30 March 2018

Just Following Orders

O'Neil De Noux

It's time to anger family and friends again. Y'all won't believe how much flak I've caught since my anti-confederate blog last year.

I want to talk about police officers blindly following orders.

I'm a retired law enforcement officer, been a cop most of my life, from the 1960s until 2017, with a few breaks in between. I've been in law enforcement from the anti-war and civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to todays demonstrations for black-lives-matter and immigration reform and me-too and women's rights and so much more. Those causes are not the subject of this discussion. How cops handle them is.

When did police officers start acting like Nazi brown-shirts, jack-booted thugs? Well, since forever. Police officers were used to break up demonstrations for unions, women's suffrage, veterans rights, anti-war, the list goes on and on. Just finished reading Ken Follett's FALL OF GIANTS where British police sided with pro-Nazi English fascists (The British Union of Fascists) and attacked people blocking the Nazis from marching in their neighborhood in 1936.

Here are photos of British police attacking demonstrators at that particular demonstrations, commonly called The Battle of Cable Street.

In the name of law and order, the police were ordered to side with Nazis and followed orders.

Here are photos of suffragettes beaten by police. How in the hell did men beat women with clubs because women wanted to vote? How? Because they were sent to do that in the name of law and order and they obeyed orders.

This may be repugnant today. How about this image from the University of California Davis in 2011?

I was a university police officer then and has discussions with my fellow officers about this. I said, "You don't want to be that guy." And several fellow offieer said they wanted to be that guy. If the university administration (as in California) ordered university police to use force against demonstrators, they'd pepper stray students without hesitation.

I tried to give them some old-man wisdom, reminding them we were talking about students, about young people we were paid to protect. What do we tell their parents? We attacked them because they made things inconvenient on campus, they blocked a walkway? If they blocked a walkway, go another way.

I told them how New Orleans Mayor Ernest 'Dutch' Morial's office was once taken over by demonstrators. Did the mayor call in police to remove them? No. He moved his operations to a different office in city hall and negotiated with the demonstrators to a peaceful solution. Morial knew the score. He'd been a civil rights demonstrator as a young man.

"But we can't let them just stay there." Going back to my discussions with fellow university police officers.

"Yes we can," was my response. We're talking about American kids. They'll need to eat, go to the bathroom, take a shower. They'll need to recharge their cell phones. They don't live on the ground. This is Louisiana. It'll rain soon. They'll get weary and go home. Just wait them out. Be nice to them. Converse with them. Protect them from anti-demonstrators and it'll all calm down. Let them demonstrate.

Stephen Stills, in his enlightened song FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, wrote of demonstrators, "A thousand people in the street. Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly saying, 'Hooray for our side'."

Let them voice their concerns. Police officers need not agree or disagree with the message. It's not our job to solve the issue. We maintian the peace and we should not attack either side. You don't want to be that guy.

How about this image from Baton Rouge, Louisiana? Just following orders.

Whose message is more powerful? Heavily armed men in body armor or peaceful demonstrator?

At least they did not use clubs or pepper spray.



  1. O'Neil, this post is spot-on about an issue nobody really likes to talk about. Although we think of it in the context of the military (think Nuremberg) or police brutality, it reaches farther and deeper than that.

    Look at all the stupid bureaucratic regulations regarding such offices as health, welfare, insurance, education, and almost everything else. You constantly encounter people who follow (often stupid or damaging) rules because they fear for their jobs...or they're too dumb to think for themselves. Many professions have to put up with bizarre licensing requirements because the people designing the law/standard/whatever didn't know enough about the job.

    My favorite example is a barber telling me that one of the questions on his exam to be a licensed barber asked for the name of the green pigment in plants. It's chlorophyll and he knew it, but how often is he going to use it to give someone a shave?

    One of the reasons I retired as a teacher when I did was because more and more of the requirements had less and less to do with education. Maybe that's why we end up with such a dangerous lockstep mentality.

    Yeah, that's too easy. But thank you for posting this.

  2. Great post, O'Neil! Interesting and insightful.

    (I too enjoyed Fall of Giants.)

  3. Until John Floyd emailed to tell me there was a problem with the comments section today (and Leigh Lundin confirmed it) I thought I'd finally posted something so bad, no one would comment. I laughed, figuring I'd set a record - no comments. Oh, well, no record. Thank y'all for reading and commenting.

    Hey, it appears I don't have to prove I'm not a robot commenting on my own post.

  4. Great piece. That last photo is stunning. It always reminds me of Ammon Hennacy, who was a pacifist and anarchist. (Some people might understand if I said he was the student of Dorothy Day and the teacher of Utah Phillips.)

    Hennacy said that a person who went to protest without spiritual power was not a pacifist, but just a badly armed militant. It may just be a trick of the photography, but that last photo looks like the most literal demonstration of what he meant by spiritual power.


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