Infiltrating To Destroy; Leading To Derail
Sudhama Ranganathan, 08.11.2011 15:19
The best and most lasting change always comes from peaceful movements. When violence is employed resentments often fester as a result and those can boil up at later times, get passed down for generations and flare up after it seems their fires have been doused. Non-violent change doesn't inspire near the level of reprisals as do violent reprisals, because peaceful protests typically don't involve violations of people's physical wellbeing and health.
Children are not killed through non-violent efforts. The lives of people’s parents are not taken away as a result of non-violent actions. People don't get maimed, injured or scarred leaving them with permanent physical reminders of how they received those injuries through non-violent protest. People don't see graphic stills or video leaving them feeling confused, fearful, angry or just plain turned off. In non-violent movements, those things occur only when authorities cause physical damage and pain.
Sometimes in large scale protests meant to be non-violent people involved with originally peaceful intentions get excited and become violent. Even during the movements of Gandhi and MLK there were instances when those involved lost their centers and became violent, not to mention violent interlopers. However, more often than not people that came to protest in a non-violent manner intend to stay that way and do everything in their power, even if it means disbanding the specific march temporarily, to remain so even in the face of violent reprisals from authorities. The more determined stay, withstand whatever comes and/or go limp when accosted by authorities.
Those that tend to be violent are usually not involved in the protest movement and came to use the protests as an excuse to commit vandalism or worse acts of violence. However, when they do the efforts of the non-violent can become overshadowed, tarnished and marred due to actions of people having nothing to do with the original protests in question.
Last week when Occupy protesters in Oakland were marching, folks not associated with the movement came and started throwing “chunks of concrete and metal pipes as well as lit roman candles and firebombs.” ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/occupy-protesters-disavow-oakland-violence_n_1074242.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HP%2FPolitics+%28Politics+on+The+Huffington+Post%29) It tarnished the events there and after the violence committed by police against protesters previously against protesters in Oakland on Wednesday Nov 2, 2011, it just added to the chaotic atmosphere surrounding the peace efforts in Oakland. ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/02/us-usa-wallstreet-olsen-idUSTRE7A17TB20111102) ( http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20111106/NEWS/111109879)
In such situations it can be important to immediately condemn the violence as those directly involved in Occupy Wall Street have done. Those people committing violence should be immediately ostracized and told they are no longer welcome to participate if and when possible. It is for the good of any movement steadfast about remaining non-violent both in fact and in the eye of the public. Keep in mind, those that wish to see the efforts of peaceful protesters derailed hate the non-violence and wait with baited breath for the protests to turn violent so they can point fingers and say, “see, bad, bad, bad!” It gives them exactly what they want. When it happens, they win.
Sometimes being aware as a movement or organization active in the community also means taking a close look at who is next to you and within the movement itself. When I was a student at the University of Connecticut through a series of circumstances I became aware of the identity of someone employed in the capacity of an undercover law enforcement personnel. He admitted it to me in order to keep me from reporting certain activity on campus that he believed might compromise himself and others also working in an undercover capacity. He felt he gained my trust and friendship and that I would not reveal his identity and the unscrupulous and illegal behavior he knew I was aware of.
This person had been on campus for eight years according to what he told me. It made sense given what I had seen him involved in. There will be a link to a full background of what I experienced at UConn at the end of this article. What was most interesting to me was what he seemed to be involved in on campus outside of observation. He wasn't there just working one case, or observing.
He was actively involved in campus life including in a leadership capacity in the most prominent Latino fraternity on campus. Perhaps 'leadership position' understates it a little as he was the president of the UConn chapter of the fraternity at the time. As they were involved in numerous activities including peaceful protests sometimes regarding police brutality, what was not known to the rest of his fraternity was that an undercover law enforcement operative was planning their protests including against police brutality. What's worse was that all the parties the frat threw while he was president of the UConn chapter were parties he was typically involved in planning.
He would regularly brag loudly in the classroom about letting underage girls into the parties when he was standing at the door and even made loud efforts to convince people to bring them to make the parties what he described openly as more “grimy and scandalous” - two of his favorite words. He would pass around free passes to strip clubs not only to the members of his frat, but in the classes I was in, and tell people if their friends were too young to get in he could get them in. ( http://www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com/GOLDCLUBFR&BK.jpg) To any college freshman this would seem like the coolest guy on campus and that was the point. His dirtiness was his cloak and allowed him to fly under the radar by actually standing out and being the most conspicuous person around – or one of them.
But he could very easily tarnish the reputation of his fraternity through his behavior and often seemed as though he were going out of his way to do just that when they weren't watching. He made his frat seem like they were less than gentlemen to outsiders by his actions and did it when the rest of them weren't around. And this guaranteed that people not associated with the fraternity would view them as overly rowdy, “grimy and scandalous.” All frats have a lot of fun and I ought to know, my father taught at colleges all my life. I grew up with my father teaching regularly on two different campuses. I'm pretty familiar with frat parties and college fun. It's part of the college experience and of learning about oneself and limitations in a supposedly secure, yet free environment.
But he went out of his way to paint them as people you really didn't want to associate with. I met them and I know that wasn't the case with regards to his frat brothers at all from what I could see, but others did not get the opportunity for clarification. He was undermining their credibility by being a prominent leader of their community.
While members of the frat that were being told they could bring their younger siblings and their sibling's friends to parties, he was taking notes. That's what undercover law enforcement agents do. They make notes of all they do. Every time a law was broken at a party he was at thrown by his frat notes were taken. Now that those members have graduated and are out in the world who knows what is sitting in a file somewhere. Does it include in the notes that he convinced them to break many of not most of those laws? If those behaviors come back to haunt them in their later life will it be known they were convinced to do those things by an undercover cop? What would you guess the odds are?
What would parents think? It's one thing for frats to do fratty things, but for an undercover cop to be buying drugs, alcohol and handing out free passes to strip clubs to underage students? Is that something people feel their tax dollars should be going towards? What about the parents of those kids? What was the guy doing?
In the eight years he was on the UConn campus, why was he doing this? It sounds like a whole lot of entrapment and on the taxpayer dime. Why did he do it? Why would any law enforcement agency condone it?
Whenever his fraternity was planning a protest on behalf of a civil rights issue or drive for the homeless, what would they have thought if they knew the person planning their protests was an undercover law enforcement operative? Is that what we pay taxes for? Convincing impressionable freshmen to bring their underage relatives and friends to college frat parties to get drunk, etc?
In the same way, people involved in any movement or organization that is working to bring change and positive things to the world they live in should be careful about who is around them, sitting next to them and even in leadership positions.
Not only is it important with regards to what is going on within an organization, but the messages being sent to the outside world by that organization can be just as important regarding their ability to affect the change they seek. Most organizations depend on and even hope to influence people through the image they project of their movement to those around them and looking in. Those that come in from the outside and sometimes even those inside can hurt organizations with even the best of intentions. Awareness of ones environment is always an important thing in every aspect of life and non-violent movements are no exception. That is not meant of course to dissuade people from working for change, in fact just the opposite. It's meant to help them in their efforts by helping them be more aware of those around them and thus to have a stronger more solid non-violent and peaceful organization.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.