Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Police State of Mind

Driving around Aberdeen, one might think we were gearing up for a Hell's Angels convention! At almost every turn, there's a police car. Not only are there a lot of them, but they come from all over the place. Aside from more unmarked cars than I can ever remember seeing in one locale at any given time in my life, I have seen patrol cars from Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Montesano, Elma, Grays Harbor County and the State Patrol.

I've even heard that there are some law enforcement people here from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle!!

Tonight, after picking up my wife from work, we drove over to the "designated" free speech area, if for no other reason than to see if the police presence was as high at night as it has been during the day. As soon as we turned onto the Port Industrial Road, we found an Aberdeen patrol on our tail.

It followed us as we made the turn into the Pride Oil driveway that passes by our designated marsh. As we slowed, so did the patrol car. We looped around to the nearest street to go back down the Industrial Port Rd from whence we came. The patrol car was still behind us. In fact, it followed us almost all the way home, only turning off one block from our house.

And why is this armada of law enforcement circling in and throughout this rural small town? Because of scary peaceful protesters.

(At Friday's rally, I'm not altogether certain which there was more of -- protesters or police officers.)

Having this many cops in one place at one time makes me more than a tad bit nervous. Whenever you have a large group of people EXPECTING trouble, they are more likely to be the ones to cause it. I don't say this because of inherent dislike for the police; it's human nature.

I'm fairly certain that all the various officers have been warned that big time trouble is brewing. Since police officers are human beings just like the rest of us, waiting for this supposed inevitability to happen assuredly is breeding much anxiety within their ranks.

It's very much like having a battalion of soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. As soon as one sees anything they perceive to be out of the ordinary (even though their perception is highly colored by their unreal sense of anticipation), the natural impulse is to shoot first and ask questions later.

Consequently, history has well documented that the police tend to overreact to nonexistent threats at these kinds of peaceful rallies and generate a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect violence and, when it doesn't occur as expected, their anxiety causes them to react violently to a nonviolent circumstance and this causes the kind of violence they expected to occur in the first place.

The worst part of this kind of scenario is that, even if the police KNOW that a particular situation was instigated by a member within their own ranks, it's a natural human tendency to come to the aid of your own. So, some hot-headed officer turns a small incident into a major brouhaha and the rest of his comrades will rush to his aid with teargas, tasers and nightsticks ready.

This is my greatest fear and one of the chief reasons I've volunteered to serve as our police liaison.

Saturday's Event
People are asked to converge at the Port of Grays Harbor Public Viewing Tower around 2 p.m. This area can be reached by traveling through Aberdeen to Hoquiam and turning south on 28th Street. Go straight until you run out of road. There is a small gravel parking area there.

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