Former writer tortured by Belgian police


10:00 am - October 8th 2010

by Newswire    


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Last Friday, during the No Border Camp: a convergence of struggles aiming to end the system of borders that divide us all, Marianne Maeckelbergh (US citizen and professor at the University of Leiden, Netherlands), was arrested for taking pictures while police were making arrests in Brussels, Belgium.

Maria was a Red Pepper magazine worker, current contributor and a long-time global justice activist and the author of ‘The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement Is Changing the Face of Democracy’,

Having just entered Belgium, some two hours earlier, she witnessed violent arrests on the street. When Marianne began taking pictures, she was arrested.

She was taken into police custody where she was violently dragged by her hair, chained to a radiator, hit, kicked, spat upon, called a whore, and threatened with sexual assault by the police. She also witnessed the torture of another prisoner also chained to a radiator.

This did not take place not in a dark corner of the police station but out in the open, directly witnessed by police station authorities, who gave the impression that this was standard practice. Police removed her ID card, USB stick, the camera with the photos on it, as well as 25 euros in cash – to date they have refused to return her property.

Roughly 500 people were arrested, many preemptively, including people involved in the No Border Camp and other protest activities including an alleged attack on a police station. Marianne has now been released but as of Wednesday 6 October, 2010 at least four people are still incarcerated.

Your help is needed to secure the release of the remaining prisoners and to demand that the police are held accountable.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  •  Call, email or fax Belgium’s UK Ambassador, H.E. Ambassador Johan Verbeke to demand the immediate release of all prisoners and express your outrage at the torture, abuse, and unjust incarceration of Marianne and others.

    Ambassador’s Secretariat
    Tel: 020 7470 3700
    Ann.Willems@diplobel.fed.be
    Katja.Wauters@diplobel.fed.be


    Cross-posted from the Red Pepper blog [ hat-tip Ben Six]

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    Reader comments


    This isn’t the only instance of abuse that’s been reported from Brussels. According to Schnews:

    “Later, two women from camp were picked up by police while walking in the direction of the Gesu squat. While in custody they were forced to strip in front of male of?cers. One woman refused and had clothes physically ripped off her.”

    Also reports of one man being so badly assaulted by police that his ear drum burst and I’ve heard from a friend who was there that another female activist was threatened with rape in the back of a police van.

    Time to come down hard on the Belgian police.

    Thats horrible, how did threatening to rape someone ever become acceptable police procedure?

    Disgraceful.

    Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? They’re pigs, no matter which country.

    And I eat bacon for breakfast.

    @4: “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?”

    Yes, but why single out the police? Consider also the My Lai massacre in Vietnam (1968) or what happened in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib Prison:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/64344.stm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse

    The implications of insights into the human condition gained from experimental evidence are truly terrifying. Perhaps the key insights from social psychology come from the notorious (aborted) Zimbardo Prison experiment at Stanford University:
    http://www.prisonexp.org/

    And see too the Milgram experiments:
    http://www.experiment-resources.com/stanley-milgram-experiment.html

    Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?

    Simple: because they can.

    Try this in the Torygraph:

    “We need more armed police – but do they have to be like the ones who killed Mark Saunders?”
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100058042/we-need-more-armed-police-but-do-they-have-to-be-like-the-ones-who-killed-mark-saunders/

    @1: “Time to come down hard on the Belgian police.”

    In the case of Belgium, it’s not just the police the citizenry need to worry about:

    “Belgium’s Dutroux jailed for life”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3829075.stm

    “I choose to live”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabine_Dardenne

    “‘No Belgian church escaped sex abuse’, finds investigation – Child sex abuse by clergy or church workers has taken place in every Roman Catholic congregation in Belgium, according to an independent commission investigating paedophilia allegations.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/7994705/No-Belgian-church-escaped-sex-abuse-finds-investigation.html

    I know the jury found in favour of the police, but everything I’ve read about the Mark Saunders case leads me to conclude that the police were at fault, being their usual trigger-happy selves, and rather than try to talk him down, they deliberately took the course of action which resulted in them riddling his body with bulletholes.

    One wonders how upset his widow must be. Do the police pay for the reconstructive surgery which ensures at his funeral his body is displayed in one piece? I doubt it.

