Welcome to the (killing) Machine, my dear

“Let penalties be regulated and proportional to the offences, let the death sentence be passed only on those convicted of murder, and let tortures that revolt humanity be abolished [1]”

Protests  against the public executions proliferated in the second half of the  eighteenth century: among the philosophers and theoreticians of the law;  among lawyers and parlementaires; in popular petitions and among the  legislators of the assemblies. Another form of punishment was needed:  the physical confrontation between the sovereign and the condemned man  must end; this hand-to-hand fight between the vengeance of the prince  and the contained anger of the people, through the mediation of the  victim and the executioner, must be concluded. Very soon the public  execution became intolerable. On the side of power, where it betrayed  tyranny, excess, the thirst for revenge, and ‘the cruel pleasure taken  in punishing’ (Petion de Villeneuve, 641), it was revolting. On the side  of the victim who, though reduce do despair, was still expected tobless  ‘heaven and its iudges who appeared to have abandoned him’ (Boucher  d’Argis, 1781, 125), it was shameful. It was, in any case, dangerous, in  that it provided a support for a confrontation between the violence of  the king and the violence of the people. It was as if the sovereign  power did not see, in this emulation of atrocity, a challenge that it  itself threw down and which might one day be taken up: accustomed as it  was to ‘seeing blood flow’, the people soon learnt that ‘it could be  revenged only with blood’ (Lachdre). This need for punishment without  torture was first formulated as a cry from the heart or from an outraged  nature. In the worst of murderers, there is one thing, at least, to be  respected when one punishes: his ‘humanity’ [2].

“A 17-year-old youth was shot by a policeman and succumbed to his injuries” the media said. For them Rishi Chandrikasing is only a dead person with an age and a gender, he has no name, nor a cause of death.

The correct phrasing should be: “17-year-old Rishi Chandrikasing was murdered by a police officer.” He was a human being shot dead by a policeman in cold blood, and his name should not be forgotten. It was a brutal murder and it could have been anyone in his place.

Let us examine the facts from the start. After receiving a call about an armed man who was threatening people, police arrived at the Hollands Spoor railway station in the Hague, the Netherlands, in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 24th of November. According to eyewitnesses quoted in the Telegraaf, three police officers, one of them in plain clothes, rushed into the station with their weapons drawn. Rishi was on one of the platforms when the policemen ordered him to raise his hands. The boy moved his hands to his waist, and one of the policemen shot him in the back of the neck. The boy succumbed to his injuries and died later on in the hospital.

During the weekend, the police took statements from witnesses, the prosecutors reported that they have photographs of the crime scene, the post-mortem examination was carried out and no weapon was found on or close to the victim. An eyewitness stated that the 17-year-old had raised his hands but it was already too late. Specifically, she said: “He was in a state of shock when he realised that the police were after him. They yelled ‘Police! Police!’ and ‘Freeze!’. Before Rishi could turn around, and a fraction of a second after he raised his hands, the shot had already been fired. Based on the initial findings of the enquiry during which, amongst other things, the security cameras were studied, the prosecutor’s office announced that the eyewitness’ statement is not substantively accurate on one point, but they did not clarify which point it was.

The Hague HS | Rishi

Around 200 people, mostly youths, took part in a silent march on Sunday evening, laying flowers and lighting candles on the platform where Rishi was murdered. On  social networks, many people voiced their anger and demanded revenge, with the Dutch Police Union declaring it was shocked by these serious threats. After the demonstration, a tile on the platform where someone had written “the cop will die, promise” was removed by the police. “Such statements cross the line,” said spokesperson Han Busker and he confirmed that the police will proceed with further investigations.

Every day friends and others visit the spot on the platform where candles, flowers, letters and keepsakes are laid out in the memory of Rishi; they express their concern about the society in which they live and feel numb in the face of this unjust death. Echoing the general sentiment, a friend of his said: “The police received a call about an armed man and when they reached the platform they thought that Rishi was the suspect. They didn’t know if it was him. And It wasn’t. He was going home from a party, sober, and asked the conductor for instructions on how to get home. A man in plain clothes ordered him to raise his hands, he became terrified and tried to show that he was unarmed. He shot him in the back of the neck without any warning! The officer is not in jail, he has not even been suspended…” They also state that “if he weren’t Indonesian, there would have been a bigger reaction by society, there would have been more support.”

