The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone Is A Trap, Not A Victory

 By Futureman 

On Monday, June 8th, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) voluntarily withdrew from their defensive positions around the East Precinct as a surge of protesters flowed east from the flash-point barricade on 11th and Pine. The precise location of that barricade had become the subject of an evolving cat-and-mouse game between police and protesters which escalated on several occasions to the point that police felt obliged to reset the line with massive shows of force. Perhaps the most violent confrontation occurred in the late evening hours of June 7th when SPD unleashed a fury of gas and flash-bang explosives, seemingly without specific provocation though it followed a slow, systematic barricade advance by protesters towards the police.  

Exactly how or why the East Precinct became a focal point for protesters is uncertain, though it appears SPD established their security perimeter June 1st after declaring nearby demonstrations a riot. Over the course of the following week the precinct became a symbolic objective for protesters simply, I suppose, on the basis that SPD fought so violently to protect it.  

Between June 1st and 7th, SPD subjected the neighborhood around the East Precinct to de facto martial law and wanton intimidation and violence. They also appeared to have conducted a retaliatory arrest away from Capital Hill against at least one individual who documented an officer pepper-spraying a little girl at an earlier protest. Throughout SPD’s occupation, Mayor Durkan and SPD chief Best, continually gas-lighted Seattle about the basic facts and narratives concerning the police violence by attempting to frame the officers actions within the scope of reason, necessity and prudence. Many are calling for Durkan’s resignation as a result of her seemingly deliberate ineptitude.

Given Durkan’s astounding commitment to Orwellian Double-Speak, which is truly incredible considering the magnitude of video evidence contradicting her narrative position, we should abandon any expectation that she intends to pursue meaningful reform for SPD. On the contrary, Durkan now appears unmistakably committed to the maintenance of SPD in its current state – as a paramilitary organization.

Durkan’s unwillingness to acknowledge the facts at hand should inform estimations of what it means for protesters to have gained control over the streets surrounding the East Precinct. First, let’s consider the unusual nature and unclear intent of SPD’s retreat. SPD boarded the windows of the precinct, fenced the immediate perimeter and applied fire retardant before moving offsite. In essence, SPD appears to have temporarily surrendered their responsibility to provide security at a protest site while still retaining their position as Seattle police.  

Meanwhile, protesters who are both misrepresented by the corporate media and completely unsatisfied with Durkan’s response have acquired de facto responsibility for a building that is still technically controlled by SPD. Further, as the night unfolded, SPD appears to have broadcast false information about Proud Boy hate groups marching towards protesters as if to engineer a compromised-security condition that would shift public perception in their favor, according to twitter accounts that monitor unencrypted police radio channels. And worse yet, with so much uncertain in the face of a proverbial powder keg, the Seattle city council hesitates and pretends it doesn’t know how to immediately solve the problem.

Without indulging the conspiratorial, it seems quite likely that SPD’s retreat was a strategic move meant to deny the protesters the political expediency afforded by the public outcries that grew following each show of force at the 11th and Pine barricade. SPD, I imagine, has reasoned that without an ongoing conflict with officers in riot gear, protest leaders will fall prey to infighting and lose external support quickly enough that they can successfully intervene through back channels to limit impending reforms while the mayor and city council stalls in the interim.  

Furthermore, as political leaders are slow to react, a media war is forming to set the narrative for Capital Hill’s new “autonomous zone,” an informal term for the area suddenly free from SPD’s martial law. This poses a real and credible threat to the public’s perception of the protesters aims, integrity and effect.  

In order to maintain momentum and relevance, protest leadership now needs to be visible and united as they provide the crowd with explicit purpose and direction, something that hadn’t been necessary only a day before. Furthermore, while conversations around defunding are fairly straightforward in terms of what percentage of its own budget the SPD will keep, conversations about how to restructure public safety are far less clear. As that conversation begins, protesters should look to educate themselves on the vernacular and perspective of the SPD and police more broadly to discredit SPD’s counterpoints to radical reform items. Otherwise, the institutional memory of the SPD, which is obviously informed by Dave Grossman’s tactical philosophy “Killology,” which is why it’s necessary to disband the police force, will maintain continuity through the reform process ultimately undermining positive effects of reform, as we’ve seen time and time again.


