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Steven Gaal

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cropped-wwlogo_5march20141.jpgfist1.pngMassive show of ruling class support for cops

Posted on January 6, 2015 by Fred Goldstein in Anti-racism, In the U.S., News, Top


The focus of attention was on the way thousands of cops turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio. Their movement is an undemocratic, semi-fascist manifestation of defiance.

New York, Jan. 4 — Over the past nine days, two police funerals in New York got massive coverage in the media, showing ruling class support for the cops. Both funerals were also political demonstrations by the police, demanding to continue their policy of unrestrained racist brutality against oppressed people.

The first, on Dec. 27, for Officer Rafael Ramos, had the character of a state funeral. The White House sent Vice President Joseph Biden to represent President Obama. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio took the podium, as well as Police Commissioner William Bratton.

A week later on Jan. 4, at the funeral for Officer Wenjian Liu, FBI head James Comey represented the Justice Department. Cuomo could not come because his father, Mario Cuomo, had just died. But De Blasio and Bratton both spoke.

Both times, CNN reported, more than 1,100 cops from all over the country were flown in for the funerals free of charge by JetBlue. The media reported that 20,000 cops attended the first funeral and 10,000 attended the second. The politicians and the police commissioner vied with each other to manufacture sympathy for the cops slain on Dec. 20 and to heap praise on the police in general.

It is worth noting that on Dec. 13, over 40,000 people had demonstrated against the cops in New York City for nine hours in the cold.

No pomp and ceremony for the victims

Of course, JetBlue did not offer to fly free of charge those people who marched under the banner #BlackLivesMatter to the funerals of Michael Brown or Eric Garner. Unarmed African Americans who are gunned down, like so many others, by the cops apparently do not merit state funerals. Their families do not merit the glowing, saccharine sympathy poured out by capitalist politicians occupying the highest offices, nor the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the families of the police to pay for mortgages and children’s education.

Representatives of the White House, the governor and the mayor did not show up at the gravesites of the victims of the racist cops. The media did not give massive, sympathetic coverage for days in advance about their funerals. The oppressed have to pay for their own funerals, do their own publicity, and fight just to get a small slice of the limelight, even in the most highly publicized cases of police killing. All this while trying to make ends meet.

But there were other aspects about the funerals for the police. First of all, they were meant to undercut the mass resistance that is growing around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has mushroomed with unprecedented energy and determination from coast to coast, North to South, in cities large and small.

The media falsely painted the random killing of the two cops by a troubled individual as retribution for the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. This was meant to push the movement back and undercut the growing sympathy it has gathered everywhere.

Restoring the image of the cops

One of the most important political aims of the funerals, as far as the racist ruling class is concerned, was to refurbish the image of the cops and the grand jury system. After the killing of the two cops, the rulers seized the initiative to make them into martyrs. They gave vivid portrayals of their personal lives. They televised their grieving relatives. They dwelled upon the “danger” that the cops supposedly face and all but turned them into saints.

The aim was to blot out the searing image of Eric Garner being choked to death on video by New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo, backed by a gang of accomplices; to put into the background the image of Michael Brown being shot with his hands up, after which his body lay on the ground for four hours. The ruling class publicists used the funerals for all they were worth to drown out the suffering of the oppressed and hush up the crimes of the cops — mercenaries who occupy the oppressed communities.

This country is mired in an economic crisis. The last thing the ruling class wants is for the workers and the oppressed to weaken the cops, who will be called upon in the future to defend the capitalists and put down uprisings of the oppressed.

Struggle between de Blasio and the cops

The funerals also became an arena for the struggle of the cops against civilian authority and any attempt to restrain their racism and brutality. The focus of attention was on the way thousands of cops turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio during the Ramos funeral. During Liu’s funeral, the number of cops turning their backs declined to several hundred, according to the media. This came after Bratton issued a memo disapproving of the tactic. But there was no decline in the cops’ antagonism for any civilian restraint on their racist aggression.

Their movement is an undemocratic, semi-fascist manifestation of defiance. First of all, whatever one thinks of de Blasio and his compromise tactics of appeasement (approving the “broken windows” policy, for example), nevertheless, he was elected with 65 percent of the general vote and 95 percent of the Black vote.

It is widely acknowledged that most of his victory margin came from de Blasio’s stand against stop-and-frisk and for reforming the police department.

Toward the end of the administration of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, mass pressure and a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights brought about a legal victory against stop-and-frisk. The cops have fought this decision relentlessly; negotiations over its implementation are still going on. Much of the police rebellion is over de Blasio trying to curtail — not end — stop-and-frisk as well as other reform measures, such as “retraining,” body cameras for cops, restructuring the Civilian Complaint Review Board with more liberal members, etc.

