This is All Too Familiar
For many of us getting involved with the current Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests is the first time we have been out on the streets taking actions to make change. We are appalled by the use of tear gas, pepper spray, flash bang grenades, and snatch squads. We are furious and scared that the police are knocking on our and other protesters’ doors and arresting people for no reason. We should be appalled, furious and scared by these actions. We should also remember that these tactics are not new or unusual: they are a normal part of the process of policing. These tactics have been used against communities of color specifically Black communities and against anarchists, communists, socialists, and other groups of many different races and identities fighting for radical systemic change for as long as the police have been a structure in the United States.
Unmarked cars with law enforcement officers in plain clothing have and continue to be used against Black communities. From the war on drugs to the decades of lynchings and in the early years of policing as slave patrols, police both in uniform and without a uniform acted with the authority of the institution of policing. Unmarked cars with ICE and border patrol agents in plain clothing have been picking up immigrants across the country and taking them to camps and detention centers. These same police raided queer and trans bars and clubs which resulted in the Stonewall Riot.[K1] For many years here in Portland, police have driven around at the end of protests and picked up people wearing black clothing in small groups and arrested them. These actions are all a normal part of the policing process. So as we watch federal police rolling around grabbing people off the street, we need to remember and realize that these actions are the very reason why so many communities have been for generations calling for the ending of policing as an institution that normally uses violence against targeted parts of our society.
So how do we fight back? One way we fight is by NOT perpetuating the myth that these kinds of actions are new or unique to Portland. Instead we point at all the other instances in our history and present where these same tactics have been used. This is policing and this is “America”. We challenge people to look deeper at their assumptions and their own experiences and to do the learning and work to shift their thinking. Finally, we fight back by not accepting just a 3% decrease in the funding of the police or injunctions by courts against certain types of policing. We refuse to believe the empty promises of elected officials who are trying to look good by challenging Trump but are doing nothing to stop the atrocious actions of state police and federal law enforcement. We must push even more for the abolition of policing and for a completely different way to create safety in our communities and society.