I Spoke With A Cop Yesterday, Then They Attacked

 Yesterday, June 6th, I arrived at the protest on Seattle’s Capital Hill to find an officer engaging protesters in conversation at the police barricade at 12th Ave and Pike. The officer seemed like a decent guy and I got the impression he was being authentic in conversation.
When I first arrived, the officer was engaged with two protesters whose main point, as I recall, was that the officer’s good intentions could no longer be given the benefit of the doubt. That really sums up the situation on the ground as I’ve seen it, police want their ostensible good intentions taken on faith but trust has been irreparably damaged. That the police seem confused about why, I have no idea.

Once the conversation opened, I stepped in to tell the officer how I feel.
This is what I said, more or less. I said, as I see it, there’s always a gulf between an institution and the individuals that comprise it. And when a critical institution falls out of favor, it’s individual agents must differentiate themselves, for the sake of administration, with deliberate displays of symbolism and posture to communicate good faith. On both those points, however, you compromise our willingness to lend trust. For instance, your militarized posture, which requires no further explanation, and the Thin Blue Line flag on your chest.

By definition, I continued, the Thin Blue Line (TBL), is a reference to police as the force in society which holds back chaos. In practice, however, TBL has become a set of ideological beliefs that serve to reinforce the supposed necessity of police violence. This ideology is built on the premise that if police were not seen as capable of extreme, unflinching violence, society would collapse as a result. This is, more or less, how Killology founder Dave Grossman puts it in his seminars with police: The sheep (citizens) resent the sheepdogs (police) but it’s the sheepdogs that protect the sheep from the wolves (criminals), therefore the goal is to be a warrior.

You, officer, I went on, are a product of Killology, whether you know it or not (he didn’t), and the effects of Grossman’s tutelage are clear in the Washington Post data on police shootings. For instance, fully one third of fatal police shootings occur in circumstances where the application of deadly force is not clearly necessary. To me, that’s a “bad shoot” ratio of 1 in 3, not by the terms of what’s legally permissible but by the terms of objective necessity. That’s clear, data-informed evidence of police foisting the risk of policing onto citizens with a procedural doctrine of self-preservation. Of course, a primary motivation underlying this protest is the lack of criminal liability for those bad shoots. Furthermore, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that the specter of “necessity” perceived by the “reasonable” officers involved in fatal “good” shoots is arbitrarily raised as a consequence of your procedural commitment to militarization.

Further still, I said, you should have been paying closer attention to the meaning of words before you put that TBL flag on your chest. Terrorism, which has no universal definition, is generally accepted as the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence for political, ideological purposes. The officer accepted that definition. Then I explained that terrorism is actually an arbitrary term used to sort violence into groups of good and bad, but mostly its function in discourse is to make state violence good. Because rarely is it ever difficult to show that violence is bad. This is important to note because as police across the country have systematically used illegal, ideologically motivated violence against peaceful protesters in a political venue, they’ve defined themselves as literal terrorists by the terms of their own vernacular. This argument seemed to make a strong, self-reflective impression on the officer.
I went on to offer my opinion that a use of force standard that permits the use of force based on “objective necessity” would be an improvement over the “objective reasonableness” standard put forth by Graham V Connor. Here, the officer asked a practical question about the use of force. Specifically, the officer asked how he should behave in the face of defiance when public safety is at risk, like if someone refused an order to move off a busy street. He mentioned the “continuum of force” as his guide for decision making in such scenarios.

The first thing I thought when he mentioned the continuum of force is that the way police escalate force seems based on the expectation of rational response though police are often called to deal with people incapable of rationality, which is another way that the necessity of force is falsely perceived in use of force events. Also, the way he framed the question really seemed to highlight that violence, on an institutional level, is used as a singular solution to the multitude of problems police are called to address. I will revisit this point later. Anyway, by this time, others joined the conversation and I wasn’t able to properly respond to the officer. I would like to thank him however, in the unlikely event that he recognizes himself in this work, for listening in good faith, which I believe he did. And a final word to him: Please don’t forget that we’re counting on you to do the right thing.

From there, I went over to 11th and Pine to spend some time on the line. After a few hours I went home to write. When I got home, however, I read an article about the disconnect between white and black protesters which inspired me to return to the front to do my part to close that gap. My plan was to survey protesters on the particular policy items that are dear to them, and then report the findings to inform readers on the points of consensus within the crowd.

