Obama’s “Symbol of Promise”: A Fascist Police State for the Oppressed

May 25, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On May 17, Barack Obama went to Camden, New Jersey, where he proclaimed changes in police tactics to be “a symbol of promise for the nation.” And declared: “If it’s working here, it can work anywhere.”

It has to be said without hype that this is a promise of a fascist police state for communities of the oppressed.

The HBO news show Vice did a stunning report on this “model” at the end of Season 2. They showed that the heart of this model is massive surveillance of the oppressed communities. Video cameras are trained on almost every bit of public space, and all that feed is funneled into a high tech command center where police employees are watching what everyone does on the streets, every minute of the day. (And these records are digitized and saved, potentially forever, unlike standard surveillance video, which is erased and reused every few days.) Camden police are also hoping to hook all this up with “facial recognition software,” so that the name and other information about each individual shown will come up on the screen when the camera turns on them.

Vice also showed what it means to have the police “getting out of their cars” (the mantra of “Community Policing”) and actually getting “to know the residents.” In the desperately poor Black and Brown communities of Camden, where there are no jobs, no rec centers, hardly even stores, much less movie theaters, people have to explain themselves to heavily armed cops at every turn, whenever they come out of their apartments. Hanging out in a park, sitting on a stoop, eating a sandwich outside a store—young men and women are repeatedly told by the cops to “keep walking,” “keep moving,” and threatened with arrest if they do not, even though they are clearly not in violation of any law or ordinance.

A white youth comes into the area; cops stop him and demand to know why he is there. He says he is checking up on a homeless friend. They tell him to leave, and that they will arrest him if they see him again.

Vice interviews numerous residents who say it is impossible to do anything in their neighborhood without being harassed. What Obama calls a “symbol of promise” has been a massive escalation of tickets and arrests for very minor “infractions.” According to an ACLU report issued on May 18, summonses for “riding a bicycle without a bell” went from three in the year before the new model, to 339 the year after. Disorderly conduct summonses went up by 43 percent, from 1,766 to 2,521. Summonses for failure to maintain lights and reflectors on a vehicle went up by 421 percent, from 496 to 2,579. Remember, this was the very same bogus excuse the pig used to stop Walter Scott in South Carolina just before he murdered him.

The total number of misdemeanor and violation cases filed went from 97,000 to 125,000, an increase of 28,000 in a single year. This is in a city whose total population is less than 80,000!

This is a nightmare marriage of NSA-type surveillance and a hyper version of the “Broken Windows” policy of saturating oppressed neighborhoods with police who harass and arrest people for everyday activity—essentially criminalizing simply being alive.

Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has stated repeatedly that what is going on in the U.S. in recent decades, with police brutality and mass incarceration in particular, is “a slow genocide that could easily become a fast genocide.” What is happening in Camden is “slow genocide” picking up steam—branding an entire city as criminals, feeding into the machinery of mass incarceration. It is an open-air concentration camp.

Obama’s promotion of this as a national model is not a positive move in any way. It is unconscionable to promote Obama as a positive factor in the struggle against police abuse, brutality, and repression. And it is equally unconscionable to take the view that this kind of fascist police state is OK, or even a good idea, if YOU are not affected (yet). What IS required for those who would maintain their humanity in times like these, is to oppose the whole agenda of mass incarceration and police murder.



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