In recent weeks the police were at hand to serve the interests of capital rather than the interests of justice, exhibiting class betrayal and undermining the legitimacy of the police force, and the state.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the police are deployed against the working class and social activists, because after all they are the ‘repressive state apparatus’, and the state acts in the interests of capital. But heavy-handed actions to break strikes at the KFC fast food ‘restaurant’ (misnomer), and to disrupt the Dunedin Minerals Forum blockade, are wrong on many counts.
Since when was it considered necessary, appropriate or proportionate for police carrying tasers and Glock pistols to defend an international fast food chain’s ‘right to operate’, against picketing workers? KFC itself should be more correctly seen as an enemy of the people, with the way it screws down worker’s conditions – trying to force more unpaid overtime on worse terms, let alone the public health impacts of all that fat-infused unhealthy food, and the mistreatment of chickens. Each part of the KFC fast food process should be treated as a crime, – the extraction of millions of dollars of profit offshore, pumping out grossly fat food to already deprived communities, treating workers like worthless wage slaves, all based on the mistreatment of animals to the worst degree.
At the same time, police action has been threatened to remove iwi protestors at sacred land in South Auckland’s Ihūmatao, where Fletcher Building have been given a fast-tracked green light to build nearly 500 homes. (In itself an injustice).
Elsewhere in the system, at least several hundred prisoners are locked up at any one time, for victimless marijuana related crimes, leading to inhumane prison overcrowding, alienation from society, the removal of citizenship rights to vote, consigning people on the scrap heap (especially disproportionately high numbers of young Maori and Pasifika men), while at the same time efforts are made to legitimise pharmaceutical control of the medicinal marijuana industry. Justice would look, in this case, like releasing anyone locked up for cannabis related offences if corporates are allowed to deal.
Then this week, we saw the police and firefighters deployed to facilitate mineral company executives’ access to the Minerals Forum in Dunedin, against the efforts of anti-climate change activists, concerned about the future of the planet. Some protestors were injured, and condemned police brutality and heavy-handed tactics. The police in turn said they “respect people’s right to lawful protest, and that (our) focus is around ensuring a peaceful protest and responding appropriately to any potential issues regarding disorder, criminal activity, or public safety.” The three people arrested for breach of the peace were released shortly afterwards, without charges being laid. The police said the protest was largely peaceful, and they were unaware of the allegations of heavy-handedness. But if it was a peaceful event, with no damage to property, no criminal activity or significant disorder – what good and valid role did the police have, in trying to thwart the blockade? Except to defend an indefensible industry that should be facing its own regulatory restrictions, and maybe charges of ecocide!
In many of the above instances, the protestors and activists are upholding higher public causes, worker’s rights, environmental sanctity, heritage values and personal freedoms, benefitting the wider social good, and causing no harm. Invoking police response to defend the rights of corporates puts the police in the line of false duty, duty that has no moral basis, and undermines the more constructive work they are capable of, rebuilding communities and keeping society safe from real threats like violence and insecurity.