The Police

Posted on September 6, 2010

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Not having much to do at work atm has given me time to think of a few things and throw down a few notes – and a discussion on anarchism has reminded me of one of my pet peeves: the police, and those who don’t like them.

The police definitely don’t get much love in activist circles. I’d say that as the visible representatives of the established Order they’re really the favorite whipping boys of the far left, and to hear the rhetoric you’d think they did nothing but turn up at political meetings in riot gear to beat everyone senseless.

But you really have to give them credit where its due. While they’re not agents of change by any means and do their shirt of beating, they’re a vital part of the community, because they do a hell of a lot more than be assholes at protests. Like, fighting crime, for instance. Scraping drunk people off the streets. Making sure people don’t kill themselves driving. And also protecting people’s freedom of speech.

Really?

Yes really.

Because here’s something people don’t seem to realize: the Far Right don’t like the police very much either. The Far Right also complain about having their political gatherings broken up. The Far Right also wish the police would let them be free to do what they want – like be violently racist.

That the police manage to have both the far right and far left free to say anything at all and almost never kill each other is an achievement that should be recognized. I’ve seen it first hand, and I was impressed.

In a city in England, there was a march for the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. I was in that march, chanting through a megaphone and holding up a banner. On the other side of the street were the representatives of the local far right – a gang of massive thugs who’d like nothing more than to smash my face in. In between was a thin line of policemen and woman, armed primarily with the authority of the uniform, making it possible for diametrically opposed views to be aired on the same street without a single bone being broken. And earning pretty much zero respect from anyone for putting themselves in such a risky position.

So of course the police will limit the impact of your anarchist posse on society as a whole. As a logical necessity they dampen the extremes. BOTH extremes. Because in a democratic country they largely serve the average voter, who doesn’t want people disrupting his life whether from the left or right.
Yes they are agents of stasis, politically. Yes policing is increasingly invading privacy (at the behest of ELECTED officials). But always keep in mind that political policing is NOT what they do most of the time.

Most of the time in fact they deal with the uglier side of human nature – the wife beaters, the con men and crooks, the violent drunks, the pimps and pushers – and get little respect for it, even from progressive people hoping to create a society free from precisely those ills.

And finally: yes, policemen are human beings too! :

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Posted in: Politics