I learned two things. First, I’m not the right person for public interface and I am, admittedly, a terrible pollster. Second, the only policy consensus I found was that the window for policy reform has passed and that the time for total institutional transformation has arrived. I had all these policy proposals people could vote for but as I moved through the crowd I learned that no one was even remotely interested in any them. Seriously, no one. What I heard, however, over and over again, was that the police are unfit for the job they have and that the only reasonable solution is to defund, and then redirect funds to more appropriate civil services. Then, as if bound by duty to discredit their own profession, the terrorist police held another riot.

It’s now seems clear that police as we’ve known them are gone forever, because what had been  denied and rationalized is now explicit and it can no longer be ignored. The police have become literal terrorists, by definition, armed with military gear, weapons and tactics, informed by a corporate system of total surveillance. Either police will yield and disband to allow law enforcement institutions to be redesigned, or they will knowingly revolt against our constitution to impose upon America an unprecedented age of fascist rule in the United States.


Counterintelligence and the Seattle Protest

 By Futureman
Counterintelligence, I was told by a counterintelligence agent, is the activity of using information to shape the nature of conflict. For example, he explained, if US intelligence received information that a Navy ship was targeted for a terrorist attack, counterintelligence operatives might try to broadcast false location information about the ship to undermine and confuse the terrorist’s capacity for harm.  
Similarly, a mayor subordinating protest “leaders,” by means unknown, to a platform of divisive rhetoric and timid reform, to undermine a protest’s capacity for cooperation could also be described as counterintelligence. This appears to be what’s happening in Seattle, to some extent, though it’s unclear who’s subordinated and who’s subordinating. For a short history on counterintelligence operations against protest movements in the US, check out this recent Intercept article.

While I don’t have enough information about who’s who among the protest leadership to profile and evaluate the various identities at play, I’ve witnessed on several occasions people of color on bullhorns sowing division by using rhetoric that appeared to have been deliberately designed to stoke internal conflict. Specifically, I’ve seen accusations of wanting integrity from one bullhorn to another and the devaluation of perspective based on demographic. On at least one occasion, these public disputes have physically divided and confused the crowd about the content of the protest. People in the crowd, meanwhile, seemed ready to yield to the directions given to them by the nearest bullhorn simply on the basis of good faith and white guilt, but no one should be so timid when the integrity of the movement is at stake.

The divisive bullhorn herding I’ve witnessed is enabled by a particular brand of “progressive” discourse which has turned against itself to posture inclusion as a pretext for exclusion. For instance, I saw a white person try to intervene on an unnecessary, divisive squabble between competing bullhorns only to be shouted down on the basis of demographic by the leader’s inner circle. The crowd seemed to mostly disapprove of the harshness of the rebuke though it also seemed to accept that it should rightly be a person of color holding the bullhorn, so the bullhorn continued in service to division. To be clear, I’m not against people of color holding or even dominating the bullhorn at a protest site, I’m against bad ideas and divisive, counterproductive rhetoric. And we’d be absolutely right to question the utility of “progressive” discourse insofar as it enables obfuscation and misdirection.

The most counterproductive aspects of progressive discourse are often associated with Black Lives Matter, though it’s unclear if the organization actually endorses those points. I reached out to the official King County BLM chapter for clarity but they did not respond before I made this post. For example, according to a widely shared twitter post on the subject, non-black allies of BLM should:1. Not lead chants2. Act as a physical shield for people of color  3. Not police or tone down black protesters4. Stay on message, don’t discuss other topics at a protest where BLM is activeThese points are obviously problematic if the person of color holding the bullhorn is subordinated to the power structures threatened by the protest.  

Furthermore, while twitter users and bullhorn-holders strictly enforce “progressive” discourse to paint protests as an exclusive BLM affair, prominent black intellectuals such as Dr. Cornell West frame the ongoing protest in much broader sense. In a super cut of recent interviews featuring Dr. West, posted to Bernie Sander’s YouTube channel, Dr. West describes the protests as multi-faceted and “multi-racial.” This view, however, of a multi-faceted problem with multi-racial impacts is forcefully rejected by many people in defense of BLM, though, as I’ve mentioned, BLM’s actual endorsement of this narrow narrative is not confirmed and, frankly, seems unlikely.

The way certain “progressive” discourse operates in action is that it obliges all non-black people to allow the proverbial plane to crash into the mountain unless a person of color can be found to correct the plane’s trajectory. The utility of such expectations serve the objectives of counterintelligence operatives more reliably than the BLM movement itself. Because, while there are many people of color doing a wonderful job behind the bullhorn, there are others who are dividing more than unifying.

