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Surveil and Control

By Grace Raih for BCN #134

April 11, 2021

For the police to legitimize and successfully protect white property and wealth, Blackness must be criminalized and contained through sophisticated and violent means. One method is the unmitigated surveillance and control of the Black movement that is justified in the name of “security”. In the rare event, a police officer is brought to trial for killing a Black person, US cities anticipate war in the case of a not guilty verdict. It’s a neo-colonialist tactic, an updated version of plundering a village then raising the moat. It is audacious and calculated for a justice system to let police kill with impunity, then work double-time to play into racist paranoia and incendiary notions about Black violence as a reaction to the absence of accountability.

Anti-blackness has informed the heightened security measures in preparation for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-police officer to be tried with the murder of George Floyd. The city of Minneapolis has spent more than $1 million on security measures and is preparing to deploy up to 1,000 additional police and up to 2,000 National Guards. St. Paul City Council nearly passed a proposal that would’ve required groups of five or more people to have a permit to gather. The perimeter of the Hennepin County Courthouse where the trial will take place is fortified with barbed wire, fencing, and concrete barriers.

This flexing of state power in the false notion of “safety” inflames the original tension and works in direct service of white supremacy. Heavy-handed policing increases the risk of violent escalation, which in turn justifies the militarized crackdown on Black protest under the guise of maintaining “law and order”. This law and order framework is a racist political tactic that completely glosses over the violence of the police themselves and perpetuates the myth that in democracy police are apolitical actors who only intervene in political activity, like protests, when demonstrations cross the line into criminal activity.

According to a report produced by the US Crisis Project, 95% of 10,600 BLM protests that occurred between Floyd’s death and Aug. 22, were peaceful. Despite this, more than 9%, or nearly 1 in 10, were met with government intervention compared to 3% of all other US demonstrations last year. Over 5% of all events linked to the BLM movement were met with force by authorities, compared to under 1% of all other demonstrations. While the world watched thousands march against police brutality, cops tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot rubber bullets, beat, cars rammed, kettled, and carried out unprovoked mass arrests of demonstrators with no repercussions.

In his book The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale writes that the police, “has always focused on detecting and disrupting movements that threaten the economic and political status quo, regardless of the presence of criminality.” Following this summer’s uprising bills that criminalize the right to peacefully assemble are being filed across the country, including increasing penalties for protest adjacent offenses like rioting, trespassing, and obstructing traffic. The designation of a movement as peaceful, lawful, or illegal is up to the discretion of a system with costly motivations to criminalize any opposition to its operation as a violent, racist money-making nation.

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