Tag Archives: London riots

Press organizations protest police treatment

A few months ago I noted (in a somewhat hyperbolic tone, or so I thought at the time) that the methods used by London authorities to quell the summer riots were heavy-handed and oddly reminiscent of practices more often associated with ne’er-do-well authoritarian dictatorships in the Middle East.

Well, things have only gotten weirder since then. The Occupy Wall Street movement — which, in my judgment, would likely have been ignored long ago if not for senseless police brutality — really picked up steam this past week, when a campus police officer at UC Davis pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters. (Try saying that five times fast.) The school’s chancellor, who was initially somewhat defiant, has since apologized.

And yet perhaps the more notable form of anti-police brutality backlash came in the form of this New York Times post, which stated, “A cross-section of 13 news organizations in New York City lodged complaints on Monday about the New York Police Department’s treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

What I found particularly disturbing about the UC Davis incident, apart from the obvious insanity of the event itself, was the extraordinarily calm and collected manner in which the officer sprayed the students. There were cameras everywhere; he had to have seen them. A police force that can act with such impunity, metaphorically taunting the cameras with its nonchalance, is not fit to “protect” a populace. Coming less than one month after a strange scene in the Bronx in which hundreds of off-duty cops angrily protested their colleagues’ apparently justified indictments for ticket-fixing, one increasingly gets the impression that police departments around the country are collectively in need of a major overhaul. (In that Bronx story, the police even went so far as to taunt welfare recipients, and some wore t-shirts that read, “Improving everyone’s quality of life but our own.”)

I would like to suggest that this start a national conversation about police tactics, but genuine national conversation doesn’t seem to be much in vogue these days.

UPDATE (11/23/2011 1:42 AM Paris time): Well, that certainly didn’t take long. One Times reporter fires a warning shot.

Just an observation

From the New York Times today:

The BBC and other British news organizations reported Tuesday that the police may be permitted to use rubber bullets for the first time as part of the government’s strengthened response to any resumption of the mayhem. David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual-property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, had been able to organize mobs and outmaneuver the police, who were ill-equipped to monitor it. [emphasis mine] “It is unfortunate, but for the very short term, London can’t have a night like the last,” Mr. Lammy said in a Twitter post.

This sounds awfully familiar. It is also, as Andrew Sullivan would likely dub it, Greenwald bait.

It goes without saying that most aspects of the London riots are entirely different than those that have been taking place all over the Middle East this year. Nevertheless, it is sometimes helpful to remind ourselves what exactly separates “us” from “them,” as a preemptive guard against a gradual erosion of civil liberties. We’ve learned that lesson the hard way in the United States since 9/11 — and perhaps more depressingly, many have yet to grasp it.