"In the United States, Red Squads were police intelligence units that specialized in infiltrating, conducting counter-measures and gathering intelligence on political and social groups during the 20th century. Dating as far back as the Haymarket Riot in 1886, Red Squads became common in larger cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles during the First Red Scare of the 1920s. They were set up as specialized units of city police departments, as a weapon against labor unions, communists, anarchists, and other dissidents." (wikipedia 8/13/2012)

Phoenix Police Planning and Community Relations Bureau "Community Response Squad"

Phoenix Police Planning and Community Relations Bureau "Community Response Squad"
DO NOT LET THE SMILES FOOL YOU: Top Row Lt. Bryan Coley, Det. Rick Tamburo, Det. Dottie Conroy, Det. Al Ramirez, Det. Rick Flum, Det. Tony Davis Bottom Row Det. Jeff Wood, Sgt. Mark Schweikert, Det. Jerry Oliver, Det. Chris Wilson, Det. Chris Abril

Resisting the PHX Police Red Squad

AUGUST 13, 2012: This blog is to document the struggle of Arizona's radical activists against the tactics of the Phoenix Police Planning and Community Relations Bureau Community Response Squad, AKA The Red Squad. It's being launched in the wake of a grave violation by a Red Squad detective, Chris Wilson, who was arrested last week for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with 2 minors. His victims, apparently, were young activists whom he had befriended in the course of his work as the Phoenix Police liason to the GLBTQ community. He confessed when confronted and sits in jail awaiting prosecution.

This post from another blog describes the concerns some community activists had with our Red Squad long before Detective Wilson's transgressions. It provides a starting point for those unfamiliar with protest policing in the city of Phoenix. The body of this blog will be a critical analysis of Red Squad tactics as they've affected our liberation movements - as well as individual activists - and a diary of our resistance. More than just resisting, we're fighting back.

PHX Red Squad busting Occupy "campers"

Lessons in resistance: Come armed with your video cameras, folks, to every protest our community has and film the Red Squad in action. Call them on their BS and send the link or embed code to us to post. Lets teach each other how best to deal with them from experience...

PHX PD Red Squad's Chris Wilson tackling CODE PINK LIZ...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friending the Phoenix Police...

The most helpful thing I have to offer my comrades here is the truth of my own experience with the Red Squad. Reserve your judgement, please, as this is going to come out in pieces, and I'm still figuring it all out as I go. 

Here's Part I:

I was actually really fucking with this guy, not flirting with him. 
At least I thought I was...

PUENTE March for Dignity and Justice
Steele Indian School Park, Phoenix
July 28, 2012

The first time I remember meeting Sgt. Mark Schweikert was in front of the Phoenix Police HQ on W. Washington Street the day after his colleague Sgt. Sean Drenth was murdered, back in October 2010. I had spent most of the preceding two weeks protesting the Phoenix Police over the brutal and unjustified killing of Danny Rodriguez by PPD officer Richard Chrisman, and was preparing for an upcoming Day Against Police Brutality action - I'd been hating the police a lot of late.

But the news about Sean Drenth saddened me, hitting kind of close to home. Whether or not one thinks he was crooked and about to turn state's evidence - and was thus murdered by his own brothers in blue - is a side issue. As news of his death spread through my Facebook community, I saw a handful of people outright celebrating another cop being taken off the beat. It didn't go over well with me, and I went on a rant of sorts.

I was pretty removed from radical politics at the time, trying harder to get others to join me in my fight with the DOC than to figure out what their things were and why they felt as they did. My reaction to the celebrations over that cop's death was intensely personal. My father, the man who taught me to be the radical I am today, was a military intelligence officer who wore the uniform of the state for most of my life. At one point he was the Director of Security at Fort Dix. He believed passionately in his mission to defend America and Democracy the world over, and spent a considerable amount of time overseas in combat with people I may have called my comrades in another time and place. 

I have had a great many problems with my Dad's devout patriotism, and still prefer not to wonder about the things he may have done in my name, as an American soldier in war. But I know my father to be a good man nonetheless, one who defies racism and promotes equality in his relationships and business dealings, despite his conservative politics. He expressly taught me to question authority, and to resist Power if the compromise demanded for reward or privilege was of my values - which it always seems to be. He lived to regret that, I think, because his was the first authority I challenged as I aged. But I owe much of who I am to that man, and I love him dearly. 

So, while I regard the police as enemies of the People, generally, I do not accept the premise that donning the uniform of the state turns one into a non-person and justifies an outright celebration of a cop's murder. I also live with the grief of survivors of homicide and suicide every day, and would not wish that on any officer's family, no matter what I may think of the victim themselves. I was furious with my Facebook friends who felt otherwise, and stormed out of the conversation and my home to work out my frustration in chalk. My drive to the Capitol, where I found most of my favorite targets, took me by the Police HQ, where I impulsively stopped and got out to leave a giant peace sign on their sidewalk - more for myself, I think, than for them.

