Can police be part of the 99%?

Discussions in several Occupy Sydney general assemblies have included debates about the nature and role of the police and whether to support the police union’s disputes and their November 22 rally (over injury compensation) with the NSW O’Farrell Coalition government.

A long list of police actions and fines against Occupy Sydney have tried to stop and criminalise this ongoing protest against the 1%. Occupy Sydney has launched a petition for the state ombudsman to investigate the police attack and mass arrests on October 23 at Martin Place.


Chilean riot police attack student protestors.

On November 23, an Occupy Sydney media release said three people were arrested for sheltering from rain outside the Reserve Bank of Australia building in Martin Place. Police alleged they were trespassing on private property and ordered them to move on.

“Aboriginal people have been homeless for 200 years. I was just trying to seek shelter from the rain, and this is a basic human right”, said Darren Bloomfield, 44 years old, a long-time Aboriginal sovereignty activist and Occupy Sydney activist.

Ironically, during the November 22 police rally outside state parliament, a contingent of police harassed Occupy Sydney supporters and threatened to confiscate an information table, people’s belongings and rain covers in Martin Place. Just days before, police conducted a sweep against homeless people staying in Martin Place to undermine Occupy Sydney.

At the November 12 Occupy Sydney general assembly, liberals and anti-socialists argued to support the November 22 police rally, saying that police are part of the middle class and part of the 99%. Some argued that Occupy Sydney should contact the Police Association to tell them that Occupy Sydney was discussing supporting their rally.

Some Socialist Alliance members argued against the proposal on the grounds that police are the servants of the 1%. But one Socialist Alliance member argued that police were not supporting our cause now, but when they do, we should support their demands.

A leader of Solidarity actually spoke for the proposal to support the police union rally, while the majority of Solidarity members argued against, one of them saying the proposal would alienate the most oppressed sections of the population (Aboriginal people) from Occupy Sydney.

Despite the arguments against the proposal the vote was almost evenly for and against. Most of Socialist Alliance and Solidarity members stood aside (i.e. abstaining, not blocking) or did not vote. This left Socialist Alternative, Trotskyist Platform and several “non-aligned” activists to block (vote against) the proposal.

A Socialist Alliance activist then suggested discussing it in a committee, but Trotskyist Platform and Socialist Alternative interjected that the proposal had already been defeated. Later an update on occupysydney.org.au appeared that was not voted at any Occupy Sydney general assembly. It said, “... a contingent of OS people are still intending to attend the police union rally as individuals involved with Occupy — to show solidarity with workers rights, while also being mindful of condemning acts of individual and institutionalised violence”.

The police union is not a union, in the sense that police are not part of the struggles to widen democratic and social rights for the 99%. The police have actively opposed this while supporting a further erosion of political, social and democratic rights. They side with the 1%.

A small number of individual police may voice some reservations over police tactics to a few Occupy Sydney supporters, but this does not mean that the role and nature of the NSW police and their union is in any way progressive.

For socialists to partly support or attempt to stand with police shows a complete disregard of the political and class role of the police. This liberal retreat sows confusion among Occupy Sydney supporters and fosters illusions that police can be persuaded to support the progressive demands of the 99%.

The police are not our friends. They do not support or stand with the 99%. They support increasing repressive laws used by the 1% to quell dissent. Occupy Sydney should say to those arguing to support police: “You don’t speak for me!”