With the conventions going on this week and next, both the Underdog Blog and Simple Justice have posts up reminding us that police state operations have become the norm around major political events, with protesters coralled blocks away in so-called “free speech zones.” Silly me, I thought the whole damned country was supposed to be a free speech zone.
Both of them post this video:
I find the visuals of the protesters being confronted by faceless black-clad cops very disturbing. It looks like something you’d expect from a dictatorship. I guess the way you can tell it’s still America is that they have batons and pepper spray instead of rifles and bayonets.
On the other hand, because of the way the video is put together it’s hard to tell what’s really going on. For one thing, I think a lot of the heavy police gear is body armor. That’s generally a good thing, because keeping the cops safe reduces the chances of any of them lashing out in fear and hurting people.
Also, in any crowd of protesters, there are always going to be a few people who attempt to provoke the police to create a propaganda incident. If those are the people we see getting capstunned or arrested, it’s hard to get outraged over them receiving exactly the attention they wanted.
To some extent, the distant free speech zones and the riot police are a response to the threat of sophisticated demonstrators whose goal is not only to protest the political events but to shut them down. They don’t want a repeat of Seattle’s WTO protests.
Things get really suspicious, however, when police start arresting members of the press who are there to cover the events, not take part in the protests. That’s what happened to ABC news producer Asa Eslocker yesterday. Again, I don’t know the facts, so he may have had it coming.
Still, I don’t like seeing this sort of thing in my country.