A right to assemble chaos-Why American police incite riots

Jamie Wendland is a contributing columnist to Pravda where this piece was titled; “Why American police incite riots.”Arizona Loss Unrest_Cham640

“Management Service: DR11” is an episode of popular nineteen-fifty and sixties American docudrama Dragnet, chronicling the aftermath of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Airing October 10, 1968, the episode centers on officers Joe Friday and Bill Gannon, as they are assigned with devising a police response to possible Los Angles protests.

Sergeant Friday decides it’s wiser to limit police presence, but keep a riot force on standby, and concludes if the situation is treated like a riot from the start, that’s exactly what they’re going to get

“Chief wants no excessive show of force, and don’t act on rumors,” he barks.

Dragnet, of course, is fictional, but as with most television programs, it reflects the values and thinking of a given era.

The nineteen sixties was a turbulent enough of a decade and most certainly there was police brutality, but it was recognized that citizens had the right of public assembly and protest.  Law enforcement reserved excessive show of force for situations which required it and they didn’t incite riots over traditional, college student customs.

Prior to the University of Wisconsin’s Men’s basketball Final Four game, a Wisconsin State Journal headline announced; “Police preparing for another big post-game crowd on State Street.” The article goes on to predict an even larger crowd than the “10,000-person party that erupted there last weekend.”

How do Madison, Wisconsin police handle a pumped-up crowd of 10,000 college-aged, and probably alcohol fueled, revelers?  Apparently, the chief has seen season 3-episode 4, as he “prepared” with only 50 officers in standard “soft gear” and kept the riot force on standby.

Thousands of drunken, loud and rambunctious students crammed State Street. Several threw bottles or firecrackers, some climbed light posts while others stood atop bus stop shelters, shouting at the top of their lungs.

The State Journal mused the following morning, “A Madison police officer told one man, ‘I’m not gonna put a Band-Aid on your head’ when he saw him hanging from a tree.”

There were no arrests and just a few citations issued to the overly rowdy, as police spokesperson Joel DeSpain happily reported. “We didn’t have any serious issues and we’re really proud of how our fans reacted.”

Tucson, Arizona police, however, don’t view the antics of college students the same as the fictional Joe Friday or Madison police. Following the very same game, the several hundred students taking to the streets were outnumbered by police in gas masks and full riot gear.

The Tucson police’s own overreaction and show of excessive force when it really wasn’t necessary created the very conditions in which a riot was the most likely outcome. In fact, they pre-planned and instigated a riot themselves, as verified by CBSSports.com:

“Police were prepared in riot gear, then forced to use pepper grenades when certain segments of the aggravated horde began verbally opposing the presence of law enforcement.”

The students were completely justified in opposing such a heavy handed police presence, because it wasn’t necessary to begin with. This wasn’t a riot; there were no rumors or any indication that a riot was even going to take place. These were neither protesters nor radicals; rather this was a group of forlorn students lamenting their team’s loss.

The police had instigated the very riot they were there to avert, by their own unwarranted excessive force.

Anyone with any contact with Minnesota has probably experienced that when it comes to constitutional rights and liberties, it’s hardly the land of the free. Police State Minnesota abounds with unconstitutional DUI checkpoints, unwarranted searches and police brutality. Minnesota also seemingly has a zero tolerance for any form of public assembly.

Following the first Minnesota Gophers Frozen Four hockey playoff game, fans poured into the streets in traditional college fashion. Of course they’re going to be noisy, to be rowdy and boisterous.  To the law of Minnesota, this is unacceptable.

No sooner did the game end, than students were greeted by over a hundred riot police with blaring bullhorns, warning the crowd of an “unlawful assembly” even before it had the opportunity to assemble. A local ABC affiliate described the scene as “chaos,” reporting;

“Hundreds of people flooded the streets of Dinkytown near the University campus Thursday night, forcing officers from across the Twin Cities to break up the crowd.”

