Friday, January 28, 2011

Quote of the Day (1/29/11)

Police cower before the rage of people who have had enough.

If only for a little while, the people of Alexandria have liberated their city from the police. Despite the American-made (see, we still do make things here!) tear gas that has showered them for the better part of a day, the working class of the city has found themselves in the surprising position of having defeated the police. Oh, to breathe such fresh air!

From the New York Times:
For one day, in this historic Mediterranean city, the protesters won outright.

Alexandria was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the country on Friday as riot police officers fired tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets and protesters hurled paving stones in more than two hours of pitched battle.

In the end, the police capitulated in the face of too many protests around the city with too many determined demonstrators for them to contain. The police retreated, leaving the city in the hands of protesters for several hours, as police cars, the regional party headquarters and the provincial government office burned.

“There is no government in Alexandria now,” said Muhammad Ahmed Ibrahim, 32. “They are all in hiding.”

After darkness fell, soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers were welcomed with cheers in downtown Alexandria, perhaps a sign of Alexandrians’ relief that some semblance of order would be retained after the destruction of a day spent venting pent-up anger.

“The people set fire to the police station in Sharq,” said Abdullah Hassan al-Banna, 30, one of the demonstrators, referring to part of eastern Alexandria. “The people set tires on fire and threw them into the governorate” — the government building. “We pulled down all the posters of Hosni Mubarak,” Egypt’s president.

Late Friday, downtown Alexandria was choked with smoke that blotted out the sunset. Flames licked the sides of a downtown tram station.

One man stood on a police troop carrier holding up a giant Egyptian flag as police officers inside the vehicle smiled and waved their fingers through the grates.

“The people wanted to show their resistance to the regime, but I don’t think they had any idea they would overpower it,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who observed the street fighting in Alexandria on Friday.

“For the first time in the history of the Mubarak regime, the capacity of the police was completely exhausted,” Mr. Bouckaert said. “The police state broke down today.”
Sitting here, thousands of miles away, seeing the police daily enforce the dictatorship of capital in my own city, yet watching leaderless (or maybe, more accurately, 'widely leadered' or projectual), working class movements sweep away various dictators, large and small, one after the other, I can't help but long for the banner "Tunis, Alexandria, Phoenix" to hang from a liberated space somewhere soon. Sounds like war elephants.

Egyptian badasses disable police vehicles by removing batteries.

Here in the US, a twitter spokesman writing an email response to a reporter's inquiry tried to wrap his little iNoggin around the cut off of the internet in Egypt. Speaking in terms reflecting a limited imagination perhaps even surprising for iExecs, he said, "A world without the Internet [sic] is unimaginable." Without an emoticon indicating irony or laughter, what am I to do with that? Like the pre-internet era is paleolithic? Don't we have a memory of this?

And this in the face of a wide-spread, word of mouth insurrection that despite the removal of the asocial media as a means of communication, still found hundreds of thousands of friends and neighbors pouring out on the streets together, doing battle with the cops and liberating their city from the hateful dictatorship's police.

One woman I heard interviewed on BBC in fact cited the lack of communication as the reason she went into the streets in the morning. No cell phone. No facebook. She had to go into the streets to see what was happening there. Twitter revolution? Not right now.

The word is, folks are going door to door tonight in Egypt, even as we speak, planning the next attack. It's blasphemy before the holy meme of the iRevolution, I know. And yet... what about the poor and working class in control of the Suez Canal. Watch the rich sweat...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beer and Revolution This Sunday: "Solidarity as Active Resistance"

This Sunday, PCWC is proud to announce the most recent in our ongoing series of presentations and discussions. This week we are fortunate enough to be able to bring you a discussion on the contemporary struggle in Chile. This will include firsthand reports and analysis, as well as multimedia and the usual creative and interesting discussion.

The fun starts at 7pm this Sunday, January 30th. Gather upstairs at Boulders on Broadway (530 W. Broadway Rd in Tempe). If you are coming via light rail and head out a little early, the local neighborhood bus which can be caught on Mill Avenue will drop you off right at the restaurant free of charge as long as you grab it before it shuts down at seven.

