The above photo is mine, from a Prop 8 protest. I post it because of my description: “I got a little freaked out at one point when I realized the cop to protester ratio was pretty dang high.” This defined the police action last night against #OccupyLA
Many police officers must experience a powerful tension between their priorities to protect individual rights and to enforce the law. Civil disobedience lives in this hazardous borderland where rights and laws do not always play nicely together. Even when it is non-violent, effective protest provokes those who defend the status quo, and officers often have to rely on a different approach than what they seem to typically rely on when apprehending law-breakers–especially those who resist arrest. The media plays an interesting, complicating role in all of this.
I haven’t read any news analysis of the LAPD’s massive sweep of Occupy LA’s encampment last night and this morning, but I’m going to attempt to figure out the LAPD’s motivations behind their methods.
The operation was huge. Perhaps it is the largest in the Department’s history. Los Angeles has the third largest police force in the nation, and it looks like they mobilized anywhere from 1500 to 2000 officers last night–from 15 to 20% of the police force. And the operation seemed to progress in careful steps: police in riot gear assembled at Dodger Stadium around 8:30pm; a perimeter was secured around City Hall and no one was allowed in by 10:30 or so; by daybreak 1400-2000 officers (according to one major news outlet) had formed a human noose around City Hall and were arresting protesters.
This show of force takes place in multiple contexts, but there are two I’d like to highlight: 1) recent incidents of police brutality have reflected poorly on New York City, Oakland and UC Davis’s police forces in particular, and eroded public trust in American law enforcement as a whole; and, 2) Rodney King. This was an opportunity for the LAPD to polish the image of both the city and its controversy-laden police department.
I think that this is one the main reasons the LAPD took the two extra days past the eviction deadline to carefully orchestrate this operation. I imagine that at least this much time was needed to plan, train, and mobilize the force. Because all it takes to descend into PR hell is one photo or video capture of the disproportionate of force by one rogue/stressed officer, I’m sure that every individual was told not to fuck this up. Finally, they took the additional step of heavily restricting which media sources got to go in and what they were able to report. For example, KTLA (CBS/Time Warner) reported that they weren’t showing news copter footage of the riot police moving in as part of their agreement.
I have no illusions that there is probably daily abuse and mistreatment of individuals by some fraction of the LA police force. Most of these victims are probably brown-skinned and/or impoverished. The public and the media aren’t interested in them.
Ultimately, OccupyLA’s protest and the LAPD’s response are performances. Without the media–mainstream and social and viral–there is no audience. This isn’t to devalue the motives behind these performances, but it shows how dependent citizens in any democracy are on the media to foster an environment in which political change can occur, and how much power the media also has to curb the excesses of use of force by the police.
Last night, both groups knew we were watching, and were subsequently on their best behavior. Kudos to them both.
Many of us have mixed feelings about Occupy Wall Street. I personally get excited at any signs of life in America’s normally apathetic citizenry, but have been confused and maybe a bit turned off by the festival atmosphere and the initial incoherence of the movement and its participants. We expect sound bytes: where’s the political platform that I can fit on a bumper sticker, or in a pithy, provocative tweet? Instead we get a cacophony of clashing, inarticulate opinions to the beat of drums and peace songs. And what the hell is this “We are the 99%” all about?
But you know, more I look, the more I listen, the more I realize that dismissing the entire movement because these individual voices seem unimpressive is like dismissing twitter because no one wants to know what you had for breakfast. Mass protests are like the screen on which you read this post: the picture emerges in the combination of all the individual pixels. The global Occupy Movement is a pointillist painting, each protester shivering in her tent right now is a dot of color, and all together you have a dramatic picture condemning universal frustration with economic inequality–inequality driven by corporate greed and unaddressed by representative democracy’s standard channels.
The Movement is Reason Enough
Occupy Wall Street will be two months old in two days. It takes some serious organization and dedication to maintain an encampment and to keep spirits up in the face of serious, sustained opposition. These folks consciously choose to risk injury, insult, arrest and lost opportunities and suffer from cold, boredom, frustration, and the lack of warm meals and facilities. However the media chooses to portray the movement, this is no Woodstock. I feel like they’ve at least earned the right to be heard through their determination.
Most of us have democracy handed to us on a platter. Maybe a couple of times per year we go to a local polling station, have a convenient menu of multiple-choice or true-false options presented to us, and in a few minutes we’ve done our duties as members of a representative democracy. But who picks what goes on the menu? And what happens if this manifestation of democracy doesn’t represent you? We can call or write our MPs or congresspersons. Or we can take to the streets. As Emerson said, “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.” (and this regarding his protest of the contemporary American genocide of the Cherokee nation known to us as the Trail of Tears)
“We are the 99%.”
This is the main sound byte to emerge from Occupy Wall Street, and it’s as powerful as any campaign slogan prepared on a ten million-dollar budget (this started as a free tumblr).
I’m going to let a couple of graphs talk for me here (click on the images to see the source articles):
Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-2007, from article by UCSC Professor.
From the Economist
The message is less about policy, and more about setting priorities. The protesters are saying to their government and to the wealthy: “We’ve gone along with your schemes for long enough now. We, the 99%, are tired of offering our backs to carry the richest 1%.”
