Dirty tricks of the state

May 7, 2015

SOCIALISTWORKER.ORG REPORTERS in Baltimore recounted how a thrown ice bucket prompted a police assault on a protest, and guessed that it could have been thrown by a police provocateur ("Reporters singled out by police").

According to Scott J.'s letter in response to this report, this couldn't have been the case, because "undercovers are looking to gather intelligence and arrest people and not to initiate police responses by throwing things or breaking windows" ("An irresponsible accusation"). According to Scott, the idea that cops use provocateurs is "a common liberal myth used to attack the very idea that somebody might do something like throw something at the police." He then accuses the reporters of "snitch-jacketing."

Scott is putting a very weighty accusation on a very thin reed. The SocialistWorker.org reporters obviously understood that angry people in Baltimore have been throwing things at the police. We've all seen footage of it. It's why so many people are going to report on what's happening there. But it defies basic logic to conclude from this that there are no provocateurs in Baltimore, or that every bottle and rock thrown comes from the hand of a genuine protester.

Image from SocialistWorker.org

As a student of radical history, Scott must know that his definition of "undercover" cops as interested only in intelligence gathering and singling out protesters for arrest is entirely too narrow, and that the use of police provocateurs is not a "liberal myth." There is a long history of police use of "underdcover" provocateurs to encourage and incite actions to create justifications for police riots, arrests and prosecutions. Think of the NATO Five case or the FBI program to lure and entrap individuals into participating in "terrorist plots" of the FBI's own making.

For "snitch-jacketing" to occur, a false accusation against a named person has to be made, but the SocialistWorger.org report made no such accusation. The only "irresponsible accusation" I see is the one made by Scott in his letter.
Paul D'Amato, Chicago

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