Here's the deal:
Solidarity as Active Resistance

In September and October, 2010, a group of anarchists from North America traveled to Chile, Wallmapu (the Mapuche territories, occupied by the Chilean and Argentinean states), and Bolivia to meet with local anti-authoritarians, learn the histories and current situations of their struggles, and make the connections necessary to strengthen real and long-term solidarity between anarchists in North America and people in struggle in these countries.

The trip occurred during an important time- less than a month after a major wave of raids and arrests targeting anarchists in Santiago, during a crucial and highly supported hunger-strike by Mapuche political prisoners against the antiterrorism law and the repression of their struggle, and at a low point in the once colossal social movements in Bolivia, which have now been co-opted by the left-wing government of the indigenous president, Evo Morales. Come hear first hand about these various struggles against state and corporate dominance and learn how you can directly support them.

If you can't make the event please check out the website:
To study up before the discussion, check out the pamphlet below:

By the way, Boulders on Broadway has all you can eat pizza on Sunday nights and a huge selection of beers on tap. See ya there!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anarchists initiate immigrant solidarity march to commemorate the deaths of three youths

Phoenix area anarchists kicked off the new year by calling for a march in the arts district of downtown Phoenix for the monthly "First Friday" artwalk. The call was in response to the deaths of two immigrant youths who were found in a canal after fleeing from a Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy near Gila Bend, and the murder of a third youth who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent while climbing the border wall in Nogales. Nearly two dozen anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and O'odham and Dine' indigenous comrades, all assembled for this unpermitted manifestation of outrage. This also being a First Friday (FF) our small group attracted the attention and participation of many in the crowds wandering between galleries and bars, as well as from the youth who often come down to FF to get out of the house, check out some art, and to flirt and meet other kids hanging out.

The march took to the streets with banners and statements against the "poliMigra," prisons, all borders and police. We shouted into the night "Out of the galleries, into the streets!" Naturally we garnered the attention of the police, not a special distinction as on any given FF they maintain a very heavy presence, even though a demonstration like this has probably not occurred in sometime, aside from an organic confrontation with the authorities a couple years back. After a few shoving matches with the Phoenix cops, the march was pushed to the sidewalks, but after losing the police, the march returned to moving in and out of the streets, throwing traffic barricades into street, and making a detour into one of the more notoriously yuppie galleries downtown. We lost some of our numbers when we marched down to the Suns game, but we also shook our police tail and were able to march in the streets unimpeded (aside from the occasional police vehicle that would pull up, use their bullhorn to tell people to get off the streets, and then drive off). We encountered the most reactionary and nationalistic sentiment of the night outside the Suns game, but we shook it off and mobbed onto a light rail train for a free ride back to the arts district.

So, what does this mean for the future? The mainstream movement voices were once again silent during this latest outrage, the "human rights movement" raised a number of eye brows around town after their total absence in any forum when young Danny Rodriguez was murdered by Phoenix cop Richard Chrisman in his mother's trailer last October. The high profile killing of this young man came amid a shit storm of corruption and brutality allegations against the Phoenix police department, specifically the notorious South Mountain precinct, but perhaps the mainstream hacks were too concerned about upsetting their friends in the mayor's office to actually hold one consistent political position. Or maybe someone should have told them there's money to be made from the non-profit industrial complex in organizing against police violence, that seems to get their attention.

What I saw in the streets the night of this march is a sight becoming increasingly common in Phoenix, a gathering of indigenous, latin@, and anarchist people ready to take to the streets and to move beyond the boundaries put forth by the mainstream immigrant movement's leadership, as well as the laws of the authorities. I believe that in these alliances lay the future for a broad based movement of resistance, built upon mutual respect and participation in confronting this system of death, repression, and incarceration until there is total freedom for all.

Below is the text of the flier handed out during the solidarity march, along with a couple more images from this procession.

Where are the voices of disbelief and anger now that SB1070 is law? Where have the crowds gone who were in the streets in the spring and summer? This writing is addressed to you who weep with clenched fists when another immigrant is found dead trekking across the desert, shot dead by a border patrol agent, or drowned in a canal after fleeing the authorities. This is to you, who tires of a political movement that demands your patience for a political solution all the while this O'odham (the indigenous people of this region) land is militarized by the border patrol, building more new checkpoints, and nothing ever gets better.

