Attitude Test Clip

23:30 Mon 28 Sep 2009
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The following is a short clip of news footage from the Pittburgh G20 protests:

I think this clip is somewhat like a Rorschach blot, in that the reaction to it likely says more about the viewer than the events in the clip.

If you side with the police, you’re an authoritarian with a significant deficiency of human empathy.

If you don’t side with the police but all of your responses start with explicit or implicit criticism of the girl’s actions (which were quite evidently unwise, but “unwise” doesn’t mean they in any sense excuse or justify what happened to her afterwards), then you’re an apologist, and you need to spend some time looking at why you think it’s fine for police to get away with low-level abuse escalating to more serious abuse if they’re challenged. Even if you’re sympathetic to the protesters but your reaction is along the lines of “come on, you can’t expect to get away with throwing bikes at riot police”, you’ve been sucked into framing the situation in an authoritarian manner, and presenting the situation as if the only person involved who can be expected to behave rationally is the girl—and since she failed to act rationally, the rest proceeded as one would expect.

All of the police in that clip are rational human beings, and each of them bears responsibility for shoving the girl, hitting her in the back, and then escalating the violence when she snapped and tossed the bike back at them. Any one of them could have handled that far better, from the point of view of not unnecessarily creating the potential for violence. (It’s clear that that was hardly a priority for them.)

Practically speaking, it is of course clear that being a police officer in the US grants one considerable latitude in terms of getting away with assault. This does not in any way alter the moral issues involved, and what occurs in that video is a pair of assaults, followed by a provoked reaction, followed by more serious assaults. If you think that justice is served by the punishment of the victim of those assaults, your concept of justice is twisted.

It’s hardly a surprise that the commentator from PCNC sides with the police, but I found it interesting that his response was so reflexive.

2 Responses to “Attitude Test Clip”

  1. Steve Casey Says:

    Just watched the clip on Youtube (I don’t think your site is up to serving it, archive it if you like and link to youtube!) and it makes my blood boil. What worries me is that if some gun toting variant American watches it and goes to the next protest better able to react to police behaving in that way, not only does the situation turn explosive but it has pretty awful ramifications for future policing of any sorts of protests or public gatherings.

  2. 2BiT Says:

    Arrested? Assaulted more like….very similar behavior by the cops to those at the G20 in London. and we know how well that went for them. (pushin n shovin’s all very well til someone drops dead…)
    Still it’s the states so i wouldn’t hold much hope for any kind of inquiry or comeback on em.

    “…Don’t taze me dude…”

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