The protests in NYC repeat those in Ferguson, and probably will end the same – as wins for the 1%

Summary: The events in New York City repeat on a larger scale those in Ferguson. Will they end differently? Who gains from these events? The answers aren’t obvious, and not what you’re told. (1st post of 2 today.)

Police shooting

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Contents

  1. The situation.
  2. The police mobilize their support.
  3. It’s a structural problem; one side has the aces.
  4. For More Information.

(1)  The situation.

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Looking at America from Europe it appears we’ve gone mad. The Guardian attempts to explain:

America’s nightmare of violence and racism got upended in New York City on Saturday with the shooting of a woman in Baltimore, the shooting of two cops in Brooklyn and the suicide of their suspected fleeing killer.

This time, the bloody violence was clear, and the social-media threat appears real, but the racial and power dynamics are as confusing as they are telling: A black man, Ismaiiyl Brinsley, apparently shot his ex-girlfriend (race unknown), then traveled to New York, where he “assassinated” an Asian officer and a Hispanic officer of the New York Police Department (NYPD), in their squad car. In between, an Instagram photo: a gun, revenge and references to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. You will believe what happened next – white head of the police union declares war on protesters within hours – but it shouldn’t have to be this way.

Of course it has to be this way. The police fear reprisals after years of “stop and frisk” arrests, arresting people after planting guns and bags of dope, and casually administering beatings and shootings. As one cop told the New York Post: “This is just the beginning … There are people out there who will want to be copycats. The tension out there is the worst I’ve ever seen it.” This expresses his natural fears of Black people doing to them what they’ve done to Black people for so long (Britney Cooper gives a good summary at Salon). Psychologists call it a form of projection.

NYC police see politicians responding to the public pressure for change. First they throttled back on “stop and frisk”(down 95% from its peak in Q1 2012), now they complain about police killing people. Who knows what’s next? Police are selected and trained for aggressiveness; they’re not going to passively accept pressure for change — and greater surveillance and accountability. (Current events might repeat those of 1992, when Mayor Dinkins — NYC’s first and only Black mayor — created the Civilian Complaint Review Board; violent police protests led to its current toothless structure. For more see the HRW and NYT articles).

(2)  The police mobilize their support.

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Many in the NYPD believe (probably correctly) that they have the high cards, and so prepare for a showdown between them, NYC’s minorities, and  NYC’s politicians. Democracy is not pretty. See The Guardian’s journalists clutch their pearls as the NYPD leaders’ mobilize police and their supporters with incendiary rhetoric (as they have done so often in the past):

One person offering clear directives to the cops: Patrick Lynch, their union president, who asked them to sign an emotionally manipulative letter banning de Blasio from their hypothetical future funeral, and who actually said on Saturday night that there was “blood on their hands [of] those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest … [blood] on the steps of city hall, in the office of the mayor”. Yes, the cops blamed the protesters. (So did Rudy Giuliani

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Woodside Hospital, as the bodies of the 2 slain police are taken away
Woodside Hospital, as the bodies of the 2 slain police are taken away

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Such rhetoric is SOP by police in these situations. As seen in the speech by Patrick Lynch, President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), at Woodhull Hospital after the bodies of Officer Liu and Officer Ramos were carried away.

“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day. … That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor. … We’ll mourn for our city and we’ll mourn for our brothers. … We’ll straighten our shoulders, we’ll stiffen our backs and we’ll wipe our tears. … When those funerals are over, we’ll raise our heads and those that allowed this to go on will be held accountable.”

