Police State/Civil Liberties

Heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves are patrolling the streets of Washington, DC. They were sent by the Bureau of Prisons.

Exactly as I would have predicted. I have long held the position that while municipal police are certainly a problem, they are actually overemphasized in many critiques of the police state. The reasons why are obvious. They are obviously the most visible, and the ones that most people are likely to have personally encountered. For civil rights and anti-racist oriented analysts, municipal police are the ones who carry out the most immediately visible acts of repression, brutality, or murder in minority and poor communities.

However, even more problematic are the federal police state organizations (the array of alphabet soup agencies and other overlapping groups), because these tend to be much better organized, trained, armed, intelligent, sophisticated and in the direct service of the true power elite.

It is likely that if anti-police sentiment continues to grow, the “defund the police” movement may actually gain traction in the sense that the presence of municipal police in the minority and urban poor communities will decrease. This would result in less police brutality and repression but (possibly) higher crime rates in these communities (everything in life is a tradeoff) at least initially until more organic forms of crime control could evolve. Instead, conventional police will be reserved primarily for affluent suburban communities with private gated communities having private police of their own. That’s how it’s done in Latin America.

However, the state will increasingly rely on federal police state agencies (along with surveillance technology) as a means of enforcing its own interests. It is important to remember that the state does not care about crime in poor communities, as long as it does not spill over into middle-class communities to the point that a lot of whining by middle-class do-gooders begins and becomes a political liability. The police, at every level, are an instrument of political and class control, not “fighting crime.”

Most large US cities are controlled by the neoliberal class, the managerial elite, and the new clerisy. It has been interesting to observe how this sector has responded to the insurrection. Clearly, their general approach has been co-optation rather than full-on repression, Donald Trump’s irrelevant ravings notwithstanding. Meanwhile, municipal police have largely acted as an autonomous force during the insurrection, with some attempting (however feebly) to engage in conventional law enforcement, others engaging in riots of their own, and some joining the protests or simply walking off the job, which often happens with municipal police during genuine riots and insurrection. It’s what happened in LA in 1992, and in Charlottesville in 2017. It is quite possible that the class sectors that control municipal governments will indeed move to “defund the police” generally while maintaining private police for their own enclaves.

However, the use of federal police will likely be expanded. In fact, even some liberal and civil rights-oriented “reformers” favor this on the dubious basis that federal police are somehow “less racist” (their image of racist police is shaped by figures like Bull Connor from the civil rights movement era). But the federal police state is even more extreme than that of the states and localities. Ironically, many on the “far-right” understand this to a much greater degree (mostly because their ideologies are often even more violent and extreme than those of the far left, and they are more likely to have had encounters with the feds in the process). But the federal police state is against anyone who is “against the system” from Antifa-anarchists to accelerationist-racists, and the wider use of the federal police for political and class control is not a net victory for anti-statism, even if municipal police recede in the process.

By Tom Porter

Business Insider


  • As part of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on protests against racism, federal agents wearing no insignia have been patrolling the streets of Washington, DC.
  • The officials have refused to identify themselves, but reporters have established that they’re from the Bureau of Prisons.
  • In a statement to news outlets, the bureau said the officials were not wearing identifying clothing “as they are serving a broader mission.”
  • Law-enforcement experts said that officials operating with no identifying insignia could evade accountability and spread confusion.

Heavily armed federal agents wearing no badges or identifying markings have been patrolling the streets of Washington, DC, this week as part of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on protests against racism.



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