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I’m seeing two sorts of images related to Anaheim today that I don’t want to see right now. One is a fictional image presented by protesters in cartoons, which I don’t want to see because I think it’s counterproductive. The other is a real image presented by police on the streets, which I don’t want to see because it’s massively counterproductive.
I’ve already written about why we should not have the sort of massive police over-response that you see on the left and for the sake of completeness within this story I’ll repeat it again below. What I want to focus on first, though, is the use by protesters of images portraying Disney as fascist and militaristic. These images are not nearly as bad, not in the same zip code of bad, as the reality shown in the first image. But they’re not helpful right now either. Here’s why.
While we people often say that “Disney is Anaheim,” that’s an exaggeration. Disney is not Anaheim. Disney may control Anaheim’s governance and economy, but it’s a separate entity. Right now, that’s very fortunate for us, because the Anaheim City Council and the Anaheim Police Department may have painted themselves into a corner (or may soon do so) regarding how they respond to protesters (and, for that matter, real or alleged gang members.)
Disney is a separate entity with, frankly, more to lose than anyone due to this civil unrest. Even if it has instructed the police and sheriffs and the federal government to do every single thing that they’ve done so far, it is and is still perceived as a separate entity. That means that Disney can change its mind without loss of face. And, unless the plan to cow protesters into submission turns out to work, that is probably what is ultimately going to need to happen.
Disneyland can say to everyone — “this civil strife is bad for business. Let’s ratchet it down.”
I am not by any means arguing that Disney is a friend to protesters. I am saying that it may, as things worsen, turn out to be a useful ally despite the likelihood that it has been fully apprised of and approved the plans for suppression we’ve seen in force over the past 10 days. If Disney says “cool it,” Establishment Anaheim will chill.
At some point that will become a good business decision for Disney. You wouldn’t get a lot of interest, for example, in visiting Disneyland Juarez. The notion that Anaheim is a mostly Latino city, that it’s a place where a riot can happen, that it’s a place where cops need to come out into the streets in camouflage and riot gear — that’s going to hurt Disney and Anaheim generally, both rich and poor. (That’s the stupidest thing about A.P.D. and its pals sending out cops dressed like that. Is that where you want to vacation? They should have sent out people dressed in “Three Little Pigs” costumes, who friends working at Disneyland years ago told me were able to suppress rowdy parkgoers in an emergency by rushing at them from opposite sides with their hard heads bowed, a maneuver known as the “pig sandwich.” Having the protesters accompanied by pigs and dwarves in costume would not scare off tourists.)
We need to understand, though, that Disney’s calling for peaceful mediation is less likely to work if Disney is already being portrayed as fascist. At that point, they might as well say “to hell with it.” The heavy hand of satire that protesters hope to use to cow Disney is likely to backfire for the same reason that shooting rubber bullets at protesting neighbors backfired. The use of force — and I hope I don’t need to point out that I don’t equate these two actions, but for the record I DO NOT — always has its attractions, but it’s often a fool’s choice, especially in a scenario where both sides can lose.
So I suggest that protesters place a moratorium on “Disney as fascist” and “Heil Mickey” images until and unless Disney has decided that it is implacably set on suppressing dissent so that it can have its lovely and peaceful park. If it’s possible to make them the peacemaker, and to give the A.P.D. and Council cover for ratcheting down the level of hostilities, that should be the goal. (Of course, if your goal as an activist is to make Anaheim the flashpoint for global revolution this year, you’ll of course disagree with me — but in that case you’re bonkers.)
I don’t criticize those who have published such images so far; I think of that as more like brandishing a weapon rather than firing it. But the point of what awaits Disney if things continue to deteriorate has been made. The weapon belongs back in its holster.
Now I have to talk to the A.P.D. (and OCSD and others on site), the Council, and — if it’s appropriate — Disney itself.
As I said earlier this morning, your approach to this situation is not going to work. People are not going to be cowed. They may get more sneaky and subtle, but they’re not going to stop now that you’ve ratcheted up the tension. Disney is too easy to sabotage (literally and figuratively); people whose dignity as well as pocketbook are under attack have too little to lose. Eventually, you’re going to start going after Latino park-goers or something based on ethnic profiling, and there will be press conferences and lawsuits, and things will quickly get ugly. None of this is a threat; I remain firmly committed to non-violent and non-destructive protest. But you’d have to be blind not to be able to read the writing on the wall. This offensive does not end well — or soon.
I don’t blame anyone for taking or publishing pictures like the one at the left. It’s news. It’s huge news — and people need to be able to report it. Don’t even think about trying to suppress it. It would just make things worse.
You need to change the actual reality of what’s happening on the streets. We in the protest movement are doing our damnedest to keep people on the right side of the law. Arresting them for technicalities or absurdities — they were attacking horses? – will just make you look worse and worse. It will also make you a worthier target in the eyes of people who otherwise might grumble at you sometimes but never rouse themselves to oppositional action.
When I showed up at the rally yesterday and announced myself as a legal observer, I had discussions with two seemingly smart, decent, and humane men, one from Homeland Security and the other a Lieutenant in command of the station itself. They seemed to get it. They acknowledged that protesters could call police all sorts of vile things and it was legal. I was asked to keep an eye out for people who might want to escalate into violence — rock throwing and the like (though is it too much to ask for the cops to overlook a few empty plastic bottles as a cause for attack?) — and I did so; I and another legal observer also tried to make sure that protesters were not blocking the sidewalks, even though sidewalk blocking is not such a major deal as to call forth a massive police response.
People like me, like Duane Roberts, like many I saw from Kelly’s Army, from non-local Occupies, from the community — we’re doing what we can to keep the protesters on this side of the law. We know that that’s more effective. If you’re secretly rooting for us to fail, you’re being stupid, because again this is a situation in which both sides can lose. We don’t want that and neither should you.
Please attend to and consider this: our success in keeping things calm at rallies depends on your cooperation in not arresting people after rallies for piddly offenses. It is much harder to get people to cooperate if they know that once the cameras are off and they’re fingered by infiltrators (or however it works), they’re likely to be arrested anyway. If you see a rock thrower or window breaker, I want you to arrest them. Most people who were at the rally, I suspect, are fine with that. (After all, they put the rest of us in danger.) But if you arrest people for not walking on the sidewalk, etc., you’re just escalating the situation. Stopping the march before it gets to Disneyland is your call, but I don’t see reports that people there did anything more than be obnoxious to you, which must not become a criminal offense. Let people blow off their steam. Don’t make things worse.
If the A.P.D. and its partners continue to crack down, then we will see more people blaming Disney — a logical and prominent target — and that will hurt us all. However much you like your camo and riot gear and grenade launchers and what-the-hell, now is not the time to strut your stuff. We need to deescalate. You need to cooperate in that.
And Disney — if the police et al. won’t do it on their own (and we all realize that it goes against their instincts to use shows of force to quell rebellion), then it falls on you to tell them that you want them to do it. You can be the savior of the day — or you can sink down with the rest of it. Ask your PR department which is better.
Update: OC Weekly links to this video of the arrest of people who had been walking from the end of the march on Harbor to Anna Drive. In case you haven’t seen it there, it’s seriously worth a look.