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Posts from June 2008

You got served and protected #3: preemptive “reasonable force” in Blackburn, Lancashire

(Via Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog 2008-06-12: Laughing Too Hard Can Cause You Police Problems, via Roderick Long @ Austro-Athenian Empire 2008-06-12: Reasonable Force.)

Cops in England are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. They routinely shove their way into situations where they aren’t wanted, weren’t invited, and have no business being. They deliberately escalate confrontations in order to stay in control through superior belligerence. They use violence first and ask questions later; they commonly use force to end an argument and then blame it on their victim. They rewrite events using pliable terms like aggressive, combative, and belligerent to conflate unkind words, purely verbal confrontations, or weak attempts to escape a grip or ward off blow with actual threats or violence against the cops, to excuse the use of extreme violence as retaliation for mouthing off or not just laying down and taking it like an upstanding citizen. They invariably pass off even the most egregious forms of violence against harmless people as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal.

Consider, for example, what happened in Blackburn, Lancashire, when Christopher Cocker fell off the couch (from laughing at a comedy program), and a neighbor, not knowing what caused the thud, called the cops to check in on him. The cops showed up; he came to the door, thus demonstrating that the cops, happily, didn’t have an emergency to deal with after all; rather than leaving, they demanded his name and started asking personal questions. He said some unkind words and tried to shut the door; so they sprayed him with parva spray, forced their way in, beat him up, restrained him, stripped him naked, threw him in a cage, and then, to crown all, called his behavior aggressive and charged him with resisting a bullying cop who had no reason to arrest him to begin with.

Officers arrived and said Cocker was initially co-operative but became aggressive when they asked his name and tried to shut his front door.

He was eventually disabled with parva spray through the gap and arrested.

Jonathan Taylor, defending, said: The officer accepts in his statement that he struck my client and then sprayed him again.

He was handcuffed and unceremoniously thrown into the back of a police van. When he ended up in a police cell he was asking himself how all this had happened.

Mr Taylor told Blackburn Magistrates’ Court, Lancs., said that having informed the police he was the only one in the flat and he was fine, his client could not understand why they wanted his details.

. . . Cocker, of Blackburn, Lancs., pleaded guilty to resisting a police officer and was given a conditional discharge for six months following the incident on May 20.

A charge of assaulting PC Michael Davies was withdrawn.

Speaking after the hearing, Cocker said he had been in his flat minding his own business.

He said: I can’t believe it – I was thrown in the back of a police van before being stripped naked and put in a cell.

I was handcuffed behind my back and my ankles bound with plastic ties before six of them carried me to the van.

. . . Prosecutor Alex Mann said the police went to ensure everything was all right and spoke to Cocker who was co-operative and relaxed and he assured the officers everything was fine.

He only became worked up when the police asked for his details, said Mrs Mann.

The police tried to explain they just needed the name for the report but he became aggressive and started swearing at the officer.

After the hearing Joan Codling, 57, who lives in the flat below and made the call to police, said she contacted officers after being concerned that he may have fallen ill.

She said: I was worried in case he was having an epileptic fit. There was a lot of noise and I didn’t know what to do so I called the police.

A police spokesman said Cocker became aggressive towards the officers who feared for their own safety.

The spokesman said: Parva spray was used to stop any confrontation and was necessary to protect the officers and any members of the public who were around at the time.

Within the circumstances, we feel we used reasonable force.

— Daily Mail (2008-06-11): The man who fell off a sofa while laughing at Have I Got News For You – and ended up in court

Your idea of reasonable force may be different from theirs. But what do they care? They have the spray and the cuffs. You don’t. So please note the following, if you happen to be in England:

  1. If government cops show up to see whether you are O.K., and it turns out that you really are O.K. and they don’t need to be there, they will still feel free to use violence in order to force you to give them all the details they need for their stupid government paperwork.

  2. Swearing at a government cop is considered an act of aggression that merits massive force, including torture with toxic chemicals, beating, and physical restraint as a defense.

  3. Trying to back out of the confrontation and shut the door on a government cop, who is putatively there to check on whether you’re O.K. and help you out, is also considered an act of aggression that merits torture, beating, restraint, &c. as a defense.

  4. If you become verbally aggressive towards government cops, they will consider it a reasonable use of force to torture, beat, restrain, &c. you as a preemptive strike against the possibility of any confrontation, even if you have given no evidence at all of wanting anything other than to be left in peace.

  5. No matter how obviously harmless you may be, no matter how obviously needless the government cops’ presence may be, and no matter how outrageously over-the-top the violence used against you may be, when a gang of cops serves and protects the hell out of you, they can count on newspaper stories to repeated absolutely any excuse their government cronies offer, with a straight face and as the last word of the article, and to report their thuggery as little more than a isn’t-that-funny sort of human interest story — rather than as what it is, i.e. a gang of thugs flipping out, in a fit of pique, and torturing and terrorizing an innocent and completely harmless man, who they were supposedly there to check in on and help out.

If you're baffled that cops could get away with these kind of outrages, it may help to remember that in cities throughout Europe and America, there is no such thing as a civil police force anymore. What we have would be better described as thuggish paramilitary units occupying what they regard as hostile territory. Here as elsewhere, they are going to serve and protect us, whether we want them to or not, and if we don't like it then they've got a small arsenal of guns and truncheons and cuffs and chemical weapons in order to make sure we get good and protected anyway.

See also:

State of emergency

Border laws kill.

In a recent post, Stentor does a good job of explaining one of the (many) reasons why.

