In Madison, Wisconsin, a crowd of over 200 people gathered outside the City-County Building on Saturday over the shooting death of local musician Paul Heenan by a Madison police officer. Paul Heenan, 30, was shot three times in the chest by Officer Stephen Heimsness after he stumbled into the wrong home (his neighbor's) while drunk in the early morning hours of Nov. 9th.
Officer Heimsness was cleared of all wrong-doing, following an internal investigation and returned to patrol duty, policing the streets. The results of the investigation were released earlier in the week, finding that Heimsness did not violate department policies on the use of deadly force, sparking the protest outside of the City-County Building.
The main speaker of the rally made many good points about the "investigation" made by the police. For example, he cited the neighbors, who witnessed Paul's death and have disputed the MPD account of the shooting.
Kevin O'Malley, has gone on record saying, "I remember yelling, 'He's a neighbor! He's a neighbor!'" and his wife, Megan O'Malley (who was the person who initially called 911 thinking it was an attempted burglary) says that Kevin's screams were loud enough to be heard from inside the house before the pig so ruthlessly unloaded three rounds into Paul.
People in attendance also learned that in 2001 the same pig, Stephen Heimsness, was suspended for 15 days for shooting out the tires of a fleeing car in a parking garage. In 2006, he was involved in an arrest of a bar patron that led to the city of Madison paying a $27,000 settlement because the man was almost beaten to death, leaving his face looking like a bloody, pulpy mess of pepperoni pizza. The Madison Police Department's internal investigation found that the use of force in that case, including knee strikes and kicks to the face with steel toed boots while his partner held the face-down man's head up, was "for the most part ... reasonable and necessary".
Now, the speaker at this rally made some excellent points about the various injustices regarding this specific pig, the specific case and the utterly disgusting internal investigation, and for that, I am extremely thankful. His heartfelt response to such horrors was greatly appreciated by everyone in attendance, I am sure.
But his analysis for police violence (policing is good, this is just one bad apple), and his recommendations for how we as a community proceed to work on policing in the future (talk to your local politicians and demand the establishment of an independent review mechanism) were seriously lacking for such a dire situation. In some cases it was just plain silly and missing any sort of historical perspective on what policing is, how and why it came to be an institution, and what greater socioeconomic purpose they serve, as evidenced by his statement, "the police are sworn to not only protect us from each other, but also from ourselves."
Paul's murder, and subsequent cover-up by police, shouldn't really be a surprise. Cops are armed henchman of the state and capital, who enforce the laws and customs that regulate and produce the state's desired behavior. The institution of policing exists on "our" rulers' behalf; to order all of the population into this world of work, capitalism, and industrial civilization and whip into shape anyone who falls out of line.
One only has to look at Milwaukee (the most segregated city in the USA and the 4th poorest), where factories LEGALLY spew toxic, industrial waste into Lake Michigan and where multinational financial institutions have skyscrapers arrogantly eating up the skyline while people are literally starving in apartheid-like conditions, to see that the "order" these pigs maintain is really just misery under the despotism of state, capital and civilization.
It's also not a surprise that brutal, power-hungry pieces of human shit like Officer Stephen Heimsness were attracted to such a position that grants so much power to dominate and coerce.
Being a person who has directly experienced police violence (being handcuffed so tight my hands lost feeling and being punched into the back of my head while cuffed) it was extremely aggravating to hear such whitewashing of pigs in the city I was born and raised in. It was equally as aggravating to see flyers for the event posted up in yuppie shopping areas (State Street and Williamson) but none were to be found in economically depressed neighborhoods like Badger or Allied, where police "misconduct" (can it be any other way?) is a regular occurance. It's no wonder the crowd was mostly middle class white people who only have a problem with policing when a white man gets shot "by mistake" and it's no wonder the anger felt by the people in Liberal Madison was being funneled into such dead-end, legislative measures that will never solve the social problems that produce desperate people committing "property crimes" and killer fucking cops to begin with.
If this struggle is to amount to anything meaningful, it will require connecting with communities that experience police tyranny on a regular basis in Madison, and it also might be worthwhile to connect the struggle to the loved ones of people murdered or abused by police in nearby Milwaukee recently, such as Derek Williams (who suffocated to death in the back of a cop car after having his neck broken), Darius Simmons (a 13 year old shot dead by a racist vigilante pig without a badge), James Perry (another man who died in custody from a seizure after the pigs refused to get him medical attention), the woman who was punched multiple times while handcuffed in the back seat of the cop car, etc. This list could go on for pages.
Anyways, the crowd began breaking up while a boring Alder-person from District 6 was giving a speech. A small contingent of rebels, radicals, anarchists, etc, who wanted to articulate a different narrative that didn't hopelessly beg for change from leaders, or sugarcoat the inherently violent institution of policing, began to assemble near the road. The part black bloc, part scarf-bloc proceeded to march directly into one-way traffic towards the Dane County Jail and Courthouse behind a large black banner reading "Authority Misuse, Stop Police Violence (A) (E)". Unfortunately, nobody that I know of made material preparations, otherwise some minor costs for killing one of us would have been inflicted upon the Jail and Courthouse. One presumably liberal/moderate attender of the rally said afterwards that "they did not go to be associated with the group of people with scarves over their faces holding the large black banner, looking like a bunch of Islamic extremists". And that's what solidarity is to a liberal... "You make us look bad".
After we marched past the Courthouse, completely blocking traffic and temporarily stopping a city bus, us scarved terrorists marched up the road towards Madison's yuppie pedestrian shopping district State Street, that also ironically serves as the stomping ground for much of Madison's homeless population during the day. We screamed anti-police chants like "Madison Police.... Mur-der-ers!", "Cops in our hood, ain't no good", "Who, who can you trust? Not the PO-LICE", "While you're shopping, Cops are Copping" and so many others.
The response we got from observers was a refreshing dose of encouragement as opposed to the boring liberal guilt trip of city officials to be found in front of the City-Council building. Cars honked and waved at our banner and gave a thumbs up as we clogged up the very intersection they were attempting to pass through. Other people walking with shopping bags said "Thank you so much for doing this" and a longtime member of the State Street Family (S.S.F. is the name given to our homeless comrades, see: http://www.inside-voices.com/) screamed "That's Right! That's Right! That's Right!" over and over as we passed and shook our hands. We even managed to unintentionally recruit some people to march with us and scream anti-cop chants for a couple of blocks behind the banner.
After we marched across and then directly into traffic on University Avenue (probably the worse place you would want to be driving, let alone walking into traffic, during a Badger's Basketball game at the Kohl Center 2 blocks away) people began to get tired and started to fade away from the march, so we called it a day.
Some graffiti we passed on foot read "Cops, Pigs, Murderers" and that made us smile to see others in town (presumably) taking back capitalist space to pass messages along. We only saw three police vehicles during the entirety of the march (all of whom kept their distance), and while we weren't able to get greasy and break some shit or fight the pigs in the street, we managed to create many waves in an extremely public area (the busiest pedestrian area in the city), and once and for all we have at proved that militant marches in Madison ARE indeed possible, and surprisingly welcome. No arrests were made.
We are under no illusions that non-violent marches of 20-30 people in themselves could ever pose a serious challenge to those in power, however sharing a street with comrades (some new!) can hopefully push an alternative narrative and serve as a stepping stone to bigger and bolder actions, that could one day offer a formidable challenge to the reality that we want to transform.
Derek Williams: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSYbj6f1EfM
Darius Simmons: http://dariussimmons.org/