Riot gear and AR-15s rarely set a festive mood, but Minneapolis police had pre-determined a riot.

“People were seen throwing bottles, climbing light poles,” it was reported, “—and even lighting fireworks in the streets!”

In other words, they were doing almost exactly the same things that Madison students, and other college students, have done for decades. However, in this case, it was immediately escalated by police with bean bag bullets and pepper spray.

“Minneapolis Police are investigating the massive celebration of students that turned criminal.”

Already having successfully escalated a simple celebration into a riot with over nineteen arrests, by treating it like a riot from the start, Minneapolis police were now able to justify an even greater show of force for the second playoff game.

Days before the game was to take place any possible public assembly or celebration was discouraged with stern threats;

“Remember, if things escalate, police don’t distinguish between bystanders and participants,” Pamela Wheellock, Vice President of University Services warned during a KSTP report.

Never mind that random targeting of everyone within sight, regardless of involvement, is not considered good police work by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, ask yourself: how do the police know “things” may escalate unless they’re already planning on escalating them? After all, this isn’t a protest, a Tea Party or KKK gathering, this is a bunch of college students who may or may not celebrate a team victory.

The several hundred students ultimately preparing for Dinkytown streets in lament of their loss of the game were in for a rude awakening. Greeted in war-zone fashion with over 300 riot police, armored vehicles and armed helicopters circling overhead, one would think this was an attempted government coup by armed militants, not a traditional custom of college students.

Madison police easily managed a mob of thousands with a mere fifty officers in standard soft gear.  Are Minnesota students so very different that they require what practically surmounts to a military battalion in full body armor to keep a few hundred in line, before they’ve even had an opportunity to fully assemble?

Wisconsin is the exception and not the rule, as the national trend is that public assembly in any form is met with overwhelming police force, whether they require it or not.

Traditional college student public gatherings in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona and even the sleepy southern city of Lexington, Kentucky, following the NCAA Tournament have all been the recent targets of police incited riots.

We’re living in an era where government thinks nothing of trampling on constitutional rights or personal liberties. Furthermore, even as the economy grows, the wealth goes to mighty, while mom and pop America gets food share. The gender wage gap, the racial wage gap and the age wage gap are amplified now as we all must fight even harder for just a little larger piece of the meager pie we share.

Soon, every sliver of that pie will be gone or distributed, and we’ll stop bickering amongst ourselves and attack the real enemy. If Americans were to take to the streets, it will be a revolution of epic proportions.  Therefore the will to resist must be so broken, and Americans so terrorized by authority, that college kids are conditioned to accept that public assembly in any form will be met with overwhelming and violent force.

But, there are exceptions.

Rancher Cliven Bundy may not be a good guy, and may be completely illegally grazing his cattle on Nevada public land. That aside, instead of just arresting the elderly man for possible illegal activities, the government floods the region with thousands of heavily armed federal agents.

For days, they terrorize locals and protestors through tazing, beatings and arrests for the eerily Orwellian charge of “failing to disperse.” CBS and other networks reported that officials had stooped so low as to sic attack dogs on a pregnant woman. The Feds, it seems, were hell-bent on escalating a relatively minor grazing issue, more suited to civil court, into a riot situation.

That is, until well-armed members of the Texas State Militia arrived, brandishing armor piercing ammunition.  No sooner are federal agents faced with heavily armed resistance, than they immediately cite “public safety concerns” and stand down.

Contrast this with the well documented and reported brutality against the unarmed Occupy protesters, which resulted in over 2,500 arrests.

The Bundy case is indicative of the reality that the disparity in arrests and abuse between Occupy and Tea Party protests has nothing to do with political bias. Although this is not an endorsement of militias or gun violence, the facts are painfully clear—police don’t mess with assemblies of citizens who are armed to the teeth.

