gentle repression

The sociology grad students who occupied the Capitol have been writing some great analytic reflective pieces on police-protester interactions. Capitol Police Chief Tubbs formed personal relationships with the protesters and followed the principles of negotiated management of the protest. The police were generally on the same side as the protesters, but never refused to follow orders while on duty. The protesters (correctly) saw themselves as having cooperative and friendly relations with the police. This made a huge and at times rowdy protest a very safe event for everyone involved. But as the orders came down to shut down the protest, the habits of cooperation and compliance let repression do its work. Here are a couple of the reflective pieces I’ve seen today:

Zach Baumgart: the-elephant-in-the-room-for-our-peaceful-protests Documents the steps that repression took.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field lessons-of-the-capitol-struggle Critically reflects on protesters’ unwillingness to even test the boundaries of police “rules.” (The picture of Elizabeth being carried out of the Assembly foyer made national news.)

These pieces are important reflections for social movements studies.

And here is some gripping footage of the entry to the assembly chambers being cleared. It totals over 30 minutes but is well worth the time:

http://www.forwardlookout.com/2011/03/sights-and-sounds-from-inside-state-capitol-yesterday-morning/9724

People who spent the night and are blocking the door to the assembly chamber are being removed. Protesters and police are playing by the same script. Both know they have the option of walking out under their own power, being escorted out while walking, or being dragged out. Protesters are varying in their level of resistance. There are  dozens of observers present with cameras. Chief Tubbs is telling protesters he cannot open the doors to the Capitol under they leave — the reason for this is clear. The protesters correctly understand that if they agree to leave, the police will put up a huge guard around the Assembly doors to prevent their return to the area. The police also do not want to deal with any more people until they get the protesters out of the Assembly area. Even legislators are not being allowed in through the doors. Some protesters are trying to persuade the police to refuse orders to clear the area. Notice that the police have overwhelming force. Even if a protester individually resists arrest, they do not have the numbers to hold the area. One thing I notice in the footage of clearing the area by Fitzgerald’s office: one trooper pats another and says, “Slow down. Take it easy. Do you need a break?” I heard from others that Elizabeth said that the trooper who carried her out was crying.

There is also the footage of the Democrat assembly people being locked out of the chamber, and the Republicans magically appearing from a secret entrance.

If you understand both what the protesters are trying to do and have been trained to do, and what the police are trying to do and have been trained to do, you can see repression in action, even as the police themselves are trying to be as gentle as possible about it. If everyone follows orders, the outcome is determined.

I also wandered around later in the day and noticed all the doors tied shut from the inside. Fire hazard.

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Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/ --Pam Oliver

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