The police state: dictatorship vs. democracy

I’d like to share a bit of information I noticed today.


Follow this link to a Global National story, about the overtly violent anti-Japan protests in China. The uprising is the product of a dispute between the two Asian nations over an archipelago in the South China Sea, which inspired a surge of nationalism in the world’s most populous nation.

Look carefully at the image of the police, in uniform. To be fair, some Chinese officers wore helmets and held riot shields, but this is perfectly justifiable considering that the public groundswell in question is a riot, complete with overturned cars, hurled projectiles and irate, belligerent citizens.


Now, compare the image you just scrutinized to these photographs of Anaheim police during last month’s primarily peaceful demonstrations in the southern California city.

If I were to tell you that one of the countries in which these protests occurred is a totalitarian regime that seeks – often violently – to suppress civil disobedience, and the other considers itself a democracy, which would you say was which?

Militarized police officers in Pittsburgh, PA, September 2009. Image c/o katesheets/Flickr

When Occupy protesters and others involved in public dissent describe the emergence of a bona fide police state in Western democracies, this is what they mean. And there are many more examples of militarized police and excessive force: in Quebec where thousands upon thousands of demonstrators were arrested during the Printemps Erable movement; at Occupy events last year in Oakland and many other cities throughout the continent; at the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010; the list goes on. A similar phenomenon has taken place in Europe, where crippling austerity has driven countries like Greece and Spain to the tipping point, and governments have cracked down on a disgruntled populace.

Yet more instances of excessive force appear to have occurred at today’s #S17 rally in New York City, which marked the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Participants, and even bystanders, have now been arrested by NYPD officers on questionable grounds, report numerous citizen journalists from Manhattan.

In light of the rate at which economic inequality continues to grow in Western countries, I’d wager that there’s no end in sight to civil disobedience and discontent. Our governments should respond by addressing the concerns of protesters, rather than empowering law enforcement officials to suppress them (which is what recent history suggests is happening).

If not, our leaders seriously risk losing the confidence of the electorate – not a recipe for success, order or harmony.

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