Second [of a couple immigration-related stories] is Border Patrol’s declaration and half-hearted not-quite-retraction of a policy of checking immigration status during natural disaster evacuations. The result is to make many Latin@s — including those with legal status up to natural-born citizen — reluctant to evacuate, either because they fear consequences for themselves (if I flee my house without my passport, I still have my skin and my accent, but others don’t have those advantages), or because of the consequences for their family and community members. So not only are people being unnecessarily exposed to natural disasters, they’re also being set up so they can be blamed for choosing to stay behind a la the poor black non-evacuees during Katrina. This links in to the sanctuary cities and Sheriff Joe issue in terms of making every occasion an occasion for checking people’s status, regardless of whether such singleminded focus on immigration enforcement undermines the government’s other duties. It also reveals an important aspect of disaster management — disasters intensify people’s interactions with the State. Complying with disaster management plans puts you in direct contact with police, the national guard, and other direct agents of state coercion, whereas failure to comply puts you wholly outside their protection (or even in direct opposition to them, as a possible looter). This would be fine, even beneficial, if you are on good terms with the state — if you trust it to be acting in your best interests. For people who have a longstanding antagonistic relationships with the state, however — such as people of color and immigrants — natural disasters are a prime occasion for the state to increase its pernicious interference. And all of this applies not just to the immediate disaster management (evacuation, etc.) but also to the longer-term recovery process.

— Stentor, debitage (2008-06-10): Deporting Valedictorians And Hurricane Evacuees

Read the whole thing.

(Via comments on feministe 2008-06-15.)

The Root Cause

Roderick’s recent post on an unexpected footnoting links back to this essay against libertarianism by ridiculous conservative tool Jonah Goldberg. It’s an old essay, in blogging terms (i.e., it’s from back in June 2001), and mostly not worth mentioning, since it consists in little more of contemptuous abuse of people who are younger and smarter than Goldberg is, along with a series of very basic errors about anarchist complaints against the State. That said, I did notice this:

Force in and of itself is not evil, despite what you hear from the Kumbayah crowd. Parents ultimately must use force on the people whom they love most– their children. We start with persuasion, but no parent would hesitate to yank his child from an open window if it were necessary, and few would overly ruminate about whether a spanking was in order for a kid who shoplifted.

Which, aside from the first sentence, and the unjustified modal verb must in the second, is all perfectly true. Few parents ever would hesitate or think twice about using violence against their children, including not only trying to save them from immediate unrecognized danger — something few if any libertarians would express any qualms about — but also including the use of pain and humiliation, as a means for retaliating against a child for perceived wrongs and to try to control their child’s behavior through inflicting pain and terror. Goldberg’s also right that if you accept the propriety of that kind of violent domination, you have to conclude that the use of aggressive force against peaceful people is not in and of itself an evil; and accepting the propriety of the State’s violent domination over unwilling civilians isn’t far off.

And therein lies the problem.

See also:

Abortion on demand and without apology (Kiwi edition)

(Via The Hand Mirror 2008-06-11, via The Hand Mirror 2008-06-17, via comments on feministe 2008-06-16.)

New Zealand’s abortion law, unlike, for example, the United States’s existing case law, does not recognize a basic privacy right to abort a pregnancy without government interference. The law is restrictive in theory, but applied fairly liberally in practice; like many abortion law reform proposals that were entertained in the United States in the years shortly before Roe v. Wade, it requires a woman to get permission from institutionally-privileged consultants before she can get an abortion, but the criteria for permitting a therapeutic abortion are broad enough (especially under the heading of the pregnant woman’s mental health) that they can be, and are, handed out pretty liberally. But as Cindy Cisler pointed out in 1969, no matter how superficially liberal an abortion law regime may be, these kind of requirements for mediating reproductive choice through politically-anointed medical experts are really a dangerous trap, just waiting to be sprung. Thus, witness Justice Forrest Miller’s recent ruling on the workings of the Kiwi Abortion Supervisory Committee:

In a review of the workings of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, initiated by Right To Life New Zealand, Justice Forrest Miller said there was a reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions.

Jusice Miller was delivering his judgment following a hearing at the High Court at Wellington in April.

Right to Life had claimed the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed to properly interpret the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act, so full regard is given to the rights of unborn children.

It sought to find the committee had failed its statutory duty to review the procedure for abortions and enquire into the circumstances in which consultants authorised abortions on mental health grounds.

It said the committee had failed to seek proper information on the mental health grounds from consultants.

It also sought to find the committee had failed in its duty to ensure adequate counselling facilities were available.

A registered practitioner can only lawfully carry out an abortion if they act under a certificate issued by two certifying consultants.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee said it had no power to review or oversee the clinical decision-making process.

It denied New Zealand had abortion on request, and said there was no evidence of this.

In his judgment Justice Miller found the Abortion Supervisory Committee had applied the abortion law more liberally than Parliament had intended.

There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants, he said.

Justice Miller said the abortion law neither confers or recognises a legal right to life of the unborn child.

However, he said the Bill of Rights, through the abortion law, had recognised the unborn child had a claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother.

— stuff.co.nz (2008-06-10): Abortion law being used too liberally

Give me a call when the fetus has a claim on the bodies of the community, and not merely that of the mother.

Then maybe they can have something to say about it. In the meantime, though, as long as it’s just weighing on their consciences and not on their abdomens, it really is merely the mother, not the rest of the community, whose conscientious deliberation ought to matter when it comes to continuing the pregnancy. Of course, the bellowing busybody blowhard brigade has every right to be just as loudmouthed as they want to be, on their own time, in their own space, and on their own nickel, about what their consciences tell them ought to happen in other people’s wombs. But certainly neither they, nor the government, has any right to commandeer another woman’s reproductive system against her will, or to coerce her into even one more day of pregnancy or forced labor for the sake of satisfying their own qualms.

Abortion on demand and without apology.

See also:

For the children

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