The police are not police, they are counter-protesters

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


Instead, the police seem clearly to be treating protesters — members of the public — as adversaries. As Mara Gay writes at the New York Times, “an army of public servants entrusted to protect Americans treated them as an enemy instead.”

This seems to be happening not despite the fact that the protests are about police brutality, but because of it. Previous research shows that police are more likely to use force against protesters when the subject of the protest is police violence, Shaila Dewan and Mike Baker report at the Times. Police are also more likely to use violence against protesters of color than against white demonstrators.

Now “there’s deep resentment on the part of the police that so many people are angry at them, and they’re lashing out,” Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College, told the Times. “Look at what we saw — people sitting on their own stoops getting hit with pepper balls. Anyone who looks at them funny, they’re attacking them.”

That’s why Wallace, the Times Magazine writer, and others have argued that in protests against police brutality, the police should be seen as counterprotesters. Their interests are fundamentally at odds with those of the protesters, who want to see them stripped of their power to harass, assault, and even kill people with impunity. And it’s clear from the events of recent days that police are willing to use more violence to defend that power.

Many have also compared the violent response to the current protests with police behavior during anti-lockdown protests by conservative groups this spring. At those protests, officers were largely peaceful and respectful toward the (mostly white) crowds. One image from Lansing, Michigan, in particular, went viral: officers stoically standing by as an unmasked white man screamed inches from their faces. Contrast that with the images we’ve seen from recent days, of police swarming and beating protesters or running them down from the safety of their vehicles.