Let’s Talk About Cops

Standard

Who are they?

Cops are just people, like everyone else, who have been given the task of enforcing the laws made by the State legislature. The authority which cops assume is not theirs actually, but rather belongs to the laws and those who made them – legally, cops are subject to the same exact laws as regular citizens and have no actual authority over other citizens themselves. Sure, they have fancy uniforms and guns, but that just gives them the means to hurt you, not the right.

 

What do they do?

The primary job of the police force is to protect property, not people. This is a common misconception and a deliberate one. Next time you see that motto “serve and protect,” ask yourself whom they are really protecting – why is that phrase so ambiguous? The State is a private corporation and the Police Department is a subsidiary, the purpose of which is to protect corporate property, thus the property of the State and its partners. They function as a private military meant to enforce laws for the corporate State, it’s why they’re called the “Force.”

 

The theory:

In the corporate State, the Police Department is meant to function as a league of watchdogs, not officials, who are subject to all of the same laws as the rest of the citizenry. The idea is that willing citizens can prove their worth to society (i.e. their corporate owners) by policing criminal activity – that “cops are the only good citizens” myth. We’ve all seen the grade school propaganda showing us Officer Friendly catching the bad guy and throwing them in jail for stealing all of the candy or something. And then, as we got older, they adapted to our sensibilities on television where they solve murder mysteries and catch rapists and the good cops bring the bad cops to justice. The theory is that the police will be reasonable and honest, that their single goal is to bring criminals to justice and that they will also hold one another accountable for crimes of corruption. That is the theory.

 

The practice:

Because the cops are here to “serve and protect” corporate property, rather than natural citizens, they have a very clear bias in regards to who they target as lawbreakers and who they casually ignore. Their motivation is money, because that is the State’s motivation and the State is their corporate employer. Now, legally, the only difference between your average citizen and the cops is a concealed weapon and a uniform and, legally, a cop with a gun is the same as any citizen with a gun. This means if a cop shoots someone for being black on a sidewalk, they are subject to be charged with a hate crime/attempted murder (or, you know, murder). If they beat down a peaceful protester with one of those shiny batons, they should be arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. According to the theory, cops should hold themselves and one another accountable for their legal transgressions because, aside from their access to a fucking arsenal, they are legally on equal footing with us lowly commoners. This, however, is not the case. Because they are the only citizens with the official legal right to enforce the State’s laws, they can choose which cases they will and will not ignore, which criminals they can let slide and which laws they can get away with breaking. By giving them guns, bulletproof vests, tanks and, in some places in the US now, even drones, the State is equipping the cops with enough firepower to make their legal authority of little importance because their physical power to dominate and destroy is menacing – they are a military force. It doesn’t matter how much authority they technically have on paper if they have fucking tanks. The power to dominate is a power which they absolutely use and abuse. Often. The theory highlights a difference between good cops and bad cops, but this is a fallacy. There are no good cops because being a cop is bad – being a cop implies a rigid belief in an oppressive power structure that benefits a very small minority and which uses terror tactics to keep the rest of us in line.

 

What happens if a cop approaches me?

When a cop approaches, for any reason, you should ask why they are stopping you or if you are being detained (one implies the other, usually) before answering any questions. If they answer “yes, you are being detained” or otherwise explain that you have been stopped for suspicion of some crime (they are always pretty vague), ask them if you are being charged with a crime and, if so, what. You should know that you are not required to give them any information at all unless you are being detained. You should also know that, no matter what, when a cop stops you on the street, you do not have your ID on hand. If you are detained, in the state of Florida, the only information you are legally required to give is your name, birth date, and address. Any other information they can look up for themselves. Do not volunteer it. These things are important for two reasons: 1) you are showing the cop that you know your rights. Often police officers will approach people with a condescending air of asserting their imaginary authority and people will fall in line because the cop is intimidating and because they do not know their rights. You have the right not to answer a cop’s questions – exercise it. 2) By exercising your rights, you are outwardly not acknowledging the cop’s authority over you – that is, you are not allowing them to exert authority over you – and this is extremely important because it knocks them the fuck off their high horses, empowers you as a free agent, and makes the cop look (and feel) a little silly when they walk away having failed to arrest a potential criminal. Cops aren’t used to defeat because they are overpowered and have obnoxious State backing. Taking them down a couple of notches on the individual level every now and then is the very least we can do to empower ourselves in a corporate State which allots us very little power of our own.

 

What’s the alternative?

Mutual aid. If my car gets broken into, I don’t call the cops. In all reality, I’d probably suspect them first. If my house is robbed, I ask my neighbors if they saw anything. My only encounters with the police are against my will, as I’m sure yours are too. Think about it – when was the last time you heard about a bike getting stolen or a house broken into and a police report was filled out and then nothing came of it? How many murderers and rapists get caught every year in proportion to how many there actually are? What good is it to rely on the cops when we know that their interests differ from ours? The alternative to a police state is a community which protects the well-being of the the people in it on their own terms. Everybody can police crime, it only requires calling it out when you see it and making it known to the community. Where the police sell their fellow citizens out to the State, a solid and free community would rather call out and communally deal with people whose crimes endanger the livelihood or well-being of others and of the community at large.