    And yes, Bob B, you have a point – prison guards, military police and soldiers are all pretty sadistic too.

    @9: “And yes, Bob B, you have a point – prison guards, military police and soldiers are all pretty sadistic too.”

    But what is so profoundly worrying about the extensively documented social psychology experiments cited @5 is how quickly those participating adopted the roles of abusive prison guards or active inflicters of apparently painful punishments. The Zimbardo prison experiment at Stanford University was called off because it became too realistic.

    Btw I agree with you about the shooting of Mark Saunders:

    Fifty-nine heavily armed police surrounded barrister Mark Saunders before he died, an inquest heard yesterday.

    Officers carrying an arsenal of more than 100 guns, including rifles, carbines, shotguns and handguns, were deployed to ‘contain’ the 32-year-old, who was holed up in his £2.2million house with a shotgun.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316240/Mark-Saunders-inquest-59-police-marksmen-tackled-barrister-shotgun-siege.html#ixzz11lhmN3Eg

    Quite apart from making little or no serious efforts at capture without a fatal shooting, there are valid public concerns about efficient use of police resources to deal with one depressed, drunken guy taking pot shots with a shotgun out of his apartment window.

    Regarding Mark Saunders, I agree that all those officers sounds like overkill (genuinely sorry for the pun, I can’t think of an alternative word), and there may have been problems in terms of how they handled the situation, but he was wielding a shotgun and he had fired it a few times. Beware conflating this with situations where the victim has been unarmed.

    (BTW, the coroner reported that police rules on firearms consist of 300 pages over six documents. He recommended a review.)

    The hypocrisy of this post is absolutely jaw dropping. This is a left wing blog which constantly tells us how wonderful that state is and that if we only give its representatives more and more resources then life will be fine.

    Threatening to rape innocent women, killing innocent newspaper vendors, filling the heads of innocent Brazilian electricians with dumdums and then lying about it for all your worth is what the state does. The Belgian police can get away with it because Belgium is a country in which the state is massively over powerful.

    We need less state. We need cuts. Then perhaps the state won’t get the chance to hurt so many people.

    “The Belgian police can get away with it because Belgium is a country in which the state is massively over powerful.”

    How does that explain the extensive sexual abuse by the priesthood and church workers which went on, reportedly, in every Roman Catholic congregation?

    The overall tax burden in the US is substantially lower than in almost all west European countries. Even so, events such as the seige in 1993 at Waco, Texas, happen:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_Siege

    Guantanamo Bay, anyone?

    Just where is this wonderful contry where the state is so small and impotent that its citizen are thoroughly liberated? Somalia, perhaps?

    14. Chaise Guevara

    @12

    That’s right, Chris. Being in favour of helping the poor through state aid is the same thing as supporting police brutality. Well done for that clever and insightful comment.

    15. Chaise Guevara

    @4 Blanco

    “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? They’re pigs, no matter which country”

    Define ‘have a tendency’. You don’t get many front-page media reports about police not murdering and abusing people, so perceptions are likely to be skewed.

    Assuming that police ARE generally more violent and brutal than other people, I’d say it’s a problem you get whenever you hand power to someone. You know that guy at your office who gets a position of authority and suddenly becomes a nasty little bully? What do you think he’d be like if you gave him a gun, a truncheon, pepper spray and a room full of helpless people he hated?

    The Metropolitan Police seem not to have appreciated that the scale of the seige mounted against Mark Saunders makes them look bonkers.

    Saunders coroner calls for more ‘common sense’ from police
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11501228

    17. TuringMachine

    Are you people deliberately parodying yourselves or are you actually stupid enough to take what you’ve been writing seriously?

    If it’s the former, then well done because it’s pretty funny. If it’s the latter then, to be honest, it’s even funnier.

    “Are you people deliberately parodying yourselves or are you actually stupid enough to take what you’ve been writing seriously? ”

    Do try reading the accounts in the Mail @10 and the Telegraph @7 of the police seige of Mark Saunders.

    19. TuringMachine

    @18 “Do try reading the accounts in the Mail @10 and the Telegraph @7 of the police seige of Mark Saunders.”