What the cops are doing is undemocratic in two respects. They are an armed, racist force trying to overturn civilian authority over them. And they are trying to overturn the results of an overwhelming popular vote, especially the Black vote, that was meant to rein in the police.

The so-called “police strike” or slowdown, in which they have ceased giving out traffic tickets and summonses for minor violations, is directed against de Blasio and the city budget. Ironically, the masses are probably much relieved to be free of this harassment, although it also fills the coffers of City Hall.

Decades of fighting to retain racist policies

As far back as 1965, Mayor John Lindsay, a liberal Republican, was elected mayor largely on the program of police reform. His election came after many cases of police killings and beatings of African Americans and Latino/as. He appointed a commission to investigate the matter and make proposals, which led to one to establish a Civilian Complaint Review Board. At the time, all complaints about the police were handled by the police themselves.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the same organization presently headed by Patrick Lynch, who says about de Blasio that “City Hall has blood on its hands,” opposed Lindsay back then and fought the CCRB by supporting a referendum to stop it. They plastered the city with posters of a Black man, with a smoking gun in his hand, standing over a dead cop. This racist appeal successfully defeated the CCRB, in spite of a vigorous grassroots campaign to oppose the racist PBA referendum.

In 1968 the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, ran for president on an independent ticket against the candidates of the two big capitalist parties, whom he denounced in a fascist manner.

Wallace had blocked the entrance doors to the University of Alabama in 1963 to stop two African-American students from entering. He said at the time, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Finally the National Guard, under federal control, forced the state to register the students.

When this segregationist scheduled a presidential campaign rally at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wallace posters went up in police precincts around the city. During a mass demonstration against Wallace called by Youth Against War & Fascism, 10,000 protesters battled the cops in the streets. The demonstrators could see Wallace buttons behind the lapels of many of the white cops.

The white police support of Wallace was a demonstration of raw racism and was directed at both the Lindsay administration and the African-American and Latino/a communities.

Struggle against David Dinkins, first Black mayor

In 1989 David Dinkins was elected New York City’s first Black mayor. Although he strengthened the police force considerably, he also campaigned on police reform and introduced a proposal for a Civilian Complaint Review Board. He also ordered the cops to use restraint when putting down a Black rebellion in Brooklyn after a Black child was killed in a traffic accident.

Dinkins also refused to give the cops semi-automatic weapons after they started a public campaign about allegedly being “outgunned by the criminals.” Actually, the so-called “criminals” with high-powered weapons could not have remained free for one day except for the fact that corrupt cops were deeply involved in allowing guns and drugs into the community.

The PBA, led at the time by Phil Caruso, campaigned against Dinkins in the 1992 mayoral election. The PBA was in league with racist, right-wing mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani. On Sept. 16, 1992, during a Giuliani election rally, 10,000 off-duty cops, many of them drunk, leaped over barricades and swarmed the steps of City Hall. They assaulted Black people in the area, including a Black woman member of the City Council. They blocked the Brooklyn Bridge.

The cops carried derogatory signs about Dinkins and hurled racial slurs, calling him a “washroom attendant.” Giuliani spoke on the platform with Caruso and riled up the crowd. The cops also assaulted reporters. Ray Kelly was acting police commissioner at the time. There were never any consequences for the police mob.

This is the context in which the struggle for and against “police reform” must be understood. Police reform, given the racist police repression and the level of police corruption in this country, always boils down to curtailing the racist violence of the police and/or their corrupt practices.

The reforms themselves, however, cannot change the repressive and racist character of the police, no matter if Black police are on the force or who is in charge. Black police themselves have testified over and over about their fear of white police, both in uniform and on the streets.

When the movement supports demands for police reform by the Black and Latino/a communities, it should not be because we expect the cops to be transformed. It is to show solidarity with the struggle against racism.

The only way to push the police back is to escalate the magnificent #BlackLivesMatter mass mobilization that has been going on for months and has been growing stronger and stronger.

Put the killer cops and their prosecutorial allies on the defensive. Make them fear the wrath of the people. That is the best way to get any police reform. But the real reform is to get rid of them altogether, together with the bosses and bankers they serve.

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December 31, 2014
The Police Were Created to Control Poor and Working Class People

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.

This is a blunt way of stating a nuanced truth, but sometimes nuance just serves to obfuscate.

Before the nineteenth century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world. In the Northern United States, there was a system of elected constables and sheriffs, much more responsible to the population in a very direct way than the police are today. In the South, the closest thing to a police force was the slave patrols. Then, as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working class neighborhoods.

