Friday, January 20, 2012

UCPD Fires Upon UC Riverside Students Outside Regents Meeting

While the action itself is seemingly harmless (firing paint bullets), the circumstances and attitude of the UCPD is, once again, startling. In the longer video, we can see in part why the UCPD felt obligated to use force – the students overran a makeshift barrier. In the shorter video we see a disregard similar to Lt. Pike's here at UCD: point-blank use of projectiles on unharmed (yet chanting) protesters. What strikes me is not only that the Regents would once again call in Robocops to "defend" themselves, but also that given the ubiquity of cameras documenting the entire event the police still used force against non-violent protesters. This disregard or indifference to cameras and documentation clearly indicates a deeper divide between the Regents-Robocops (a militarized privatization force, no joke here at all) and student protesters, who, through interactions like these constructed by the Regents, are increasingly divided from the larger UC student body for the purpose of discrediting the movement and any grievances against the Regents.
        Such sites of conflict, constructed arbitrarily – that line the students crossed in the longer video – are mechanisms of division. Quite literally, the Regents-Robocops have constructed a space that reduces protesters to dirt, matter out of place. By setting up a temporary and flimsy barrier that it expected the protesters to cross, the UCPD essentially produces the mechanism through which the protesters would cease to be students and become an other: violent agitators who 1) are no longer students (for whom the Regents administer) and 2) as such are open to militarized aggression. Such a process of a-politicization (the stripping of a subject's political life) is paradigmatically or fractally identical in its general contours to what Agamben famously yet controversially calls "camp:" a site and procedure of adjudication that produces the bare life upon which sovereign power constitutes its authority. Agamben's claim in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life is that modern, Western democracies are all camps; that is, authority (sovereign and governmental) is produced and exerted on its "subjects" through mechanisms of bare life. These mechanisms are, as I elsewhere have written, dispositifs. 
      What we are seeing on UC campuses is not simply the attempt to silence dissent, but rather the laying bare of the constitutive mechanisms of power and authority in the modern west. The greatest danger is that we go along with the Regents and separate ourselves from the protesters. Doing so will fully actualize the Regent's sovereign power: the protesters become the exception through which the law is authorized but only by a process of inclusive-exclusion. By placing the protesters "outside" the student body as dirt, bare life, or simply, an exception, the Regents establish the limitations of inclusion (what and who can be considered a student). Under this new regime to be a student is therefore to not be a protester. In the future, dissent immediately excepts one from the community, as complaisance is structurally enforced.
     This is the new privatized democracy, the new sovereign regime. Inclusion is radically predicated on a clearly demarcated exception, who is in actually a real living being undergoing very real processes of bare life formation. Accordingly, consent and dissent are no longer a matters of free will. They are instead built into the very fabric of the community as structural either/ors: either you are wholly inside the community as defined by the new regime (you are UC student) or you are (seemingly) entirely outside the community (by dissent). The modern state of exception seems incapable of tolerating dissent (you dissent and you leave the community), but in actually, those dissenters constitute the very contours of the community and authorize sovereign and governmental power. And it is in this feedback loop (that the exception constitutes the community) that the militarized police come in. To ensure the operations of the entire process, arbitrary sites of violence must be established and disciplinary police (those seeking the health and rehabilitation of the community) cannot provide such a service. This is precisely why the UCPD are miliarized. Not because they imitate Peter Weller, but because of the political role they play in the establishment of a new regime of power. The Robocop costumes and paraphernalia are instruments of this fundamental role, not the cause. For the Regents to establish a new regime of power (a privatized democracy, a term I am trying out here only half-ironically) they must have a homo sacer; to get that figure they need site and practice of adjudication that can produce of that figure; to establish that site and operate its procedures, they need a specially trained workforce: a militarized police force. Such policing force does not (and according to its role, should not) apply directly to those inside the community. It must be applied to those outside the community. But because the line between student and non-student is in actuality impossible to draw in this case, the police must establish an arbitrary barrier that once crossed will strip the students of their membership in the UC community. Once crossed, the students become protesters and cease to be students. Inside this mobile and arbitrary camp, these homo sacers repeatedly establish the power of the new privatized, democratic regime.
    Unless . . . everyone is as they are in living fact: being all students and all protesters, we form a real state of exception.