    Why? It wont make what’s written here any less stupid.

    “It wont make what’s written here any less stupid.”

    The give away is that you’ve not explained what is “stupid” and why.

    I was surprised at the critical tone of the reports in the Mail and the Telegraph of the police seige of Mark Saunders – which were highly significant coming from two papers that are normally strong on law ‘n’ order priorities. Whatever the verdict of jury at the coroner’s inquest, the Metropolitan Police have come out of the event looking tarnished and that underlines the relevance of the question put by blanco @4:

    Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?

    The references posted @5 to the Zimbardo Prison experiment at Stanford University and Milgram’s experiments at Yale are very basic in social psychology courses.

    21. Chaise Guevara

    “Are you people deliberately parodying yourselves or are you actually stupid enough to take what you’ve been writing seriously?”

    Hard to say. But I must congratulate you on your expert imitation of a troll. You’ve got the ‘insult everyone on the forum without actually making a single point’ trick down pat.

    22. TuringMachine

    @21 “Hard to say. But I must congratulate you on your expert imitation of a troll. You’ve got the ‘insult everyone on the forum without actually making a single point’ trick down pat.”

    Ah right, the “you’re a troll” argument. I wasn’t insulting everyone on the forum, just the people who have posted comments that make them look like comic versions of 1970s, 1st year sociology undergraduate members of the Socialist Workers Students Organisation. There are quite a few. See if you can spot them.

    @20 “The give away is that you’ve not explained what is “stupid” and why.” Bob, having read your posts on many subjects, I believe that you, of all people, should know what is “stupid.” Since you’re struggling, here’s an example of a comment so stupid that anyone reading it runs the risk of having their brain implode:

    “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?”

    If you can’t identify the rich vein of STUPID in that one then there’s probably no hope.

    23. Chaise Guevara

    “Ah right, the “you’re a troll” argument. I wasn’t insulting everyone on the forum, just the people who have posted comments that make them look like comic versions of 1970s, 1st year sociology undergraduate members of the Socialist Workers Students Organisation. There are quite a few. See if you can spot them.”

    If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck… You came on with a random insult apparently aimed at the entire forum (‘you people’). That kinda would have been ok from my POV had you actually bothered to explain your reasoning or make some kind of point yourself, but you didn’t. Don’t troll forums then act as if people calling you a troll are being specious.

    If you’ve got a problem with what blanco wrote, why not just say so instead of sneering in a content-free manner that actually makes you look like the most idiotic person present?

    24. Chaise Guevara

    More simply: if a nobel-winning evolutionary scientist logged onto a creationist forum simply to write “LOL you’re all stupid pricks”, he’d be a troll regardless of the fact that he actually had a much better grasp of the argument in hand than they did. Make sense?

    25. TuringMachine

    @23 and 24, getting a little tense, are we? It seems to be affecting your ability to reason.

    “You came on with a random insult apparently aimed at the entire forum (‘you people’).” It wasn’t random, it was pretty specific. The posts on this thread DO look like parodies. It wasn’t aimed at the entire forum. That’s why I posted it on this thread.

    “had you actually bothered to explain your reasoning or make some kind of point yourself, but you didn’t” Do I really have to explain it? Can’t you see that some of what’s written here is laughable? And I did make a point. The point was that some of the posts on this thread look like parodies of the impotent ravings of a 70s lefty.

    “If you’ve got a problem with what blanco wrote,” Did I say, or imply, that I had, or have? It should have been pretty clear that I was aiming my remark at comments posted on this thread in response to his article.

    “More simply: if a nobel-winning evolutionary scientist logged onto a creationist forum simply to write “LOL you’re all stupid pricks”, he’d be a troll regardless of the fact that he actually had a much better grasp of the argument in hand than they did. Make sense?” Well, they ARE stupid pricks, aren’t they? Some points of view are, let’s be honest, just too stupid to deserve addressing seriously. Comments on creationist websites websites would be a good example. Another good example would be:

    “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?”

    Why? Well, see if you can spot any similarities:

    “Is there some research on why single mothers, around the globe, have a tendency to be bad parents?”

    “Is there some research on why Scotsmen, around the globe, have a tendency to be mean?”

    “Is there some research on why muslims, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people?”