On March 2, 2014 in Washington, D.C., the peaceful protest of only 1,200 participants against the Keystone oil pipeline project resulted in pepper spraying, police assaults and nearly four hundred arrests. A whopping 40% arrest rate, for what should be a basic constitutionally protected right of public protest. How many arrests would have occurred with a hundred or so armed citizen militiamen lurking in the shadows?

Is this what America has become?  Do even college students or environmental activists need to call upon the armed protection of the Texas State Militia in order to exercise their constitutional right of assembly, or prevent police abuse?

Police around the nation are cracking down on even the most peaceful of public assemblies and escalating situations. Peaceful protests, traditional college student public antics and even wedding reception parties have been sequestered or dispersed by overwhelming police show of force.

“Excessive show of force and acting on rumors” is standard police procedure in America today, as the public will to resist must be shattered.

It’s a vicious cycle played out every day in the US: police escalate a minor situation into a riot, then as a result demand more riot gear and more military style equipment for the next situation.  The next assembly is met with even more immediate force, and it escalates even further. Eventually the public is so filled with fear that even the thought of any public assembly, let alone public protest, is far removed from their minds.

 

Medicating Childhood-An American Zombie Apocalypse

“When I was a child, I thought as a child,” is an old proverb which at one time was also the philosophy society lived by when rearing children.  This was the golden rule practiced by parents, schools and child development experts in understanding that the childlike behavior of children was an intrinsic fact of life; they are not adults. They were not expected to think like adults, behave like adults nor exhibit rational, acceptable adult social skills, maturity or conduct-they were children and so they were allowed to think and behave like them.Childhood dangers

That has all changed over the past thirty years, change accelerated at an alarming rate as we entered the twenty first century. It has become almost universally accepted by parents, schools, child psychologists and even law enforcement that children are, in fact, simply miniature adults and we demand of them to act accordingly. A child who is unable to conform to this new societal standard of acceptable adult behavior is immediately labeled “mentally ill,” and is either punished, medicated or forced into psychological treatment.

A six year old who kissed a classmate was suspended from school and classified by the district a predator for “sex harassment.”  In Georgia, a female kindergarten student was handcuffed and suspended for a childish temper tantrum. A similar 2012 incident involving a five year old Stockton, California boy resulted in the child’s arrest and a charge of battery to an officer. The boy was then “transported to a hospital for further psychiatric evaluation,” according to local NBC affiliate KCRA.

Virtually every aspect of childhood behavior and mischief has been criminalized using an adult standard, to such an extent that a Chicago thirteen year old now faces multiple adult felonies for a stray snowball.

Most often, however, common childlike behavior doesn’t result in such dramatic overreaction. Instead, they’re medicated. Childhood behavior and diverse personality traits result in diagnoses ranging from everything from Asperger’s Syndrome to Personality Trait Disorder, and the actual figures of children being treated for these vary greatly depending upon the source. While undoubtedly some children do suffer the onset of mental illness at an early age, many if not most, it could be argued, are being treated solely for the disease of normal childhood behavior.

Modern society has made parenting and childhood nearly impossible. Overworked and overstressed parents pressure the schools for assistance, but the schools are overcrowded and overworked with the additional pressure of society’s mad desire for every child to be a super achiever. Schools pawn childhood off to the police who, because they are not child psychologists, can only place childhood misbehavior and mischief into a context they understand-the adult concepts of enforcing law and order.

In the end, coping with childhood lands on the lap of medical professionals who deal with it as they are best educated to do-diagnose, treat and medicate something. Thus, childhood and all behaviors related to childhood are now treated as a disease.

Childhood isn’t a disease, though, so medical science is placed in a position of developing a highly subjective and vague default diagnosis for the mental illness of immaturity. The symptoms required for a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD as it is commonly known, are as broadly defined as the name itself implies.

