What does Legal Self-Defense Against Riot Police Look Like?
By Kirsten Anderberg posted at infoshop.org
We are in a societal crisis with police in America. I have said for twenty years that I would prefer to see anyone but a cop at the end of an alley alone, because a cop will get away with raping me and they definitely are armed. As a teen, I witnessed my sister have sex with a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer to get out of a felony crime she got caught red-handed in. My other sister said she, and her women friends, had sex with Boston Police to get out of vehicle tickets and criminal charges. This trend of women giving sexual favors to police to avoid criminal prosecution has been going on in front of me since I was a teen in the 1970’s. Knowing that many police officers expect sexual favors in return for criminal immunity has haunted me my whole life.
It doesn’t end with sexual harassment. I was in an interracial relationship in Los Angeles as a teen, and the LAPD also found a need to hassle us endlessly. As a white girl, it was a wake-up call, regarding the way police interact with minorities, and their interracial lovers. When I heard ex-LAPD cop Mark Furman say during the O.J. Simpson trials, that he routinely harassed interracial couples as a cop, I knew he was being honest. Once I was sitting alone on a park hill in LA with my lover at dusk, and I swear to god, we were assaulted by 3 police cars, 6 police officers, and a helicopter with a spotlight on us. They rolled the cop cars up onto the grass, jumped out with guns, and told us to “drop the blanket.” We did. They searched us, they asked my black boyfriend if he was part of gangs, clubs…when he asked what they were talking about, they literally said, “Are you in the Black Panthers?” I was stunned. He replied he was in the Ku Klux Klan. The police called my parents and told them I was in a park with a black man. My parents said they knew that! Finally, the police left. There was no crime being committed except two interracial lovers sitting on a hill at dusk! I learned early on that police are NOT to be trusted.
Now let’s fast-forward to 2003. Mothers, community elders and leaders, peace activists, WWll and Vietnam vets, teenagers, grannies, all converged on the Federal Building, to protest Bush’s Iraq war. The peace community had obtained the proper permits for marches, and 7 days occupation at the Federal Building plaza with a stage, sound system, etc. Yet when we got there, we were met by lines of Seattle Police officers anonymous in UNMARKED uniforms, with riot gear, guns that said “LESS LETHAL” on them, machine guns (AR-15’s), helmets, shin guards, big baseball bat sticks, and they refused to talk to people at all. Seeing this intimidated many a protester to go home and STAY home after Thursday. By Saturday, these hoardes of riot police acting like Robocops, now included snipers, Federal riot squads, and police from every surrounding county. Everyone assumed these police WANTED to riot, INTENDED on rioting (look how they were dressed), and WERE THERE to riot. If any other group of people showed up like that to a protest, YOU WOULD CALL THE POLICE FOR HELP! So, only the brave continued to protest the war, against the swarms of heavily-armed Homeland Security agents at the Federal Building. Finally, on Saturday eve, March 22, 2003, the SPD and Federal riot police finally got to play riot. They contained peaceful protesters in downtown Seattle, myself included, between Marion and Spring Streets on First Avenue, and they would not let anyone leave and then began to beat people. I am not kidding. I was there. They would not let us leave. They would not tell us what they wanted. And they were angry, unidentified, violent, and beyond all law. They acted like terrorists, I was terrified.
Then in April 2003, Tacoma Police Chief Brahm shoots himself and his wife. Now, Tacoma is an area where police ROUTINELY harass the minority population, and police corruption is said to be tremendous. With the death of Brahm and his wife, in front of his own kids no less, it then came out that Brahm had previously raped a woman, and other Tacoma Police KNEW this. Brahm also failed TWO departmental psychological evaluations regarding his potential promotion to police chief. And yet this guy was promoted to Police Chief ANYWAY. Again, I have known police rape girls and women since I was in my teens in suburban Los Angeles. This did not shock me. The fact that Brahms cried after he raped the woman, saying he would go to his church for help, made me even more sick. Brahsm apologized for the rape to the woman in FRONT OF ANOTHER TACOMA COP! Brahms raped a woman, another Tacoma Police officer KNEW he did it because Brahms confessed IN FRONT OF THE OFFICER, and yet he continued on as Police Chief! Then he killed himself, and his wife, because she tried to get away from him! There were warnings all along the way and everyone knows it. Women are simply unsafe when alone with male police officers, is my gut feeling at this point. There is no method for checks and balances, and this is a very, very serious problem.