A demonstration was organized on Saturday December 1st in the memory of Rishi and against police violence in the Hague. More than 300 people showed up, most of whom were first – or second – generation immigrants. In the afternoon of Monday December 3rd, friends and people who stood in solidarity, tried to prevent the station’s security personnel from removing the keepsakes and cleaning the slogans written on the walls and tiles. It ended with security personnel achieving their objective, after everyone had left. His friends warn: “You want the murder to be forgotten. You will have to imprison us to make this happen.” [3]

Rishi’s family wishes to press charges, since they believe that the police officer could have shot him in the leg, if he had felt threatened, and they consider their son’s death a murder. They also state that no-one should get away with murder, not even the police.

The police said: “Of course the greatest impact is on the family. But we should not underestimate the impact on the police force, the police department and the officers involved.” The spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told news agency ANP that It’s not common to interrogate police officers as suspects (for the murders they commit).”

Even though the police declared that no comment will be made until the investigation of the case has been concluded, leaks to the press started right after the preliminary findings were reported. The somewhat limited reactions meant that although the media covered the story, it did not have much impact. Mainstream media outlets reported the shooting and began researching the victim’s past, ‘in an attempt to portray the victim as “black” as possible, while absolving the police as “white” as possible.’

In cases related to police violence, mass media normally employ an established formula of narrative reconstruction (a common practice when covering actions by social/political movements).

Initially they make references to “public opinion” (a hideous construct, even as a linguistic expression – remember Pierre Bourdieu’s “L’opinion publique n’existe pas” – Public opinion does not exist), essentially kidnapping it. That is, they attribute definitive characteristics to the subject of violence and the matters raised by such events. The irony is that, while opinion polls (validity and utility aside) are used on many other issues to reinforce the media’s portrayal of “public opinion,” in violent cases such as Rishi’s murder, they rarely bother to do the same, i.e. ‘capture the pulse’ of the people. This is possibly because they are so used to arrogantly reporting ‘isolated instances’ of police violence, that they don’t even find it necessary to enhance society’s already conservative reflexes. After all, the police are an institution of the state, and as such, regrettably enjoy relative widespread acceptance among bourgeois society. Thus with phrases such as: “the local community is concerned about the increase in crime in the Hague train station area,” they are telling three lies at once: First, that the majority are concerned; second, that crime is on the rise; and finally -and most crucially- that this has something to do with the youth’s death.

The second narrative is that of the social norm. That is, casting the victim as someone very different from the masses, referring to seemingly irrelevant details (such as his hair or piercings, or even something that someone “heard” the victim say x years ago, about a policeman/priest/teacher/pregnant woman who was passing by). Moreover, sensitive private information is serially breached, with the generous help of the state institution who ungrudgingly leak such information as anonymous sources. When dealing with immigrants things are even easier, since the construction of an artificial reality is a piece of cake.

The third narrative is an appeal to the law. Even if the victim had no police record, there is a vague “tendency to delinquency” which is always demonstrated by irrelevant factors (e.g. he was at a concert where scuffles broke out 2 years ago, he was passing outside a stadium where riots took place, etc.). If there is a police record, the media’s job is facilitated, as any prior criminal act or “deviant” behaviour of the victim, as irrelevant as it may be, even in legal terms, is magically linked to the current, very specific and independent incident, as if the two are interrelated!

Extensive articles on Rishi’s previous convictions in cases involving accusations of burglary, implying or even openly stating that he was a dangerous and troubled person who could potentially harm people, are at the very least an insult to the reader’s intelligence. The fact that “he was living in a shelter, where he was meant to be at the time of the murder,” is also used for sensationalist effect or as a covert accusation. Journalists rhetorically ask what Rishi Chandrikasing was doing at the platform at this time, when he was supposed to have returned to the shelter five hours before the shooting. The Telegraaf asks: “What the boy was doing at this time out in the street is a mystery”. Phrases such as, “even though the youth had a criminal record and was living under social work supervision, his friends say that he had turned his back on his past and had returned to school,” have an almost emotional lean in favour of the victim (even in linguistic terms “even his friends”). However, the reference to his criminal record is obscene [in most European judicial systems it’s also illegal, since access to such information is granted only to the penal judge who is possibly – in the future – going to judge the person with the criminal record, and no one else (for certain different types of criminal behaviour, access to the criminal record is also granted to other public services – but this is not applicable in Rishi’s case)]. On one hand, the powerful, inculpable system has classified him as a criminal (“who knows what a brat he was”), and on the other, he is defended by his friends (“but, come on, what else would his friends say?”). This would matter, as far as the legal system is concerned, if he was facing charges!

