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north america / mexico / crime prison and punishment / non-anarchist press Wednesday January 13, 2016 23:20 by Lesley J. Wood
After the killing of Michael Brown in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri in the late summer of 2014, protests erupted, and the Black Lives Matter spread across North America to protest police violence, too often systematically directed at poor and racialized communities. The massive police presence at these protests, with weapons and armoured vehicles that looked and felt like major military deployments, made it clear to all that something fundamental had taken place in policing practices and strategies. The intensification and extension of the coercive and security branches of the state was well-known since the declaration of the ‘war on terror’ in 2001, and the subsequent leaks of official documents by Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and others. The hardening of the state in its day-to-day operations at the most local levels could now be seen everywhere by all, in an increasing confrontation with the democratic rights of assembly and protest.
Lesley Wood's recent book, Crisis and Control: The Militarization of Protest Policing (2014), locates these developments in a longer term perspective in relation to the spread of neoliberalism. Analyzing police agencies, strategies and practices from the mid-1990s to the present, she identifies a range of the structural and political forces that have led to the militarization of policing, particularly in North America, but also in trends that extend to Europe. This involves detailing a new matrix in the relations between the security, national police and defence apparatuses of the state with local police forces and the defence and security industries. Professional police associations and their various conferences and conventions have become important nodes for the spread of ‘best-practice policing’, in the form of kettling, barricading, infiltration and pre-emptive arrests, usage of new anti-protest weaponry, security screening, local intelligence-gathering capacities and the like. But also as sites where the case is made for an increase in police budgets, more capital intensification of policing and thus for accumulation by the ‘coercive’ industries (which define modern urbanism as much as the so-called ‘creative’ sector).
In a period of sharpening inequality, permanent neoliberal austerity, and hard right forces gaining ground, the logic for a further militarization of policing, securitizing of cities, and curtailing and limiting protests. In her book, Wood seeks not only to map these developments in North America through time, but also to expose the contradictions in the new forms of policing in capitalist states, and begin to pose how social and anti-capitalist movements will have to respond to ‘demilitarize our relations’.
Lesley Wood teaches sociology at York University, Toronto and Greg Albo teaches political science at York University. read full story / add a comment