    “Is there some research on why (insert group of people you don’t like), around the globe, have a tendency to (insert unpleasant action which fits in with your prejudices against the chosen group. Do not produce any evidence that this action is, in any way, characteristic, of the majority of this group)?”

    got the point yet?

    26. Chaise Guevara

    @25

    ” It wasn’t random, it was pretty specific. The posts on this thread DO look like parodies. It wasn’t aimed at the entire forum. That’s why I posted it on this thread”

    The very first post supplies further info to support the anecdotal example in the OP. What’s so idiotic about that?

    “Do I really have to explain it? Can’t you see that some of what’s written here is laughable? And I did make a point. The point was that some of the posts on this thread look like parodies of the impotent ravings of a 70s lefty.”

    Of course I can. I responded to one such comment, albeit by trying to answer rather than just sneer and confirm to myself how so very clever I am. I don’t remember you saying anything about the “impotent ravings of a 70s lefty” in the post of yours I replied to; maybe “impotent ravings of a 70s lefty” and “yourself” are synonymous in your dialect. If you HAD said that, you would at least have had a point. “Parodying yourself” is just an insult.

    ““If you’ve got a problem with what blanco wrote,” Did I say, or imply, that I had, or have? It should have been pretty clear that I was aiming my remark at comments posted on this thread in response to his article.”

    Sigh. Blanco is one of the commentors. You specifically criticised his comment a coupla posts after your devastating opening salvo. The story comes from Newswire, see above.

    ” Well, they [creationists] ARE stupid pricks, aren’t they? Some points of view are, let’s be honest, just too stupid to deserve addressing seriously.”

    Yep, they are. But that doesn’t stop the fact that what my hypothetical scientist and you did was trolling. If someone’s being stupid, try explaining why. You may even achieve something. And while some of the posts on this thread are naive, or at least haven’t come close to being thought through, that’s no reason to assume that the people who wrote them must be incapable of listening to a counter-argument (unlike, it has to be said, your average internet creationist).

    “Why? Well, see if you can spot any similarities […] got the point yet?”

    Got it, already responded to it before you even posted. Managed to do so without trolling, too!

    @Turing Machine

    You have posted a lot of abuse but still failed to explain why it is “stupid” to ask in the present context:

    @4: “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”

    Never mind Belgium for the present, in London, the Metropolitan Police came out of the seige of Mark Saunders looking seriously at fault even though the jury at the coroner’s inquest found the killing of Mark Saunders to be lawful. That certainly seems to be view of the journalists who filed news reports in the Mail and Telegraph, papers which usually give strong support to law ‘n’ order agendas.

    The aborted Zimbardo Prison experiment at Stanford Uni and Milgram’s experiments at Yale both suggest powerful reasons for concerns about how almost anyone, whether police or not, is willing to abusively treat other folk in conducive circumstances.

    The My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968 and what happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after the invasion in 2003 destroy the credibility of any suggestion that the Belgian police are somehow uniquely culpable for the abuse of those the police have detained. These reports of cases show that much the same can be said of the police in Britain:.

    “Four police officers were guilty of the ‘most serious neglect of duty’ over the death of ex-paratrooper Christopher Alder in 1998, a watchdog has ruled.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/4848238.stm

    “Nearly half of all police forces in England and Wales have officers facing charges of corruption or dishonesty, according to a survey by The Times newspaper.

    “Altogether 105 police officers in 19 out of 43 forces are under investigation.

    “They include high-ranking officers such as superintendents and detective chief inspectors.

    “London’s Metropolitan Police has by far the greatest problem with 51 officers suspended.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/206221.stm

    “Three Sussex officers avoid prosecution over fatal operation and subsequent cover-up which was damned by two separate inquiries

    “In a small Sussex seaside town, at 20 past four in the morning, James Ashley was sleeping naked in his bed. Seconds later, he was on the floor, shot dead at a range of 18ins, by a police officer using a powerful Heckler & Koch carbine.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/secrets-lies-and-.htmlit-after-police-shoot-naked-man-in-bed-685719.html

    “Officer cleared after killing a man carrying a table leg”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/may/13/ukguns.hughmuir

    28. Flowerpower

    Turing Machine

    The point was that some of the posts on this thread look like parodies of the impotent ravings of a 70s lefty

    Hang around for a while and you’ll find the phenomenon is by no means limited to this thread. Almost daily one can find here opinions and attitudes that in real life are expressed only as parody.