Why now, why without the responsible, reasonable movement leadership? Because it’s come to this: Three children, presumed immigrants by the state, found dead in a canal on Christmas eve, just one week before that five other immigrant brothers and sisters were discovered by the authorities, forced to conceal themselves in cow manure. Just yesterday a 17 year old Nogales resident was shot dead by a border guard on the U.S. side after climbing the border fence. Where is the outcry from the human rights activists, or even the mainstream immigrant groups?

This is a call to all those who oppose the tyranny of law and order, this cold business of institutions that place freedom and dignity underfoot to preserve power and control for the few. There will be people in the streets tonight, decrying this sick order that places property, law, and the will of a few over the lives, dreams, and freedom of human beings.

Another night of wandering the sidewalks of downtown admiring the art that lampoons Arpaio, or defends immigrants, and then home, content to believe that a moral duty has been exercised, justice against the oppressors has been served in Phoenix this First Friday. Of course we appreciate this art, but to pretend that the representation of a struggle is in fact a struggle is lunacy!

There is active solidarity, or there is complacency! Observers of art, become participants in your own life! Join us tonight as we take the streets to stand with all those murdered by the laws and institutions on this stolen indigenous land.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quote of the Day (1/21/10) plus special bonus.

If you haven't already, please join our Reddit feed. It displays here on the sidebar but not terribly reliably thanks to the bugginess of the tool, so the only way to really keep up with what we're posting is to go directly to our feed. If you join it you can engage in discussion. We update the feed many times a day.

Today I'm starting a new feature that derives from the Reddit feed. I'll post from time to time a juicy quote that I think is particularly interesting from one of the articles on the feed. Today we start with a great piece on supermax prisons from the New Humanist UK:
"The regime of relentless solitary confinement and tight prisoner control in a typical supermax is made possible by prison architects. Without their professional knowledge and careful calculation and assessment of every design detail, it would not have been possible to hold hundreds of prisoners in complete isolation from each other within a single, relatively small, building for prolonged periods."
I found that interesting for the obvious reasons, but also because that quote reminds me of an exchange I had on the generally fascinating BLDG BLOG a couple years ago. In response to an article called "Corridors of Power" about the building of a new National Security Agency data center, that pondered how to integrate it better into the community through architecture, I posted the following comment:
"I think it would be refreshing if architects were to draw a strict line here: anyone who works on a project like this (and who does not sabotage it) may as well be working on a concentration camp. Likewise those who work on prisons or who work on police stations. There is no way to make the relationships of the community to these things more mutually beneficial. By definition they are the enemies of human freedom and, last I checked, communities are made up of humans. Whatever poor sap does design them would be doing us all a favor if they designed them to look like mosquitoes, bats or some other similarly-evocative creepy-crawly, because that's exactly what they are. Some truth in design would be great. Or, perhaps for further inspiration, may I suggest to the designer a theme out of 1984 as inspiration: a boot stamping on a human face forever. Architects are fooling themselves if they think they can work on these projects and have a clear conscience."
When the blame is finally apportioned once and for all, how much will fall on the architects? From Haussman's redesign of revolutionary Paris to the architects that pioneered Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, of which the city of Tempe is at the forefront -- or was before the building boom here collapsed under it's own bloated yuppie weigh -- the echoes of design reverberate through our lives whether we know it or not. Certainly they are anything but non-political.


So if you hung in there through the new feature, check the right sidebar for preliminary details about this month's Beer and Revolution. Sunday January 30th at 7:00, upstairs at Boulders on Broadway as usual, PCWC presents a discussion on the anarchist and indigenous struggle in Chile. More details will follow in a day or so. Please check back! This promises to be another great one! Bottomless pizza and, if we're lucky, a beer special this time. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dreams of Power and Flying: Jared Lee Loughner and the Columbinization of Political Assassination

By now everyone has seen the picture. Smiling -- beaming, even -- and wide-eyed in the first photo taken of him by Pima County Sheriffs Department, Jared Lee Loughner defies what everyone wanted him to be. One hesitates to speak too soon, given that more information surely will come out. But all the evidence so far suggests that, rather than a tea bagger nutcase Nazi, Loughner might just be yet another in an increasingly long line of run of the mill psychopaths that each have taken their fifteen minutes of fame in a blaze of bloody, homicidal glory. The kind of psychopath we're getting increasingly familiar with in the US. Since news of the shooting first broke, the country has struggled to overcome its assumptions about the man alleged to have attempted to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords and to have murdered and wounded nearly twenty others in what surely will mark one of the worst tragedies in recent Arizona history.