The final narrative is the bystanders’ and eye witnesses’ reactions. Here we have a threesome of cooperating authorities: The first one (the police) leaks information to slander his personality, the second (the media) manufactures the image, and when the time comes for the third (the judges) to decide, they already have everything laid out for them. The Telegraaf interviewed one of the witnesses who stated that Rishi Chandrikasing seemed to be “a completely normal guy,” contrasting this statement with the victim’s previous convictions.

The structural increase of police violence is evident; media and politicians, rather than taking these warning signs seriously and starting to question the functionality of the police, successfully call “public opinion” to express its sympathy for the police, with the argument that “policemen are under constant pressure,” repeatedly reminding us how dangerous and difficult the job of the protector of society is, which can lead to instantly wrong conclusions. The usual debate in the media after most of the state murders is the defective training of police officers and the bad organization of the corps, which end up with such “accidents” is that we should sympathise with the poor officers who are so overworked that they might make the wrong decisions once in a while -‘everyone is human, after all’. We can’t help but wonder “how many are these mistakes?” 17-year-old Rishi Chandrikasing was not the first in the list of police violence victims, since this is the fifth time that such an ‘incident’ – as most mainstream media refer to the murder by a policeman – happened and that someone got killed by police shootings this year [4].

Police in the Netherlands are allowed to shoot when they see a gun and theirs (or others’) lives are in danger. As a result these situations are legally classified as “self defence”. In this case there was no gun, although the mass media misinformed the public that there was one.

The multiple cases of police violence indicate that authority enforcement is not an individual incident that can be excused using the simplified rationale of stress and threat. The practice of police violence is the rule, regardless of the factors that the state mechanisms are pleased to promote as being the true causes of the state’s murders.

"Justice/Police victim"

“Justice/Police victim”

Our societies are governed by relations of power, on the basis of which, the value of human life is judged. In cases where there has been a dead policeman the media (and the state of course) condemn the murderer (regardless of outside factors – things like stress, fatigue or threat aren’t even brought up) and they talk about the value of human life with soothing words. The system is made in such a way that a human life is measured based on the proximity which that person had with the official structures of authority and how many boxes were ticked in the prerequisites for social norms. Thus, someone like Rishi, who does not fit the prerequisites that would make his life worth the same as a cop’s life, can be justifiably killed, by beautifully garnishing his life’s alleged lack of value with his activities, for which he had previously been punished by the very same system that killed him. The only thing that is not clearly stated is that, between the lines that remind one of students’ essays, the only logical conclusion is that the very idea of a hypothetical threat’s existence – in reality: doubt of Law and Power’s authority – is considered to be superior to any “violator’s” or socially deviant’s life.

Conclusions

Who benefits from our repression, from the acceptance of our repression? What role does the timeless feeding with flows of images and words that put the Manichean permanent dipoles in the centre constructing a world where the good guys always wear the uniforms and use violence to save us just before the end, to redeem us, sanctifying state violence and aggression against the “bad guys,” who will endlessly be renamed and re-baptized, play?

Why is it that in every state murder, the senseless and brutal response of the police spokesman: “The police did the best they could with the means available,” is seen as a logical argument and is constantly used by the mass media? If I murdered a ‘Rishi’ in cold blood, an innocent 17 year old in a train station, would the same be considered as a logical argument by the mainstream media and not as insane or immoral?

-Yes. I killed Rishi, I did the best I could with the means available.

-Innocent.

However, the idea that the each community is to blame for the evils of crime that makes policing “necessary,” the ease with which it justifies violent crimes as police “mistakes,” only reproduces – and feeds on – the mindset of the slave.