    I’m not sure that it’s entirely unselfconsious. It may be a po-mo thing, like Boris coming on as an old buffer. For instance, one of the regulars here (Mr Osler) calls his own blog Dave’s Part (geddit?)

    I find the naive faith in the social sciences often expressed here more touching than comic.

    29. Flowerpower

    …. oh, and could the headline writer please explain why Marianne is a “former writer”?

    30. TuringMachine

    @26 Chaise, I do see your point of view but look at Bob B’s latest post (27) and tell me honestly that you think it’s worthy of a sensible response. Where do you start? The STUPID is so deeply embedded it would be harder to extract than a Peruvian miner.

    To summarise, he begins with his favourite:

    “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”

    and proceeds with a series of unrelated, anecdotal examples (he provides links presumably to add an air of authority) which he feels demonstrate the validity of his (staggeringly stupid) question. You don’t waste time arguing with that kind of idiocy. You ridicule it.

    @ 28, I know.

    @29 I was wondering the same the same thing. Perhaps her experience was so traumatic she forgot how to.

    @28: “I find the naive faith in the social sciences often expressed here more touching than comic.”

    That’s curious. In another thread, you were complaining that Alan Johnson had no prior education in economics. If the social sciences don’t matter, why should it be a matter of public concern as to whether chancellors of the exchequer have had an education in economics?

    The two social science sources I’ve quoted in this thread were from Stanford and Yale, two highly rated American universities. The reason these two experimental studies have become prominent in the social psychology literature is precisely because they demonstrated in experimental conditions how willing the participants were to inflict harm on others in conducive circumstances. Popular interest in these studies was revived as the direct result of the abusive treatment of prisoners in the Iraq war.

    “and proceeds with a series of unrelated, anecdotal examples”

    The examples @27 of police actions were all taken from mainstream media reports. Most observers regard these reports as matters for grave public concern – especially in the caes where lives were lost as the result of police actions. But I can easily appreciate why some wish to diminish the significance of these reports in order to cover up well-documented instances of police malpractice.

    33. TuringMachine

    @32 Well, Bob, which Police Forces were involved in the Mai Lai massacre, the Zimbardo experiment, Abu Ghraib or Milgram’s experiments?

    Also, how does your selection of links to internet articles validate the question:

    “Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”

    I’ve done this before, but here we go again, what is the difference between the question above and the following questions:

    “Is there some research on why muslims, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”

    “Is there some research on why single mothers, around the globe, have a tendency to be such poor parents? ”

    Do you think it would be difficult to post a few links to internet articles which support the viewpoints implied in these questions? Do you think that doing so would validate these questions? Do you even understand the questions I’m asking you?

    @33: “Is there some research on why muslims, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”

    Looking at the global stats for intentional homicides by region/country, muslim countries and regions don’t seem to be unduly inclined to homicidal tendencies as compared with other countries and regions:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    “A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1786945,00.html

    The thread topic relates to the abuse of prisoners in custody, specifically in the custody of the Belgian police. However, there are clear wider issues of public concern about the abuse of vulnerable captives by either the police or the military when either are placed to inflict harm without being held accountable for doing so.

    That is what I was trying to illuminated with documented examples relating to the police in Britain, if only to show that the Belgian police are not uniquely abusive compared with other police forces. For comparison, we have this example relating to the NYPD in 1999:

    “Amadou Diallo (September 2, 1975 – †February 4, 1999) was a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant in New York City who was shot and killed on February 4, 1999 by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss. The four officers fired a total of 41 rounds. The shooting took place at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of The Bronx. The four were part of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit. All four officers were acquitted at trial in Albany, New York.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadou_Diallo_shooting

    35. TuringMachine

    So, Bob, not able to actually answer any of the actual questions then?

    As I said above, points of view like yours aren’t something to be argued against. The only sensible course of action is to ridicule you.

