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The Year of the Plague – 21 – On Police Excesses, Shitfuckery in Denver Protests…

June 6, 2020

Elizabeth Epps (left) with Penny Goodman after receiving recognition receiving recognition by the Denver City Council for their work  supporting prisoner rights. Epps was hit by two rubber bullets in her thigh while monitoring George Floyd support protests in Denver.

1. The USA – a very uncivil society.

So much for the wonders of American “civil society.” It evaporated in the nearly nine minutes it took for Minneapolis (ex) police officer Derek Chauvin’s to murder George Floyd, Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck until he died of strangulation. Videotaped by passersby who tried unsuccessfully to save Floyd, the video went worldwide. The proverbial icing on the cake of decades – if not centuries – of police violence against people of color in the United States, it capped off a cancerous collapse of the nation’s social fabric with protest demonstrations throughout the country and the world.

The protests – in virtually every corner of the nation – have been met with a level of police violence against demonstrators that is unprecedented. Violence – that is violence of the state against its own population – has long pervaded life in the United States. Never that far from the surface it has erupted full force in the aftermath of the chilling police murder. – the casual strangling of George Floyd

The militarization of the police force nationwide – something that really escalated in the Clinton years with the sale, and grants of sophisticated military equipment to local police forces – is glaringly evident., as is their coordination and infiltration with right wing terror organizations – the KKK and the like. Teargas attacks, rubber bullet shootings, arbitrary arrests and the like – the USA’s week long version of Kristalnacht, while the world watches in horror as police riot nationwide, the myth of a progressive, racially tolerant America that has successfully dealt with its racist heritage, shattered into little pieces.

A friend in Germany comments that people there are horrified to see the pervasive level of police violence and abuse in the USA. It is not only in Germany but worldwide. Many people  – despite everything – (“everything” meaning foreign military intervention and unending wars) held the United States in high esteem. With each day a slew of reports  appears of police attacking peaceful crowds, of right wing violence given a pass by local police forces, of police infiltration and disruption of peaceful demonstrations.

“It like Third World country,” she told me in a phone conversation two days ago

2. Police violence in Denver, Ishmael Mena, Elizabeth Epps – Federal Judge Issues a Restraining Order Against Denver Police.

This morning’s New York Times (June 6, 2020) ran a story about police violence nationally, “Large protests against police brutality are expected around the world.”

It cites as some of the worst cases in the United States, three cities where federal judges have attempted to reign in police excess force with legal rulings. One of them is Denver. In tandem with the nation’s president – if he can still be called that – the order of the day is over-reaction, over-reaction, government, police rioting against peaceful protest, supposedly legally sanctioned in this country.

The police violence, especially targeting people of color in Denver is not haphazard,or spontaneous. The police excuses aside, it has been – as has been the case nationally – an extreme overreaction encouraged if not coordinated by the White House and those closest to President Trump – to largely peaceful protests calling for an end to police abuse and killings especially of people of color.

A curious development, Denver’s police chief, himself once participating in a police killing of an innocent man, was photographed marching with the demostraters against police violence. Knowing his history, it’s difficult not to view such a gesture with no small dose of cynicism. But there he was. At the same time that local Denver police force were tear gassing and shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators, Denver’s Police Chief, Paul Pazen was marching with those protesting police violence.  Pazen is not unfamiliar with unjustified police killings having been involved in one of the more notorious cases of such. In 1999 Pazen was a part of a SWAT team that barged into the Ismael Mena’s room in a Denver boarding house, killing him in his sleep. Police allegations that Mena had pulled a gun on police proved to be unfounded. Police had gone to the wrong address. None of the SWAT team involved were ever prosecuted. In fact, after the Mena killing, Pazen, a former U.S. Marine, was himself promoted to head up  District One’s station before being named the city’s Chief of Police.

But there is Paul Pazen, “making nice” with police violence protesters, his arm around a young Black demonstrator. A touching scene and a fine photo op for the police chief.

