Recent actions by police at Occupy encampments and student protests shows what happens when state violence goes unpunished. The new normal in America is that the police feel justified to inflict pain on nonviolent protesters, and the roots of this change have to be connected to the redefinition of torture as enhanced interrogation. Moreover, the Obama administration's decision not to hold any members of the Bush's torture regime responsible has set the stage for the use of police violence without fear of retaliation.
While we are not used to thinking of the U.S. as a police state, every day sees a new move in that direction. It is now commonplace for police to show up at peaceful protests dressed in full riot gear ready to baton, pepper spray, and intimidate citizens employing their constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. Of course, the ruling class, including President Obama, has been silent on this issue.
Just as torture has been renamed enhanced interrogation, so has nonviolent resistance been redefined as violence. These actions can only result in a de-legitimization of politics as we descend into a police state. However, the protesters know that the only way to get their message to the masses is to allow for the police to inflict pain because in our media, if it bleeds, it leads. The end result is, as Chris Hedges has argued, all of our "liberal" institutions (the media, the Democratic party, the universities) lose their legitimacy.
A new generation of Americans has now grown up in this police-media-political context, and even though young people are used to communicating on the disembodied Web, they are putting their bodies on the line to make our country wake up. The failure of the political class to respond in any rational way only pours fuel on the fire, and while it may be too soon to talk about a second American revolution, the current dynamic is generating major social unrest. We camp, they beat us, and we return.
All out to Davis!