“Just how much police brutality is acceptable in the name of ‘maintaining the social order?’ Absolutely none, of course.” ~Daniel McCarthy
Someone at The Telegraph (UK) just asked, “Should police be allowed to shoot arsonists during riots?” I don’t know. If I were a shopkeeper and someone were vandalizing my property, I’d call the police, wouldn’t you? And I’d expect them to do something, like handcuff the culprit and send him to jail. Or something like that.
On the other hand, are we sure these “arsonists” were the ones who set the fires? Should police shoot to kill or just to maim? “How much force does it take to stop a man?” (a line from The Wild Pony).
You may recall an incident depicted in the film Michael Collins. On Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, IRA teams carried out planned assassinations against British agents: thirteen people were killed, six wounded. That afternoon 5,000 spectators were seated in Croke Park to watch a football game, when British troops, police, and auxiliaries—in retaliation for the morning’s events—forced their way through the turnstiles and began firing with rifles, revolvers, and machine guns: releasing over 200 rounds. According to one witness, they “fired into the crowd without any provocation whatsoever,” killing fourteen people, injuring sixty (two were trampled to death). During a military inquiry—whose findings were suppressed by the British government until 2000—it was deemed the massacre was “carried out without orders and exceeded the demands of the situation.” This, of course, helped turn the Irish against the Crown.
You may recall a story, depicted in the film about Tommy Douglas, Prairie Giant. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), 29 September 1931, confronted hundreds of striking coal miners, from Bienfait, Saskatchewan, parading peacefully, with their families, through Estevan. Violence broke out. The RCMP gunned down three men and wounded or arrested many more. Tombstones of the dead men read “murdered by RCMP.” What a terrible legacy for the RCMP! The Canadian Mounties could probably live down a single incident, don’t you think? …if that were the only one.
I remember Sgt Preston of the Yukon, a Mountie with a dog sled. What a nice person he was! What a beautiful red uniform! That was my image of the Mounties. Of course, maybe the Yukon—a Canadian territory, not a province—was a nicer place than Saskatchewan; but that little kiddie TV show surely was good PR for the RCMP.
I liked it so much that when I went to Saskatchewan, I made sure to stop in Regina and check out RCMP Academy, Depot Division, where RCMP are trained. A rather humble place, really. No one greeted us or stopped us, so we just walked around and looked at the chapel. Then we left.
I learned the RCMP started out on the Western frontier and pretty much did as they pleased: bombed, burned, choked, trespassed, killed human beings, killed sled dogs, maimed, murdered, operated illegally, raped, robbed, scammed, shot, spied, stole, tased, tortured, used excessive force, you name it. If this was the law, it makes you wonder who the criminals were.
“Law enforcers are at least as likely to be criminals as the rest of us.” ~Daniel McCarthy
The same may be said for some of the police activity pitted against Occupy Wall Street. Certainly for some of the police activity directed against young people back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Remember the shooting at Kent State University, Ohio, 4 May 1970? After downtown rioting and the burning of the ROTC building, the Ohio Army National Guard was called in. Armed gunmen fired on unarmed students—their own countrymen—killing four and wounding nine. Now, Kent State’s another institution trying to live down a bad incident.
If I were the police, to spare myself another Bloody Sunday, Estevan Riot, or Kent State, I think I would find it inappropriate to “shoot first and ask questions” later. I’d take the high road, put the perpetrators in lockdown, and hold them for trial. Isn’t that what “law and order” is really all about?
“Ideas are the great warriors of the world, and a war that has no idea behind it, is simply a brutality.” ~James A. Garfield
Copyright © 2011 Alexandra Lee