What the unfolding counterintelligence ploy comes down to, as I see it, is creating a doctrine about how to evaluate the value of ideas, as a means of idea regulation, and reducing the concept of contribution to an act of submission. This “progressive” discourse suggests that an idea’s value depends on the demographic of the speaker. In this way, “progressives” hold reason hostage to confine critical thought to a strict and narrow structure. I’ve yet to encounter a convincing explanation about how this benefits BLM. The opposing view, of course, is that an idea maintains it’s value from one speaker to the next, regardless of demographic.

Because protests movements are subject to counterintelligence interference, and because this appears to be happening in Seattle, protesters should adopt a way of being that acts as a passive defense against such interference. Personally, I think the best defense we could offer would be to grant the right to be right to anyone and everyone until they prove themselves unworthy. This would provide the crowd the ability to reject bad ideas and divisive content without fear of unwarranted retribution, and it strengthens our ability to educate and unify on actionable items of reform, rather than limiting our intrigue to the viability of an identity profile.

If the value of an idea depends on the speaker, all that’s needed to control a movement is leverage over the speaker, which shouldn’t be hard to obtain in an age of mass surveillance. On the other hand, it’s much harder to misdirect a movement organized around a widely distributed set of actionable reforms. So I’d ask you to really consider, who does a rigid “progressive” discourse actually serve?


The Police Don’t Mind If You Protest Racism (but don’t mention the Rule of Law)

 By Futureman

Black lives matter. I believe that wholeheartedly and I’m ashamed for anyone who finds controversy in that statement. I also see the popular response of “all lives matter” as a rhetorical lie meant to suggest that the value of black life comes at the expense of other life, particularly white life. All lives matter is a fundamentally racist response to the statement black lives matter. In fact, the only way it really makes sense is by relating it to the legacy of a master/slave relationship, as if recognizing the value of a former slave’s life is contemptible for the opportunity costs to the former master. So we shouldn’t let it go unchallenged when someone responds to Black Lives Matter with “all lives matter,” and we’d do well to educate those who’ve yet to see the light. I believe these things.
Yet I find myself frustrated with the dominate protest discourse, which frames police violence as an exclusively racist phenomenon and demands that white people surrender any conceptual value in their perspective. I’m frustrated even as I concede without hesitation that policing is, in fact, rooted in racism. My concern is that I don’t think it’s well enough acknowledged that as the US state has expressed racism less explicitly over time, systems of repression have become more inclusive. That current discourse, I contend, is at risk of fostering a critique which, by excluding perspectives on the basis of demographic, overlooks structural failures in law that are racially inclusive. For instance, while it’s clear that minority communities still bear the greatest burden, it’s no less clear that the poor of any race are not safe while the police hold guard. Below a certain income level we’re all potential inputs for the production of “justice” products, which ostensibly “keep us safe,” though it’s unclear what “safe” means in this context.
Policing is a reliable refuge for racism due to shortcomings in the Rule of Law. This is a categorical truth because if the Rule of Law were healthy, racist police would be held accountable. Of course, for white people it’s tempting to think the law’s suffered a backward slide since Civil Rights in ’64 but black folks, I expect, would be quick to point out that the law’s always been hostile to them. So, insofar as I can occupy the mind of a black person, I imagine this is why black people are so adamant about protecting the ongoing conversation from white people, because at the head of the economic pack, white people are prone to be lazy about the integrity of law. But categorically devaluing any good-faith insight risks alienating people working towards the same goal from a different place in perspective. If we’re to be successful as a movement, we need our goals covered from as many different perspectives as possible.
My great fear is that pressing a shrewd hack like Durkan on racism will allow the masters too much leeway to dictate the structure of reform. Instead of framing our discourse around the problem, we should be widely distributing actionable solutions. Durkan’s invested in All Lives Matter, whether she admits it or not, and her goal is to reduce our sledgehammer to a sheet of sandpaper. We cannot allow this to happen as our goal is not meager concession but, rather, complete transformation. Policing as we know it must end and nothing less is acceptable. We have data, we’re informed and the Truth is on our side. But to accomplish our goals we need an inclusive language that unifies perspective around specific, calculated reforms that are well articulated in a legal vernacular, so we can press hard while the fire’s still hot.  
To conclude, as we continue to press for reform, I believe it’s appropriate for me, as a white dude, to do more listening than speaking. But I still need to feel like I’d be heard and acknowledged if I had something useful to contribute. Not for the sake of my fragile ego, but for the potential of a movement to which I am an unequivocal ally. We should always greet each other under the assumption that everyone carries the right to be right, until they prove themselves unworthy. This is a passive defense against cointelpro2, which wants to subvert our cooperation and disrupt the healthy exchange of perspective, to undermine our potential and high-jack control. So instead of using the bullhorn to broadcast emotional testaments, we ought to be using it to educate and rally the crowd on specific, actionable objectives. Otherwise, how will the crowd know when it’s really won?