Where do you stand?
I’m a Quaker now, and no longer Mormon, for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that the Society of Friends have generally stood on the right side of history, even when things were tremendously unpopular. Quakers fought against slavery a century before it was popular to do so in Britain, which was another half-century before Americans abolished it. Mormons were slow to support Civil Rights, while Quakers were helping to lay the groundwork in the Fifties. I went to a Quaker meeting in LA this weekend and listened to OccupyLA protesters and fellow Friends ask for bottled water and for people to help train protesters in peaceful conflict resolution. One guy was tired, haggard. These are not clueless, partiers with nothing else to do.
Occupy Wall Street is history in the making. And even if it fails utterly, I want to stand on the right side history. I want to say that when shit got serious, I wasn’t on the sidelines. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do, just how I’m going to support this movement, but I’m in.
Two recent internet interactions:
Anonymous Dude on Twitter:
Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist. -C. S. Lewis
Funny, I don’t feel rage-filled. Maybe C.S. Lewis was projecting.
Don’t you think this might have something to do with women’s biology? It would seem that men will always have the luxury of being more relaxed about marriage and family regardless of socio-cultural stereotypes. We can make babies when we’re 90 years old; women can’t. If I had an internal clock telling me I have a 40 year window to make babies, I might be paying more attention to it at age 20 or 30 too. The article talks about barbies not encouraging girls to pursue math… maybe so, although its not like all popular boys’ toys are either. I played with legos and hot wheels, and ended up getting a law degree. And our society is as open to girls pursuing careers and education (in whatever field they desire) as ever–I believe females are the majority in undergraduate enrollment. But advanced degrees in science and careers in those field eat up some of those baby making years.
Just saying, biology may just be having its say here, regardless of any social goal we have of more women in the sciences.
If its any solace, any daughters of mine will have to play with the toys I want to play with. That means legos, electrosets, and ant farms.
Apparently, denying Californians equal rights was insufficient for many conservative religious. Indeed, messing with politics in another state (much of the Prop H8 money came from out-of-state conservatives) left them wanting. And so conservative hatemongers have moved on to East Africa—to the country to Uganda—where it is currently a crime punishable by life in prison to be homosexual.
Following a three-day conference to discuss the “hidden and dark [gay] agenda”* at which a number of American Christian leaders spoke, Uganda began to draft legislation to increase the punishment from “life in prison” to “death” (in an effort, perhaps, to become more like Iran, which has no gays). The Americans involved are, to their credit, now trying to back away slowly from the ticking time bomb they totally didn’t mean to start, you have to believe me, I swear! But let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Scott Lively has published the hilarious (and really, really sad) book Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child. Not, as one might be forgiven for suspecting, a book about keeping your child from accidentally signing up for the armed forces but rather a treatise on how your child becoming gay is all your fault. Chapter 4: make sure you have a Christian, heteronormative family. Chapter 6: Homeschool. If you do it wrong, check out the book’s Epilogue, “What to Do When It’s ‘Too Late’” (it’s anybody’s guess what the errant quotation marks might mean, but beware, “gay” is quotationed throughout the book, since it’s not a real thing). Spoiler alert: Don’t let them come out, don’t be guilted into accepting them, and never give up!
The other two run what I would like to start calling “heterosexual recruiting seminars”:
Caleb Lee Brundidge is a member of the International Healing Foundation, which supports equal access to health facilities for all. HA! Just kidding, it cures teh gay. Mr. Brundidge himself used to be gay. The Foundation helps people be straight by, among other things, cradling men-who-want-to-not-be-gay in the arms of men-who-aren’t-gay-anymore. If this were a heterosexual “counseling” technique, can you imagine how fast they’d be slapped with lawsuits?
(Strangely, the majority of ex-gays are male; maybe that’s because “lesbians” “don’t exist”, either. More likely, though, it’s because of the extreme pressure that homosexual men feel in this country to “man up”; the culture of machismo that requires that men love football, cars, and beer; a culture, incidentally, that groups like the IHF are not helping.)
Don Schmierer sits on the board of directors of Exodus International, a group that
helps bring attention to the post-WWII diaspora does not cure teh gay but instead “frees” people from teh gay (throughJesusChristAMEN!). *sigh* You all know about Exodus, I don’t need to go into this one.
All three, of course, say, they had no idea that Uganda would go all gay-hating on them, that they only wanted to help Ugandan homosexuals, that this is all being taken out of context ::pout::. And I’m sure that they did not go to Uganda with intent to kill anyone. But are they helping anyone? Surely they were not in Uganda to help homosexuals who are living in terror (of being arrested, of being raped to cure them, of … no, I’m gonna stop on the rape one—that just sums it up right there) but to help the terrorizers of homosexuals. They went to propagate the myth of the Gay Agenda* and they work toward making people think that homosexuality is a choice, can be cured, is the parent’s fault (indicating that it’s a bad thing, that someone needs to be blamed for), and to make the world even more heteronormative. This is bad for all of us—gay and straight alike.
