The Banality of Evil

Reflections on UCDavis Incident and the Occupy Movement

I notice that University of California (UC) President Mark Yudof, former president of the University of Minnesota, has spoken up loud and clear against the violence, as has the UCDavis Chancellor herself, with vows to assure the safety of students, etc.  There is nothing wrong with this, except, of course, it does not get at the root of the problem, which is the militarization of the police in this country.  The police have been trained to deal with a terrorist invasion.  But Officer Pike’s actions and the manner in which he carried them out are worse than any horror show because, as Hannah Arendt would undoubtedly notice, he personifies the banality of evil.

I would like to believe that the police were not trained in such a militaristic and violent manner to attack protesters nationwide, but that is what is happening.  As the powerful Sargent Thomas who served in Iraq pointed out to the NYPD police, “You are not in combat. This is not a combat zone.”  The rank and file police on the NYPD were stunned and didn’t quite know what to think.  The white shirts, who are the officers, came and moved them along.  These “white shirts,” I read, led the charge with violence into Zucotti Park at Occupy Wall Street. They are like military commanders leading their men into combat.

 In Minnesota this militarization of the police that is infecting the nation does not come as any surprise, as we experienced our capital St. Paul being turned into a militarized zone during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Police from all over the country suited up in ninja turtle outfits, with no badge identification showing, and pepper-sprayed and tasered young people, resulting in serious injuries. Hundreds were arrested.

With the exception of a few (2 or 3), charges against the hundreds were later dropped and for a planning crew dubbed the RNC8 were dropped or plea-bargained, and people were not sent to jail.  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now recently settled a suit against the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, and the Secret Service for for her arrest along with other members of the press.

In St. Paul they arrested not only the alternative press members, but mainstream press.  The treatment of the press is similar in New York when Bloomberg would not allow press into the area.

We actually have a previous incident in Minnesota over ten years ago with Stop the Reroute: running a road through an old and established park, Minnehaha, and destroying sacred trees and a sacred Native American spring. This fight to save the land garnered international attention. In a middle of an early morning [wee small hours], 800 police raided a camp of about 40 people so the hundreds of supporters the encampment had were not present, since they did not sleep there.

Pepper spray was used in abundance. Locked-down protesters were threatened with guns [anecdotal]. In this case police had hand-picked certain mainstream press to cover the event from a distance and blocked alternative press and confiscated film, just as they did in 2008 at the RNC.  It is of significant note that the struggle to Stop the Reroute occurred before 9/11.

These young people who are Occupying nationwide and those who support them are not by any stretch of imagination terrorists, but American citizens using their rights to protest, to peaceably assemble and to petition to redress grievances.  At UCDavis they are young people learning how to exercise their rights.  Therefore the actions of the police are even more grievous because of the students’ age and vulnerability.

Incidents across the country of police brutality and violence are inexcusable,  especially against the young and the elders who have taken their place beside the beautiful young people.

We know the police are doing the bidding of their masters.  How “masters” is defined might be the 1 or 2 percent, or more specifically the corporations who own Congress and the Federal Government.  It’s all of a piece. That is why the National Lawyers Guild has filed a Freedom of Information request to agencies in the Federal Government, including Homeland Security, the CIA, and the FBI, in regard to the coordinated police raids and violence last weekend and the Federal role in attacks on Occupy movement sites nationwide.

Officer Pike’s attitude in pepper-spraying the young people at UCDavis, as if he were spraying insects, is the perfect metaphor for how those masters view and exploit not only the people of America, but the people worldwide by moving their industries and computer operations overseas  and paying very low wages.  People in America lose jobs.  People in other countries do what is tantamount to slave labor.  Their resources are exploited, as in the case of Coca-Cola in India taking villagers’ water. There are usually no pollution laws and environmental contamination is rampant.  It’s a lose-lose situation except for the profiteers.

The people of America have not given up.  We want our freedom and Constitutional rights back.  We want our freedom of speech, our right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances, our rights to hope and dream.

We want to protect our environment and the creatures who share the earth with us. We want an end to Endless Wars overseas couched in patriotism but really for the profiteers and their exploitation of us all.  We want the war money brought home to America and used for America.  Or if our tax money is used overseas, use it to help people, not kill them. We are fighting for our rights in all the ways we can nonviolently.

Is it over? Oh, no.  It’s just begun.

Sue Ann Martinson, WAMMToday


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By Published On: November 21st, 2011Comments Off on The Banality of Evil> Reflections on UCDavis Incident and the Occupy Movement

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