Original post edited for clarity


Durkan Bows, Next She’ll kneel

 By Futureman

As promised, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle police chief Carmen Best met with community organizers on the morning of June 3rd, 2020 to discuss a police reform agenda. As expected, Durkan and Best spoke to the delusions of the false narratives that have been propagated by their partners in corporate media, which seek to confuse the public on the subjects and validity of the protests. The response to Durkan’s treachery, as expected, was a massive turn-out in favor of our constitutionally protected freedom of assembly to voice our outrage at systematic police violence.  

I had just arrived at Eleventh and Pine on Capital Hill around five in the afternoon when the crowd erupted in celebration as a contingent of protesters arrived from the west, growing the crowd perhaps by a factor ten, it’s unclear. It was incredible, I’d never seen anything like it. In the face of blatant lies from public officials, the public mobilized in defense of truth. From the barricade on 11th and Pine, to the west for an entire block, people were packed shoulder to shoulder on the street while looser crowds assembled on the flanks.  

Once the crowds combined, the soon-to-be-recalled mayor sent a curfew notification to our phones, seemingly in response to the growing crowd. The reaction from the crowd, of course, was resounding defiance and strengthened resolve, and it wasn’t long before word spread that the curfew had been canceled.  

While I celebrate the mayor’s willingness to concede, the specific concession of allowing a constitutionally protected activity to proceed without threat of state violence was a strategic mistake if her objective is to protect the “best practices” of US police, which it appears to be. We now know she’s weak and afraid. And we’ve seen that our security resides in a broad, democratic consensus. However it’s expressed by the terms of perspective, we’re on the street in defense of the Rule of Law, and we’ll remain there until lawless policing is brought to heel. Durkan is lying to herself if she thinks otherwise.

At this point, I’d like to argue for a specific reform. Namely, I think we should unify on a use of force standard for police based on “objective necessity,” enforced by criminal liability for any use of force beyond what’s objectively necessary in the conduct of their duties, same as any other citizen would expect if they were to engage in wanton violence. 
The benefit of a use of force standard based on objective necessity is that it would reward informed decision making and discourage unnecessary use of force. Objective necessity would turn officers into negotiators, rather than allowing them to devolve into ideologically motivated “warriors” with a warped sense of what’s “reasonable.”

There are, however, two obvious draw backs to objective necessity. First, police are incentivized to withhold force even when force could prevent greater harm. Second, police must depend on public faith when mistakes are made at the intersection of high stakes and misperception, which is inevitable given high rates of gun ownership.  

Evaluating objective necessity against the current “objective reasonableness” standard comes down to this: Would restricting police use of force to a standard of objective necessity cost more than 330 human lives per year?

The Washington Post Police Shootings database shows that from 2015 to 2019, about one third of the people shot and killed by police were killed in circumstances that could not be classified as an “attack,” a designation used to indicate the “highest level of threat,” with a kill-rate just under 1000 shot and killed per year.  

The database column heading “threat level” includes designations of “attack,” “other,” and “undetermined.” Attack is the most threatening designation, though “‘other’ includes many incidents where officers or others faced significant threats.”  

While data collection and analysis is sticky on the issue of police violence, because the legal validity of police violence is largely dictated by an officer’s perceptions, we think it is fair to use the threat level designator to separate cases on a basis of proven and unproven suspect intent, where a threat level of attack indicates proven suspect intent to cause harm, while designations of other and undetermined indicate an ambiguous suspect intent. Though no broad stroke will perfectly classify thousands of cases, we believe that this approach is a defensible way to show that 1/3 fatal police shootings are clearly unnecessary by a standard of objective necessity. Further, we believe, based on the confrontational procedures currently used by police that many cases where the threat level was recorded as attack would have been proven unnecessary were police use of force initially restrained by a standard of objective necessity.

