Learning from protests, past and present, around the world in order to create more effective movements.
*Sixth article in a series on protests around the world*
**TW: Police brutality, Police killings, arrest**
In order to create truly effective movements, it is important that we not only learn from what we have experienced ourselves but also to look abroad and see what we can learn from others. By looking to other movements we can learn and adapt more efficiently than if we were on our own.
This series has highlighted a few major protests that happened this past year, by no means has this been an exhaustive list. Rather, it is meant to act as a sort of introduction to the topic. What has been covered only provided a surface level understanding of these movements, and there are many more that weren’t mentioned.
With this understanding, I urge anyone reading this series to continue to do research about these movements and others. Look around the world and find solidarity with those demanding change and real justice. It is important to maintain a critical approach to any and all information that you get from the internet, the state holds a privileged position over the narrative due to the imbalance of power.
The information that we are able to access is often informed by the status quo and should be considered in that light. Those on the ground are often not safe to share certain ideas or motivations due to the power of the state. We should always recognize that as outsiders to a situation, we are unable to know the complete story.
With this in mind, there is still value in studying these movements and what information we are able to access from those on the ground. As summer approaches, we get closer to entering what is commonly referred to as “protest season” and we must be prepared for what is to come.
With the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial and a conviction of second and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, we must not mistake this moment for justice. We may breathe a collective sigh of relief at the fact that one man will no longer be able to torment and brutalize people as an arm of the state, but we have not won anything through this false “justice” system.
We cannot allow Chauvin to become the sacrificial lamb that the state so clearly intends him to be. Former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are all as guilty as Chauvin. For every minute that they stood by and did nothing as George Floyd’s life was stolen, they too became murderers.
Every single cop across this country is an accomplice in every single act of police brutality. Every time they put on that uniform and clock in for duty they declare their complicity. And we cannot allow them to act as though they are innocent in the wake of this or any other conviction.
As the protests continue, cops across the nation will put on their riot gear and go out into the street with the intention of silencing those of us that would dare continue to demand more than a single lamb. They will use whatever means they deem necessary to achieve that goal, and in this violence, they will only further demonstrate the power the state holds over our lives.
Last year, as protests became more frequent, the need for improved tactics arose. Police are funded and sanctioned by the state, they are not only compensated for their street engagements (more than adequately so) but also better prepared and better equipped for them. Protestors do not have these luxuries.
Everything that a civilian does is a risk to themselves and their freedom. Every action they take against the police is taken against the full force of the state. Police get to set the stage for the interactions, and they get to call all of the shots. A water bottle can be enough for them to justify “less-than-lethal” munitions which have left people with severe injuries, permanent damage and disabilities, or even dead.
Pulling a fellow protestor off the ground can be enough to justify your assault and arrest. Being identifiable in any way can subject you to what is known as a “targeted arrest.” Refusing to disperse can be grounds for them to use chemical weapons against entire neighborhoods and launch flash bangs directly into crowds.
As protestors were faced with these things they learned to adapt as a means of survival for not only themselves but the movement as a whole. Helmets and goggles to protect your head and eyes from so-called “less-than-lethals.” Black bloc to ensure anonymity, no clear targets means a safer crowd. Respirators so you aren’t paralyzed by the choking power of a chemical weapon in your lungs. Developing tactics for moving as a crowd and learning how to engage with police in ways that minimize the risk for arrest.
Many of these tactics were observed from movements abroad. People here saw how those experiencing violent crackdowns by the state against protests responded. This allowed protestors here to be better prepared for the same sorts of things happening here. People were able to spot the signs early and begin to implement tactics that were known to be effective.
This year I don’t expect to see a dissimilar trend. Things will likely pick up again in the summer, and police will escalate their tactics accordingly, we have already seen the police ramping up again in response to actions.
Mayday, an international Labor Day is often observed by people taking to the streets for marches and demonstrations in support of laborers and the working class. This Mayday, Seattle Police were out in full force. Reports indicate that the entirety of the “Community Response Group” was out that day, a group that consists of officers and sergeants from all five precincts.
There were a number of marches that took place throughout the day, all with a police presence. Later in the day all of the police from the earlier marches came together to tail the black bloc march. At least 14 people were arrested that day, with more arrests into the night.
With the increasing levels of violence and increasingly aggressive tactics used by cops to combat and shut down dissent, we need to be more mindful than ever as the movement continues. They are feeling the pressure. And they are not afraid to use the power that has been granted to them to show us just how much of a disadvantage we are at in this fight.
The movement needs to be strategic and calculated in order to stand a chance. Continuing to be informed by the efforts of others will be key to its survival.