Then in June 2003, the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU) hits Seattle, with its national convention, and Seattle rolls out the protest carpet to greet this secretive police organization. Again, protesters go through the process of getting a permit for the rally and the march. Yet, again, riot police showed up, ready to riot. Again, these police refused to wear name tags or badges, they assaulted us anonymously, although we do have their pictures. They used unnecessary weaponry, they beat people, they assaulted and entrapped the crowds, not letting them leave again, on Fifth and Madison Avenues. They drenched crowds with pepper spray and mace, as well as shooting concussion grenades, and machine-gunning rubber bullets from AR-15’s, into innocent crowds full of mothers, children, attorneys, and peaceful protesters. Again, police violated the people’s trust. Again, the police acted in a way that would have made us call police for help, if they were not the police. And since it was police attacking us, 911 and medics would not help us. They would not enter the containment area, and let police beat, assault, and spray us with toxic chemicals. Thus our need for an organized street medic squad. Like Black Cross or BALM, in Seattle.
Rob “Los Ricos” Thaxton is an anarchist youth from Eugene, Oregon, now serving an 8 year prison sentence for what he says was self-defense, from a rabid Eugene cop he was afraid was going to assault him. The protest was in 1999, it was billed as a “Reclaim the Streets” action. Now, once again, I have witnessed with my own two eyes, the Eugene Police, in riot gear, hyped up, out of control, attacking our youth for no damned reason, except macho adrenaline hype without accountability. According to Mr. Thaxton, he was “attacked by Sergeant Larry Blackwell” at the protest. He says, “I threw a rock up in order to protect myself from an imminent beating, and it hit Blackwell, a glancing blow to his shoulder…I was arrested and charged with Assault II – assault with a deadly weapon.” I agree with Philadelphia’s Insubordinate Zine, that this sounds like self-defense to me. What is your natural reaction when any armed, angry man charges, to assault you? What would you do? Let Sergeant Blackwell just beat you? It is a dilemma! (You can write Rob at Rob Thaxton #12112716, OSP 2605 State Street, Salem, Or. 97310).
Then we saw the FTAA riots in Miami this November. The pictures coming out of that riot resemble what I have seen in Seattle and Eugene, with swarms of crazed police, overdressed in riotous clothing (talk about people who come prepared and dressed to riot!), acting as if they are contracted terrorists! Is it a coincidence that Seattle Police guided Miami Police in their riot tactics for the FTAA protests, and it turned out so bloody and dangerous? No, it is not. How on earth any city could look to Seattle Police as any example of what to do RIGHT in riots is only laughable at this point. Seattle made WORLD HISTORY due to the extreme violence police caused at the 1999 WTO riots! It is a shameful scar on Seattle’s past. Yet no police officers were convicted of crimes for any of that! On Dec. 20, 2003, in the Miami Herald, it was reported that Judge Richard Margolius, 60, a judge presiding over the cases of FTAA protesters in court, said in open court, that he saw “no less than 20 FELONIES committed by police officers” during the demonstrations. According to court documents, the judge was quoted as saying, ''Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career, This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.'' The judge said he may have to take himself off the FTAA cases, due to neutrality issues, saying ''I probably would have been arrested myself if it had not been for a police officer who recognized me,'' said the judge.
Judge Margolius also said he could not recognize officers that he knew, because ``everybody had riot gear on.'' Yeah, we have been complaining about that in Seattle incessantly, to no avail. This covering up of all identifiers at riots by police is very incriminating, in my opinion. They do NOT want people to know who they are once they put on their armor and go out, like thugs in the street, to beat people and create mayhem and chaos. They want to be faceless robots in a crowd, which is in direct violation of Muni Code 3.28 in Seattle, which says all police on duty in Seattle need proper ID, at ALL times, while on duty. I have gotten to a point of advocating MEMORIZING your local cops’ FACES, so you can say “Hey Bob, how are the kids Betty and Jim, and your wife Margo?” as he starts to beat you, giving him a reality check, letting him know YOU KNOW WHO HE IS, BEFORE HE STARTS THE BEATING. In Seattle, we have downloaded lists of all the SPD officers’ names and ranks, and we have taken their pictures at riots, and we have begun making files of police, with information on these police, such as their pictures, files of repeated reported violence from certain officers, which officers spray gases first, which officers carry the grenades, tactical vests, and AR-15 machine guns, profiles of their careers, past police conduct, etc. At this point, we feel a need to police our police. Knowing who these cops are, what their past behaviors have been, etc. guides us in who we should trust or not, who we should interact with or not. Copwatch.com, www.copwatch.com, has a data base of police crimes, and all involved in Miami riots should lodge complaints there. So far, approximately 231 protesters have been charged with crimes in Miami, but no police, as usual, are being prosecuted. I AM SMELLING THE CORRUPT PLEA BARGAINS BREWING AT THE MIAMI PROSECUTORS’ OFFICES ALREADY. This is part of the problem of the incestuous relationship between police and prosecutors. Prosecutors do not prosecute their cop friends. As the judge said, it was knowing the cop that prevented him from arrest. According to the Miami Herald, the executive assistant to the Miami Police Chief John Timoney said, ``The chief's not going to comment on something this vague. If the judge would like to file a complaint with the CIP [Citizens Investigative Panel] he can do that like any other citizen.''