Now, to the second obvious draw back of objective necessity: that police must depend on public faith to shield them from prosecution in the event of a good-faith mistake. We think it should be reconsidered whether this is actually feature or flaw. Prosecutors and juries are generous to police, and we shouldn’t expect that to change. Furthermore, objective necessity would incent police to be allies on issues of justice reform, which would work to reduce the public’s incentive to resist unjust “justice,” thereby enacting a structural deescalation of our current “justice” system. This would, in turn, reduce the natural level of tension underlying law enforcement transactions, making them safer for everyone.   

To conclude, Durkan showed her ass and the day is ours, but we have to unify on actionable reform items if we’re going to succeed in a timely manner. A use of force standard based on objective necessity is a powerful way to deny racists the cover of law. This reform argument is not intended to come at a cost to any other, and I don’t believe that it does.


Jenny Durkan Hates You (unless you’re a rich fascist or terrorist cop)

Jenny Durkan could have ended the Seattle protests the same night they began, by ordering police to adopt a non-confrontational posture. This wouldn’t solve the problem of police brutality but it would be a tremendous gesture indicating that the problem is acknowledged and that it will be addressed by structural reforms in the near future. This would go a long way to ease tensions with the community and isolate looters and other bad faith actors. Durkan, however, has continually permitted and defended a hostile police posture by framing the larger issue as a need to defend against an insurgency, same as her Republican counterparts. This is highly alarming, and totally unacceptable.
While protest objectives have not been clearly articulated and broadcast in a legal vernacular, perhaps for the obvious divisions created by competing bullhorns in the protest crowd, they are not enigmatic and it wouldn’t difficult for someone like Durkan to build public faith towards the expectation of reform. Real concessions, however, may compromise Durkan’s support from powerful stakeholders in “Surveillance Capitalism,” a growing, fascist system of unaccountable governance.
So far, Durkan has performed as if it’s her objective to preserve the illegitimate powers of a terrorist system of policing, which protects a system of business based on total surveillance, diametrically opposed to democracy. Seattle police could have dropped riot gear and joined protesters to alienate looters and mythical “bad-apple” cops. To Durkan directly, why not order cops en masse to engage protesters one on one, to promote a healthy exchange of perspective? Truly, why hasn’t this happened? Why are you inappropriately sowing division by blaming insurgent white men for unrest that you have the power to avoid? As one crowd, police and protester could have, and would have, protected Seattle from property damage carried out by bad faith actors. Durkan, you are not allowing that to happen, why?
Seattle police have remained in a confrontational posture since the outset of these protests, and they’ve deliberately engaged in tactics known to createchaos. Chaos, as we’ve seen, provides cover for bad faith actors to carry out violence and destruction, and destruction and violence provides context for the further militarization of forces. Why is Durkan committed to creating the conditions for bad faith actors to thrive? How will that help to ease legitimate tensions? We know Durkan’s course will help advance the power of fascism over democracy. So, should we view Durkan as incompetent or hostile to democracy? Given what we’ve seen on the ground, it seems generous to suggest incompetence.  
       Furthermore, Durkan reveals her disdain for Seattle’s values by toting around Police Chief Carmen Best as if Best were little more than fodder for Durkan’s calculated treachery. Best is a black female, which holds symbolic significance in progressive discourse. In America, a black female is someone who’s hurt by society by the features of our institutional structure, not someone who hurts others by the features of their privilege. In this sense, Carmen Best is perhaps the least capable person of representing Seattle Police, given that SPD remains committed to a posture that promotes conflict by forecasting their capacity for violence from a position of structured privilege. It appears that Best, who I know nothing about, has either lost control of her forces or is lying, like Durkan, about her commitment to restore order.
Finally, the corona virus has compromised the function of our justice system, which has raised some important questions about the basic administration of justice. What will happen to people arrested during the protests? This is not at all clear. Will those detained be subject to indefinite military detention, if our idiot president uses lawfare to label protesters as terrorists? Or will their cases be adjudicated by trade-secret algorithms written by firms invested in the destruction of our democracy? Durkan has left these questions open while allowing the police posture for war. In conclusion, unless she changes course TODAY, Jenny Durkan is unfit for office. Resign or concede, Durkan!


