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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

Police Brutality & Counter-Insurgency in Salinas
by FireWorks
Tuesday May 27th, 2014 6:12 PM
Several hundred people gathered at Closter Park on Sunday to protest police violence and recent killings on behalf of the Salinas Police Department, though many may have been surprised to find out that the topic was being downplayed by the organizers. Instead, this March Against Police Brutality was now to be a March for Respect, Dignity and Justice- though how to attain these things was not mentioned.
Several hundred people gathered at Closter Park on Sunday to protest police violence and recent killings on behalf of the Salinas Police Department, though many may have been surprised to find out that the topic was being downplayed by the organizers. Instead, this March Against Police Brutality was now to be a March for Respect, Dignity and Justice- though how to attain these things was not mentioned.

Pre-made signs awaited marchers with approved slogans such as “Respect, Dignity, Justice” in English and Spanish, and “Queremos Justicia” (We Want Justice.) In between speakers during the rally, one of the organizers in a yellow security vest told the crowd that people with signs deemed “negative” or “inappropriate” were going to be asked to put their sign away or leave. Almost simultaneously, another yellow-vested organizer approached someone who had spray painted FTP on their sign and told them to put it away. An argument broke out when he refused, with many people in the crowd telling the organizers to respect people’s freedom of speech. Despite calling for backup, the group of yellow-vests that had assembled could not convince anyone to remove their signs- in fact they had inspired others in the crowd to write “FTP” or “ACAB” on their own signs.

During the march, the organizers spent their time restricting the march to a single lane, as to allow traffic to pass. Many people were upset by this and tried to explain the purpose of civil disobedience. The default response from the yellow-vests was that whoever questioned them was not a Salinas resident or part of their community, which sounded like a broken record, and fell flat when the people disobeying their orders were actually locals themselves.

In stark contrast to almost any other protest against police brutality you can imagine, there were no police in sight. In this 3-plus mile march, not a single officer was spotted. Some optimistic marchers, as assured by the organizers, thought that because the march did not get unruly the police did not need to make an appearance. More likely, the police were relaxing knowing that their job was being done for them with the unpaid, and perhaps unknowing, help of those dressed in yellow.

Just over five years ago, the Salinas Police Department began coordinating with the nearby Naval Postgraduate School to implement the tactics of counter-insurgency. The strategy was developed in Iraq by David Petraeus, US Military General as well as former Director of the CIA, and now has been adapted to fight gangs in the United States. However, population control remains at the heart of counter-insurgency, and when SPD can use certain segments of the population to police their own actions, why create a potential confrontation by providing a visible target for people’s anger?

And with these military tactics, comes the military technology- Salinas PD was given access to the same software to track crimes and potential criminals that the U.S. military uses in the middle east. Primarily, it involves analyzing social media to target and disrupt supposedly violent activity. Beyond it’s partnership with NPS, Salinas had simultaneously looked into increasing surveillance camera presence, implementing facial-recognition software, and establishing a local fusion center. And to make way for these new tools- Monterey was given the go-ahead last year to expand the county jail in the coming years.

Tension was palpable on the streets of Salinas on Sunday, as the march made it’s way through the neighborhood, many looked on, and not one needed an explanation. Despite the best efforts at undermining the people’s rage by those donning yellow, it will take much more than that to curb completely. Most graffiti following Wednesday’s riot had been erased, but a few tags of “Call the cops and get shot” and “Break the law and die – SPD” were still lingering around Chinatown, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. The blood on SPD’s hands will not be forgotten any time soon.