“Happy” 2021 all!
A thousand comments exactly like this! A THOUSAND!
Okay, onto the topic at hand: the cops and the insurrection that was made to be posted. It’s been a psychically taxing week (six days?) since Trump supporters et al broke through the Thin Blue Line and made their way into the U.S. Capitol building in order to (nominally) stop the certification of the electoral college. January 6 was a bad, bad day for Washington, D.C.’s police force. So far, two cops have died—one January 7 and one January 9.
[Job where I make money plug: Last week, I wrote about the footage of cops rolling out the proverbial red carpet for “patriots” here and I talked to police scholar/Badges Without Borders author Stuart Schrader about “the moment” and what it means for police abolition here. I don’t want to duplicate too much of the analysis from those pieces here but they are, dare I say, good companion reading.]
Social footage of cops from two different police departments, the Metropolitan PD and the U.S. Capitol PD, taken amid the chaos and violence tells a dire story about cop power. On the one hand, there’s the brutal footage of members of the pro-Trump mob beating anonymous MPD officers with flags and hockey sticks. On the other hand, there’s all that damning “Officer Friendly” footage that’s already led to disciplinary action for MPD officers: Per TMZ, Selfie Cop and another Capitol PD cop who reportedly popped on a MAGA hat and started giving directions have both been suspended. Taken together, the footage gives impressions of a force made weak by bias and strategic failure.
It’s become more and more apparent that these uniformed officers weren’t the only cops in attendance. Per a BuzzFeed News report, off-duty officers among the MAGA crowd actually flashed badges to try and gain entry into the Capitol building. Journalist and PhD student Jonathan Ben-Menachem has been collecting reports of LEOs nationwide getting busted for their attendance in a Twitter thread that I’d highly recommend browsing:
jon ben-menachem @jbenmenachemYou mean to tell me that the white supremacist mob included off-duty police officers? Wow! Who could have guessed https://t.co/dj1VBVBRcK
This extracurricular involvement from LEOs is pretty disgusting, but not super… surprising. White supremacists have well-documented ties to the (ahem) institution of American policing, which itself has well-documented roots in white supremacy, slavery, and colonization.
Something I’m slightly more surprised by? How much it’s tearing apart the biggest “private” pro-cop Facebook group I belong to (currently at 177,000+ members).
While much of the pro-police content posted in the group since Jan 6 has remained solid and “inoffensive” (see, again, the zero-irony post at the top of the newsletter), one post sparked the most intense in-group disagreement I’ve seen so far: an unsourced report of a cop’s death—likely referring to the Capitol PD officer who passed away Jan 7.
Typically, the death of a police officer elicits universal condolences from the members of the Facebook group in the form of glittery prayer hand/dove gifs, black and blue heart emojis, and thoughts and prayers for the “fallen hero.” Responses to the post above, however, fell into three main categories—not all of them expressing sympathy.
Group One: Law and Order >>>>>>>>>>>>
Do I applaud them for their consistency? Fuck no! But when push comes to shove, these commenters are truly pro-cop. Order over ideology babyyyy! Question nothing!
Also on this note, the official Thin Blue Line Facebook page had to condemn the fact that their flag was flown amidst the violence, as if its presence there was some kind of unfortunate, puzzling coincidence. I assume some kind of Axe Body Spray-esque PR decision made here, and I have to laugh.
“We reject… any association of the flag with racism, hatred, bigotry, and violence?” Probably shouldn’t connect it to the cops then, huh!
Group Two: Antifa Made Them Do It
This was probably the closest thing to consensus. These commenters were eager to place the blame for the anti-cop violence on vans full of “Antifa” or the Democrats—anybody besides the Trump supporters, who were, duh, peacefully protesting just out of frame and who managed to leave a few minutes before the real baddies stormed Capitol Hill. This is, obviously, a heady cocktail of straight fantasy, Fox News brain, and maybe a little white supremacist wink wink nudge nudge. It’s also… boring. We did delusion last year. Next!
Group Three: Backing (away from) The Blue
Anti-cop sentiment? In MY pro-cop group? When the police bump up against the agenda of the Far Right, feed conspiratorial thought with their operational ineptitude, and kill someone like Ashli Babbitt, whose personhood/humanity was actually legible to these ghouls… turns out, it’s more likely than you’d think.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying this sentiment represents a permanent split from the belief that every single cop in America is the bravery equivalent of a 9/11 first responder combined with The Troops. But gears are turning here, and it’s worth watching where this faction ends up landing—because in all likelihood, it’s nowhere good.