Putting the ‘P’ in Police State

Nick Baker

Make it a capital, black and yellow “P,” like, say, on a Pirates cap.

When I was 13 years old, some eight-and-a-half years ago, I was quite an angry little man. Or, I thought I was. At least, I wanted to be.

I wanted to be angry at the government and old white people and police and the status quo and religion and the Establishment and the Man.

Music, specifically punk rock, was instrumental (nice pun, eh?) in shaping my worldview at the time. Some of my favorite political bands from those days hailed from Pittsburgh, bands like Aus-Rotten and, the one that first got me concerned with politics way back then, Anti-Flag.

At age 13, Anti-Flag scared me. I liked that it scared me. And, even better, I liked that it scared all those old white people around me.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking lyrics like, “All it is, is a Nazi nation, not a free nation,” to the seventh grade like it was show and tell.

In my one-class-per-grade Catholic grade school and later in my Catholic high school, every day became an opportunity for a good freak-out.

Then after a few years I kind of gave up.

I never saw the “Police State in the U.S.A.” that I thought I hated so much and had no reason for “Fuck Police Brutality” (both Anti-Flag songs) to have any implications in my life.

Nothing about the concepts I was so interested in seemed to be real. I was just mad at some abstract entity that was somehow infringing on my life.

It was not that all of a sudden I was singing the company song; but, to quote the Subhumans, things seemed to be “just a waste of breath.”

But in the scope of the last week, things coming out of Pittsburgh once again are making me wonder if maybe those songs do have some implications here in the good old U.S. of A.

In Pittsburgh last week, under (and above) the noses of leaders of 20 countries and representatives of the European Union, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters circled the skies, Humvees patrolled the streets and gunboats cruised up and down the rivers.

Before the summit began, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Don’t be alarmed. We are ready to have a safe event.”

According to The New York Times, county officials prepared for the “safe event” by freeing some 300 probation violators in order to open up space in jail cells, having 1,000 cells open and ready to be filled.

Students at the University of Pittsburgh can be seen in videos, doing nothing but watching the demonstrations on Forbes Avenue near the school, as they try to escape clouds of tear gas and fully armored riot police despite no aggressive action being made by students on police.

In a video on YouTube of CNN correspondent Brian Todd, he is shown trying to speak before a deafening noise that sounded like an alarm overtakes his voice.

Police were trying out a new crowd-dispersing tool that had not been previously used in the United States called a long-range acoustic device, which emits sharp, shrill beeps designed to temporarily affect hearing and cause those gathered to retreat.

White clouds of tear gas drift down the streets, and the bang of stun grenades can be heard.

As Todd tries to explain, a cold, almost inhuman voice comes over a loudspeaker, saying, “By order of the City of Pittsburgh chief of police, I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly. I order all those assembled to immediately disperse. No matter what your purpose is, you must leave. If you do not leave, you may be arrested or subject to other ‘police action.'”

Nick Baker is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]