I wasn't expecting media to be there, and was interrupted to explain my offering: the Peace was just for the day for them to bury their dead, I basically said - the war would be back on again  tomorrow.

That was when I met Mark Schweikert; formally, anyway. He and Chris Wilson were heading out of the PD and stopped to see what I was chalking. Schweikert was touched - he said that Drenth was not only a colleague but a friend of his. I could identify. My ex-lover sat down in front of a train a few years back, so I knew how devastating news of such a sudden and violent death could be to a close-knit community, which I assumed the PHX PD was - and at the time no one really knew how Drenth died. I guess we still don't. 

In any case, I had a moment of sympathy for the police that day. My right to express myself on their sidewalk even if it wasn't what they wanted to hear was affirmed, though they were visibly relieved to see what I was leaving, considering my messages of the preceding two weeks. We chatted for a minute about the legality of my chalking. Mark told me to have cops or security guards who give me trouble over what I do on the public sidewalk call their squad if I need to; Chris Wilson gave me his business card since Mark didn't have one. 

It didn't seem to be any big deal to me to accept the Red Squad's protection, so to speak. I felt they were doing the job they were supposed to - which was to defend my free speech rights. I handed the card a few times to bank guards and beat cops who would enthusiastically call the Red Squad to come arrest me, then wish me a good day and back off every time. Basically, until the rest of the town learned they would just have to put up with me, Schweikert and the PPD Red Squad had my back. For awhile, at least, I appreciated that.

That was the beginning of my long slow dance with the Red Squad and their Sargent, Mark Schweikert. I didn't do much critical analysis of their role as the protest police back then - I took it at face value that Mark and Al and their buddies really did just want to help make sure we all had a safe, pleasant protest experience. The long time peace activists seemed to trust that much as well - the Red Squad was a familiar, even reassuring part of the protest landscape in Phoenix. And most of the PHX Police were beginning to recognize me and wish me well in my sidewalk activity...which admittedly took the fun out of some of it, and certainly added to my sense of complacency. No one was beating our heads in at the actions I was going to, at least, so as protest police go, I must have thought, Phoenix was relatively okay.

Yes, I'm a middle class white woman, by the way, and that was my privilege speaking up there. It wore off real quick, once I got into the trenches here.

I am not the only one in the activist community who has been so seduced. Fortunately, the anarchists I hang with have never hesitated to question the role of Phoenix police in suppressing liberation movements. The cops never tried to engage them in friendly relationships, of course, which protected them from the kind of corruption people like me are vulnerable to. Smiling at me is as close as Phoenix cops get to being nice to anarchists, I think, and I don't really count since I can't articulate anarchist theory well enough to really say I can represent any kind of anarchy, even anarcho-feminism. I just know that many of the people I love and trust the most are sworn anarchists, I am in sympathy with their politics, I draw power and inspiration from their movement, and I appreciate the diversity of tactics they bring to the struggle.

Those folks I was so angry at on Facebook about Sean Drenth's death are really the ones who have taught me the most about critiquing the police - they were far more astute about state power than I was at the time, and helped me rein in my sentimentality about my old man before it got me into trouble. That's not to say I think we need to dehumanize our enemies in order to fight them effectively - not at all. It's just to say that we need to be sure to recognize the enemy when we see them, and call them what they are...and whether we like to admit it or not, they are human beings, not pigs.

Human or not, though, their objective is to keep not only our direct actions but our liberation movements from making any real impact on the status quo. Not only is that not something I would tolerate among my friends, it's a sure indicator that you're talking about an enemy soldier. They wear the trusted uniform of the state instead of white hoods but they are in the employ of an institution which exists to oppress, repress, and suppress the masses to the well-being of a privileged few: a white supremacy is what the whole "justice" system in this state supports. The standard MO of the police is also to exploit our communities' fears, prejudices, and vulnerabilities in order to maintain their own positions of privilege and power as our "protectors" - or rather, our keepers.

I am tired of being kept, frankly, and I can't think of any institution more contemptible to work for than those which make up the Prison Industrial Complex...and for their role, I must assert again that while police officers are indeed human beings, they are also the enemies of freedom. If you are a community activist committed to a liberation movement and you trust a cop, beware. 

Rule number 1: Do not "friend" the police. Any of them. Trusting you with their vulnerable or "human" side - or offering special privilege - is part of the seduction. Make it clear to them that you can only be trusted to turn their weaknesses against them because they are the enemy, and refuse to accept any of the privilege they may offer, no matter how small.

Peggy Plews

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