The police were disturbingly and frighteningly brutal towards journalists and protesters during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. At the RNC, they arrested prominent journalist Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now!, for no apparent reason. As Cara says in her excellent post about this arrest, “But beyond all of that, the simple fact is that she didn’t do anything to deserve arrest. And yet, at the RNC, arrested she was. For doing her job as a journalist.” This video of her arrest is quite disturbing:
This abuse of power and use of violence by police officers is highly frightening. Not only does it make me wonder what happened to our first amendment right to free speech, but it is a stark reminder that violence is perfectly acceptable in our society – when perpetrated by someone in a position of power.
Brownfemipower wrote an extremely insightful post about the links between power, violence, and violence against women. I highly recommend that you read her post in its entirety, but here are a few excerpts:
Remember this incident at the DNC, where a Code Pink woman was slammed in the chest by a male police officer?
What makes that case of violence against a woman different or more justified than a random man slamming his wife in the chest?
If this cop wasn’t wearing his uniform, we’d be outraged, rightfully so. But as citizens of the U.S., as feminists, as women, when a man wearing a uniform slams a woman in the chest with a weapon, suddenly, there’s relative silence, or casual assertions that this is normal, and what the hell was she expecting.
How do you tell a man that abuse and violence is not ok while wearing plain clothes, but once he puts on an official uniform, it’s not only ok, but expected?
The logic of abuse, the logic of power is *ingrained* in our society, is taught to our very young children from the time they are little kids. This logic is *compulsory* for the existence of our government, how else would we justify the unquestioned authority lawmakers, presidents, and judges have over all of our lives?
Wow. I had never thought about power in such clear terms before. Yes, I have written about police brutality and abuse of power before, but brownfemipower is making the links between power and violence more explicit than I have ever thought about. Abuse is violence against one person by someone with power over that person. And yet, when that person with power is also in a position of authority, in a uniform, suddenly their violence is no longer abuse, but is an acceptable part of their line of duty.
Is it possible to have a police force that is there for the protection of the citizens without allowing this abuse of power? Is there any way that our current law enforcement structure is workable in a pro-peace, anti-violence society? Or is our law enforcement structure so fundamentally based on the concepts of power and the acceptability and expectation of violence that to create a completely peaceful society we would need to completely rethink police? I am strongly inclined to believe the latter, but there are many factors at play here. The members of the police force were raised in a society with an expectation of violence, so of course they are going to use violence. If they were raised in a completely non-violent society, I don’t think they would be so quick to use violence. Our violent society perpetrates police brutality by both creating and condoning people who use violence while in positions of authority.
Finally, there is brownfemipower’s excellent point that we can not possibly expect to eradicate violence against women as long as violence from men in authority is accepted. And the solution is not simply to put more women in to these positions of power. Violence is too fundamentally ingrained in these positions of power. It seems that perhaps the only answer is to start from scratch building society structures that have foundations of community and caring rather than violence and us vs. them.