The Common Good
November-December 2000

Police! Put down the puppet, now!

by Ryan Beiler | November-December 2000

As movements against the harmful effects of globalization are gaining strength in the United States, activists are increasingly outraged at some police behavior employed to control them.

As movements against the harmful effects of globalization are gaining strength in the United States, activists are increasingly outraged at some police behavior employed to control them. Civil rights lawyers claim that tactics ranging from pre-emptive arrests to outright brutality intimidate citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.

At the Democratic National Convention, according to activists, Los Angeles police used pepper spray, batons, and nonlethal ammunition indiscriminately against largely peaceful crowds instead of responding selectively to the relatively small number of violent protesters. The British newspaper The Independent reported that some protesters were shot in the back with bruising rubber bullets while trying to walk away from police with their hands joined in the air.

Pre-emptive seizures were made during the Republican National Convention protests in August, and some of those arrested allegedly received severe beatings while in custody. Several activists had their bails set at six figures, and Ruckus Society leader John Sellers was arrested and held with $1 million bail on misdemeanor charges.

Similarly, the night before last April's protests against the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., police arrested—without a warning—a crowd of more than 300 people, including journalists and tourists who were observing the events. Police also raided the protesters' "convergence center," seizing puppet-making supplies, PVC pipes used for making human chains, and foodstuffs, claiming they were materials for making bombs and homemade pepper spray.

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