Bullshit Dump

Standard

Lately, a few friends of mine and I have been dealing with a certain person whose very existence in our social group is a burden. This person, we’ll call him Asshat for the purpose of anonymity has been given chance after chance to grow up and take some responsibility for himself and has failed every time. Let’s go back to last summer for a bit:

Now, Asshat and I, along with several other of our friends, are/were members of the (now dwindling) Gainesville IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) union branch. Our branch needed to raise money for a campaign we were starting and a trip we were planning (a few of our number were going to Work People’s College) and Asshat had the brilliant idea of putting on a play as a means of making money. This might have worked, except our branch was small and the union already works on a shoe-string budget – there was no way we could get the resources to put on this play. Even if we could get those resources (mostly through urban foraging, to be sure) without much cost to the union, there was still the issue of a venue and a cast. See, Gainesville is a college town in which nearly 3/4 of the population are UF students and none of them are in town during the summer months so nobody was even there to respond to the casting call when Asshat put it out. It should be noted that all this while, the folks in the union are telling Asshat that this play won’t happen because we simply did not have the resources to book a venue, nor the bodies to put together sets, make costumes or actually act in the play. Also, Asshat had decided to couch-hop between our friends’ various houses and had promised to get a summer job so he could help with utilities, food and anything else, an idea to which nobody was immediately opposed on the grounds that he would stay only a few days to perhaps a week at each place so as not to impose but nobody was actually aware that he would be staying the entire summer in Gainesville. Long story short, Asshat never got a job and stayed a month or more at most places, despite the very obvious fact that his presence was a burden and the roommates felt that he was taking advantage of his hospitality. More than once, he was asked to leave from a place and more than once he brushed off the request and made excuses for why he couldn’t leave just yet. Needless to say, Asshat has few, if any, friends left in Gainesville.

Now, it’s important to understand that Asshat is more than just a mooch. He claims to be an anarchist, as so many do these days, without putting into practice the beliefs which supposedly come with the label – it is the reason I, personally, try to avoid applying that, or any other label really, to myself – he claims to be genderqueer but fails to acknowledge the difference of experience which comes with such an identity. It is not for me or anyone else to police another person’s gender, but Asshat has been heavily male socialized and, while he does enjoy wearing skirts, he has done nothing in terms of re-socialization and fails to acknowledge the difference of experience which comes with such an identity which makes me and other Queer friends in our group mistrust his claims and suspect appropriation. Asshat is into trends – it’s trendy to be radical, so he’s radical; it’s trendy to be Queer, so he’s Queer (to be fair, his sexuality is at least fluid if his gender remains stagnant but that’s irrelevant). Since coming back from that summer in Gainesville, Asshat has thought to repeat this same exact stunt with the local social group in St. Augustine.

In the past year, we have, as a group, begun a couple of minor projects, including a zine and a community potluck. Lucky and I were behind the initial organization of both of these projects with help from a few others who contributed to the zine and were totally psyched for the potluck but despite all of our efforts, both projects flopped. The first issue of the zine was beautiful, Lucky designed it and I helped her print and our friend John donated some prints from the college library, but we had no help with distribution at all, and all of John’s prints weren’t enough because that shit is expensive so ultimately we only managed a few copies which we distributed amongst ourselves and tried to just move on to the next one, hoping it would work out better. It didn’t, and we gave up. Same thing happened with the potluck, the first one was great, people came out, we ate, it was a success. We had a briefing afterward, scheduled the next one and nobody showed. After that, Lucky and I were frustrated and ready to just quit so we left St. Augustine and did our short stint of traveling only to come back and find that the projects we had started had been revived, which was great! Except they were no longer cooperative – see, Asshat had taken over the zine project and decided to play editor, which meant that he decided what goes in and what doesn’t, he did all of the design work, he could change anything he didn’t like, issues came out according to his schedule, and he would take no outside suggestions whatsoever. He had also revived the potluck, but it served no purpose and turned out to basically just be this stupid thing he could do for cred.

It should be noted that during all this time, Asshat has been living rent-free with our friends, the Frosts, who are wonderful and forgiving people who love everyone but only tolerate Asshat. See, before moving in with the Frosts, Asshat had been kicked out of his mother’s house for smoking weed in the house while she was on probation (she wouldn’t have actually cared if it weren’t something that could get her arrested) and had, for two months, lived with our friend, Eddie, who had told him he could only stay for a week at the most. On top of this, Asshat has so much shit that when he got kicked out, he had to store his possessions between three houses, one of them being Lucky’s and my apartment, another our friend Terry’s house and finally Eddie’s place. When Eddie kicked Asshat the fuck out, the Frosts took him in and, slowly but surely, everyone he was using as a storage unit threatened to sell or burn his shit if he didn’t come get it (keep in mind, he left it with us for over a month and none of us had the space for it). Even then, it took him a few weeks to get everything out. One particular item which irritated Lucky and me more than I can quite express was a giant box overflowing with DVDs which Asshat just left in the middle of the walkway in our kitchen one day. We have five or six very deep closets in our otherwise very small apartment, but the box just sat in the middle of the goddamn kitchen. Lucky was so pissed, they wouldn’t even move it, insisting that Asshat should do it because he was the one who was so inconsiderate to put it there. I was the one who ended up moving it because if I had to trip over it again, I would throw it off the balcony, but I digress. Point is, Asshat took advantage of our hospitality and our willingness to help a friend, all the time citing “mutual aid,” but for the life of me, I could not figure out just what about this aid was mutual. During this time, Asshat also constantly solicited rides from those of us with cars, often using manipulative tactics such as guilt trips and emotional blackmail to get us to take them places after we had told them “no” for whatever reason.