Friends said he like to shock with his politics, perhaps explaining his book list which, other than Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto, looked like a typical reading list for high school English. Some people forget, Arizona is a hardcore libertarian state -- anti-government is the default position for a large portion of the population. Going after a politician in that respect doesn't necessarily mean it fits into some grand narrative about immigration or health care. Indeed, there is little indication that Loughner is a racist beyond what is standard for Arizona these days.

During those first few hours, the sense that the left hoped he was a Tea Partier was palpable. Self-righteous speeches were at the ready and fingers were warming up for enthusiastic wagging. Cathartic choruses of "I told you so" seemed about to break out at any moment. When now, as it seems more and more likely, it turns out he was just another madman in a country that seems to have made madness its chief commodity, just more wreckage from a collapsing society, you can feel the disappointment in the air.

There will be political haymaking, as there always is, once things have calmed down a bit, but Loughner's apparent insanity rather than political drive seems to have given most everyone some pause for now. More facts may emerge, but as of now, the shooting appears to be Arizona's Virginia Tech massacre, with Loughner playing the part of Seung-Hui Cho rather than Booth to Lincoln.

An escapist in fact, seeking solace in "lucid dreaming", and having given up on finding any meaning in this world, Loughner kept a dream journal of his late night experiments. Like the electronic palaces conjured in ephemeral online games like Second Life, or the fake farms of Farmville, in dreams Loughner felt like he had the kind of power he could never have in real life. It's reported by one of his friends that in his dreams, Loughner claimed he could take control and fly. He spent more and more time sleeping, they say. And he lost touch with them.

Alienation seems almost an understatement when describing Loughner. Living at home in a working class Tucson suburban neighborhood, rejected by the military, unable to maintain himself at school, slipping further away from friends, raised as an only child by reclusive, private parents, at one point he posted to the abyss of Myspace: "[W]hy doesn't anyone talk to me?"

What we see when we look at Loughner and at the repulsive and bloody massacre he wrought in that Safeway is the Columbinization of political assassination. Fucking shoot everyone, essentially. The politician, the judge, the marshal, the old lady, the nine year-old girl who, in true made for movie fashion, was born on September 11th, 2001 and herself had just been elected to the student council at her school. An extreme expression of total alienation. Like Dennis Klebold and Eric Harris, living in the shadow of a missile factory, everyone asks why but then, quietly, nods in understanding. It's not irony.

And in a way, how can it be a surprise either? Mass murder is more and more a fact of life in post-industrial America, and Arizona, too. Last August a jilted father busted into a birthday party and shot six people, including the mother of his kids and her new boyfriend, before absconding to California with the children. He killed himself in his car. Did Loughner plan a similar self-immolation, had he not been interrupted in his task? The leaving of a note claiming responsibility, if true, certainly suggests it.

Generally lacking class consciousness despite daily enduring Capital's withering, unending attacks, alienated from the traditional, now bankrupt mechanisms of class struggle like unions, with families ripped apart by a capitalism that needs dispersed production, and surrounded by the cheap but high definition facsimile of everyday living that is spectacular life in the 21st century United States, the answer more and more seems to be: explode! It doesn't need politics. Goodbye already to "Yes We Can!", increasingly the slogan of late-era life in the US is less inspirational poster and more Samuel Jackson's "When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room." One remarkable fact about the massacre was the equal opportunity of it. Everyone got it. He didn't seem to single out people by race or gender. The political chattering class was befuddled.

Interviewed in Mother Jones magazine, a friend of Loughner's, Bryce Tierney, had this to say about why Loughner did what he did: "I think the reason he did it was mainly to just promote chaos. He wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing. He wanted exactly what's happening. He wants all of that. He fucks things up to fuck shit up, there's no rhyme or reason, he wants to watch the world burn. He probably wanted to take everyone out of their monotonous lives: 'Another Saturday, going to go get groceries'—to take people out of these norms that he thought society had trapped us in."

