Cops, Power and the Protest against Snyder’s Econ Club visit
Yesterday, roughly 30 people gathered at the main entrance of the JW Marriott Hotel to to protest the guest speaker, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Within minutes, the management of the hotel had come out to tell those protesting that they needed to leave or the Grand Rapids Police Department would be called. Hotel management even had a form letter, with a penciled in date, that they thought would intimidate people and make them leave. The letter did not have the desired effect they thought it would, so the GRPD was called.
In the meantime, as members of the Econ Club were entering the building people began to engage them on the issue of how the state government and Governor Snyder had created the crisis in Flint. People were making the assertion that that what happened in Flint was criminal and that it was the result of policies ( Emergency Management and other Neoliberal Capitalist austerity measures). Such sentiments were reflected in many of the signs people held up during the protest.
On several occasions those going into the building engaged in rather arrogant and privileged behavior, telling people present to “get a job” and asking participants why “they had nothing else better to do.” Such response were expected from members of the Econ Club, who generally represent members of the capitalist class, as we pointed out in a recent article.
About 30 minutes after protestors were notified that the cops had been called, the GRPD showed up. At one point this writer had counted 5 police cruisers and at least 8 officers. The police told those there to confront Snyder and his supporters that if they didn’t leave they would be arrested. Several people attempted to engage the policy with questions like, “so if I deliberated poisoned children, would you arrest me” and “are you here to arrest the governor?”
The cops said they were not there to “debate” these issues, but to enforce private property rights. Such evasions are typical of cops at these kinds of demonstrations as they know they don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of what many people would see as selective enforcement of the law. In other words, government policy and private businesses can cause all kinds of harm to people and these are either seen as “mistakes” or externalities…..meaning it is just part of doing business.
This of course speaks to the real function of law enforcement agencies, which is to protect power, both economic and political power. If anyone who is part of the general public steals a wallet or assaults a child there would be clear consequences, most likely fines and jail time. However, when governments poison a whole community or when businesses fire people or subject them to unhealthy, even dangers work conditions, that is not viewed as criminal or pathological behavior.
Cops function to protect the system and maintain order, which is code for maintaining business as usual. Those of us who truly want substantive change, revolutionary change, must come to terms with this role that the police play in an authoritarian capitalist society.
The other thing that those who want revolutionary change must come to terms with is that if we want serious, systemic change to take place, we have to think of using other tactics and strategies that will actually threaten and dismantle political and economic power.
Thanks to Mike Saunders and Pete Walsh for contributing photos for this article.