Overly aggressive police enforcement contributes to unrest

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.


The arguments for these attacks are always about control. In the eyes of authorities, crowds, just by virtue of being a large mass of human bodies, require wrangling, even if, like Saturday in Los Angeles, those bodies are not doing anything wrong. Donald Trump didn’t say only those crowds that present dangers will be redirected; he said “any difficulty” requires control. And the “non-lethal” resources officers use to control crowds are actually pretty fucking lethal, especially when used at the complete discretion of the deadly police force the crowds are protesting.

In December 2017, a team of U.S. researchers compiled data from 26 studies on the damage caused by the “non-lethal” rubber-coated metal bullets that are often used for crowd control and found that they often cause permanent disabilities and even death, according to The Guardian:

“In total, the studies encompass 1,984 people who had been hurt by projectiles, including rubber or plastic bullets, polyurethane bullets with a hollow nose known as AEPs, as well as bullets made of both metal and rubber, cloth or plastic. In total, 15% of those injured were left permanently disabled, most commonly through loss of sight, while 51 individuals (3%) died. The majority of injuries in those that survived were classified as severe.”

Because non-lethal forms of crowd control are oftentimes permanently damaging and sometimes deadly, the United Nations has issued guidelines around their use, calling for both necessity and proportionality. The U.S., however, uses no such guidelines, instead operating under the “principle of reasonableness and the doctrine of qualified immunity,” per the Washington Post.

Those principles of reasonableness often go far beyond the idea of perceived threat. On May 30, photojournalist Linda Tirado said she was rendered permanently blind in one eye after police shot her with a rubber bullet while she documented a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A reporter and her crew in Louisville, Kentucky say that police targeted them as adversaries. These are just two accounts of journalists appearing to be targeted, which include the arrest of a CNN reporter on-air. Controlling the press with rubber bullets and the threat of arrest has, in recent days, become a routine part of crowd control at protests around the country, suggesting that documenting police violence is now perceived as a threat by law enforcement.