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Shutting Down the Streets

Shutting Down the Streets: Political Violence and Social Control in the Global Era

Amory Starr
Luis Fernandez
Christian Scholl
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Shutting Down the Streets
    Book Description:

    Recently, a wall was built in eastern Germany. Made of steel and cement blocks, topped with razor barbed wire, and reinforced with video monitors and movement sensors, this wall was not put up to protect a prison or a military base, but rather to guard a three-day meeting of the finance ministers of the Group of Eight (G8). The wall manifested a level of security that is increasingly commonplace at meetings regarding the global economy. The authors of Shutting Down the Streets have directly observed and participated in more than 20 mass actions against global in North America and Europe, beginning with the watershed 1999 WTO meetings in Seattle and including the 2007 G8 protests in Heiligendamm. Shutting Down the Streets is the first book to conceptualize the social control of dissent in the era of alterglobalization. Based on direct observation of more than 20 global summits, the book demonstrates that social control is not only global, but also preemptive, and that it relegates dissent to the realm of criminality. The charge is insurrection, but the accused have no weapons. The authors document in detail how social control forecloses the spaces through which social movements nurture the development of dissent and effect disruptive challenges.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3835-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. 1 What Is Going On?
    (pp. 1-22)

    We began writing this book as a wall was built in East Germany. Two and a half meters high, it was composed of metal fencing with concrete foundations and was designed to cradle a curlicue of razor and barbed wire. Each bolt and hinge of the wall was soldered in place. It looked like a fence around a prison or a military base, and, indeed, it sported motion detectors and video cameras. But this fence wound its twelve kilometers, at €1 million per kilometer, through forest surrounding a small seaport town. It protected the three-day meeting of the Group in...

  4. 2 The Geography of Global Governance: Spatial Dynamics of Controlling Dissent
    (pp. 23-48)

    In 1975, few people took notice when the G8 (at the time it was only the G6) first met to promote economic stability and expansion in member countries. Even fewer people saw the meeting as problematic or worthy of protest. Global summit meetings went virtually unnoticed for several years, until movements in the Global South (especially in Latin America) confronted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.¹ In the early 1980s, “food riots” (sometimes called “IMF riots”) emerged in many developing countries, and Global South scholars and activists developed a critical analysis of the role of these institutions...

  5. 3 Toward a Political Economy of the Social Control of Dissent
    (pp. 49-61)

    Over the past thirty years, an industry has developed around securing global ministerial and summit meetings, such as the G8, G20, World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Economic Forum (WEF) sessions. As the meetings became increasingly contentious through the 1980s and 1990s, the responsibility for “securing” the summits became more important for the states to hosting the gatherings. As a result, greater funding was allocated for security, leading to a large infusion of monies to local law enforcement agencies. Some of this money is spent on overtime salaries, extra personnel (including private police),² city services such...

  6. 4 Policing Alterglobalization Dissent
    (pp. 62-90)

    In this chapter and the next, we work to expand the conceptualization of protest policing. We begin with a brief review of the literature. In the remainder of this chapter, we present a thorough inventory of policing, including and beyond the streetscape. In the following chapter, we move to an empirically grounded analysis of the effects of these police tactics, presenting a series of theoretical interventions that grasp the significance of police actions with regard to social movements.

    As Jennifer Earl points out, studies of protest policing alternately try to explain repression (treating it as the dependent variable) or try...

  7. 5 A Taxonomy of Political Violence
    (pp. 91-122)

    How is it possible to assess the relative impact on dissent of the bodies stopped by water cannons in proximity to the fence and those stopped in their own kitchens by publicity about the funding and building and guarding of the fence? In this chapter, we present an analysis refined through ten years of direct experience, observation, theorization, and praxis undertaken alone, with fellow activists, and together as a research team. After refining many iterations of our analytic framework, we distilled a series of concepts that capture the dynamic effects of social control on dissent. We believe that scholars and...

  8. 6 Antirepression: Resisting the Social Control of Dissent
    (pp. 123-145)

    San Francisco police have repeatedly frustrated protesters by using spatial control tactics, including holding pens, and mass arrests. Preparing another antiwar protest in 2008, rather than announcing a single location or march route, protest organizers released a large list of potential targets for protest. Dissenters subscribed to a Twitter. com feed to receive text messages identifying targets and gathering times, some simultaneous. Meanwhile, activist DJs on a pirate radio station provided information about police massing and action and relayed reports from protesters in the streets. Why did activists feel that such an elaborate infrastructure was necessary to express their dissent?...

  9. 7 Democracy Out of Order
    (pp. 146-152)

    This is a book we wish we did not have to write. You might prefer not to have read it. At stake in our subject is democracy itself. For those who see the liberal democratic state as a medium of peaceful and progressive social change, that promise is in deep trouble. To protect democracy, we must confine it because too much democracy is dangerous. Thus, we witness the reduction of democratic liberties in the name of the preservation of democracy itself. Defending democracy from democracy is becoming an indelicate matter, as pointed out so lucidly by Jacques Rancière, who concludes...

  10. Appendix A: Summits Directly Observed by Authors
    (pp. 153-154)
  11. Appendix B: Of Stones and Flowers: John Holloway and Vittorio Sergi on Protest Tactics
    (pp. 155-170)
  12. Appendix C: Suggestions for Future Research
    (pp. 171-172)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 173-190)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-202)
  15. Index
    (pp. 203-206)
  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 207-207)