Go. Read up on it. Get pissed off. And then…well, I’m not sure what then. There’s not much we in California can do for those in Uganda, but know that this is going on and keep an eye out for opportunities to work toward equality for all. Everywhere.
This is a shorter list than it should be, because there are so many, some of them mentioned quite recently. But here are two young women who remind me that kids can do whatever they want and that women can do whatever they want:
Emily Yeung, hostess of a TV show in which she learns to do stuff and has fun doing it,
and Savana Redding, who stood up to adults who treated her like less of a person.
Thanks for being awesome. Please share your own in the comments
Many people have already posted about the greening of our twitter icons (which shows visible solidarity, but has no other effect), but here is something you can do that will make a difference. Change your Twitter location to a city in Iran and change your time zone to GMT +3:30, making “it harder for the Iranian government to block real Iranian Twitter accounts”. It still may be a small gesture, but worth the extra time it takes us.
Just started rape in criminal law and the stats at the beginning of the chapter are interesting:
Source: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997
And now some background reading from the recent (Feministing) blogosphere:
We need to stop demonizing rapists.
I am a rape victim, not a survivor.
It’s not sex, it’s rape.
Disrespect for women’s bodies starts early. (And it is usually women who are raped, see above.)
Het men and anal sex.
This is how our president defined our country yesterday. Explicitly denying that it was a “Christian nation” and explicitly stating that this fact is one of our “great strengths”.
It’s nice to be reminded of this—and by someone so high in the administration! It is vogue for politicians to exclaim “God bless America!” Whether or not The Divine smiles upon us is not the issue, the issue is which Divinity is being invoked. Likely not mine, which makes me bristle. Change the invocation just a bit and even the Christian right will object: “Allah bless America” and “Goddess bless America” are nearly epithets.
I look forward to what the religious response to this will be—will our secular roots continue to be denied? Will this be further proof that Obama is the anti-Christ? Or will this be accepted as an endorsement of pluralism? An invitation to dialogue?
Our country is yet young and still going through growing pains. I see our insistence on religion in the public sphere as evidence of this. I think the Secular Coalition’s crowing may work against them, but this may indicate, not a turning away from religion but a turning towards acceptance of non-religion. A big step for us.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and, to kick things off, I’d like to take issue with the growing prevalence of the word “rape” as a slang synonym for “dominated”, “rocked’, or “killed”. Both I and a friend have recently had Facebook “friends” (which of course could be anyone from a mere acquaintance to a spouse) claim to have “raped” a final in their status:
her: is hoping that she raped that final!!! PARRRRTTTAYYYY time!!!
him: Fuckin raped 2 finals and now one more to go
I know the author of the second well enough to comment on it. Facebook now allows a user to “like” or give a thumbs up to something someone else has posted. The following thread ensued:
me: “Fuckin raped 2 finals” …I wonder if one can “unlike” a comment.
him: haha possibly… all you gotta do is type that you dont like it.
me: consider it done
He later changed his status to
him: fuckin destroyed all three finals and now time to turn off the brain!
which I considered a win. I “liked” that status.
But now I wish I’d gone farther. I wish I’d made it more clear that I was offended by the status, and that I was offended by “raped 2 finals” rather than “fuckin”. Swearing on your Facebook page is stupid, but inoffensive to me (I know for a fact that all his managers are on Facebook—I’m friends with most of them). Using “rape” as a description of power and of power over an inanimate object is flat out offensive. When I sent my messages, I felt like the Bad Feminist FriendTM: the one who is offended by little things that “normal” people aren’t offended by and don’t even notice; the one who never finds jokes funny and is just a pain to ever be around. But I simply couldn’t let it slide.
I know that others disagree, but I would much rather replace “rape” with “kill” in the above. I have killed finals in the past (I have had finals kill me, too); I have dominated, I have destroyed, but I have never raped a final. Or anything else (besides the earth, with my car…). This is not a term to be used lightly. This is not a word to be normalized.
The Vermont Senate, finding (correctly) that Civil Unions for gay couples fall short of providing equal rights, voted overwhelmingly to approve Civil Marriage for gay couples. The matter still has to go before the Vermont House (and since I’m late to this, may already have gone), where it is expected to pass. The margin by which it was approved is too great for the governor to veto (if he were to try).
As others have said before me, This Is How We Do It!
Texas is reviewing its science standards, specifically with the desire to remove them altogether. Skepchick has a great discussion of exactly what this means, but here’s the short version:
Now: what you can do:
Just to drive home the point that we need to actually educate our children, not just indoctrinate them, here is a recent BBC documentary (in 6 10-minute segments) about a 13-year old girl, Deborah, who lives on her parents’ farm with some of her 10 brothers and sisters (the ones who haven’t yet left home to spread the Good News.
Deborah and her siblings have been home schooled and rarely leave the compound. When she does, it’s to give tracts out to her peers while they’re waiting for the bus. Her oldest brother has moved out and is working toward a chef’s degree. Deborah leaves home to go visit him in the fourth segment.
The whole thing is worth a watch, even though it’s long. My favorite part (besides the general creepiness and the “omg, it’s my sisters!”-ness of it) is that her brother is specifically turned off by flirting women. I can’t wait for the follow up documentary after that one hits.