For the past six months (at least), Asshat has been living with the Frosts and has yet to pay rent or help them with utilities. He has lost the job he did have and hasn’t been really looking for a new one while his partner, M.J., has been working day and night and had to spend every dollar of her first check from DQ on both of their rents because he’s broke and loathe to sell his assloads of unnecessary shit.

All of the above highlights the character of this person and the way that they treat friends and allies, but it is nothing compared to what he has done most recently, which is really why I’m posting this rant. M.J. has been living with Lucky and me for the past few weeks because Asshat has turned out to be a terrible roommate and a worse partner (go figure). A few weeks ago, Asshat left town to go to a funeral in Louisiana, where his family is from, and he was gone for a couple of days, which was super exciting for Lucky and me because it meant we’d have an opportunity to hang out with M.J. without Asshat around (this is usually impossible). We had been hearing some seriously not-okay things about the way Asshat was treating her from Eddie, who works at DQ with her, and wanted an opportunity to speak with her ourselves because M.J. is made of awesome and the last thing we wanted was for Asshat to drive her away from the group and our work – if anything, we’d prefer it the other way around. Well, M.J. comes over with Eddie after work and tells us this horror story about how Asshat harassed her over the phone and made her cry and bullshitted and guilt tripped her all night because she went out to Denny’s after closing with her co-workers and didn’t invite him or go to pick him up first. Essentially, he was acting like a petulant child. Then she relayed her side of the story concerning the rent issue and how difficult he was to live with and how much she just wanted to get out, so we offered her a place to stay at our apartment until the dorms open.

Since taking in M.J., we have banned Asshat from our apartment – please note, he was already unofficially banned from the apartment, but when we saw how quickly M.J. accepted our offer (she was moved in within two days), we started to understand the gravity of the situation and decided that this needed to be an official safe space. Since M.J. has been living with us, she has had to deal with daily bullshit from Asshat, more guilt trips and emotional blackmail, more clinginess, insults, accusations, pleas – he’s left her voice messages saying he just wants to be in a monogamous relationship with her (probably forgot to mention, they were open and that was not a problem until he got some other girl pregnant) and he sent her a text earlier today threatening suicide as well as an excruciating 11 min long YouTube video where he’s holding her cat and rambling about all the memories they’ve had together when just the other day, he harassed her until she came to his house and then kept her there for three hours trying to coerce her into having sex with him and then exploded on her when she bolted out the door. He even tried to force himself into the driver’s seat with her when she got into her car. The Frosts will be kicking him out of their house soon and then he’ll have no place else to go in this town, but until then, his very presence troubles me.

Asshat claims to be an anarchist, genderqueer, a feminist; he claims to understand and hate the patriarchy, to be working towards abolishing hierarchy. He claims to understand oppression and to fight against it, yet I have never known him to be anything but oppressive, self-serving, immature, cruel, inconsiderate and toxic. He has done more than just what I have put down in this post, so much I can’t remember enough to write it out all at once. This is not the first partner he has abused emotionally and pushed away, nor the first group of people he has leeched off of; he has even run away during actions, leaving his friends behind to get detained by pigs and possibly arrested. I have never known such a coward or such a hypocrite in my life and while I prefer to avoid hateful emotions, I honestly don’t know what I will do next time I see him; I can only hope I’ll never see him again.

All in all, I think our social group is doing a pretty good job of handling our problem with Asshat, though I do wish that we could all have seen this person’s toxicity a little sooner, but I think we were all holding out hope that maybe if we called him on his bullshit and made him take responsibility for the fucked up things he has been doing, he might take the hint and change his behavior. Unfortunately, Asshat doesn’t listen. He makes excuses for himself and brushes off any and all criticism, taking nothing seriously and denying his own part in the failure of projects, the tension in the house he lives in, breakdowns in communication and the unnecessarily unpleasant deaths of his relationships. I don’t even know what to do with a person like this and I feel as though even if we do shun him from our group (which is inevitable) and send him packing back to his mother’s house in Palm Coast, he will still blame us and, instead of doing any real self-reflection, will go on to do the same things in other places to other people. I hope I’m wrong, but I very seriously doubt that I am and this bothers me. Ultimately, I think Asshat is a spoiled brat with a Peter Pan complex and some serious other issues; I don’t think he’ll ever grow up, but I would like to hear about any experiences other folks have had with people like this and, perhaps get some advice on what we can do to rid ourselves of this pestilence sooner rather than later.