Marie Hartnell-Walker, ED.D. has over thirty five years experience as a psychologist, family therapist and with parenting education. She’s authored numerous pieces on psychology for Huffington Post, along with an ebook, and is a regular contributor to the highly regarded site Psych Central. In a 2006 article entitled; “How to Drive with Kids without Driving Yourself Crazy,” she describes how common childhood traits can make traveling nearly unbearable;

“Kids have energy. Kids have short attention spans. Kids get wired. Kids—even the nicest sweetest kids—usually tussle with siblings. Kids don’t like to be confined.”

One could assume, as Dr. Hartnell-Walker is a psychologist and not a veterinarian, that the word ‘kids’ is referring to the normal behavior of children and not baby goats.  Also put aside for a moment that all of the traits she lists as intrinsic to a child are exactly the same traits deemed inappropriate and abnormal in a twenty first century classroom.  Instead, consider how her equally respected and qualified collogue Margarita Tarkatovsky, M.S., describes ADHD facts on the very same site;

“Its hallmark symptoms include hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Children have difficulty concentrating, following instructions, sitting still and interacting with others.”

In other words, virtually, all of the same behaviors Marie Hartnell-Walker, ED.D., classifies as normal, Ms. Tarkatovsky maintains with equal credibility are the symptoms of ADHD, but expressed with far more professional and diagnostic language.

Granted, some children legitimately do suffer from ADHD, and according to the CDC the figure is actually only around 5%.  They go on to point out, however, that over 11% of all American children, and 20% of boys alone, are being treated for the condition. Depending upon the state, the figure is even higher. Over ten years, the number of American children being treated for ADHD is growing at a staggering pace of 48%.

The gap between legitimate, serious ADHD versus children being treated for it demonstrates just how much of birdshot diagnosis this is for any normal childhood behavior deemed inappropriate by adult standards. At some moment of any given day, any child will display the symptoms of ADHD.

Vague and broad spectrum medical diagnoses for normal, everyday human behavior aren’t just confined to children, however. Over the past twenty years, professional organizations such as the Royal College of Psychiatry and American Psychology Association have attached a serious psychological disorder for every known personality trait or eccentricity known to man that may possibly be of annoyance to someone else.

You’re that cranky old man down at Wal-Mart, or the political, overzealous young hipster just waiting for an argument with conservative Uncle Fred at the next family gathering–“Antisocial Personality Disorder.”

Maybe you’re the guy who danced naked on the pool table at the office party, singing ‘We Will Rock You.” Well buster, you are not really the life of the party, after all– “Histrionic Personality Disorder.”

Perhaps you’re the bragging windbag down at Norkies Tavern who hits on girls half your age like you really have any chance at all, and who I thought was just completely full of bullshit. I am so very sorry for laughing you off the barstool, knowing that you suffer- “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

There are now so many diagnosable disorders for the natural, ordinary human condition and behavior, they fill volumes. While doctors, psychiatrists, parents, schools and law enforcement all play a definite destructive role in this, in the end, they are only a symptom, in and of themselves, of a much greater disease.

Americans are the most overmedicated society on earth because by and large, they’re medicating just to survive Capitalism.  Given this culture and modern conditions, one is more likely to be living out the Medicated Capitalist Zombie Apocalypse than the American dream.

Children come home, exasperated, from one overly structured environment to another, and simply want to let down their hair and be children. But parents are equally exasperated from often working two jobs, just trying to survive in an industrialized, modern society which makes it impossible to exist on a single income.  Few parents are afforded the luxury of remaining home and the mobility of modern society necessitates limited, or no, local extended family support system, so parents wish Billy could just sit quietly and watch Spiderman.

Family doctors, child psychologists and psychiatrists are not going around knocking down the doors of schools, colleges and employers, shoving medication down everyone in sight; Americans are demanding it. The vast majority of working class America is overworked and underpaid, bogged down by student loan debt from an education that was supposed to lead straight to financial freedom but instead landed them at the temp service, groveling for whatever income they can.