    “So, Bob, not able to actually answer any of the actual questions then? ”

    You evidently have comprehension difficulties. I suggest you seek appropriate professional advice at the earliest opportunity. Knowledgeable friends tell me that modern treatments can bring noticeable improvements to your condition quite quickly.

    37. Chaise Guevara

    @30

    I’m not defending Bob’s belief that a constant stream of anecdotes is the same thing as an argument. But you can argue rather than just sneer. Fora start you can say: “That’s just a constant stream of anecdotes” (which, in fairness, you now have).

    Please don’t feed the trolls!

    Reading the Delingpole article I see little sympathy for Saunders. He uses the incident as a tenuous excuse to argue that all police should be armed and the “rules of engagement” changed to allow for a better response to a hypothetical terrorist attack. Its more about ratcheting up the sense of fear we’re all meant to have so that we support the fatuous War on Terror.

    I have a lot of sympathy with the front-line cops who have to deal with this kind of situation. Any mistake could prove fatal. Police tactics should be re-examined every time this sort of thing happens, but we should look further. Why was a man in central london in posession of a firearm when he had known mental health problems? As a shooter myself I wouldn’t want to tighten the law, but didn’t his family and friends have some concerns? If I became ill enough to go postal after a drink I would hope my loved ones would quickly find a way to make my weapons unavailable. Hiding the cabinet key is a start.

    39. Chaise Guevara

    What you say is true, Cherub, but I don’t see what anyone outside of his personal acquaintances could be expected to do about it, or how this sort of thing could be addressed as a matter of policy. “Let’s hope everyone suddenly becomes much more helpful than they were before” is currently official Tory social policy, and I for one can’t say I’m too excited about it. Terrified, in fact.

    @37: “I’m not defending Bob’s belief that a constant stream of anecdotes”

    What you refer to as “anecdotes” were, in fact, news reports @27 relating to the police in Britain from mainstream media such as the Guardian and the BBC.

    The intent of the selection was to show by counter-example that the Belgian police are not uniquely bad in their treatment of citizens.

    41. Chaise Guevara

    40 Bob B

    “What you refer to as “anecdotes” were, in fact, news reports @27 relating to the police in Britain from mainstream media such as the Guardian and the BBC.

    The intent of the selection was to show by counter-example that the Belgian police are not uniquely bad in their treatment of citizens.”

    And they achieve that, certainly, but you were defending blanco’s statement (“Is there some research on why police officers, around the globe, have a tendency to abuse and even murder innocent people? ”). These are very different things. Saying that the police “have a tendency” to do wrong implies by the very fact that the statement is being made either that they are more inclined to do so than most people, or that they are more inclined to do so than one would reasonably expect.

    The first is possibly provable/disprovable, the second much less so. But simply posting anecdotal examples (and they are anecdotes) of police brutality doesn’t do anything to advance either argument in any direction.

    Now, if someone had claimed that police NEVER commit acts of illegal brutality, you’d have them bang to rights, so to speak. But I don’t believe anyone has.

    42. Chaise Guevara

    *Re-reading your post, I think that you may misunderstand what I mean by ‘anecdotes’. I don’t mean that I think they’re unsubstantiated, I mean that they refer to individual events and therefore don’t have any statistical bearing on their own. They can’t be used to demonstrate that police are especially inclined to commit or threaten acts of illegal violence.

    @39 Chaise

    I wonder how much class and career had to do with the way the Saunders situation was allowed to happen? Was it the kind of thing that Doesn’t Happen To People Like Them?

    The police have a duty to inspect firearms safes and to disqualify owners if they believe they are unfit. As you say, there isn’t much to be added to policy but I do wonder about how Saunder’s family and friends dealt with his problems.

    44. Chaise Guevara

    @43

    Impossible to say, and I’m not going to muse on the characters of people I’ve never met from pure conjecture. They could have been negligent as friends and family, or they could have done everything they could, or they could have been understandably oblivious to the danger. I cannot know.

    The class thing, more broadly, is an obvious problem. It’s like knives. When I was a nipper, I carried a couple of knives with me if I was out and about: a penknife, and a whittling knife given to me by my dad. A few years later, they became a trend again, and I carried about a skinning knife. I never thought anything about it, but while any policeman who noticed would have laughed off the risk posed by a twelve-year-old carrying a penknife, they might not have felt the same about a fifteen-year-old who was caught in possession of a three-inch lock-knife. I could, in theory, have been searched and then charged with possession of a weapon.

