Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “police state”

Peace officers who shoot to kill

In two quite unrelated discussions, my attention has been drawn to the fact that police officers who kill members of the public are rarely held to account.

In one discussion, on the alt.usage.english newsgroup, someone remarked that in some places the police regard walking as a suspicious activity. Normal people go by car. While some thought that this kind of thing only happened in America, I experienced it three times in the UK — the police stopped me when I was walking, and wanted to know where I was going and why. On two occasions it was late at night, and I was walking home from work — from Brixton bus garage where I had finished a late shift driving buses, and I was wearing my London Transport uniform when the police stopped me. Perhaps British criminals go around disguised as bus drivers. The third occasion was when I was going for a walk in the Surrey countryside in broad daylight.

The conversation moved on to the police shooting people on suspicion. Many people recalled the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot by London police seven years ago because they thought he was someone else that they suspected. That shooting shocked many people at the time and got a lot of media publicity all around the world. But it turns out that it was not an isolated incident. It was not something rare and exceptional, but something that happens all the time.

From Britain comes this story: Police have shot dead 33 people since 1995 – only two marksmen have ever been named | Mail Online

The identities of just two police officers involved in 33 fatal shootings have been made public in the last 15 years, a Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed.

Since 1995 a total of 55 officers have opened fire on and killed members of the public, but in only two cases have their names been revealed.

And from the USA comes this one: Police Officer Who Shot at Amadou Diallo to Get Gun Back – NYTimes.com

More than 13 years after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has agreed to restore a service weapon to one of the four New York City officers involved, a decision that Mr. Diallo’s mother characterized as a betrayal.

Police shooting striking miners at Marikana, August 2012

So when we read in the news about the shooting of striking miners at Marikana and are shocked by it, we should perhaps remember that this kind of behaviour by police is not unusual, and that it happens in other countries too, even in Britain, where the police are normally thought to be unarmed.

Spectacular incidents that make headlines, like Marikana and the gunning down of Jean Charles de Menzez at a London tube station, are thought to be exceptional. Though they are scary, we take comfort in the thought that they are exceptoional.

What is even more scary, though, is that such incidents are not exceptional, but are almost routine, and, in Britain at least, the police can shoot people with impunity, behind the cover of anonymity. Britain may have abolished capital punishment, but carrying a table leg in a shopping bag is apparently a capital offence.

It’s a bit like a cricket match. There are no spectacular boundaries, no sixes and fours, but by running ones and twos the batsmen can soon build up a formidable score. There may not be many Marikanas, but when you add up the ones and twos, it’s even more scary, because it looks as though it’s routine.

Police state, anyone?

Canada’s shame

Canadian police, who were “powerless” to stop a bunch of vandals from smashing shop windows and torching police cars, showed how “powerful” they are by beating up a 57-year-old amputee.

Simple Massing Priest: Cowardly police leave “anarchists” alone and assault amputee:

As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him. One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn’s head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.

Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn’t, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows, with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a “spitter,” something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours.

They would have done SS Einsatzgruppe proud.

The sheer lunacy of anti-gun control freaks

I’ve always thought that anti-gun control freaks were a bit nuts, but this takes the cake. Hat-tip to Mark Stoneman’s Clio and me.

FactCheck.org: Did gun control in Australia lead to more murders there last year?:

In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated

The picture is utterly bizarre.

If dissidents in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany had had firearms and used them to resist arrest, most of them would have died sooner rather than later, and many more of them would have died.

If you want to avoid arrest in a totalitarian country, your best chance is to avoid or evade the police, not confront them, whether you are armed or not. And then try to skip across the border into a free(er) country, assuming there is one nearby.

I know something of this from personal experience.

Last week I got together with a friend, and we compared our police files from the apartheid era, which recently became available in the archives. We’re planning to write an article on memoiries of a surveillance society, based on the contents of the files, and comparing the fantasies of the Security Police and the Department of Justice with reality.

In my file I discovered that the Minister of Justice had signed a banning order for me on 11 January 1966. I never received it, so I didn’t know about it until I saw it in the file.

At the time I was working as a bus driver in Johannesburg, trying to save enough money to go and study overseas. On the afternoon of 18 January 1966, when I was about to go to work, I had a phone call from a Detective Sergeant van den Heever, asking if he could come and see me. I said I was about to go to work. He then asked if he could come and see me in the morning. I said I would be doing overtime in the morning, but said that I could go and see him between my overtime and my regular shift if he told me where I could find him.

