Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bad Cop

At the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in June, three masked police officers acting as agents provocateurs tried to incite non-violent demonstrators to attack the uniformed police. Accounts of this incident can be found here and here (in German); a video is available here - the scene of the undercover cop being returned to his colleagues is at 1:40 min.

The leaders of the US, Mexico, and Canada held a meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP; wonder who it is that comes up with these neo-Orwellian names?) in Montebello, Québec on 20 and 21 August. On this occasion, a similar scene was caught on camera and posted on Youtube. The clip shows an elderly man, belonging to a group of people (apparently trade union members) trying to separate the police from a group of younger protesters, telling another guy dressed in black "anarchist" garb to drop the rock he is holding. The confrontation heats up when the older man accuses the man holding a rock and his two buddies of being cops:

For a minute or so, it's just Coles being a good samaritan, trying to stop a potentially violent confrontation and demanding that one of the men who picks up a rock put it down. It's already extremely tense by the time that someone starts pointing at the masked protestors and chanting "policier!" Coles demands that the men take off their masks, and the majority of the crowd join him––some even reach for the bandannas themselves––and accuse the masked men of being cops, police provocateurs hired to start a riot. When Coles actually looks at one of the men dead-on and says, "you're a police officer," the masked men all freeze, seemingly dumb-struck. And then they kind of start being aggressive again, until a little over two minutes in, when there's the weirdest police takedown you'll probably ever see.

The three men then sidle towards the police line until they are gently pulled over, pushed down, and "taken into custody" in a way that is entirely unbelievable considering they are supposed to be violent anarchists who just tried to lob a dangerous missiles at the cops "arresting" them, lending more credence to the notion that they are agents provocateurs.

This is the kind of cynical manipulation that not only increases general distrust of the police - whether in Germany, Canada, or elsewhere; it also raises the degree of cynicism about the idea that the political system we live in can be changed by legitimate public protest. Also makes you wonder how the uniformed police officers feel about their colleagues trying to goad demonstrators into attacking them. Are they pissed off, or looking forward to a bit of aggro?

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