Concerning the teargassing, just an observation – I sense that the police are, in part, experimenting in crowd control techniques. Eg: a crowd of demonstrators, before curfew, are marching – the police – for no good reason – fire tear gas into the crowd in such a way as to split it in two – with half the crowd going in one direct and the other half the opposite – – divide crowd, isolate the elements that much more into places from which there is no exit… and then move in and beat the shit out of them… has happened in a number of other cities.

There also is a pattern with the firing rubber bullets.

There are multiple reports of people shot in in the legs and crotch to disable them, other cases of demonstrators hit in the eyes, firing on people from behind, both in Denver and nationwide. I am wondering if there isn’t a special way through face recognition to identify what the police see as protest leaders – and target them,.. some list? A number of people in Denver with long histories of opposing police abuse have been targeted and fired upon.

Among those targeted and hit by police rubber bullets, is Denver lawyer and criminal justice activist Elizabeth Epps, founder of the Colorado Freedom Fund, an organization that has provided bail funding for incarcerated people of color who cannot afford bail. Epps, legally monitoring the protests, was shot twice from behind by Denver Police using rubber bullets in her thighs, leaving large, painful welts.

Are such practices what Denver police learned in their training sessions in Israel from the I.D.F.?

The police involved should be fired and indicted. The contracts with the Israeli government, using its decades of experience repressing Palestinian national sentiment, should be cancelled.

Nothing reflects the degree to which police violence in Denver has gotten so out of control more than the fact that a federal judge has intervened to place a temporary restraining order on these practices. Denver’s Tenth Federal Court ruled against Denver Police Department. As noted by Johnathan de la Vaca in Yellowstone Magazine, “

The judge in the case, Judge R. Brooke Jackson, requested language for a Temporary Restraining Order against the Denver Police Department. That language was provided and the ruling was issued this evening, dealing a severe blow – a clear reprimand – to the City of Denver, Mayor Hancock, Chief Pazen, and the entire Denver Police Department.

The ruling included the following: ”Officers used physical weapons and chemical agents to prevent not just peaceful demonstration, but also the media’s ability to document the demonstrations and plaintiffs’ and third parties’ ability to offer aid to demonstrators. Peaceful demonstrators’ legitimate and credible fear of police retaliation is silencing their political speech—the very speech most highly valued under the First Amendment.”

De la Vaca’s article included a link to the full text of the ruling.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2020 3:53 pm

    Rob, yes and no. Agree with your analysis of police actions, not so sure your analysis of motivations are as right. Mostly disagree with some of your rhetorical frame: Yes, the veneer vanished. Yet why not see this is the actual and potential emergence of a real civic society — so many blacks and whites and hispanics, joining together to protest the violence and oppression and precisely to tear down the veneer. I fear your important ideological bent focuses too often on the obvious evil and too little on the actual good. Yet I read you seriously because your knowledge about the evil’s actual workings is always informative and important. So, as you say, cheers. John

    • June 6, 2020 6:54 pm

      John, I actually do see this coming together as positive, in fact “positive” is an understatement. Am encouraged by the spirit of the protests, the class and ethnic mix and what appears to be crystallizing is a new constituency and movement for radical change… I accept your criticism… the caveat – I deeply fear, worry about the intentions of the powers that be… and can’t help considering all that has happened – the Coronavirus pandemic, the response to George, the killing of George Floyd – as a kind of test run for more of the same in the future – a double (or triple) whammy – a pandemic, an economic collapse and a new level of repression. We knew repression in the late 1960s, early 1970s – and people died, especially radicals of colorado… but this repression is more fierce, more coordinated, brutal, more deadly, overall situation more polarized and angry So, as they say, the plot thickens…

  2. Arnold Voigt permalink
    June 6, 2020 6:40 pm

    Rob, has the Denver Police Department received any training by Israelis? I understand the Minneapolis force was..

    • June 6, 2020 6:56 pm

      Arnie,

      Yes… Although the details and extent of the training need to be fleshed out. But definitely… I am thinking of looking into this in more details. Interested?

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