Here at the US Social Forum in Detroit we caught up with longtime Austin based activist Debbie Russell and spoke to her about the growing trend of corporations using cops as a private army or law enforcement wing. Our good friends at Alternet just published a Mother Jones article called Louisiana Off-Duty Cops Working for BP? Corporate Police State Watch
Here this article highlights this disturbing practice with BP Oil being a recent partaker. In the article they detail how BP Oil is using Lousiana cops to enforce BP rules on public property and p[reventing reporters from filming dead oil stained animals.
Last week, Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association, was filming himself across the street from the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana. As he explained to me, he was standing in a field that did not belong to the oil company when a police officer approached him and asked him for ID and “strongly suggest[ed]” that he get lost since “BP doesn’t want people filming”:
Here’s the key exchange:
Wheelan: ”Am I violating any laws or anything like that?”
Officer: ”Um…not particularly. BP doesn’t want people filming.”
Wheelan: ”Well, I’m not on their property so BP doesn’t have anything to say about what I do right now.”
Officer: ”Let me explain: BP doesn’t want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense.”
Not really! Shortly thereafter, Wheelan got in his car and drove away but was soon was pulled over.
It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read “Chief BP Security.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan’s information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he’d recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn’t give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.
This footage and story should be frightening to everyone who loves their freedom watching it…We should all be asking ourselves, ‘How did things dissolve to this point where corporations own the police who enforce rules put forth by the company?
Russell who rolls with the ACLU explained this is totally illegal and went into lots of detail explaining why. During our convo, it was pointed out that in recent times we saw police and corporations merge when the employees of the RIAA (Record Industry of America Association) were photographed wearing windbreakers similar to law enforment and physically joining them on raids to arrest deejays selling home made mixtapes.
Unfortunately the practice was ignored by many because it was music industry / Hip Hop thing..However, when word leaked out that Steve Jobs of Apple chaired a board that oversaw a special task force of local Bay Area police officers which were seen kicking in the door at the wee hours of the morning confiscating the computer of a reporter who took pictures of Jobs ‘lost iphone.
I asked Debbie with companies yeileding this much power, how does the average person counter? Do we get to hire our own cops?
It’s either public safety or private (mercs) companies. In this day and age, money has a lot of power and many willing participants…