Yeah, let’s talk about these supposed police accountability panels. Seattle has one of these things too. It is called the Office for Police Accountability (OPA). Many of us lodged complaints against the Seattle Police for violent assaults on peaceful protesters in March and June 2003, and nothing has been done AT ALL. The set-up of the Seattle OPA is hilarious. The Seattle Police spokesman for the OPA is barred from saying anything critical about the Seattle Police as part of her job contract! The OPA is not open to citizen review. There are HUGE problems of accountability in the Seattle OPA, and I can only assume that the Miami CIP is a joke too. We will see. If they start convicting these police for the 20+ felonies that just one judge on the scene witnessed, maybe their system works. But I have yet to see proper prosecution of violent felonious police officers in the recent rash of violence on America’s streets caused by riot police out of control, drunk on Homeland Security powers. Yet, this problem precedes 9/11 and Homeland Security. No police, that I know of, were prosecuted in the Seattle 1999 WTO riots that stunned the world due to the extreme police violence!
Is this some kind of bad joke? What are we supposed to do, as peaceful citizens, who oppose our president’s policies? Are we allowed to peacefully protest with free speech rights in America OR NOT? NOT, seems the consensus, lately. I am very concerned about police in America right now. They are demonstrating repeatedly that they are totally out of control, lacking any accountability to their own constituents, and are violent in extreme measures, so extreme that intimidation has GOT to be part of the motive here. Intimidation tactics to scare protesters into staying home. Intimidation tactics that say that police have a RIGHT to HURT YOU if you DARE protest nonviolently in American streets. Police who KNOW they will GET AWAY WITH BEATING YOU. Police who will waive criminal charges, if you give them head. Police who sting and pinch and scorch the free speech rights of America off, inch by inch. I want to know how legitimate LEGAL self-defense looks against violent cops in America. I saw Kent State. I have seen our own military and police OPEN FIRE on nonviolent Anti-Vietnam War protesters, killing American students for free speech, on an American college campus, in my own life time. Government officials have learned nothing as a society, from the civil rights and Vietnam-era protests, apparently, regarding police and protest. Or have they learned from those movements to scare and beat the hell out of us BEFORE we become a powerful national movement? I assume police will beat protesters violently at the DNC in Boston and the RNC in NY in 2004. The Boston Area Liberation Medic Squad, www.bostoncoop.net/balm, the BALM Squad, is holding a training in street medicine in Feb. to train protesters in first aid, since emergency services will not help us when assaulted by violent police. Email them at email@example.com for info.
What are my options if I am raped by, say, the Police CHIEF of Tacoma? It happened folks, and Brahms was not prosecuted AT ALL. What are my options if I am married to a violent Police Chief who would kill me before he would let me leave him? Well, Brahm’s wife told the Tacoma police she was in danger, and now she is dead. The Tacoma Police Chief shot her to death. My sisters, more than one, had sex with police to avoid criminal prosecution. How safe am I, as a woman, in this society, with cops like this? Are the cops really someone I can go to for protection from harm? Are copshops a place to go to report rape by a police chief? And how do I defend myself from violent cops without going to jail for 8 years like Rob Thaxton? How do we get the police review boards to actually work for citizens, not cops? How do we get prosecutors to charge their own buddies with the crimes they commit? This is a mess, folks. Like Judge Margolius has said about the FTAA riots, “This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.'' I, too, had my eyes opened by violent Robocops on Seattle streets. Once your eyes are opened, you never feel safe closing them near cops again.