Whos The Real Criminal?
By Bonnie Weinstein
The following report titled, Boss Orders Cops to Hide Flag Scarfs, by Jaxon Van Derbeken appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday, April 1,, 2003.
Do these colors run? If they are red, white and blue and worn openly by San Francisco police officers, they will have to go.
Acting police Chief Alex Fagan on Monday said it was inappropriate for officers to don American flag bandannas while policing war protests.
On Monday, Fagan saw photographs showing about five officers who had taken off their helmets during a protest, displaying the colors underneath.
He said the department had heard from antiwar protesters and those who support the war in Iraq that the bandanna-flags should not be displayed by officers.
I think its inappropriate, Fagan said. Here we are at warI just dont like it. The point is, we have a uniform. Even more troubling to me was that it is the flag. It offended not only the protesters, it offended the pro- war group.
Were not making a big issue of it, he said. Its not going to happen again. If they are wearing those bandannas, they should keep their helmets on.
The department has a strict policy that dictates whats acceptable to wear, Fagan said. None of the officers who wore the bandannas during the protests will be subject to discipline, he said.
Bonnie Weinstein, co-founder of Bay Area United Against War, said flag-wearing cops might seem like kind of a threat, like theyre saying You know what side Im on.
Its inflammatory, and its obviously meant to annoy people, she added. But I also feel police should have the right to express their opinions, even on the job. Its a matter of free speech.
Chris Cunnie, president of the Police Officers Association, said officers wear bandannasred white and blue or otherwiseunder their helmets for one reason: comfort.
If somebody is wearing a bandanna for comfort, I dont see the issue, he said.
Michele Grey, manager of Kaplans Surplus, said her store had sold about 70 of the bandannas to police officers since the protests started.
They came in a couple of times; they bought quite a few, she said, adding that the cost is a buck. They are all wearing them under their helmets.
It was something they didthey said it got a lot of attention, she said. They just said people were all shocked when they took off their helmets.
Grey was reluctant to wade into the debate about what police should or should not wear.
I dont know, its not really for me to say, she said. If they have rules about their dress code, they have to follow them.
I was the one referred to by the Chronicle reporter, and I am one of the founding organizers of Bay Area United Against War. I was interviewed by the Chronicle and was quoted in the above article. Mr. Zorovichs letter, in response to my quoted comments was sent to the web site of Bay Area United Against War (www.bauaw.org). I am the moderator for the group list (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I sent out a response to Mr. Zorovich. The entire exchange is printed below.
From: Michael Zorovich
April 1, 2003
Please pass this on to Bonnie Weinstein, co-founder of this ridiculous organization.
I read a comment that she made in response to some of the San Francisco cops wearing American flags of some sort... Bonnie said flag-wearing cops, and I quote, might seem like kind of a threat, like theyre saying You know what side Im on. And Its inflammatory, and its obviously meant to annoy people, she added.
Mrs. Weinstein: I have a few questions for you.... Why is it inappropriate for a police officer to display what side he or she might be on? Is it not the purpose of your protests to voice which side you are on? And do you not think that these so-called protests where you and the antiwar crowds have gathered to stop traffic and stage die-ins are meant to annoy people so that you can get your point across? Would you not agree that your position is blatantly and demonstrably duplicitous? I am all for protesting... peacefully! Your right to do so is why our military fights today. The last question I would have for you is where were you protesting when President Clinton used the military 5 times as President and without the UNs approval? My guess is you were sipping a cafe latte and going about your business.
Are you sure that this is not an anti-Bush demonstration? Be honest with yourself... because in the end truth will prevail. I imagine that there will be no response to my questions. It is typical of the antiwar protesters to take positions which they cannot make a case for and dont even attempt to do so.
The following is my response that same day.
Dear Mr. Zorovich,
I did make that comment you quoted (see below) about why I thought the police donned American flags on their heads. I also said that I would never be maneuvered into the position of arguing against someones right to express themselves whether they are public employees or not. I said, further, that the best way to combat flag wearing police is to allow those of them who are opposed to the war to wear a peace sign. In fact, I think that since not all police are wearing the flags there are, perhaps, many San Francisco Peace Officers who oppose this war. It would be great if they had the same right to wear peace signs as I believe is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The government and their lawmakers, especially today, will try and use any reason to inhibit free speech and assembly, and civil liberties and civil rights, as well. Some try to get us to say that freedom of expression is right in some instances and wrong in others depending on who they agree with. No one should fall into the trap of fighting against someones right to express his or her opinion on the war even if they do not agree with that opinion. While it is clear that the wearing of these flags by these officers on duty was meant to identify themselves as pro-war, it is not the same thing as, say, wearing some kind of anti-Semitic or anti-Black symbol or sign. That would be a hate crime.
In fact, the war is a hate crime. And it is inhibiting the civil rights and liberties of millions of Iraqi people, 50 percent of whom are under the age of 15 years. It is also inhibiting the rights of the men and women who volunteered for our armed services to send them into a grossly unjust war while under the impression that they were going to get a good education and see the world! Talk about truth in advertising!
Certainly, the billions of dollars our government gives to Israel to oppress the Palestinian people contributes to the inhibition of the civil rights and liberties of these suffering people.
While civil disobedience, die-ins, traffic stopping, etc., annoy some folks, and while some might argue that these are not the best tactics, the people who perform them are not criminals. They are passionate people who are most concerned with the death and mayhem being brought upon the people of Iraq and on our own men and women who are fighting over there. They are people who recoil at the news of a young woman like Rachel Corrie being murdered with a Caterpillar bulldozer while trying to stop a doctors home from being destroyed in Palestine. They are people who are fed up with what they see.
Their actions are spontaneous and deeply personal but they are not criminals. The criminals are the traders of blood for oil in the name of freedom when they know its all about the oil.
The real crime against humanity is how our government is spending billions on ways to kill and dominate the world with the most powerful and plentiful cache of weapons of mass destruction ever assembled. And it is our government with the worst track record of having used both chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction that is doing it in our name! I need only to point to our governments use of Agent Orange and napalm during the Vietnam War and, of course, the only government in the world who actually used atomic weapons of mass destruction on two entire cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Our government and, in fact, the governments of almost every country in the world are steeped in the blood of the people. The people have no weapons of mass destruction. The people do not own bombers, submarines, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons, Agent Orange, napalm, poison gas, depleted uranium. The people do not trade blood for oil, governments do.
The people of the world are coming together as never before. The transparency of war has never been so thin. The underlying cause of all wars can be symbolized by this war for the control of the worlds supply of oil. For whoever controls the oil has the rest of the world by the throat and everyone knows it. All because trillions of dollars worth of oil are at stake.
The numbers of people who have already demonstrated in the streets will be dwarfed by the massive protests that will come as the bloody results of this war become more clear and as we, the people, are asked to sacrifice even more. And what will our wounded returning soldiers feel when they find that their benefits have been cut while they were away getting wounded? Talk about a stab in the back!
The whole world is opposed to this war. The antiwar movement will continue to organize massive demonstrations bringing millions of people into the streets to demand an end to this war. And to demand that our troops be brought home now! And that we shed not one more drop of blood for oil. Not one more life, not one more child, not one more soldier lost for the greed of governments.
We want books not bombs, schools not jails, healthcare not warfare, rights not racism.
All out this Saturday, April 5th. Assemble at Mosswood Park (MacArthur & Broadway, near Kaiser BART) at 10:30 am. March to a rally at 1:30 at Frank Ogawa Plaza, (14th & Broadway, near 12th St. BART)
Wear your buttons and signs. We are all one. Peace,
Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War
These are the authors opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of every group and everyone in Bay Area United Against War Editor