — traitors. It was an act of treason. The state could execute them. The punishments included hanging and dismemberment.

John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence."

John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence.”

This story might give some Americans a patriot erection. It is the story of valiant men who stood up in the face of death. They created the American Revolution. They threw off the yoke of the Crown.

It is also a story of crime. It was a crime then and it would be a crime today. If fifty-six Americans signed a New Declaration of Independence today they would be condemned as domestic terrorists. The Joint Terrorism Task Force would be on the case. The patriots would have their phones tapped. Friends and families would be indicted for conspiracy. Paramilitary police would be used to counter militia movements.

Henry David Thoreau saw it:

“All men recognize the right to revolution: that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of ’75.”

Thoreau wrote this in 1848, but it is even more true today. Many Americans idolize a revolution, but the same Americans simultaneously believe that it would be illegitimate to have a revolution. The conditions are different, they say, just as they said in 1848. No doubt Loyalists also said this in ’76. But if men have a right to revolution then nothing has changed.

It was slavery and the Mexican-American War that made Thoreau believe a new revolution was justified. Compared to slavery and war, Thoreau said, the rationale for the American Revolution — taxation — was minor. Yet not only do Americans pay more taxes today (and with less representation), but they still suffer from slavery and war. Even excluding those how many new issues do Americans face that would justify a revolution? The prisons? The NSA? The War on Drugs?

Curry John Brown Mural

Curry’s “Tragic Prelude” is a mural celebrating John Brown on the wall of the Kansas Statehouse.

Thoreau had met an abolitionist named John Brown. John Brown wanted to free the slaves. He picked up a broadsword and killed five pro-slavery men in Kansas. This became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Then Brown raided the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. He was captured and hung. Two years later the American Civil War took place. John Brown had accomplished his goal from the grave.

John Brown would take his place as another contemporary American hero: controversial for a short period after his death, but a hero in the long run. As Emma Goldman said:

“If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man. True, the trade in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will have to be abolished by direct action.”

How would America treat John Brown if he were alive today? How would America treat those who signed the Declaration of Independence? Most likely the way they were treated at the time. We could expect to see Benjamin Franklin or any one of the other fifty-six signers — not exclusively those who took part in the violence — in a cell next to Ted Kaczynski in ADX Florence, the Colorado supermax prison. Instead of hanging we would have seen John Brown strapped to a table and injected with a lethal mixture of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

The methods may have changed, but the way the state responds to revolutionaries has not. Americans would see their Thoreaus, Franklins and Browns under surveillance, in prison or dead. Americans would treat their Thomas Paines as a Snowden or Manning.

This is why Americans need their Thoreaus, Franklins and Browns right now more than ever before. Not the idols, but the men. The criminals. And it must be accepted that all revolutionaries will be deemed criminal by the state they revolt against. Henry Thoreau believed that the rules came from the individual, Benjamin Franklin believed that the rules came from reason and John Brown believed it was God that made the rules. But none of these men respected the rule of law. It was that very willingness to break the law, noted Goldman, that made the revolutionary spirit possible, for “everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance and courage.” All revolution is crime. If Americans are to be revolutionaries they, too, must become criminals.

LAPD officers fired at with paintball gun

LAPD officers fired at with paintball gun

Los Angeles police officers were fire upon by what they believe was a paintball gun on Monday night.

LAPD officers from the Hollenbeck station were investigating a call in the 3100 block of Fairmount Street in Boyle Heights around 9:30 p.m. That’s when they were fired on twice. No officers were hurt.

A perimeter has been set up in the area of Wabash Avenue and Stone Street to find the suspect or suspects. The investigation is ongoing.

Blown Away: Guns & “Random” Mass Shootings – An Interview With John Zerzan

John Zerzan Oil PaintingThis caught my eye after my recent analysis of Justin Bourque in Moncton and Jared & Amanda Miller in Las Vegas, who all targeted police officers:

PE: Ever since Chris Dorner opened fire killing a couple cops, more people are beginning to target the police. As an anarchist, what do you make of this? Zerzan: Police brutality and the militarization of the cops seems to be increasing. So, not a big surprise that more folks would strike back.

Much focus has been on the moral implications of violence or on violence from a tactical perspective. But we overlook what Zerzan saw: with an increase in brutality and militarization we must expect more events akin to Dorner, to Bourque, or the Millers in the future. As more people are abused by the police — not by “a few bad apples” but policing as an institution — we should not be shocked that some portion of those people will respond violently.

Read the full interview with Zerzan: Blown Away: Guns & “Random” Mass Shootings – An Interview With John Zerzan

Remember the Cops Who Blew Up a Baby Looking for Drugs? They Need Your Support

Remember the Cops Who Blew Up a Baby Looking for Drugs? They Need Your Support

The Free Thought Project

A rather disheartening facebook page has popped up in the last couple of weeks coming out of Habersham County.

Habersham County happens to be the place where a SWAT team raided a house in the middle of the night, looking for a man who’d sold $50 worth of meth.

During the raid an overzealous SWAT member threw a flashbang into the crib of Baby Bou.

Baby Bou is still in the hospital in critical condition and the sheriff’s department is not only defending their actions, but now they asking for the support of people in the county!

They are actually holding a rally to allow community members to “show their support.”