The Clash of “Communities;” the State of the Occupation at the 4th Precinct
“A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.” (Frantz Fanon)
Ok, let’s take a look at this mess:
• “Together as a community we are going through something no community wants to face together… It is the dignity of neighborliness, the dignity of community, it is the dignity of the city of Minneapolis… It is that strength that will carry us through as a community…My vision is that we catalyze this moment for peace…that we strengthen the bonds of our communities with police and with each other.” (Mayor Hodges)
• “All different types of people from the community are protesting.” (Comment on Twitter)
• “Earlier on Friday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton met with Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, NAACP leaders, the commissioner of the department of public safety and other officials to discuss measures such as community policing.” (From an article in the Guardian)
• “Community has been up all night.” (From the Black Lives Matters Twitter)
• “Tensions between black community, Minneapolis police resurface after fatal shooting.” (Title of an article in the Star Tribune)
• “Augsburg college and its students are a part of the Minneapolis community and have been affected by the homicide of Jamar Clark, lack of police accountability, and structural racism and targeting and harming communities of color.” (Augsburg ADSG)
• “It seems to me, you all don’t want help from the white community.” (Comment on Twitter)
Wait, what? I’m sorry, but communities inside of communities inside of what community? The Minneapolis community, the black community, the north side community, the white community: is community a place, an attribute, or something else? Regardless of our own confusion at the occupation, the city and police certainly know already. On the insidempd website, there is a section titled “Community. ” Under that heading are the sub-headings “Crime Prevention,” “Investigative Crime Mapping,” “City and Precinct Crime Statistics,” “Policies and Procedures Manual,” and “Chaplains and Chiefs Council.” Community, for the city, is first of all an activity, not a static group of people. But what is that activity? Clearly, lawful self-management, or, in other words, self-policing. Community is an operation, laden with moral overtones, to attempt to cause policing as an activity to proliferate. And, as anyone at the 4th precinct on Friday could see, it must be working quite well since two groups nearly came to fists over the idea- a tame one- that someone might burn the American flag. We need to drop the idea that the police are merely here to repress us. They repress us like the shepherd represses sheep: sure, he blocks their potential movement with fences and guard dogs, but he encourages them to move and intermingle within the prescribed area. This injunction to “live! But live the right way!” is reflected in the petitions directed at the police to “see how peaceful we were being” when we were maced, or in the Augsburg ADSG’s recent demand to “provide community oversight of the police with full disciplinary power” and to “require that officers live in the communities in which they serve.” Community, here, is an extra-juridical term, a super-policing term used to transform the abstract Law into a moral category. This is the community of priests, the Priests of Order that creates its blessed ones and its pariahs every time someone tells a 16 year old that he’s “hurting the movement.”
A lot of the confusion on the ground is a result of wanting to think “community” as either a place or as the hypostatized version of an attribute. If it’s the first, that means that without anything happening, we could enter or exit “the community” like a building or a park, which would be meaningless. If it’s the second, that means that regardless of what that group is doing, it forms a community, so that, if, for example, all the poor and disenfranchised Irish immigrants in 19th century New York City were put in isolation chambers and kept from interacting, their merely “being Irish” would still make them a community. But there’s really no reason to resort to philosophical abstractions: let’s say they all worked full time in increasingly micro-managed and diversified factories and lived in single family apartment units. Would they still form a “working class Irish community?” Unfortunately, I think the police are ahead of us on this question. They know that “community” has no substance outside of the relations and connections between people. The word itself comes from the Latin “communitatem” meaning “fellowship of relations or feelings.” Relations or feelings, these are what is held in common in a time of action. There is no “Community” that just is and that is finally coming out to demonstrate as if out its cave. There is only community happening or “being built” as Unicorn Riot said on one of their Twitter posts.
In the end, there is no “Community” except as a meaningless abstraction. Let us drop this confusing term. Our tie to it is moral and not strategic. It transforms the dynamic relations between words and bodies into a mass of static bodies and “statements” removed from context. There are only communities (in the plural) flowing in and out of each other, forming conscious and subconscious bonds, exchanging words and telling stories, building fires and barricades, blocking police and policing others, throwing rocks and snitch-jacketing. There are the communities of friends and accomplices that blend in and out of each other seamlessly; and there are the communities of police doing the same. This strategic intelligence already exists outside the 4th precinct, but it exists, paradoxically, side-by-side with the moral language of a church of radicalism that breaks the essential bonds being built in our actions. When one invokes a single and unified “Community,” whether of a place or an entire race, it erases the essential and true differences that arise between the communities. This logic of sadness is the logic of pictures and theory, or, the logic of death and dead things.
So, yes, communit(ies) continue to be built at James and Plymouth. The absurdity of the claim that “we can police our own neighborhoods” becomes more obvious day after day as we see the confusion around “community” come to a head. Let’s be clear: there are no “police” outside of the “policing communities.” Many outside the precinct have noted that the building used to be a community center, and have been demanding that it be returned to this purpose. This, along with the observation, heard often, that “the police don’t really do anything for us anyways” gets to the heart of the matter. It’s true that “there’s nothing police do that we cant do.” It’s also true that there’s nothing police do that we don’t already do. That includes policing. We not only don’t need police, our own “leaders” are the ones responsible for personally reproducing policing as a moral necessity at the occupation. Down with the horrible monster, Community! Long live the communities!
“In the World through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” (Frantz Fanon)
-A pariah of The Community