And this by the Sergeants Benevolent Assn:

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These are just the latest salvos in the conflict between the NYPD, NYC’s officials, and the people the NYPD works to oppress. Even before the December 20 murder of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, Lynch led the PBA’s belligerent response to calls for more police restraint. See these remarks on December 12, a dog whistle about the union’s power. The PBA posted this on December 12, signed by hundreds of the NYPD’s 36 thousand officers (diplomats call these gestures “signalling”, showing a willingness to escalate):

PBA affidavit for NYPD officers
PBA affidavit for NYPD officers

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No crisis in America is complete without credulous journalists echoing misinformation (got to fill the space between the ads!). Such as this from the “managing editor of breaking news and original content” at AOL. No names on it, nor do journalists attempt to authenticate it despite it having many characteristics of fake emails (such as instructions to pass it on). The PBA denied being the source, when somebody eventually asked them.

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Ryan Gorman's tweet of PBA memo
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Gorman's NYBA memo to NYPD
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The Guardian called for the President to wield his Green Lantern ring and fly to the rescue, since there must be a speech or new law to fix everything:

This kind of moment requires dynamic leadership, but beyond a brief statement, President Obama was no more going to re-route Air Force One from Honolulu to New York than he would ever direct it to Ferguson.

NYPD Stops by ethnicity
From the Capital, 19 December 2014

It’s a structural problem; one side has the aces.

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This tension is structural between elected officials and a police department charged with keeping order among the underclass (poor, oppressed, few opportunities, high crime rate). Tensions can only rise as social mobility decreases in America and economic conditions for the bottom 80% grow worse. The rich fear the poor. The broad middle class gets eroded away and becomes increasingly fearful as they struggle to stay afloat. The poor become desperate. The police are in the middle.

Our rulers see this and have prepared. For good reason in 1997 they created the 1033 program to bulk-up police with military equipment and accelerated this since 9/11. (For a fuller picture of this see “The Militarization of U.S. Domestic Policing“, Abigail R. Hall and Christopher J. Coyne, The Independent Review, Spring 2013). But tools mean little without people trained and willing to use them, hence the creation of SWAT teams in cities and even towns. Since the Posse Comitatus Act prevents bringing the Army to our cities, our cities grew their own armies (because Freedom).

They’re ready for riots. We’ve had so many of them in America since the Founding. If the underclass wishes to burn down their neighborhoods again (many inner cities never recovered from those of the 1964-68 years), the 1% will let them — and deploy whatever force needed to contain them.

It’s even better than that. Riots among the underclass help the 1% by frightening the white middle class (hence the limp response in Ferguson from the police and MO National Guard after the Grand Jury verdict). The largely white middle class love the police (a bulwark against the lower classes); seeing police violence against mobs only boosts their support (as the Ferguson riots demonstrated, again).

The 1% know who holds the aces in American society. For more evidence see the 2014 Gallup Confidence in Institutions Poll. Police are #2, second only to the military (“small business” is not an institution, any more than are mothers). All other key institutions essential to the Republic have low or little support (why doesn’t this evidence that the Republic is dying terrify people?).

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2014  Gallup Poll: Confidence in Institutions

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These numbers vary by ethnicity: “Over this time {2006-14}, an average of 57% of Americans have said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, typically placing it near the top of the list of institutions. This includes confidence ratings of 61% among whites and 57% among Hispanics, but just 34% among blacks.

These polls show the futility of violent protests as a means of social change, even if scaled up substantially from the pinpricks of today. They’re counterproductive. What if they successfully pressured the police to ameliorate their tactics? How much would that change society? The goal must be to use these issues tactically to gain political power, and use that power to force further changes. These scatter-shot campaigns about relatively small issues leave nothing behind in terms of structure, win or lose, and so accomplish little.

To some extent this reflects the current fetish for leaderless organizations, which are another name for losing.

Our burning constitution

For More Information.

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(a)  See all posts about police and about protests. Most important, see the posts about Reforming America: steps to political change.

