Yves here. I left NYC the day that Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two New York City policemen after shooting his former girlfriend in Baltimore. On the plane, three students (two in grad school, one in college) who didn’t previously know each other and were going home to Birmingham were discussing the event. All were concerned that this would put a chill on the protests against police brutality. And in case you wondered, yes, all were white.
The police are using this tragedy for selfish and anti-democratic ends. And what is troubling is that Mayor De Blasio hasn’t put them in their place. Corey Robin explains what that really signifies:
Instantly, the police and their defenders moved into high gear, blaming the murders on the protesters; NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had been gesturing toward the need for police reform; and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Many have called for the mayor’s resignation…
Instantly, the police and their defenders moved into high gear, blaming the murders on the protesters; NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had been gesturing toward the need for police reform; and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Many have called for the mayor’s resignation….
[I]t gives you a flavor of what Greg Grandin is calling a “cop coup” in New York. It’s a strong term, but it’s hard not to conclude that the mayor believes his first duty is not to the security and well-being of the people of New York but to the security and well-being of the NYPD. Because the fate of his administration is in their hands.
The mayor has already called upon protesters to suspend their protests. Even though the protesters had already considerably softened their line—chanting “Blue Lives Matter,” too—De Blasio said today:
“It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time.”…”That can be for another day.”….
But whatever historical precedent comes to mind, one thing is clear.
The entire New York City establishment—not just De Blasio, but political, cultural, and economic elites—is terrified (or in support) of the cops. With the exception of this fairly cautious statement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a former police captain, not one of these figures has spoken out against the Freikorps-ish rhetoric emanating from the NYPD. It’s not that these men and women are spineless or gutless in a psychological or personal sense. It’s worse: They’re politically frightened, which is far more dangerous. Because they have no sense of an alternative base or source of power. After decades of being whipsawed by capital—you could trace this rot all the way back to 1975, if not even further—they’re simply not prepared to take on the police. Even if they wanted to.
Yves here. And let us not forget that during the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, Mayor Bloomberg boasted that he had the seventh biggest army in the world at his disposal.
This Real News Network interview with Glen Ford discusses this police power grab. I hope you’ll circulate the video widely.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I am Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Glen Ford report.
Now joining us is Glen Ford. He is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, and he’s also a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thank you for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Oh. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, a major story this week coming out of New York. Two NYPD officers were murdered. You have the police union chief coming out and saying that Mayor de Blasio has blood on his hands. What’s your reaction to all of this news?
FORD: I think that those statements by the police union spokesman should be considered to be physical threats to the mayor by an armed group. I think it requires an investigation as a verbal assault not just against the person of the mayor but against civilian authority. We talk about rogue cops and an army of occupation. This union chief speaks of the cops now being on a war footing. So who are they making war against? How long has this war been going on? And are we talking about escalation? And clearly they’re talking about escalation against the usual suspects. We know who they are–young black and brown men.
But this escalation now includes civilian authority itself. And it’s not just the threat against a mayor that they say has blood on his hands. These cops were talking about doubling up on assignments or refusing to take on assignments, that is, cops assigning themselves in the wake of these killings. Cops are not allowed to assign themselves. They’re not allowed to create their own formations and then go about policing and patrolling as they see fit. That is not acting under color of law. That is the definition of rogue. It is more like a mutiny that they’re actually verbalizing, something that we might call a coup, a rejection of civilian authority. And we should see it that way, a very bald statement that they’re not going to come under the authority of those who actually give them the authority to walk around with guns. That’s not given to them for life and under any kind of circumstances.
They’re only allowed to exercise this monopoly on the use of force as the civilian authorities assign them to use it and under whatever restrictions the civilian authorities give to them. Anything else is a conspiracy, a conspiracy to commit unlawful acts. And it really is potentially actionable in a legal sense.
DESVARIEUX: What do you make of these arguments, Glen, that you’re hearing a lot in the mainstream press that sort of these protesters also are responsible and are attacking police officers? And people point to Al Sharpton as sort of race baiting and all of these types of arguments. What’s your take on that?
FORD: Well, the people have the right to challenge the legitimacy of state authority. The people have the absolute right to assemble and to protest. And those who threaten to go beyond the color of law, beyond the [incompr.] to curtail those rights are guilty of criminal offenses. They are guilty of offenses not just against the protesters, but against the state itself, against society itself. They are speaking coup language. And if it were not for this fawning behavior that the corporate media exhibits towards the police, if people were looking at them simply as citizens, they would be described as committing and threatening criminal acts and threatening to commit even more serious criminal acts.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. I want to talk about this op-ed that I saw as an opinion piece, actually, in Time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he said the police aren’t under attack; institutionalized racism is. Do you feel like sometimes the conversation that–do you think that’s how the conversation should be framed, instead of looking at police and directly attack, going against police brutality? But let’s talk about the actual institutions that support this kind of behavior.
FORD: The police are proving the arguments of the protesters, of this burgeoning movement, to be correct. When their behavior is confronted, they resort to even more lawlessness.
And let’s talk about the real threat, an imminent one for the next demonstration. If police can constitute themselves on their own orders–and remember, there’s 35,000 of them. They are an army behaving as an army of occupation. If they can constitute their own formations, then what’s to stop them from self-assigning 5,000 more cops than are assigned by the commissioner of police to the next demonstration and policing it any way that they see fit?
We really are on the verge of a real crisis here. And, of course, we know who the victims would be. They are threatening to take the law into their own hands, to behave as if they are the law. They are showing that the protesters are correct in describing the nature of policing in America as arbitrary, capricious, and racist, and rogue.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Glen Ford, thank you so much for joining us.
FORD: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.