Last Friday University of Iowa Law Professor Gregory Shill, whom you might remember for an article, "Should the Law Subsidize Driving," was behind a symposium, "The Future of Law and Transportation."* One of the panels, "Rights of Way & Public Space," talked about the ways we conceive, interpret, and enforce particular understandings of the public space we call a road.
|Law, Public Space, and Rhetoric - U Iowa Law|
The next day, on Saturday we got to see some of these understandings in the way public space and protest were policed.
"Obey all traffic laws" and "get out of the road" seemed to be refrains for the second protest, with reporters highlighting police actions at Trade and Church. It is hard to interpret them as neutral, an instead they show an autoist bias. Requiring people on foot to be in the sidewalk is part of the way we normalize "accidents" when drivers crash into people they didn't see or didn't expect in the road. The default expectation is that people on foot will not be in the road, that drivers and their cars should enjoy unimpeded access, and when people on foot are in the road they are interlopers and do not have a legitimate claim to the space. ("All lives splatter" relies on this configuration of power.)
|"Obey all laws" - via twitter|
|People on foot must use sidewalk - via twitter|
|Roads are seemingly only for cars - via twitter|
|Walking as suspect activity - via twitter|
Others will be better able to analyze the policing in terms of favoring white supremacy or proto-fascism. It seems unambiguous that the second protest received much heavier policing in riot gear with heavy troop transport vehicles.
And crucially, police used an autoist concept of public space, roads, and traffic to clear out people on foot. (There was at least one report of two people biking who were also policed.)
|Differential policing levels - via twitter|
At protests there are lots of things going on and rarely do actors move with pure intent. Maybe the police truly had non-public information to suggest a particular deployment in policing was necessary.
But on the surface it looks like there was a clear pattern of bias here.
|Riot police at the Capitol - via twitter|
|Stonewalling last month - questions remain|
* See previous notes, "The Laws for Compulsory Autoism at The Atlantic" and "Police Publish Video on How to Speed Without a Ticket" for some notes on Shill's articles.