    Thing is, of course, that never would have happened, unless I was caught with the knife while doing something seriously bad (which I didn’t do!). I lived in an idyllic village in the home counties, y’see. But if I’d been a working class kid on an estate, being caught with a knife would no doubt have had me down the police station faster than you can say “I was looking after it for a friend”. Similarly, I strongly suspect that police officers and other authority figures will be inclined to assume me to be honest simply because of my accent and use of English. It’s all a bit fucked.

    45. Chaise Guevara

    Pff. That was overlong. Better analogy: if a middle-class kid with a posh accent is caught with, say, cocaine, the attitude of their parents and parents’ friends is likely to be ‘boys will be boys’; at the most, people will be concerned that they’ve been lead astray. Catch a working-class kid with cocaine and they’re a feral youth who’s thrown their life down the drain and no doubt terrorises the neighbourhood and sells drugs to decent, middle-class kids.

    All this helped, of course, by the gutter press.

    @ Chaise Guevara

    The social sciences have been impugned here.

    We celebrate Newtonian mechancics because it can predict the rotation of the planets around the sun in our solar system, eclipses and the course of comets. Better still, it is used for the calculations to send satellites into orbit and retrieve astronauts from space missions.

    The implication of the Zimbardo Prison and Milgram punishment experiments is that abuse like that at Abu Ghraib Prison will tend to happen in a context of lax accountability and that is precisely what did happen.

    It has been a long hard struggle in Britain to get independent investigation of complaints against the police. One Metropolitan Police Commissioner resigned in protest at the prospect and that despite his personal record in rooting out corruption in the Met CID:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/politics-obituaries/8037604/Sir-Robert-Mark.html

    “Mark’s famous observation that ‘a good police force is one that catches more crooks than it employs’ was matched by drastic action.”

    Events in Britain such as those reported @27 in mainstream media show why the police accountability issue is still a matter of continuing public concern.

    Thugs, racists and megalomaniacs will always be drawn to position of power. Then they abuse their power to fulfill their sick fantasies.

    In Monday morning’s news:

    “Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, has privately lobbied the home secretary to make it harder for people to take legal action against his force, the Guardian has learned.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/oct/10/metropolitan-police-sir-paul-stephenson

    “Britain’s most senior police officer has asked the home secretary to help cut the amount of legal action taken against his force. Met Police chief Sir Paul Stephenson suggested making it harder for members of the public to bring civil cases against police, the Guardian reported. He also said staff bringing employment tribunal cases should be charged a fee.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11511716

    In the context of this thread, that’s an amazing coincidence and all very predictable.

    It took centuries to weaken the barrier of Crown immunity from private lawsuits seeking damages for maladministration and now it looks as though the Metropolitan Police are pressing the cause of restoring their immunity.

    For the rule of law to be widely respected, no one and no institution must be held up as beyond legal redress for the ordinary citizen.

    @12 There is a wide range of thought within the left wing that ranges from authoritarian to anarchist. I count myself as left wing, but my influences are anarcho-syndicalism & mutualism. The only state structures that should exist are those that are necessary. Brutality from those in power should never be tolerated.


    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. Liberal Conspiracy

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    3. NCADC

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    8. Marciano

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      RT @LGBTAsylumNews: Really nasty assault by police at detention centre protest in Belgium http://bit.ly/aV54G7 Torture, rape threats ..

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    15. Keith Rhino Veeder

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      I've taken action. Have you? RT @ncadc Former journalist arrested & tortured by Belgian police at No Border protest http://bit.ly/a4EmA9

    17. She's Got the Blues

      Belgian police beat protestr Marianne Maeckelbergh (UScit & prof @Uni of Leiden) & others for taking photos of arrests. http://bit.ly/bm3byt

    18. She's Got the Blues

      Belgian police abuse of Maeckelbergh: dragged by hair, chained to radiator, hit, kicked, spat, threatened w sex assault http://bit.ly/bm3byt

    19. Eowyn

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