Class conflict roiled late nineteenth century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology of order that developed in the late nineteenth century echoes down to today – except that today, poor black and Latino people are the main threat, rather than immigrant workers.

Of course, the ruling class did not get everything it wanted, and had to yield on many points to the immigrant workers it sought to control. This is why, for instance, municipal governments backed away from trying to stop Sunday drinking, and mitrani.jpgwhy they hired so many immigrant police officers, especially the Irish. But despite these concessions, businessmen organized themselves to make sure the police were increasingly isolated from democratic control, and established their own hierarchies, systems of governance, and rules of behavior. The police increasingly set themselves off from the population by donning uniforms, establishing their own rules for hiring, promotion, and firing, working to build a unique esprit des corps, and identifying themselves with order. And despite complaints about corruption and inefficiency, they gained more and more support from the ruling class, to the extent that in Chicago, for instance, businessmen donated money to buy the police rifles, artillery, Gatling guns, buildings, and money to establish a police pension out of their own pockets.

There was a never a time when the big city police neutrally enforced “the law,” or came anywhere close to that ideal (for that matter, the law itself has never been neutral). In the North, they mostly arrested people for the vaguely defined “crimes” of disorderly conduct and vagrancy throughout the nineteenth century. This meant that the police could arrest anyone they saw as a threat to “order.” In the post-bellum South, they enforced white supremacy and largely arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.

The violence the police carried out and their moral separation from those they patrolled were not the consequences of the brutality of individual officers, but were the consequences of careful policies designed to mold the police into a force that could use violence to deal with the social problems that accompanied the development of a wage-labor economy. For instance, in the short, sharp depression of the mid 1880s, Chicago was filled with prostitutes who worked the streets. Many policemen recognized that these prostitutes were generally impoverished women seeking a way to survive, and initially tolerated their behavior. But the police hierarchy insisted that the patrolmen do their duty whatever their feelings, and arrest these women, impose fines, and drive them off the streets and into brothels, where they could be ignored by some members of the elite and controlled by others. Similarly, in 1885, when Chicago began to experience a wave of strikes, some policemen sympathized with strikers. But once the police hierarchy and the mayor decided to break the strikes, policemen who refused to comply were fired. In these and a thousand similar ways, the police were molded into a force that would impose order on working class and poor people, whatever the individual feelings of the officers involved.

Though some patrolmen tried to be kind and others were openly brutal, police violence in the 1880s was not a case of a few bad apples – and neither is it today.

Much has changed since the creation of the police – most importantly the influx of black people into the Northern cities, the mid-twentieth century black movement, and the creation of the current system of mass incarceration in part as a response to that movement. But these changes did not lead to a fundamental shift in policing. They led to new policies designed to preserve fundamental continuities. The police were created to use violence to reconcile electoral democracy with industrial capitalism. Today, they are just one part of the “criminal justice” system which continues to play the same role. Their basic job is to enforce order among those with the most reason to resent the system – who in our society today are disproportionately poor black people.

A democratic police system is imaginable – one in which police are elected by and accountable to the people they patrol. But that is not what we have. And it’s not what the current system of policing was created to be.

If there is one positive lesson from the history of policing’s origins, it is that when workers organized, refused to submit or cooperate, and caused problems for the city governments, they could back the police off from the most galling of their activities. Murdering individual police officers, as happened in in Chicago on May 3rd 1886 and more recently in New York on December 20th, 2014, only reinforced those calling for harsh repression – a reaction we are beginning to see already. But resistance on a mass scale could force the police to hesitate. This happened in Chicago during the early 1880s, when the police pulled back from breaking strikes, hired immigrant officers, and tried to re-establish some credibility among the working class after their role in brutally crushing the 1877 upheaval.

The police might be backed off again if the reaction against the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and countless others continues. If they are, it will be a victory for those mobilizing today, and will save lives – though as long as this system that requires police violence to control a big share of its population survives, any change in police policy will be aimed at keeping the poor in line more effectively.

We shouldn’t expect the police to be something they’re not. As historians, we ought to know that origins matter, and the police were created by the ruling class to control working class and poor people, not help them. They’ve continued to play that role ever since.


Sam Mitrani is an Associate Professor of History at the College of DuPage. He earned his PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. He is the author of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894 (University of Illinois Press).

This essay was originally published by LAWCHA, t he Labor and Working Class History Association.

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Nightmare: Cop Stalks Woman, Has Her Committed When She Rejects Him
Lawsuit: Romantic rejection led to terrifying abuse of power.
January 13, 2015
Edited by Steven Gaal
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This Won’t End Well: Military Police From the Torturous Gitmo Prison, Being (CLICK LINK)

This week, as millions of Americans demand that Guantanamo Bay guards be prosecuted for war crimes, it seems that some of them may be getting jobs as cops instead.