It’s different if someone is unable to see reality and is left in ignorance of totalitarianism’s onslaughting raid, from cynically accepting that there is some form of tyranny and actually choosing to rationalise its necessity; to not negotiate in any way the “privilege” of being part of the Machine; to not care how the Machine is treating others; to consider nonnegotiable the control over everyone’s’ life by any means and victims of police violence as casualties; to initially laugh with the invocation of the Orwellian nightmare, but eventually accepting it in all its glory, because “that’s how the Machine Is.”

To see the truth, but to not consider it useful any more.

Rishi was murdered. Rishi was unarmed. Rishi wasn’t the one the cops were looking for. Rishi didn’t resist. Rishi died confused. But why are you telling me all this? I don’t want to know; I don’t know what to do with the truth.

The heart of the struggle against police violence and state repression must be the community, the neighbourhood, the collective. Each member of this human resistance should be considered essential and their loss should be treated as what it really is: a brutal amputation. It is about time for the passive acceptance of state assassinations to be converted to a dynamic resistance against everything conveniently presented as circumstances, to be given powers, given practice. Understanding that police violence isn’t a virus that attacks a healthy body, but a tumor in metastasis in an already sick body, we recognise that the police cannot be reformed. As long as the 8 o’ clock news junkies feel comfortable with their current position in the mincing Machine, the murder of a 17 year old carefree child, Rishi, will be written off, his life will be trivialized, wrapped with the ribbon of collateral damage.

It doesn’t have to be this way and we can change it. But the truth right now is that the cops murdered Rishi and the next day ate at home.

Sen, Evi

The article in Greek, here

[1] With these sentences, the Ministry of Justice summarises the overall position of notebook complaints in relation to torture in 1789. E. Seligman, La Justice sous la Révolution, vol. 1, 1901, and A. Desjardin, Les Cahiers des États généraux et la justice criminelle, 1883, p. 13-20.

[2] Michel Foucault: Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison Gallimard (English translation: Discipline and Punish – The birth of prison)

[3] Sunday, December 9th, friends and those in solidarity tried to reclaim the area, in memory of their friend. There were three detains, in one of which extremely brutal treatment was used by the police.

[4] These are representative examples of police violence, some of which ended up in the death of the victims:

August 2012: Police entered a house in Apeldoorn after the neighbours reported that a man was confused and holding a knife. The policeman shot dead the man.

June 2012: A video aired online that showed a policewoman kicking and harshly beating up a homeless man without reason, after she had used pepper spray on him. After that she handcuffed him and arrested him while he was on the ground because of the preceding beating. Even though many people reacted, the “incident” ended up with the mayor of Rotterdam handing over flowers to the police officer because she was “so traumatised by the negative reactions on her act!”  We should note that when Paauw became chief of the Rotterdam police on 1 October 2010 he made a much-cited speech which perhaps can explain where he comes from, ideologically. Among other statements, he declared that “the police are not your best friend”. He then went on to add, “the police must be the bosses on the streets. That involves things you would not do to your best friend”.

May the 26th, 2012: Policemen attacked an Italian tourist in Amsterdam because he was riding a bicycle in the wrong direction.

On the same day: Police invaded a house in the Hague after a neighbour’s call. A man was found in the residence holding a knife, the policeman shot him dead. Before the man died, he managed to throw the knife and it injured a policewoman.

May the 3rd 2012: During a scuffle which took place in a cafeteria in Amsterdam, a man stabbed two others. Police intervened in order to arrest him and he got killed because he resisted arrest.

July 2011: 22-year-old İhsan Gürzz was found dead in a police department cell. While his family claimed that he died because of excessive police violence, policemen claim that he died of a heart attack, even though it was evident that his face suffered a severe beating.

November 2011: During Sinter Klaas celebrations policemen attacked and harshly beat people wearing T-shirts with the label “Black Peter is Racism”.

And for those who wonder about what is happening in Greece, let’s not only dwell on the policemen Korkoneas and Melistas (the two cops that murdered A.Grigoropoulos and M.Kaltezas respectively), but let’s read the long list of police terrorism victims, here.

• EN: Your comment will be visible after approval. Please check the terms of use.

• EL: Τα σχόλια δημοσιεύονται κατόπιν έγκρισης. Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες δείτε τους Όρους χρήσης.