Police are tear-gassing civilians during a pandemic that exasperates respiratory conditions while there is a shortage of ventilators and hospital beds.

How/why is this allowed?

What is the “appropriate” civilian response to police abusing their power?

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    Welcome to Politics.SE. I think you have an interesting post, but our community prefers focusing on a single question. In order to avoid endless discussions and make the post more answerable, I have rephrased a little bit to have a more neutral post. Feel free to rollback, if this deviates too much from your intent. – Alexei Jun 2 at 6:32
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    if the information clarifies the post and keeps the tone neutral, please edit the post. Keep in mind that comments are volatile and can be removed at any time by moderators if they plague the post (example: 10+ comments that are not helpful). – Alexei Jun 2 at 6:36
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    Ok. The follow-up questions that were removed are below for context: if this were happening in a country the US was not allied with, would the news call this terrorism? Am I supposed to call the police on the police? If the goal is to de-escalate violence, then why the military-grade equipment? Why does the “few bad apples don’t make a bad apple tree” argument apply to cops but not protesters? – allthemikeysaretaken Jun 2 at 6:38
  • Great question. I think you will find this interesting: law.stackexchange.com/questions/51845/… – jeremy909 Jun 2 at 16:28
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    @allthemikeysaretaken Please do not discuss every opinion you don't agree with. You asked the question, and you can self-answer if you want. But don't turn this in a personal crusade to convince others - that's the surest way to get this closed as "Pushing a POV." – Sjoerd Jun 2 at 17:28

In an idealized representative democracy, the appropriate civilian response to police misconduct is voting. In all cases, the people who set agendas for community policing — mayors, county sheriffs, police chiefs, etc — are either elected directly or are appointed by elected officials. Getting a sympathetic elected official into office, thus, would automatically change the agendas of the police. It might take some time for new agendas to sink down through the ranks, because police (like any other organized group) have their own internal culture, practices, and interests. A police veteran on the streets might resent being told to change practices and habits that have kept him alive over years of service, particularly if it comes from some 'politician'. But power ultimately rests in elected offices, and with persistence change would come.

Of course, the US implementation of representative democracy is far from ideal. Voters are often under-informed and confused; elected officials often respond more to powerful special interests than community concerns; police culture is often solidified through powerful unions, codes of silence, rejections of oversight and transparency, and other 'blue line', us vs. them attitudes. Where voting proves ineffective in changing police behavior, public exposure becomes the next best option. Peaceful protests, journalistic investigation, and social media coverage are all effective ways to bring public attention to improper actions, and sufficient attention of this sort can often induce corrective action or collective shame: the first to re-moralize both elected officials and active police officers; the second to demoralize officials and officers who refuse to respond. The people involved may not be responding for the right reasons — i.e., they may be trying to scratch a public itch rather than pursue a properly moral course — but in the end results are what matter.

If neither voting nor peaceable exposure has any effect, well... As Clausewitz said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means," and this is true of violence of all sorts. I cannot condone rioting, looting, or arson, but I can certainly understand that someone who cannot make himself heard when he speaks quietly, calmly, and civilly might reasonably begin to shout. Representative democracy only works when people in power listen and hear. If the powerful refuse to listen and refuse to hear, then I cannot entirely blame citizens for turning up the volume through violent acts. That is a natural (if undesirable) effect.

Police have a difficult job. They are called upon by citizens to control citizens who misbehave, and this sometimes forces police to take actions that most citizens would be squeamish about. Police are authorized to use violence against citizens because sometimes they must use violence against citizens, to protect themselves and the larger community. But because police are granted that authority, they are implicitly held to a higher standard of behavior. Given that individual officers are as fallible as anyone else in the population, the political question centers on who will hold police officers to that higher standard? Who polices the police? If elected officials won't do it then the police must do it themselves; if the police won't do it, the the public must take up the reins. Hopefully we can find some political means for the public to take up the reins of the police that falls far short of burning down police stations, but that is something that police and elected officials must embrace. If they are merely set on suppressing protests, violence will only escalate.

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    @yters: Agreed, but I think it misses the point. If police and elected officials are acting irrationally, then irrationality may be the only 'rational' option. If you've paid any attention to politics over the last 20 years, you know that the GOP has gained a lot of ground by acting bat-sht crazy and forcing the Dems to be sober and rational. It's the classic appeasement strategy: *you have to be decent and restrained in the face of my crazed, bloody, righteous anger. – Ted Wrigley Jun 2 at 18:31
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    @yters: So when a politician stands up and says, effectively: "You all must be calm, civil, and peaceful while you protest the police killing your brothers and sisters, or we'll send the police to, you know... kill your brothers and sisters", what exactly is 'rational' about that context? Irrational violence meets irrational violence meets irrational violence, and it stops when (and only when) all sides get tired of being irrational. If you want a rational world, it truly has to cut both ways. – Ted Wrigley Jun 2 at 18:33
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    I understand that is what the gut reaction is, and that is the way things will tend. Not disagreeing with you. My point is, this tendency plays in favor of the politicians and police, not in favor of the protesters. Protesters can wile out and smash stuff all they want, but this just gives politicians more fodder to crack down harder and push more strong arm police tactics. This is entirely in the self interest of the politicians. They get more money, they get more federal assistance, they get more votes for cracking down, etc. The protesters have fun smashing stuff, but that's it. – yters Jun 2 at 19:54
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    @yters: Well, excuse my vulgarity, but if one is going to get scr@wed whether or not one makes a fuss, one might as well make a fuss. When dealing with irrational modes of politics, sad to say, the tactic is always to push your opponent into actions for which s'he feels self-disgust. Better to do that using civil disobedience than destructive outbursts, but (again) the result is ultimately what matters. – Ted Wrigley Jun 2 at 20:59
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    @yters: I think we mostly agree. The only real difference between our views, I think, is that I take a systemic view in which irrationality has a certain unconscious (or perhaps karmic) rationality all its own. Best if we were to think things out like forward-thinking, civilized human beings. But if that 'human' quality fails us, things will work themselves out though their own irreducible naturalistic logic, and nature has a different conception of power than we humans do. The results of that regression are never what either side wants or expects. – Ted Wrigley Jun 3 at 18:06

