The for-profit theatrics of riot control

The unrest in Baltimore after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after he was critically injured in police custody has reopened longstanding debates over public-order policing. Where does protest end and rioting begin? What counts as violence? Is property damage ever legitimate? Listening to Fox News analyze the meaning of the word “thugs,” it feels as if we are doomed to repeat Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “Riots are the language of the unheard” until we are blue in the face…

Riot control largely arose out of the repression of rebellious peasants and slaves. Early forms of policing in the U.S. included slave patrols that searched residences, broke up gatherings and monitored roads. A more structured practice for dealing with urban minority unrest after the Civil War was imported from white European colonial experience. In 1829, U.S. cities began to adopt parts of the British policing model, creating organized departments with full-time officers…

We saw…space-based control practices play out in Baltimore on April 27. As Mother Jones reported, in the Modawmin neighborhood, where violence started that day, police shut down the local subway stop, forced people to disembark buses and corralled students into a police-controlled space. With public transportation cut off and streets blocked by heavily armored, shield-barrier police lines, people were trapped — forced to fight or attempt to flee, risking arrest and further brutality.

Such acts of entrapment and suffocation are most visible when tear gas is also deployed, as police did in Modawmin, along with pepper balls. While pepper balls and spray tanks filled with tear gas are modern inventions, the practice of poisoning the air to control populations has been used by U.S. law enforcement for nearly a century…

As journalist Belén Fernández has noted, these bodily and spatial policing practices reflect Israeli military and police training for controlling the occupied territories. Baltimore Police Department representatives have received training overseas from Israeli experts. Training happens at home as well, from former Israel Defense Forces soldiers such as B.K. Blankchtein, who educated officers at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission from 2008 to 2011.

Private companies specializing in Israeli enforcement also train Baltimore officers in control techniques. The Israeli Tactical School operates a number of programs in Maryland, including the Warrior Weekend, fashioned after training at the Israeli Counter Terror School. For $1,500, participants receive tactical education in, as the company’s website puts it, “the Israeli Individual Warrior doctrine designed to win the fight against all odds.”

But these Israeli-imported practices of controlling public space are not an isolated phenomenon. The riot control industry is a transnational enterprise, with competitions, workshops and products around the world. Selling myths of security in the form of violent technology, it profits from racial fears, police vulnerability and the militarization of public space…

The riot control market is driven by the increase in the demand for these systems amongst law enforcement agencies due to the economic crisis and political unrest prevailing in the nations, which results into riots or protests by the public against any authority.

When that authority is the police, there are sales opportunities on all sides.

RTFA for more detail. Your friendly neighborhood patrol cop is getting this training whether you approve or not.

And taxpayers get to pick up the tab.

Sleazy hospital of the week


They haven’t a leg to stand on in their defense. Har!

A south Florida man is suing a hospital for emotional distress, saying his leg was amputated and thrown in the garbage with his name tag still on it.

John Timiriasieff, 56, had his right leg amputated below the knee in October at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables.

“Rather than properly disposing of the plaintiff’s limb as expected and as required by Florida law, Doctors Hospital threw the Plaintiff’s amputated limb into the garbage, with tags indicating it belonged to the Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit filed…in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

A month later, Timiriasieff said his family was contacted by homicide detectives investigating if he had been the victim of foul play…

Doctors Hospital Inc, part of the Baptist Health South Florida Inc, said it could not discuss the incident in detail because of patient privacy considerations…

Normally, amputated limbs are incinerated by hospitals, said Clay Roberts, a lawyer for Timiriasieff…

The leg was discovered at a waste management facility and reported to police.

The medical-industrial complex has attitudes as disgusting and anti-human as the military-industrial complex.

Nutball conspiracy groups say Pentagon plans invasion of Texas. Huh? Wha?


Click to enlarge

U.S. Army Special Operations Command says that, contrary to reports circulating on conspiracy websites, it has no plans to invade Texas.

Some fringe websites have paraded a PowerPoint presentation, reportedly from USASOC, as evidence of Jade Helm 15, a series of military exercises across California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Texas. They say it will train the U.S. military to suppress American citizens rebelling in a coming military coup or civil war.

The Army says Jade Helm is a real exercise and will take place in the Southwest, as the slides indicate. But USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria said that’s the extent of the reports’ accuracy.

“It’s a training exercise. Just a regular training exercise,” Lastoria said of Jade Helm, which USASOC documentation references as a training exercise in at least one previous year as well…

Nothing in the presentation (with slides marked “unclassified”) contradicts the assertion that Jade Helm is merely a training exercise. It does note that civilian areas could notice some effects…including the potential for noise complaints and noting that personnel may be carrying weapons loaded with blanks.

Conspiracy websites painted language regarding civilian impact as revealing of the true nature of the mission: to prepare for abducting dissidents from their homes.

Many of the conspiracy sites have focused in on the selection of Texas as a “hostile” territory. To them, a high degree of libertarian support, pro-gun leanings and patriotism make Texas a target. The slides also mark Utah and a pocket in Southern California as “hostile,” while New Mexico is “uncertain (leaning hostile)” and Arizona is “uncertain (leaning friendly).”

There are only two reasons for either the Left or the Right to invade Texas. Lefties would support intervention if the Confederate brigades ever get started with their fixation on secession and return to a slave economy.

The Right-Wing under the thumb of the Koch Bros still prefers Texas oil over North Dakota because it’s cheaper, therefore more profitable.

Pic of the day

Black Spring
Click to enlargeReuters/Eric Thayer

Demonstrators march in Baltimore, Maryland May 2, 2015. Thousands of people took to the streets of Baltimore on Saturday as anger over the death of young black man Freddie Gray turned to hopes for change following swift criminal charges against six police officers.

All of which points out the contradiction of American politicians and newspaper flunkies celebrating uprisings during the Arab Spring – but, when the same violence is visited upon communities in the United States controlled by racist police departments – shock and amazement fill the newspace.

No one recommends crime and arson as an antidote to racism, political and social repression. It still takes a special hypocrite to act surprised when violence is part of the response to decades of violence imposed by government.