(b)  Posts about the events in Ferguson, since we’re repeating the play:

  1. Our elites smile at events in Ferguson, MO. They’ll cry if it pushes Blacks to try 4GW., 14 August 2014.
  2. Will the Ferguson protest force development of African-American leaders?, 15 August 2014.
  3. Why America has militarized its police and crushes protests, 16 August 2014.
  4. The protesters at Ferguson might have won, but choose to lose, 18 August 2014.
  5. Events from Ferguson explain why we are weak, 19 August 2014.
  6. Events in Ferguson show why we read the news: for entertainment, 23 August 2014.
  7. What does Ferguson mean, beyond jeering at the bad guys? What does it tell us about America?, 26 November 2014.

 

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12 thoughts on “The protests in NYC repeat those in Ferguson, and probably will end the same – as wins for the 1%

  1. Thorough estimate of the situation.

    The racial divide in American society has increased since the election of the first African American President in my opinion. What we have now is an echo of the not so distant era of slavery and Jim Crow. The school to prison pipeline and the powerful prison/industrial complex are additional frameworks. The structural issues involve also such things as school spending and overall increase in wealth and income inequality between the 1% and the 99% in the last 30 years.

    And social mobility has not kept up; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/us/harder-for-americans-to-rise-from-lower-rungs.html?pagewanted=all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An echo of the era of Jim Crow and slavery — no less. Methinks you are exaggerating a bit.

      First, white policemen shooting blacks has been going on at a fairly high rate for decades; I wonder why the recent events have become such high profile cases, but your remark on the discrepancy between the first black president and the actual situation may explain that.

      Second, the two policemen shot in New York were (a) an Hispanic (b) an immigrant from continental China. Lower-class peons performing the dirty work of the plutocracy.

      In other words, that violence is a symptom of class warfare (to reuse an old-fashioned terminology), not racial warfare, just what you surmise in the last sentences of your comment, and something that, just as FM states, the 1% understand very well.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. guest,

      “An echo of the era of Jim Crow and slavery”

      I believe that is technically correct. It’s not the same, but repeats in mild form pattern from the past. Jim Crow laws were echoes of slavery, and the present situation is an echo of Jim Crow.

      “violence is a symptom of class warfare”

      That’s the vital point. Packaging class oppression as a racial issue is an ancient pattern in America. Poor whites — with few opportunities for advancement — felt superior to poor Blacks, and in fear and rivalry to them (and vice versa). This prevents any potentially disruptive alliances between them, especially powerful if the bottom 2 or 3 quintiles link together. Who knows what might happen them?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What positive things can be done to reverse this situation? I am 65 years ald and until 1980 always felt that things were getting better in our society. Now I feel like we are going back to the way things were in the late 1800s. There must be logical, positive ways to change the situation – rather than just rioting and complaining.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charles,

      I have written quite a bit about this, from abstract theory to fine details of building organizations. See these posts about Reforming America: steps to political change.

      More generally, they key is political involvement. Talk to people. Donate (to the extent you can) time and money to candidates you like at any and all levels. Work the machinery the Founders gave us. It still functions, if we make the effort.

      Like

  3. There’s another potential dynamic (I’m not arguing that it is actually happening, I am arguing that it could be happening because it makes sense in the framework FM builds).

    The 1% (or, more precisely, the 0.1%) are siphoning wealth out of the middle class and have been doing so with a great deal of vigor these last 20 years. They rely on distractions to reduce tensions with the middle class. What is more distracting than race/class tensions between the poor blacks and the white middle class? The wealthy do not need these riots, they’ve got plenty of other ways to distract us, but I think they welcome them.

    On a distantly-related side note, the Tea Party Republicans I’ve met tend to be pretty racist, and when they are fearful they are more willing to work with the Main Stream Republicans. Encouraging the blacks to get restive makes it easier for the Republicans to build a working majority in Congress in a few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Actually, the protests in NYC have been very effective — the protests by the police have been tremendously effective in re-asserting the control of the praetorians over their putative civilian “leaders.”

    In post-9/11 security state America, the security forces rule: the civilian “leaders” are just window dressing. New York mayor Bill de Blasio got out of line and tried to assert civilian control. That’s treason in the national security state, and the police forces put him back in his place.

    Liked by 1 person

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