You can write politicians, join a political party, do a video, or run for President yourself, maybe someone in this thread have good pointers for that. But I think public protests are a good mean to show opinions.

Here are a few advices from me. I participate in a lot of public protests.

Try to be as many "regular" people as possible. Invite children and old family members.

Spot those that wish to escalate the protest. Stay clear of those. Even going very close to cops and filming them is an escalation. They are super easy to spot if you pay attention.

Stay clear of the police. It is usually very easy at most public protests not to get anywhere near them.

And for those arranging public protests my advice is also to invite a band or some music. It is still a protest if it is a party, and what matters are the number that walk in the protest.

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    I and many others have written letters to Dianne Feinstein (one of my representatives) and others, but I don’t have enough monetary influence to affect policy. As for staying clear of the police, civilians should feel safe and protected - not fearful or antagonistic. Police sign up for the job knowing the risks and shouldn’t join the force otherwise. When police fire teargas at peaceful protesters and the advice is to stay clear, it sounds similar to blaming a rape victim for rape. (Would love to know why I’m wrong). – allthemikeysaretaken Jun 2 at 7:05
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    Also, videotaping corrupt officers is important since the word of a civilian will not carry enough weight without evidence. – allthemikeysaretaken Jun 2 at 7:06
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    @allthemikeysaretaken I don't think to stay clear of police means blaming victims. It is just a practical suggestion if you are in charge of the demo. It is more like locking the door at night and not sharing the passwords of bank accounts, although the thieves should be blamed when stealing happens. – nicknicknick Jun 2 at 7:56
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    @nicknicknick I lock the door at night because I have an expectation of privacy (ie, not accountable to general public). In the same vein, civilians have a lawful right to peacefully protest - this should not be straw-manned against staying clear from police if they intrude on the peaceful protest and escape accountability for their actions. If the lock on my door is faulty, I replace it. – allthemikeysaretaken Jun 2 at 7:59
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    @allthemikeysaretaken most of it really is just practical advice. But when it comes to who that is your friend then my base oppinion is that parlement is the people and thus your friends, goverment is a nessessary evil. And I see police at a demo like a guide dog you shouldn't pet. They are doing their job and it is just easier not to bother them. I never film them myself and don't have any opinion about that. – Thomas Koelle Jun 2 at 8:24

As Thomas Paine said:

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

For now, seems that government even do not want to talk, it want to suppress protests with police power. Just read Trump tweets about Minnesota.

Appropriate civilian response may be forcing government to dialog. At least, to stop government using force: enter image description here At least, people should have right to self-defense, and for now seems that most aggression towards the police is provoked by police itself.

Also, it may be useful (only if it is possible), to place some tents on a city square/some wide street, far from the police:

  • to immediately help people hit by rubber bullets or tear gas. As long as streets are full of people, paramedics may arrive too late. And injures usually aren't waiting.
  • to provide some water/food for old people and children - staying on the sunny street for the whole day is hard enough. And citizens do not have centralized supplies as police do.
  • if some people want to help, but cannot be involved in demonstrations - for example, due to their health - in that area they may help others, who are involved - for example, provide them snacks or water.

Like Seattle citizens do:

enter image description here

Like Washington citizens do (Black House Autonomous Zone):

enter image description here


Thanks to Rick Smith from comments, here should be described situation of using of force directly by president: as said in Insurrection act, there are three options to enable president to send troops to the state:

  • when requested by a state's legislature or governor, to address an insurrection against the state
  • to address an insurrection against the federal government
  • hinders the execution of the laws such that citizens are deprived of constitutional rights

On the current level of escalation, Trump do not have power to force National Guard enter any state - because only possible option on the current escalation level - if state asks for help.

And there are enough governors, who would not seek help the from White House.

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    By peaceful opposing the police. Like on the image. Of course, people have right to self-defence, so sometimes, police is attacked - but it is nearly always is provoked by police itself. – user2501323 Jun 2 at 7:05
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    Trump do not have power to force National Guard enter any state See 10 U.S. Code § 253.Interference with State and Federal law. – Rick Smith Jun 2 at 11:39
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    Posse Comitatus says that local authorities cannot use the military to enforce local laws. The President, as commander-in-chief, has authority to use the military to end "insurrection" by using whatever force the president deems necessary. Both are current law, but the conditions for use of force are different. – Rick Smith Jun 2 at 12:14
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    You made an assertion. I was simply saying there is a law which says that statement is not true. If the current situation continues to escalate, there will be a point when the conditions required of the law will be met. – Rick Smith Jun 2 at 13:40
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    I've seen videos of police destroying tents and other resources. Keep that in mind if you plan to do this. – AquaticFire Jun 2 at 17:04

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