I did not go to work, that afternoon, but went to see an Anglican priest friend, the student chaplain at the university, to tell him about this and ask his advice. We thought that Van den Heever would either be coming to confiscate my passport, or to give me a banning order, in which case I would not be able to study overseas. We decided that the wisest course would be to leave the country immediately.

So at 10:00 pm we set out for Beit Bridge and the Rhodesian border, which we crossed the next morning when the customs post opened at 6:00 am. The priest friend came to drive my mother’s car back. My mother arranged with a travel agent in Johannesburg for me to collect a plane ticket at Bulawayo, and I got on a plane in Bulawayo, and arrived in London two days later, on 20 January 1966.

Now imagine what would have happened if I had done what the gun nut above suggested.

Detective Sergeant van den Heever comes to my door with the banning order, and I have a gun and shoot him.

The SB (Security Police) usually went in pairs, and so I’d have to be pretty quick to shoot his buddy as well before he either overpowered me or shot me.

We lived in a block of flats, and at that time of day people would be arriving home from work, so the incident would probably be witnessed by other residents who would undoubtedly call the police, even if they didn’t know that the two bodies lying at the door of my flat were those of policemen in plain clothes.

So banning might be delayed, but arrest for a real crime would follow shortly. Then would follow a period of interrogation, with the possibility of slipping in the shower and falling through a 7th-floor window (defenestration). If that didn’t happen there would be an appearance in court, an open and shut case of murder, followed by hanging.

Cool.

One bloke who was banned tried to follow the path of armed resistance. Not with firearms; he took a suitcase full of explosives and took it to Johannesburg station. It killed an old lady and disfigured her granddaughter. His name was John Harris. He was hanged on 1 April 1965.

Or, of course, one could use firearms. Go to Norwood police station (where, if my banning order had been delivered, I would have had to report every Monday between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm) and make like Columbine High School — shoot everyone in sight.

Ultimately, the result would be the same.

But the gun nuts who write stuff like that above are too stupid to see it.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps they would go into a school or a shopping mall and open fire on everyone in sight, and think that that would save them from the Gulag or whatever. Or they could join their likeminded buddies in the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

So instead of saying idiotic things like “In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated”, let the gun nuts say exactly how having legal firearms would have prevented them from being rounded up and exterminated.

And if they feel so strongly about it, perhaps they could strike a blow for freedom and smuggle arms to all the poor dissidents cooped up in Guantanamo Bay.

Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos

One of the things that held up a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe was Mugabe’s insistence that he alone control the police and the army — he wasn’t sharing that power with anyone.

But as the situation deteriorates, one wonders just how much control he has. When there is no longer any money to pay the police and the army, will they resort to using their weapons to earn their living as marauding bands, stealing from the civilian population at gunpoint?

The Times – Zimbabwe military has become a brigand army for hire:

According to the Guardian newspaper: “Zimbabwean air force helicopters swept over the hundreds of fleeing illegal diamond miners and mowed down dozens with machine-gun fire.

“After that the police arrived and unleashed the dogs that tore into the diggers, killing some and mutilating others.

“The police fired tear gas to drive the miners out of their shallow tunnels and shot them down as they emerged.”

This is a description of one incident and there have been several similar shootings over the past month.

And one wonders what kind of democracy it is when the loser of an election gets to share power with the winner, with the loser determining what share the winner gets. As Chairman Mao is reputed to have said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. That may be true, especially in places like Zimbabwe, but it is not democracy.

Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos

One of the things that held up a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe was Mugabe’s insistence that he alone control the police and the army — he wasn’t sharing that power with anyone.

But as the situation deteriorates, one wonders just how much control he has. When there is no longer any money to pay the police and the army, will they resort to using their weapons to earn their living as marauding bands, stealing from the civilian population at gunpoint?

The Times – Zimbabwe military has become a brigand army for hire:

According to the Guardian newspaper: “Zimbabwean air force helicopters swept over the hundreds of fleeing illegal diamond miners and mowed down dozens with machine-gun fire.

“After that the police arrived and unleashed the dogs that tore into the diggers, killing some and mutilating others.

“The police fired tear gas to drive the miners out of their shallow tunnels and shot them down as they emerged.”

This is a description of one incident and there have been several similar shootings over the past month.

And one wonders what kind of democracy it is when the loser of an election gets to share power with the winner, with the loser determining what share the winner gets. As Chairman Mao is reputed to have said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. That may be true, especially in places like Zimbabwe, but it is not democracy.

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

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