Back in 2005, MediaMouse.org reviewed Kristian Williams’ Our Enemies in Blue. The book provided an excellent overview of the development of the modern police department as means of social control.
Consequently, we were excited to read Williams latest–Confrontations: Selected Journalism. The pamphlet collects a series of articles by Williams that were published separately and compiles them in one volume with broad focus of “force.” He writes:
“The theme of the articles collected here is the complex relationship between ideas and what could broadly be called force–not merely violence, but the whole spectrum of tactics that one side in a conflict uses to disrupt the other. That includes sabotage, vandalism, blockades, boycotts, and strikes–but also infiltration, intimidation, arrests, and imprisonment.”
To that end, Williams’ articles cover three broad topics–the defense of direct action from its liberal detractors, the state’s repression of anarchists, and the evolution of crowd control tactics.
At first glance, many of the essays seem to be a product of a unique historical period of increased activity by anarchists during the early 2000s. In the first section, Williams defense of direct action is centered primarily in the anti-globalization movement that followed the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO)–specifically the tactics employed by anarchists. Similarly, when Williams defends the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) from a liberal detractor–he raises many important points about liberal condemnations of direct action.
Williams’ discussion of the repression of anarchists also seems to be a product of an earlier era, although recent events show that the state remains willing to act in a repressive manner to silence its critics. For recent a recent example, one need only look at the case of the RNC 8 and the indictment of anarchists who coordinated protests against the Republican National Convention this past fall. Williams–in talking about Haymarket and the Sacco & Vanzetti case–shows that the repression of anarchists was nothing new when it emerged following Seattle. His writing on the case of two anarchists charged for arsons in Eugene–Jeff Leurs and Craig Marshall–provides an interesting look at how police in the Pacific Northwest attempted to criminalize anarchism.
Finally, in the wake of the 2003 protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Miami, Williams provides a quick overview of the history of crowd control. Many saw the brutality in Miami as something new–dubbing in the Miami Model. However, Williams argues that it is not a new approach, but rather it is a return to an older model of using brute force to suppress protest. To be sure, the process has changed–mainly that the militarization of the police department has increased its potential for organized violence.
Overall, Confrontations is an interesting–and quick–read on the subject of direct action and repression.
Kristian Williams, Confrontations: Selected Journalism, (Tarantula Publishing & Distribution, 2007).