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Monday, March 26, 2007


Spying...and killing

Most readers have undoubtedly heard about the story the New York Times broke this morning, and which was the subject of the entire hour of Democracy Now this morning:
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department's Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.
The problem with this story is that one can have a tendency to take it too lightly. What can you do about a passage like this one other than laugh?
A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

"Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda," said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003.
Oh my. Organizing concerts and giving speeches - that is sophisticated! And what a specific and sophisticated agenda - "vote against Bush"!

But the problem is, this kind of story makes people forget that police infiltration all too frequently involves the ultimate sort of intervention - murder. Because the police go hand-in-hand with the Klan, the Minuteman, and all sorts of right-wing thugs. And that's something that must never be forgotten, even while we're chuckling about police spying on and worrying about "Bands for Bush."

This article describes a neo-Nazi rally held in Florida just last year, which was organized by an FBI informant. And it goes on to tell the story of the brutal massacre on Nov. 3, 1979, in Greensboro, N.C., of five unionists and anti-racist organizers, cut down in a hail of gunfire in which local police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) were all up to their eyeballs.

And then you might want to read this article from which we learn that it was an FBI informant who most likely fired the first shots at Kent State, which in turn triggered another hail of gunfire which killed four students protesting the Vietnam War in 1970. And what was that particular informant doing? Why, he was taking pictures of the demonstrators.

Of course, one could cite many more examples. The police are not some kind of benign force, nor are their informants. They are an instrument of the state, and when push comes to shove (and even when push is barely push, as in "Bands for Bush"), they act as such. Sometimes with lethal force.

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