The demand has been put forth for Governor Inslee to call in the
Department of Justice to investigate the shooting of Andre and Bryson by
OPD. While some may see this demonstration as an attempt to make this
demand and put some force behind it, we do not, and would like to
explain some of our criticisms. We do this with respect and out of a
desire for critical solidarity and honest debate among people struggling
in the streets against the violence of the state. While we all have our
differences, everyone here wants the police to stop shooting people.
Implicit in the call for a DoJ investigation is the assumption that this
integral part of the federal police apparatus, which includes such
stalwart opponents of racism as the FBI, can in some way “work for us.”
That OPD has erred, and the feds can put it back on the right path. To
be frank, this is dangerously naïve. The DoJ and OPD are two organs of
the same fundamentally racist, fundamentally authoritarian state. The
DoJ does the mop-up job when one of the minor agents of state repression
goes too far, just to keep up appearances. Every Mr. Hyde needs a Dr.
Jekyll; every mafia needs a front shop.
After the Seattle pigs murdered John T. Williams in 2010, what did the
DoJ do? Gave them body cameras, making every SPD officer a walking
surveillance camera, giving the D.A.s thousands of hours of evidence
with which to better prosecute and imprison people.
Also implicit in this demand, and perhaps more troubling, is the way it
supports the fundamentally pro-state framework of innocence and guilt.
The job of the DoJ is not to end racism and police violence; it is to
enforce the “justice” of the state. And “justice” will always be that
the state – the state is its definer, arbiter, and executioner. In this
case, the facts are clear – Andre and Bryson are the victims of an
unprovoked police attack. But when the very existence of an armed force
whose job it is to run the streets, caging anyone who dares defy the
sanctity of property, in itself constitutes a daily situation of extreme
and systematic violence, do the “guilty,” those who strike back,
“deserve” their punishment – sometimes including death by cop? In the
logic of innocence and guilt, of the state’s justice, yes. This is the
logic that the DoJ and activists’ recourse to it enforce.
To wrap this up, we’d like to mention that generally, we oppose making
demands, seeing them as a bolster to the power of representatives and
mediators. However, there are some demands that we see as potentially
worthwhile – they tend to be somewhat ludicrous. The idea of disarming
the police is one such demand. In contrast to a DoJ investigation, this
demand will not be met by the state because it would be politically
impossible to maintain the social order without bullets in Glocks on
cops’ hips. Also in contrast, this demand might actually diminish the
power of the state: the disarming of the police would mean the vastly
increased ability of people to fight back.
But more than a demand or two, we have our own bodies and minds, our
agency, collectivity, and power in the streets. Let’s not cede these to
those who wish to more tactfully manage our misery. In demanding, we
remain in the position of adolescents supplicating a malevolent, abusive
parent. In acting directly, we exercise our power as willful and
connected beings who can impede the functioning of the police state and
take back our lives. This can look like anything from blocking the
office of a prosecutor to talking to our neighbors about looking out for
each other without calling the cops.
The only world in which we are free of the fear of police violence is a
world free of police.