I loathe writing something so trivial, something so obvious, about the nature of “police protection.” But since I know quite a few people who peruse this blog would find this story interesting, I’m taking the time to post it.
I went through the effort to organize the May Day event this past Saturday. The entire event was a permitted free speech activity. As an anarchist I organized the event to be not just an event for anarchists. The event was open to anyone who wanted to be a part of it. And regardless, wherever there are anarchists there should be a May Day march. May Day was started by anarchists who fought for the 8-hour work day, and this (somewhat tokenized) history is something we use to celebrate and generalize local, contemporary struggles.
The event was permitted not out of principle, but for practical purposes. Some people said to me that having a permit for a march was ridiculous, but my response was that plenty of people own driver’s licenses or some form of identification. The reason for getting a driver’s license is the same for getting a permit for a small march: do you really want to be hampered because you didn’t get a license to drive the vehicle? You could either get the license, or you could not get the license and put yourself at risk if you decide to drive. And speaking from experience, there have been small, un-permitted marches in Tacoma — and the pointless arrests that happen with those marches take weeks of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Recently in Olympia 22 people were arrested for “j-walking” during an un-permitted march, which was also not an “open event” either.
Some marches should be bigger, open, and permitted if the circumstances necessitate that. Other marches should be un-permitted, explosive and rebellious. We have to known which ones are which.
Long story short – the event was permitted by the city.
So, how simple, right? We get a permit from the city, then we outline everything we want to do, and they give us the space to do it. The cops will be on their best behavior as we play music, as some people are making a circus demo, and while we all chant the ways we want to destroy their society. Piece of cake…
The funny thing is, when we got to the end of the march — Tollefson Plaza — the city had allowed another group to occupy the space. The corporate sponsors of the Annual Tacoma Marathon, Budweiser and Michelob, had setup a gigantic balloon tent for people to schmooze under during the marathon. The police even allowed these corporate assholes to park their vehicles in the plaza – which included several large SUVs and a Budweiser delivery semi truck. (Note: the plaza is not that big.) The corporate sponsors also setup approximately twenty porta-potties for their own customers. All of this corporate crap completely overcrowded our event… and their permit didn’t actually begin until the next day.
Obviously the City of Tacoma failed to hold up their end of the bargain by allowing the sponsors of a corporate event to crowd out a “free speech activity.” I personally just figured we would have that space to ourselves since we had the permit for it. But as we came up on plaza it was almost as if a small voice in my head was saying, “See, I told you so.” After I had gone through all the bullshit of actually getting a piece of paper that said we could occupy that space, now all of the sudden some corporate fuckheads were being facilitated by the police to use that space.
The cops are your enemies. They were not there to make our event run smoothly. They were not there to make sure we had the space allotted in the permit. They were not there to “protect” our march from anything. They were there to make our march more difficult. They knew what the march was for. They were there to stop us from having the event go as planned, and on plenty of occasions they harassed people in the march.
At one point they almost arrested someone while he was passing out May Day info fliers on the sidewalk. But everyone stopped the march and yelled at the pigs until they decided it wasn’t worth it.
When I tried to bring my car to the plaza to haul away some of the setup equipment, the police blocked the vehicle with bicycles and said that having a vehicle on the plaza was “not in the permit.”
Funny how Michelob and Budweiser got to do it, even though they didn’t have a permit.
But not me, just a regular fucking “citizen” who applied for a free speech “permit.”
Permit or no permit, the police are only there to protect capital, and to protect people who own capital… and to protect the bourgeoisie who wish they had more capital. They protect and serve you if you belong to the upper classes or serve their interests.
The City Clerk’s office called me back to “apologize” for the inconvenience on May Day. They called to ensure me that the police are the “good guys” and that misunderstandings happen. “But,” she said, “this is America and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. At the city, we respect that and we want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.”
My advice to anyone who organizes a march like this in the future — don’t even bother with a permit. Bring a bunch of shotguns to the march and say you are members of a private security firm.