fresh voices from the front lines of change







It almost seems like the Twin Cities cops are going way out of their way to create trouble, doesn’t it?

We had our share of ugly police events in Denver—almost all of them resulting when party leaders ordered police to harass journalists trying to document swanky confabs between fat cats and industry lobbyists. But, even so, one did not get the impression that the legions in black Gore-Tex were going out of their way to create trouble, let alone incite public riots. Mostly, they were remarkably live-and-let-live.

On the other hand, law enforcement in the Twin Cities tipped their hand Friday night that they’re so ready to rumble that they’re perfectly willing to throw the first punch, if that’s what it takes to get the riot started. Glenn Greenwald and FDL’s Lindsay Beyerstein have been providing summary coverage of events as they unfolded; in their reporting, it’s all too clear that there are lot of powerful people involved who are spoiling for a street fight with progressives.

At the local level, according to a National Lawyers Guild attorney interviewed by Greenwald, there’s Ramsay County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, a “right-wing authoritarian” who is apparently gunning for a bigger share of the Homeland Security pie—and thinks that invading “hippie houses” is the key to that.

At the district level, we have warrants being signed by federal district court judges, and guys wearing FBI jackets milling around on the various bust scenes. That tells you that whatever is going on here, it’s not just a matter of local cops getting too big for their britches.

And at the level of the national campaign, we have plenty of motivation to turn RNC ’08 into a replay of DNC ’68.
Faithful readers of Nixonland know that Nixon loved these kinds of street scenes so much he’d routinely have his ratfuckers go out and deliberately stoke peaceful protests into full-fledged riots so he could get it all on film. Those images of the forces of Law And Order taking it to the Dirty Fucking Hippies played right into his favorite political narratives. He sold himself as the candidate who would protect the Silent Americans from those noisy, dirty bums whose public tantrum-throwing threatened the good order of the nation.

Conservatives have been relying on that narrative to stir voters—and discredit the left —ever since. The prize they’re really looking for here is fresh film of Dirty Fucking Hippies Getting Theirs. Once you understand that, it’s not hard to believe that the Twin Cities police forces may have been gunning from the get-go to purposefully ignite as much confrontation as possible.

What we’re seeing in Minneapolis (and did not see in Denver) is incitement to riot on a grand scale—planned and executed by law enforcement agencies themselves. There’s plenty of evidence that the orders are coming from the federal level—and a credible suggestion that local law enforcement has been promised some sweet favors if they deliver.

It wouldn’t be the first time, or the hundredth time. Progressives don’t gain power by sending goons out into the streets to put the power of the state on display. But conservatives have long understood that they can’t win without this. It not only keeps the liberals quiet; it also proves to their authoritarian base that they’ve got what it takes to lead.

At the very least, a president Obama should plan to take a close look at the misuse of government police power—and made damn sure Sheriff Fletcher and any other bureaucratic profiteers are indeed “well-rewarded” for their complicity here.

But, taking the larger view, it’s also high time for the progressive movement to look at the role these street battles play in reinforcing the narratives of both sides of the conflict—and perhaps get a bit more imaginative about how to break up a cycle that’s gotten more predictable (and more predicably toxic) with each iteration.

More about that in a future post.

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