Police are People
“Every cop has their own agenda,” Crystal replied. I was trying to make a generalization about police and their behavior, but C was having none of this intellectually weak behavior.
My best arrest and my worst arrest were both in Berlin. My worst was when I got arrested at a climate convention when some of us (including Anissa and me) locked our heads under buses carrying oil company executives to the climate negotiations. The reason it was bad was because of the polices’ completely unnecessary violence after we were arrested. The female cops were especially abusive, perhaps they had something to prove or were racist; they really beat up the young Russian women who had been part of our action team.
My best arrest was at a different climate convention in Berlin where we posed as press, made it into the secure area of the UN event and held banners and disrupted the meeting. The police were UN staff and we got handled like diplomats, formally and carefully. My cop did not chastise me for holding up my sign upside down.
The first time I got arrested I had a curious and uncharacteristic conversation with the booking officer in the San Francisco County Jail. We had been protesting the US’s withdrawal from the World Court after the court ruled against the Reagan Administration’s mining of the Nicaraguan harbor of Corinto by the CIA and its operatives. The cop broached the issue by admitting he understood the injustice; that he had felt as we did when he was younger. I told him that I bet he still held some of that idealism in him, and he agreed. It was important to me that this person inside the system, this person responsible for processing me, actually understood the reasons for my actions and empathized.
I find I have to embrace a paradoxical mindset where I accept the duality that a given officer is quite likely a good person, who need not be abusive, but is also trained in violence to protect the state and its agents, and may act violently to play out their script.