But what's interesting about spectacular violence like Loughner's killing spree is how it highlights the lack of outrage expressed by people about the daily violence that exists in Arizona. Like the off white walls in a rented apartment, or elevator music on the way to the office, we don't really notice it most of the time. This despite all the teary-eyed consternation about overheated political rhetoric and polarization. While everyone searched for a hint of Glenn Beck on Loughner's TiVo or an Alex Jones bookmark on his browser, the banal crunch that is, for instance, the police state's bone-breaking weight on the increasingly precarious migrant population fades into the background.

In late December, just about two weeks before the supermarket bloodbath, three young migrants were found dead floating in a canal near Gila Bend. A sheriff had stopped their vehicle and, lacking papers, everyone fled to a nearby canal to hide, where three drowned. Then, earlier in the week of Loughner's rampage, a boy was shot and killed by the border patrol when he climbed over the fence into the US. The border police said he and his friends had been throwing rocks. Border patrol denied the shooting at first, but coroners officials in Nogales said they knew a bullet wound when they saw one.

The spectacular nature of Loughner's spree, as well as it's target, clearly contributed to the great shock it caused to so many people, but the real story is the acclimatization of the people of Arizona to the ongoing violence surrounding them. Especially when considered in the context of 2010's record-breaking 252 known deaths of migrants crossing the Arizona desert. With all this talk of polarization in the state, the truth is most everyone seems quite okay with the yearly death toll. The problem seems not to be schism so much as a broad agreement that low level terrorism aimed at Mexicans is a small price to pay for the contemporary ruins of suburban life. While it's true that there are vocal extremists on the right, like the marginalized National Socialist Movement, polls continue to show overwhelming support for SB1070 in Arizona, and every anti-immigrant measure in the last several years has passed with overwhelming support. This isn't polarization -- it's broad agreement with dissenters at the margins.

Indeed, some real polarization would be a good thing. Instead we have this poor substitute, where Democrats and Republicans turn up the volume and the rhetoric precisely to conceal the fact that there's not much difference between the two at all. Consider the last election in Arizona. While the candidates had some differences over SB1070, they virtually agreed on the question of militarization of the border. Terry Goddard, the liberal in the race, hailed Israel and its "separation barrier" as an example to look to in solving our "immigration problem". One may remember the Minutemen plan to build a fence based on Israeli plans on a mile-long strip of private land down south. In a piece entitled, "Can Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?", Goddard wrote, "any barrier on our border should be effective without being hostile and maintain security without being offensive." A Berlin Wall with a smiley-face. A little real polarization might do everyone some good.

All the calls for the toning down of debate and for the return to the responsible middle, whether from Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik or Jon Stewart, suffer from the same deficiency: moderation has so little to recommend it. Moderation is the soil from which the national unity government springs, for instance. It is the enemy of debate. It is based on the false presumption that good ideas, correct ideas, come from the middle and from compromise. Consider the Abolitionists. What use moderation in the face of the outrage of slavery? The moderate position amounted to advocacy for its containment in the South. Or in other words, the responsible middle was the argument for continued bondage for Blacks in the South.

What is needed, then, is a rejection of false polarization and an advocacy for real polarization, the kind that reflects the seething anger that more and more boils over in supermarkets, workplaces and homes all across the country. We need a polarization equivalent to the righteous rage of a population fed up with being tagged, foreclosed, imprisoned, poisoned, entertained and drugged. One that rejects a life where we cheer the new freeway because it will get us to work ten minutes sooner, as if that time accrues to us in the end anyhow. Or a life where we feel lucky to have a job even if it bores the fuck out of us. Or a life increasingly reduced to the size of the electrons that feed our internet and our televisions. I'm sure it's been said before: atomized lives in an electronic age. We need a schism equal to the open wound that is modern life for sure, but Loughner's spree offers nothing for us. His was an inward, Columbinized attack on everyone and everything. Loughner is yet another warning about what we will keep getting if we continue down this path.

