By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
FIST' & CUFFS
Editor's Note: Richard Esposito's article "Law of the Fist: New York Cops Vow to Crush Violent Protest at World Economic Forum," which appeared in last week's issue, generated an unusual amount of mail. Following are some of the letters received.
Well, I guess your pretensions of a "Lefty New Year" [cover articles, January 1] didn't last too long. Having read Richard Esposito's "Law of the Fist," I have to say that I don't think the New York Post could've slanted the story as badly. For the future, I would ask you to bear in mind the form that violence takes at these large-scale demonstrations. When the two sides meet, it's the state that brings guns, tear gas, batons, concussion grenades, bulletproof vests, and Plexiglas shields; and when people get killed, as they have in the past year in Indonesia, Italy, and Argentina, it's inevitably someone who had an opinion and the courage to say it.
Richard Esposito's "Law of the Fist" was an embarrassing paean to law enforcement at its most brutal. The "violent anarchists" he mocks have been guilty at worst of breaking windows. Former Philly police chief John Timoney, on the other hand, while lauded as a blue-collar hero, showed protesters how brutal a police action could be. Hundreds of illegal arrests and injuries, million-dollar bails, clubs, firearmsit's time Esposito woke up and smelled the tear gas. The violence at such protests comes from the police.
Richard Esposito's statement that "In the post-9-11 world of law enforcement, cops see these brick throwers and car burners as almost Al Qaeda-like, down to their transnational wandering, their leaders' wealthy backgrounds, and their fundamentalist message" was irresponsible. If Esposito can't see the difference between well-meaning protesters and the fundamentalist terrorists who murdered thousands on September 11, he should find a new profession fast.
As an independent journalist, I am disappointed at how bluntly one-sided Richard Esposito's piece was, reporting the police's impressions so completely unchallenged. There was no presentation of protesters, no information regarding the WEF. In addition, the brief summaries concerning past protests contained glaring inaccuracies. In Melbourne 2000, activists were consistently nonviolent even when attacked by police, and there was no "urine" deployed by either side. In Philadelphia 2000, there were no "burned-out police cars." Charges against most protesters have been dropped, and the public is now waking up to the price of pending civil lawsuits. In Seattle 1999, there were no water cannons, nor were protesters "out of control." It was a disciplined protest.
The WEF came to NYC because they offered the lowest bid for security. The NYPD gives the impression that they will provide far greater security than at past demos, and city taxpayers will be footing much of the bill.
So much for solidarity. No thank you.
NYC Independent Media Center
Richard Esposito's article "Law of the Fist" is aptly named. It is not the law of the Constitution that will be played out at the WEF. What will transpire, in full collusion with the media, such as the Voice, is that police will run amok, violating rights of assembly and free speech. What has been wrought in preparation for rationalizing the use of police violence is a propaganda campaign by law enforcement with the willing assistance of writers like Esposito to sketch a picture of dangerous demonstrators who must be summarily dealt with.
What a shock to find the Voice trustingly accepting the word of law enforcement. No one from any group associated with those planning to protest is interviewed. Nowhere is there any review of the unnecessary use of pepper spray, tear gas, and clubbing by out-of-control police of nonviolent demonstrators in past demos. The actions of a few protesters who damaged property are used by police to justify meting out punishment to all activists.
With great craft, and with malice, law enforcement is setting the stage to rationalize police violence, and The Village Voiceis a willing partner. Shame.
I'm appalled by Richard Esposito's article. Apart from inaccuracies such as the claim that there were "burned-out police cars" in Philadelphia, it seems peculiar to read a piece that cites cop after cop without any regard for the larger issues that might compel someone to demonstrate, or the reactions of activists and businesspeople to violenceincluding police violence. The Voice has done fine reporting on protests before. Why did it drop the ball so badly this time?
I'd like to thank Richard Esposito for his illuminating article "Law of the Fist," on the upcoming World Economic Forum. Perhaps Esposito could be hired to write a weekly column on the history of protest in the U.S. A few suggested highlights: Chief "Bull" Connor, the blue-collar Alabama hero who worked so hard to control disruptive, lawbreaking civil rights demonstrators; Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, the "fighting Quaker" who struggled selflessly to protect our country from globetrotting anti-capitalist troublemakers and whose innovations included the wonderful Palmer raids; and perhaps the tragically misunderstood King George III, a "globocop" who overcame severe health problems and manfully fought to save this land from violent, anti-corporate agitators.