Further manipulated by corporate interests, who have convinced them that consumerism is the path to true happiness, over fifty percent of Americans are now buried with credit card debt. So convinced by the delusion that good credit equals success, many parents probably spend more time worrying about their credit score than their child’s report card. Survival in an economic Darwinist society takes energy-all of your energy.

Parents are so tired they can’t cope with even the most fundamental of child misbehavior, so they beg the family doctor to medicate them into submission. To add further complication, the job market is now so cannibalistically competitive that even the slightest negative or eccentric personality trait leaves one at a disadvantage, so they seek to medicate their own personalities away, as well.

Legitimate mental illness is serious and obviously needs to be treated, preferably early.  We need to work even harder to diagnose those who are potentially at risk to themselves and to the larger society, without resorting to a mass diagnosis of treatable childhood. Moreover, we need to fearlessly address head-on the conditions of our modern industrial and technological society that has made life so unbearable that the natural human condition must now be medicated.

Above all, we need to protect and comfort our children from today’s adult world and make a conscious decision to end this medical war on childhood. Celebrate and cherish that these are children and not mini-adults. Parents and schools need to recognize that you just can’t schedule or predict a child’s daydreaming or mischief. We must recognize that law enforcement should only be a last resort, under very extreme circumstances. By all means, we must end the criminalization of childhood behavior and mischief.

By removing these expectations from them, children can be free to learn, to play and to squabble like kids again. Our entire adult society needs reflect on the beauty and innocence of childhood and collectively whisper a reminder; “When I was a child, I thought as a child.”

Shut Up About Gay Marriage, Already-Promote Single Life

The late Gay Scholar Gore Vidal summed up gay marriage the best – it is the absolute dumbest non-issue of our era.  He stated that one day we would look back at this and wonder how we could possibly feel so passionately, when the debate over the issuing of marriage licenses to gays is about as relevant as debating driver licenses for blondes.

628x471Ironically, on the issue of gay marriage however, liberal atheists and conservative Christians share the common goal of fighting to preserve the archaic, religious tradition of marriage.

It’s not that I’m against gay marriage,  I think the promotion of marriage in any form, by any enlightened person, is idiotic. It’s a religious custom that has no place in the twenty-first century. Wouldn’t it make sense, therefore, that instead of promoting the marriage of gays, an enlightened, liberal atheist would be fighting against the entire institution of marriage, altogether?

More than 60% of heterosexual marriages end with divorce, so why would liberal atheists insist on imposing this upon perfectly happy, single gay couples?  I experienced marriage once, but I also experienced a near fatal accident and I wouldn’t repeat either one.  Heterosexual marriage, however,  is an insane addiction and most divorced individuals are not content failing just once. They feel compelled to fight over property and divide bank accounts multiple times.

But if gays want this grand privilege, grant it and nobody should have any further vested interest beyond divorce lawyers and family court commissioners.

Additionally, because marriage is a religious ritual and one I personally don’t believe in, all federal and state laws mandating marriage in order to gain special property, spousal or tax rights are a violation of separation of church and state. So as an unmarried, cohabitating person, I haven’t got any true allies – I’m being blackmailed by liberal atheists, Christians, and the state into a religious tradition that I do not wish to practice.

Many liberal atheists justify their fervent support for marriage by claiming that it has now become a secular custom. One could argue that, largely, so have the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter. But these same liberal atheists certainly would never tolerate the state mandated observation of them.

With just a little additional training, divorce lawyers will always find something else to practice, and liberal atheists need to wise up and stop cursing gays with the belief that an opportunity for a failed marriage is somehow better for them. Leave religions to promote their own ridiculous customs and traditions. The enlightened fight is really the one against state mandated marriage–for anyone–and the violation of the Constitutional Rights of all single, cohabitating couples, whether the relationship is sexual or not.

Gay or straight, cohabitating singles have enough pressure from the pain in the ass Christians, so we certainly don’t need liberal atheists pushing marriage on us, too. Shut up about gay marriage, already, and just give singles the same rights and privileges as the matrimonial insane.