Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Peace Police

Just typing those words makes me cringe.

I suppose there are worse things to be called at Occupy Oakland, but 'peace police' is an especially nasty pejorative in these parts. When used by those of an insurrectionary persuasion, it suggests not only collaboration with the powers that be, but a whole litany of other unpleasant stereotypes: the typical peace police officer is a muesli-eating, middle-class, censorious, wet white liberal in Birkenstocks. For bonus points, you might also be an aging hippie who's trying to relive the glory days of the '60s.

If you're a pacifist, or are simply convinced that non-violent civil disobedience should be the Occupy movement's preferred tactic, you might even consider the phrase 'peace police' fightin' words--only, being the people we are, we're not actually going to start a fight about them. So what are the options?

One could, of course, sit at home (preferably in the dark) and steam about the unfairness of it all--I admit that's generally my first reaction in such situations. Steam about something long enough, however, and sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes on--and not just when your spouse enters the room and flips the switch to the on position.

In such fashion did my own light bulb illuminate. To wit: I'm no longer going to be embarrassed by the label 'peace police', I'm going to embrace it.

Picture this: it's Move-In Day 2.0. After gathering at OGP, three thousand plus Occupiers embark on a march to the long vacant C. Europa furniture store near Broadway and 51st. A cadre of faith leaders, civil rights activists, elders, veterans, and other clearly identified Peace Police lead the way north on Broadway, shielding the crowd from the Violence Police. Masked anarchists are still out in force with their trash can shields, of course--remember, this is a radically inclusive movement--but they're now the second line of defense, and are, in fact, being protected by the Peace Police whilst sampling the schadenfreude entree with a side order of poetic justice.

What would the Violence Police do when confronted by the Peace Police? Would they repeat their mistakes of October 25th and eagerly beat the crap out of them, or teargas them, or shoot them with 'less lethal' rounds? Or would they have second thoughts about once again attacking protesters in clerical garb, or in military uniform, or in wheelchairs? I honestly don't know, of course, but I do know this: the tactics of J28 didn't work, and arguably exacerbated the situation. The Peace Police would, at the very least, force the Violence Police to adjust their tactics, and would make it that much harder for them to win the PR war. And who knows--they might even win the grudging admiration of the masked and anonymous crowd.

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