Loughner's cryptic obsession with a "new grammar" strikes me in this context as fitting indeed. Rejecting politics as we know it, he had gone so far that he could no longer express himself in terms that anyone else could understand. "What is government if words have no meaning?" he is said to have asked Giffords at a previous forum. Her lack of response set him off. "She's an idiot," he later told friends. He was not having the same dialog as the responsible political class. He was off the map. Thus he could find no collaborators. And he could find no outlets for his rage, no cooperative struggle in which to engage himself towards the relieving of the conditions that drove him mad. Instead, we get an explosion at a Safeway grocery store. His frustration must have been epic.

Now, this last human detonation over, we are left wondering, when and where will come the next one? Surely we look around at our frayed and tattered society and can take no solace that the forces that set this man off have been tamed. Capital's slash and burn war on our lives rages into a new year of crisis, as hungry for blood as ever. And more people are closer to the edge than ever, precarious if they are lucky, and isolated. The frustrations continue to build and our modern life provides little to hold on to for a lot of people. Until we rise up and burn this empty society to the ground, finding new friends and new relationships in the process, we will continue on, like Loughner in many ways, lucid dreaming from a prison cell. "I am a sleepwalker -- who turns off the alarm clock," wrote Loughner in one of his videos. With everyday life offering so little to so many, in the end even the most determined dreamer can only dream for so long.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Exhuming the State's Avenging Angels: Revisiting 'Officer Down' in Light of Recent Revelations About the Phoenix PD

The recent very suspicious death of Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Drenth (as yet unsolved) and October's outrageous murder of unarmed Phoenix resident Daniel Rodriguez in his own home by Officer Richard Chrisman provides me an opportunity to revisit some of the points I made in an article I wrote a few years ago called "Officer Down: The Media and Cop-Killings". In that piece, I pointed out how when an officer is killed in the line of duty, in general no investigation into the officer's record or character is permitted, because to do so would put into question the religious nature of this society's attitudes (and especially those of the media institutions) towards the police.

Dead cops are treated like little dead angels -- heroes, pure of heart and motive, who meet their tragic end too soon and in defense of the smallest among us. It's as if every cop dies rescuing an old lady from a house on fire, a box of kittens under one arm and a guilty-faced arsonist firmly gripped by the collar in the other. Justice served!

A common attack lobbed at those who dare criticize the cops and their role in society is that, despite one's lack of faith in the oft-touted immaculateness of the paladin in blue, "They'd protect you, too, even though you hate them." Of course, those of us who have seen their brutality liberally meted out in person know better. For instance, one reason most Americans have never been clubbed by a cop is because they've never been to a protest, not because cops don't beat people at protests. Likewise, middle class white people generalize their at worst mildly annoying experiences with ticket-issuing cops to everyone else, and therefore remain baffled each and every time a black kid is dragged from a car and beaten by one of them.

The coverage given to cops, and the heaps of posthumous praise piled on them, is rivaled but not surpassed, only by the attention given to dead soldiers. Perceived disparagers of the troops or their mission are counseled that they fight for our right to dissent, even if not the rights of those they invade and torture (although their defenders rarely even concede that much). And as with cops, only the most superficial investigations into their mission is countenanced. They do violence in far off villages so that we can be free, the logic goes. Not to protect and advance the interests of the capitalist and political class. No, nothing so crass, to be sure. In the common parlance, all enemies of the military are Hitler or terrorists with ticking time bombs. Of the cop, their targets are child molesters, murderers and rapists. And all critics of the police and ("our") soldiers are appeasers, ingrates or apologists for the above listed menagerie of the foes of honest humanity. Or Reds. Now we start to get to the crux of it, don't we?

When a cop dies, freeways are shut down, like the 101 in the north Valley was for Drenth's corpse and it's accompanying tearful and politically opportunistic entourage. Traffic is diverted, local politicians and police officials are given free reign to praise the officer in the media without suffering the cruel editor's snips and cuts. Sometimes the media covers the funeral procession live. Flags are lowered to half-staff. Again, just like soldiers. Indeed, the willingness of capitalist society to shut down its holy arteries of commerce to venerate its fallen protectors reveals their true purpose. But we already knew that.

Which again brings me to the case of Sgt. Drenth, Officer Chrisman and a host of other officers in the South Mountain Precinct of the Phoenix Police Department. I can't think of another time when the sheer force of scandal has compelled onto the public discourse the question of police sainthood. Or at least it should. In a way we have to count ourselves lucky at the odd convergence of circumstances that now provides us the opportunity to interrogate again the question of police and the way they are held up in society.