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South Carolina police officer Tyrone Pugh is now suspended from duty for brutally assaulting an unarmed man on the ground outside of a concert. Witnesses claim the officer grabbed the victim, threw him to the ground and then began repeatedly punching the man, who was ultimately never arrested or charged with a crime.

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Texas Cops Jail Woman For ‘Walking Without A License’ (LINK)

A woman in Hamlin, Texas is fighting charges of driving without a license and expired registration after she was arrested and jailed by cops while WALKING home with groceries.

FL officer who shot and killed 17 year old had more than 50 complaints against him, including excessive use of force (LINK)

Video shows man shot by New Jersey police raising his hands: "Reid then emerges from the vehicle raising his hands, which appear to be empty. As he steps out, the officers fire at least six shots, killing him." (LINK)

With the dashboard camera in their cruiser rolling, police pulled a Jaguar over for running a stop sign on a dark night. But things suddenly turned tense when one of the officers warned his partner that he could see a gun in the glove compartment.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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When Cops Break Bad: Inside a Police Force Gone Wild Over the past five years, police in Albuquerque have shot and killed 28 people

By Nick Pinto | January 29, 2015

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/when-cops-break-bad-albuquerque-police-force-gone-wild-20150129#ixzz3QN2rxDtD

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Police Label Hippy Group Whose Message Is "Peace & Love" 'Domestic Extremists'

Cops seek DHS grant to deal with 'threat' posed by The Rainbow Family

by Paul Joseph Watson


Missoula police are seeking a quarter of a million dollar Homeland Security grant to help them spy on “extremist” organization The Rainbow Family, a loosely affiliated hippy group which stresses non-violence, peace and love.

The mayor signed off this week on a proposal that if approved would net the Missoula Police Department $254,930 from the DHS to purchase a mobile command unit that would be used to spy on The Rainbow Family, which is listed as an “extremist” organization in the proposal. The unit will also be used by other first responders during emergencies and natural disasters.


The mobile command units, offered to police departments by the DHS after 9/11, are designed to deal with hostage situations, active shooter calls and mass-casualty incidents.

The Rainbow Family “describes itself as a nonviolent group spreading the message of peace and love.” The group has only met twice in Montana in the last fifteen years, once in 2000 and once in 2013. The extent of the “threat” posed by the group is that one of its gatherings was described by the U.S. Forest Service as “rowdy”.

According to a description of the group’s activity, “All Rainbow Gatherings are held with an open invitation to people of all walks of life, and of all beliefs, to share experiences, love, dance, music, food, and learning.” After a gathering in Richmond, Virginia in 2005, Mayor Bob Henry Baber stated, “I never saw one bit of any activity that required any Forest Service legal intervention.”

Missoula Police Lt. Scott Brodie said that during its 2013 event, the group “created a mess that (needed) to be cleaned up”.

Citing a non-violent hippy group which stresses peace and love in order to justify the purchase of a vehicle that would normally be used to combat dangerous criminals or even terrorists is patently absurd and a shocking indication of how far the police state has progressed in America.

While large gatherings such as those staged by The Rainbow Family, during which crimes will inevitably occur, undoubtedly need to be properly policed, to describe the group as “extremist” is complete overkill.

The proposal is even more ludicrous than a 2013 application by the police chief in Concord, New Hampshire, who attempted to justify a DHS grant to buy a BearCat armored vehicle by citing the threat posed by libertarians and Occupy activists in the region.

“We are fortunate that our State has not been victimized from a mass casualty event from an international terrorism strike however on the domestic front, the threat is real and here. Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges,” wrote Police Chief John Duval.

Former Marine Corps Colonel Peter Martino, who was stationed in Fallujah and trained Iraqi soldiers, responded to the proposal by warning that the Department of Homeland Security is working with law enforcement to build a "domestic army," because the federal government is afraid of its own citizens.


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Just days after shooting himself in the foot over the ongoing televised 2015 election leaders' debates disagreement, David Cameron seems to be on a roll, this time announcing that, in the event his party wins the election in May, highly popular mobile apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp will be blocked by the security services. The announcement comes in the wake of the chilling Paris attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, among other terrorist targets; Cameron seemingly capitalising on the violence in an effort to pass through his governments faltering new surveillance plans- the so-called "snooper's charter".
Edited by Steven Gaal
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Monday, February 2, 2015

"Magic Knife" Incident Caused NYPD Supporter to Do a 180
Amanda Warren
Activist Post

If you live in New York, you might be in criminal possession of a "magic knife" too...

