January 1, 2015
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Activists in Houston, Texas troll the Houston Police Department in real life. Contributed by Remington Alessi.
(ANTIMEDIA) This past Saturday, I stood in the rain with two very dedicated activists, smiling from ear to ear. The cold rain bit into me because I’d forgotten an umbrella, but not even that could dampen my spirits.
All around me, the Houston Police Department had mobilized an army, complete with cavalry, vans filled with advanced surveillance technology, barricades, and shifty-looking men dressed like golfers trying their darndest to not look like agent provocateurs. Officers on bicycles grudgingly pedaled through the rain, and a mobile command center was deployed in the parking lot of a nearby Dillard’s. HPD spared no expense in rolling out an army in the fourth week running of a sustained protest campaign against police brutality.
Knowing well in advance that the day of the protest had a forecast of severe thunderstorms, I trusted in the common sense of local activists to avoid standing in the middle of a park in a lightning storm, especially on the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. A pair of diehards came anyway, basking in the glow of countless beady little pig eyes. The police presence in response to a Facebook event was so disproportionate that words like ‘absurd’ fail to truly encompass how badly HPD had been punk’d.
Sergeant William Tweedie, an HPD officer I’d encountered many times in the past, followed me around in an SUV, helplessly asking what our plans were as I laughed in his face. He just couldn’t quite grasp how foolish he and his fellow officers had been made to look. As I was leaving, I wound through parking lots while his vehicle desperately tried to follow me inconspicuously, an impossible task for a Ford Expedition bearing police markings and lights. An anguished look covered his face when I asked him if he had a crush on me, since he’d followed me for so long.
Tweedie and I have a history. Two weeks earlier, I’d bet a friend that I could get a cop to hold my sign at a protest. In a picture, he stood next to me with that very same anguished look, holding a sign that said, “white silence is white consent” as I grinned from ear to ear, sitting handcuffed on the median of a major Houston street the police had closed.
Walking by a plainclothes officer, I made eye contact and asked, “How many city resources are you going to waste chasing after little old me?”
“Whatever it takes,” he replied sheepishly, in a tone that indicated that even he hadn’t even bought the department line. He knew better than to even pretend he hadn’t been made.
“Whatever it takes? For what? To keep black people out of a shopping mall?”
If he replied, it was under his breath.
If there is any accountability at all with the Houston Police Department, someone most definitely is going to be answering some very difficult and uncomfortable questions about wasted police resources.
In an interview with Julian Assange, Jacob Müller-Maguhn once said, “The force of nearly all modern authority is derived from violence or the threat of violence. One must acknowledge with cryptography no amount of violence will ever solve a math problem.”
The same could be said of the Houston Police Department’s repeated attempts at engaging with and suppressing protesters. Knowing no language but violence, the police are completely unequipped to respond to earnest demands made by civilians whose voices have been ignored by the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics. Perhaps what speaks most of the department’s ineptitude is that their responses have only been to escalate the presence of their armed goons, having assumed that if a strategy failed, much like reactionary economic policy, they had merely failed to do it big enough and hard enough.
It’s sad, really. I like to believe deep down that some of these guys mean well, but the legitimacy of their institution is crumbling under its own weight, and not a single one of them has the good sense to jump off of the sinking ship that is structural violence. In the meantime, the City of Houston has to deal with paying horrendous amounts of overtime to cover the costs of HPD’s tactical incompetence. These are your tax dollars at work.
The Houston Galleria, in partnership with Houston Police Department, the most violent gang in the city, have teamed up to use barricades to keep black people out of the mall.
Inconspicuous unmarked vehicles insist they’re not really undercover police. Never mind the illegal tint and government plates, they’re busy being inconspicuous.
Something about this van screams “free candy”.
Seriously, black people, we don’t want you in here unless it’s to make money off of you, because we have no sense of historical irony.
This is the mobile command center, where they bring lots and lots of guns to a word fight, because violence is supposed to teach protesters some respect.
This guy was too busy picking up barricades to discuss the use of city resources
Just in case the mobile command center wasn’t enough, more cars and rapey vans were needed in an adjacent lot from the main operational base.
The guy in the green was giving orders, because he needed a guard rolling three deep to protect his private property from nonviolent protesters.
Sgt. Tweedy wasn’t willing to hold my sign unless I wore his special bracelets. I think he wants to go steady.
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