Called on a domestic disturbance between Daniel Rodriguez and his mother, which was over by the time he arrived, Officer Chrisman barged into Rodriguez's mobile home, put his service weapon to Rodriguez's head, shot his dog and then, eventually, opened fire on Rodriguez himself as he attempted to leave the trailer with his bike. "I don't need a warrant," he is reported to have said in response to Rodriguez's protestations. The act so outraged his partner, Sergio Virgillo, who was present when it happened (which says a lot, as we'll see later) that he broke the blue code of silence and denounced Chrisman to investigators.

Still, the police union ran to his support, paying his $150,000 bail with union dues. Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) President Mark Spencer, a notorious anti-immigrant activist and right-wing Christian, showed up in the courtroom for Chrisman's initial appearance wearing a "We Support Officer Richard Chrisman" t-shirt. Initially and reluctantly, the state only charged Officer Chrisman with aggravated assault and animal cruelty.

Public outrage and a series of protests, which went on for a week, eventually compelled the outgoing County Attorney Rick Romley to charge Chrisman with second-degree murder. Stating his overall support for the police, and the defense of the bad apple myth of policing, Romley was careful to reassure the cops that his issuing of the new charge wasn't a sign of his straying from the fold. "But we as citizens put our trust and our lives in their hands, and when one violates and abuses that trust, we must hold them accountable to the community for that breach," he told the press.

An interesting side note, last year following the anti-Joe Arpaio march, the Phoenix New Times reacted with a vengeance worthy of a puritanical witchhunt to the Dine', O'odham, Anarchist Bloc's assertion that the Phoenix Police were as bad, if not worse in many ways, than the Sheriff's Department. After all, the PPD is responsible for more deportations than Sheriff Joe, hands down. The immigrant movement here had put a lot of faith in the PPD as the heroes of their anti-Joe campaign and would brook no criticism of their saviors -- even when PPD deliberately and without provocation charged their horses into a mixed age crowd, trampling people and pepper spraying indiscriminately. Interestingly, several of those arrested, including one for throwing a water bottle at heavily armed police during the melee, among other complaints, were charged with the same crime as was Chrisman initially, who is alleged to have murdered an unarmed man.

Indeed, the press, especially the New Times, is directly responsible in no uncertain terms for the charges filed against anarchists following that event and the fact that our comrades continue to face prosecution (with one, Grace, having just been released after serving a month in Joe's jail as a result of the state's blackmail operation). So, it's with some chagrin that I note that, almost a year later, the New Times has come to the startling conclusion that, in fact, the PPD is as rife with abuse and corruption as the MCSO. Better late than never, I suppose, but it would be nice if anarchists got some credit for saying it first and didn't have to suffer alone the consequences of standing up against such nonsense. But I suppose that was a different PPD that attacked the march last January, right?

So, let's get back to Chrisman. A little digging, the result I'm sure of the pure monstrosity of his actions and the fact that he is a living as opposed to dead cop (of whom not a bad word would be permitted), revealed something interesting. Chrisman was on something called the "Brady List". That list, which can be viewed here, is composed of officers who have been singled out for acts of dishonesty while on the job. In Chrisman's case, the black mark came when he was observed by a couple of security guards on camera harassing a homeless woman and planting a crack pipe on her.

What was he doing with a crack pipe, you may wonder? Maybe ask the fine officers of the New Orleans Police Department who, it has been revealed recently, routinely carried with them what they used to refer to as a "ham sandwich" -- i.e., an untraceable pistol to plant in case an officer involved shooting revealed no weapon on the victim. Remarkably in the case of Chrisman we have a case here where security guards, generally power hungry and drooling sycophants to the police that they hope one day themselves to be, were so outraged by his behavior that they turned him in. Quite astounding, really. It makes you wonder what his uncontroversial activity was like, doesn't it?