When Carsten Vogel noticed the negative social media reaction following NYPD incidents, behavior and the height of the Mayor de Blasio/NYPD face/off - he rushed in to defend the men and women in blue. After all, some of his good friends wear badges.

He too must have thought that "haters gonna hate" and someone should pipe up to defend them from unwarranted criticism.

He wrote in a thread on Facebook, just a few days after debating someone on the topic:

The police in NYC are now refusing to make the mayor look good, I get it. I don't think the police are abandoning their jobs or responsibilities. I think they are refusing to play the game.

Perhaps he was among the many who also parrot the idea that there are only a "few bad eggs" around. That if you're not doing anything wrong, there's nothing to worry about...

Yet, he was about to get a firsthand look into a systemic problem - the real aim of modern-day American policing.

Coincidentally, the afternoon of January 20th would change that on a very personal level - irrevocably - Village Voice Blogs reports.

Vogel's attention was on the music in his earphones while he awaited a train at the Nostrand Avenue stop. That's when an NYPD officer appeared and asked what was in Vogel's pocket. It was a pocket knife attached to a pocket clip. And Vogel responded frankly.

Bear with me for this important note - Vogel is a conscientious citizen, who strives to follow every letter of the law, so he probably only figures there would ever be a problem for rough "bad guys" roaming the streets. Not so. But Vogel is so conscientious that he had already looked up the knife laws. His 2-inch common pocket knife with a wooden handle, available on many store shelves. did not break the 4-inch law. It was not a switchblade which is totally illegal in New York. Not only was the pocket knife well within legal confines, but Vogel, like many others, uses it for his job. It brings him much convenience as he cuts tape and cables setting up PA systems.

Vogel was compelled to hand it over.

With the flick of the wrist, the seized knife becomes "magic" and reveals its "true nature" bent toward committing crimes.

From Village Voice:

When Vogel handed over his knife, the cop who had stopped him went through a routine that plays out thousands of times every year in New York City. Holding Vogel's knife, the cop raised his arm and vigorously flicked his wrist, in a practiced move. The knife snapped open and into place.

Vogel says he had never in his life tried to open his knife like that. It certainly wasn't designed to operate that way. He was stunned.

Incredulous, Vogel couldn't stop commenting on what a "magic trick" he had witnessed. And a well-practiced one at that, he noted.

You're under arrest - you broke the law.

Not really. Not at all. But the officer said that under NYPD's legal interpretation, Vogel was in possession of a "gravity knife" and would be going to jail! He would remain in a cell for a few hours and receive a "misdemeanor charge for criminal possession of a weapon. " This first-ever charge will cost time, work time, in court appearances, and thousands in legal fees.

Even this did not initially change his heart. The "good cop" arresting him was apologetic and tried to comfort him by telling him he'd probably "get off easy" for his criminality. At this point, Vogel's still thinking they're just good fellas doing what they got to do. Until...

He overheard their conversation about racking up arrest "numbers" needed to move on up. One of them seemed upset that another was getting promoted after only getting "like, two guns and a burglary and few robberies." Big light bulb here. "I'm just a pawn," he said. Even before, he recalled feeling uneasy at the "broken windows" [fallacy] type police work. NYPD has alienated a vocal supporter who now has a stronger bond with his friend whom he had debated. "They turned an ally into an enemy," he said.

To the best of the media's knowledge, New York City police are among the only agency that interprets a old state law this way. From Village Voice:

Under an arcane statute first passed in the mid-1950s, any knife that can be opened by centrifugal force can be qualified as a gravity knife. The law was never intended to outlaw the kind of knife Vogel carries — the true gravity knives originally targeted back then were far larger and more menacing. And applying the term to common folding knives is a controversial interpretation, even within the five boroughs. That reading of the law has prompted
; even the state judiciary says it's an incorrect and unjust reading of the law. Regardless, the NYPD is virtually alone among major police departments in New York State in its tough enforcement of the half-century-old law.

A real gravity knife looks like this. NYPD has yet to explain how this is any more dangerous than a folding knife. And it's certainly not switchblade material. Plus, folding knives are legal. Village Voice was so successful in bring this tactic to light that it spawned discussions among lawmakers and police. See the rest of their report as well as How a 50s-Era Knife Law Has Landed Thousands in Jail.

Clearly, Vogel did nothing wrong. But who was left to speak up for him? Only Village Voice, and if you count this piece - both after the fact.

Are we going to have to wait until each and every single person has an experience like this, or a potentially fatal experience, before unacceptable behavior is called out for what it actually is?

*The friendly knife has been superimposed on the image

Edited by Steven Gaal
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