The Thin Blue Line Versus Data

“The thin blue line’ is a phrase that refers figuratively to the position of police in society as the force which holds back chaos,” says Wikipedia. However you define it, Thin Blue Line ideology serves some as a symbolic tribute to the righteousness of police violence, though it’s not given what the blue line means to any single person. Individual police officers or departments may display blue line symbols openly, on cars or uniforms, while other departments have had the foresight to ban their officers from any professional association.  

The thin blue line has acquired a particular importance in public conversations over the past five years due to the way it informs public and self perceptions of police. On one hand, the blue line postures police as the “force which holds back chaos,” though, by a different telling, it describes police as terrorist occupiers protecting a corrupt elite. Both views are invested in the veracity of their account, and tensions are rising. Meanwhile, corporate media gridlocks public conversation, with “objective” testaments of faith – Tucker Carlson with facts, for example – as if it’s their duty to build a bridge over the most obvious truths.

Fortunately, we have new press armed with comprehensive data on fatal police shootings all the way back to 2015, thanks to the Washington Post’s Police Shootingsdatabase. Those data provide clear insights into the social impacts of Blue Line Warrior Bullshit, which is what I’m calling the dogmatic militarization of heart and soul that’s swept our forces. 

The black line on the graphic above shows the real count of people shot and killed by police, from 1-JAN-2015 to 31-DEC-2019. The blue line shows the real count of people shot and killed by police during the same period though in circumstances where their “threat level” was recorded as an “attack.” For those unfamiliar with the Police Shootings database, “threat level” is a variable with possible values of “attack,” “other” and “undetermined.” 

There are two major takeaways from this graph. First, the police kill-rate held steady through years when police were ostensibly self-reforming in response to the social unrest that followed hundreds of high profile murders by police, see Freddy Gray, Zachary Hammond and Philando Castile. Second, about a third of those shot and killed by police were shot and killed in circumstances that could not be recorded as an “attack” on officers or bystanders.

The value that Blue Line Warriors provide society, by their own telling, is that their violence holds back an otherwise impending force that threatens to “disorder” society. The credibility of that telling is challenged by the fact that it’s not at all clear that restricting the use of nonlethal and deadly force, with a requirement of objective necessity for instance, would impose a social cost greater than 330 human lives per year. That’s not even considering the weight of those unfairly maimed, beaten and caged by wanton police violence. It’s really, if we’re honest about what’s true and reasonable, quite completely insane to entertain the validity of Blue Line ideology against a backdrop of structured economic and political inequality and racism. 

Furthermore, despite resounding democratic disapproval, we remain committed to the catastrophic embarrassment known as the Global War on Terror. Terrorism defies universal definition because it is, in fact, an arbitrary designation used to sort violence into groups of good and bad, though its use in practice is mostly to make violence good. Because when has it ever been hard to sell violence as bad? But even without a universal definition, most security professionals would accept that terrorism is the illegal use, or threatened use, of violence for ideological, political purposes. The police should have been paying better attention to this. By carelessly combining Thin Blue Line ideology with brazen displays of illegal violence at protest sites, the Blue Line Warriors have unwittingly postured themselves as literal terrorists by the terms of their own vernacular. This is not a bombastic claim. If words, such as “terrorism,” have real and consistent meanings, and if the rule of law is firm, the police I saw in May and June, 2020 are literal terrorists. The data rejects claims to the contrary. Ideologically motivated political violence by police is well documented, and a steady kill-rate has been sustained since comprehensive data collection began.

While many “experts” claim we don’t have enough data to properly understand police violence, it is our position at new press that we have too much data to ignore the story it tells, plain as day. It’s a story of criminal terrorists operating under the cover of law, in the unconstitutional, fascist system of Surveillance Capitalism. Luckily, practical solutions to police violence are simple and obvious. Criminal liability for any use of force outside of what’s an objective necessity, as per any regular citizen would expect in a defense scenario. This shouldn’t be a problem. Police should own and carry the risk of policing. But then we can’t leave them hanging when they’re working in good faith and things go south at the intersection of high-stakes and ambiguity, which is inevitable given high rates of gun ownership. To make it work, however, we also need structural deescalation to make law enforcement transactions more palatable, to de-incentivize resistance. That means clearing prisons of drug and non-violent offenders, outlawing profit-motivated policing and passing economic reforms. But first things first, we must limit police use of force to what’s objectively necessary, NOW!!! We’re on the street until it’s done.