But that outrage is not a rare exception, it turns out. It has since been revealed that the head of the Phoenix Police Department's internal investigation squad was himself on the Brady List! And do you know what else? Revelations from a three year long investigation into the false billing of overtime by officers in the PPD has revealed a ring of fraud within the department, in which what has been reported to be as many as 25 officers in the South Mountain Precinct, aided by sympathetic bosses, routinely billed for overtime that never happened, padding their already inflated wages. Three officers have been charged with serious felonies as a result, probably just sacrificial lambs to cover up whatever else has been going on.

But something interesting came to light as a result of this investigation that really bears remarking on: according to the reports coming out now, if Sgt. Sean Drenth was still alive, he would have been indicted as well. Which would make the officer over which the city elite so recently poured out it's glycerin tears, the latest fallen hero in a long line of since-beatified saints, just another corrupt cop in a corrupt department.

To make this connection even more clear, Officer Chrisman has been reported to be among those under investigation as well, putting our fallen angel Sgt. Drenth a mere one degree of separation, if not a co-conspirator, with alleged murderer Chrisman in the overtime scam. But, to be fair, one degree is in fact too far, since the accused mastermind of the operation, Officer Contreras (recently retired under "multiple misconduct investigations"), actually played in a band with Drenth. The fact that Contreras comes from a long-time Phoenix police family certainly casts more doubt on the reputation of the department and, of course, any future or past fallen officers from that particular cesspool in South Mountain, mired as it is now in public scandal and accusations of racism. Hero cops indeed!

In this new era of austerity, and despite the overwhelmingly obvious corrupt and violent nature of our co-called "protectors", where we are reminded daily that teachers and other public employees (amongst the last remaining pathways to decent wages in this country) must face the imposed precarity of regular review of their qualifications and suffer the constant threat of dismissal, it's interesting that we have heard no such demands when it comes to the police. As a friend of mine recently remarked to a cop on the light rail, "They'd let children starve before they didn't pay you."

And make no mistake, when those children are starving, and you reach for that loaf of bread to tuck under your now-ill-fitting clothing, it will be one of these officers, not Drenth thankfully, but one of his corrupt, roid-raging and hair-trigger comrades, that intervenes to keep that food from their mouths. These are the saints of our time? Or is it perhaps something else?

I won't go into it in depth again, because I already did that in "Officer Down", but suffice it to say that, if as we've seen above, the cops aren't a bunch of angels protecting us from the thugs and thieves that would otherwise plague good people, then something else must be going on. At the least, as it would be a mark of insanity to defend the mainstream image of the police officer, it also makes no sense to be shocked that jobs that offer largely unaccountable power over others and unsupervised opportunities for theft and bullying in fact attract people interested in acting like a bunch of cowboy jerks that take advantage of people, push them around, plant drugs and steal (just to begin a very long list). In that sense, the image of the police officer is perfect cover for them.

But beyond that, of course, we have the particular role of the police as a system in the US. Born out of the slave patrols in the South, the anti-Mexican militias in the Southwest, and the anti-worker thugs that broke up strikes, the legacy of the police remains with us to this day, defending the wealth and power of the elite first, of the settler second and of everyone (or no one) else third, except perhaps by accident or convenience. Let's not parse words or dance around the issue: the thin blue line in fact defends capitalism and the state from it's victims, ensuring that people like us don't get out of line and that the rich and their bureaucratic buddies in the government stay safe, warm and well-fed in their mansions and downtown penthouses. The cops keep the money rolling in! They reinforce white supremacy, protecting some from the worst excesses of capitalist and bureaucratic power in exchange for their acquiescence in the hyper-domination of the rest of society.

The police, far from the angelic agents of our deliverance from evil, are in fact a hallmark and the bulwark of a deeply unequal class society, in which power is exercised against the will and against the interests of the vast majority of the population. Each time one falls should be a time for celebration, not mourning, for it brings us a little bit closer to a world without cops, a world without inequality.

In Spain during the revolution the workers and peasants, so infuriated at the apologists for the monarchy and feudalism, dug up the rotting corpses of the priests and nuns that had conjured the myths of their age -- the lies that sought to keep the farmer and the factory worker in his or her place, bowing always to the appropriate authority figure. Perhaps we can think of counterparts in our own society, who deserve similar tribute, should the time come. So, please, weep no more over the dead cop than the dead slave patroller, or the dead Pinkerton. No rose on the grave, but who's got a shovel?