Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Protests at CUNY and Neoliberal Policing

with 4 comments

Yesterday saw violence at CUNY, when students protesting the proposed rise in tuition clashed with security guards. By “clashed with security guards,” I mean the police needlessly attacked a bunch of unarmed, non-violent students who dared to believe that they should be able to get an education without going massively into debt. You can watch the relevant videos here. Note what happens at about 3:50, when the students are peacefully sitting down and then are violently attacked by police.

A friend of mine, though, pointed out something interesting. The same day that security forces attacked their own students, and, at the same time that they are raising tuition because of a fiscal crisis, the CUNY Board of Trustees proposed to add an extra $15 million dollars towards the budget of the security guards. This appears to have been done after seeing the student protest.


RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York authorize the General Counsel to execute a contract on behalf of the University to purchase unarmed security guard services. The contract shall be awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder after public advertisement and sealed bidding by the College pursuant to law and University regulations. The contract shall be available for use by the constituent colleges, and the total estimated annual cost shall not exceed $15,000,000, chargeable to the appropriate colleges’ FAS codes. The contract term shall be five (5) years, from January 2012 through December 2017. The contract shall be subject to approval as to form by the University Office of General Counsel.

Isn’t this a perfect illustration of how neoliberalism works? All services must be on the cutting board: education, transportation, housing, jobs, etc… But the only sacrosanct part of our budgets is security. And it makes sense, doesn’t it. The ruling class needs to have people to protect them from the unruly mob, who’ve they’ve created by their own policies. Endlessly fuck over your population, but, for god’s sake, keep a good private security force to man the gates and keep your moat in good shape.

This is why liberals like Josh Marshall—who takes a day off from gossiping about whatever meaningless trite that Newt Gingrich said yesterday to worry about our movement—don’t understand OWS. Yesterday he worried that “the core message about economic inequality is being overwhelmed by a distinct story about (depending on your perspective) street violence and police brutality or excessive militarization of crowd control.” But, as both radical protesters, and members of poor communities have long known, these are one and the same problem. The less and less stable our society becomes, the more the 1% hoover up all remaining resources, condemning the rest of us to ever more debt, unemployment, low wages, and social alienation, the more they will need a military style police force to act as riot control.


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

November 23, 2011 at 00:12

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. ohmygaawd, you’re right: yes, police brutality / police suppression of dissent and the destructive growth of the 1% are the same


    November 24, 2011 at 03:44

  2. Very nicely written. I was there on the ground, and it did look from the 2nd floor balcony like the campus security could have used a few more of their own kind. At times it looked like the student crowd down there actually had a chance.

    Thankfully, in the spirit of the day, material reality already presents these things, and I as a Marxist only have to make sense of them and communicate that. And you are right about the liberals – but I doubt that anyone who has been clubbed will be satisfied with reforms, especially if they know there are alternatives.
    Marxism being actually talked about in America?


    November 24, 2011 at 06:48

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