SFPD sergeant orders officers: "If [Occupy protesters] do not do what you tell them, strike them."

In this video from the kettling of Occupy San Francisco protesters, SFPD sergeant Peter Thoshinsky (helmet #2197) is recorded walking the police line, ordering his officers, "If they do not do what you tell them, strike them."

The protesters who record this are understandably upset and try to engage the officers in a dialog about whether such an order is legal and should be followed. There's a certain amount of violating Godwin's Law here, which is understandable, even if it might not be the best way to win the day.

"If they do not do what you tell them, strike them." says SFPD while kettling OccupySF 2011-12-07


  1. …It is a line that is begging to be read in a thick German accent. “If zey do not do what you tell zem, strike zem.”

    Making comparisons to Nazis is beyond understandable.

    1. Yeah, because facism is genetic for us Germans, right?

      Seriously speaking,  I do not think it’s a very good idea to distance this behaviour from the American mainstream too much by implying that it is German/French/Nazi/whatever behaviour.  

      It’s what American police are doing right now, and ties in nicely with the TSA security theatre,  the excusing of water boarding and war crimes by significant parts of the media and the eroding of civil rights.  One big, fat depression and even the US can slide into faciscm. It’ll be an uniquely American one, with  religion and free speech, though.

      1. Recall that Catholicism was heartily endorsed by Mussolini.  We can still stake out a claim for free speech, maybe, because America is exceptional like that.

        1. Yes, but it’s very important to remember that you can have a totalitarian fascist system and still have free speech.

          You can say what you want, because they control the mass media bullhorns.

          1. “totalitarian” not so much, as the point of totalitarism is to control, well, everything.  And a complete lack of humor.

      2. Yeah, because facism is genetic for us Germans, right?

        No, it’s a cultural thing.  The U.S. has a large cohort of holocaust survivors and their children and an even larger cohort of old folks who fought you guys in WWII.  As a result, we have hundreds of movies, many television series, and even a bunch of video games about Nazis and fighting them.  These cultural artifacts generate a sort of “Nazi mythology” that isn’t terribly historically accurate and which certainly doesn’t reflect anything about modern Germany.  And since these cultural elements are the most ubiquitous depictions of fascism in American culture they’re obviously going to be touchstones for Americans talking about fascism.

        Modern Germany and modern Germans are largely respected here despite the occasional jokes about the accent.  I seriously doubt Justin was trying to say that all Germans are Nazis.  Just try to bear in mind that when Americans talk about Nazism they’re really talking about the portrayal of Nazism in popular media, not real Germans and certainly not modern Germans.

        Edit: I do agree that the U.S.A. may be the western nation most likely to incubate a fascist movement within the coming decades. It wouldn’t be “uniquely” religious, though, all historical fascist movements have been highly religious.

  2. I don’t know what to make of it.  Honestly, how can people, as people, as basic as you can be in our world today, given our past, provide these reactions to what is happening with a straight face?  A face completely devoid of regret, shame, or second thoughts?

    I just don’t understand.  I’m baffled our culture produces people that actively participate in systems of control by force for eight hours a day to go home to a family without any sense of moral guilt.

    1. I’ve been thinking for at least a few weeks that the human microphone should start uttering more strategic messages, such as describing how the police do this with a straight face, maybe whether the cops really do have the guts to beat people, egging them on. Possibly some humor. “What’s your special code for this?”

      1. 420 brigade: Whenever cops are starting to become violent the 420 brigade is responsible for establishing the most humorous counter-narrative possible. 
        Lets see how those pigs feel when they abuse giggling people! Lets see how they feel about being giggled at while abusing giggling people! 
        Fight brutality with absurdity! 

        1. Doesn’t really matter how they feel about it.  A riot cop is like a well-broken horse, trained to obey their master’s direction despite any feelings, desires, or environmental conditions.
          They may be personally confused, remorseful, impatient, angry, etc. but that’s not going to affect what they do.  Because their behavior isn’t determined by them, but by their superiors.

        2. I can’t tell if what you’re describing actually exists in reality, but humor has long been known to be a successful tactic against oppression.

          I’m talking about combining humor, at least sometimes, with psychology, counter-psyops. With UC Berkeley and Stanford so near to Occupy Oakland, I would love to see some students coming up with a kind of reverse-Milgram scenario, or even more brusquely, “Shoot us, you know you want to,” “point your guns right now,” “crack our skulls,” or other sayings to get inside officers’ heads.

    2. the nazi parallels are getting more heavy by the second – this baffled comment could have been written by some joe average here in germany, back in the 40’s of the last century. 

      my country tried “hate” then – but it’s becoming more and more obvious that “greed” is another dogma that doesn’t quite work as a foundation block to build a nation upon. 

      now, there’s a real chance  it’s gonna be YOUR turn in some years to explain to your kids why daddy didn’t do anything to stop the bad guys, way back when…

  3. You know, you’d really think that the police force at [OWS/SF/everywhere else occupied] would at least TRY to not come off as huge dicks. They’re actively fueling the rage behind the protests. WHAT A BUNCHA NAZIS

  4. Just because the police want people to act a certain way does not mean that they are legally compelled to comply under the threat of force.  We are a nation of laws, not of men, but unfortunately people in law enforcement–not all of course, but too many–believe that anything they say has the force of law.  There are obviously justifiable uses of force.  To stop an act that violates the persons or property of others, definitely. To stop an act which infringes upon the rights of others, perhaps. But to “stop” people who are peaceably assembled on public property? Nope.

    1. Your comment made me laugh. We are a nation of laws huh? Hmm, Tell me, why wasn’t Bush/Cheney arrested for treason then?  Why haven’t the Bankers/Investment brokers arrested for the Crash in 2008? (there is ample evidence) OH and 1 more thing, Why were OUR SENATORS allowed to pass the amendment to the defense budget that allowed Indefinite detention of American Citizens? 

      We are a nation of laws? REALLY?  Wake TF UP dude, you are sleeping while Rome burns.  We left that train 30 yrs ago when Nixon was not punished for his crime and everyone in his cabnet were not arrested and punished.  We allowed it to happen by turning a blind eye to the travesty of justice.

      When good men and women say nothing Evil wins.

      1. Much as I agree with you on who ought to be subject to the law (and currently is not), I think you’re being dangerously simplistic if you believe that there is a simple, singular answer to such questions as “Did Bush/Cheney do anything that merits a legal investigation?” You and I are totally convinced that they did, but you only have to spend time on the relevant right wing forums to find plenty of people just as vehement that they did not. How does a democracy resolve this sort of difference of opinion? Inaction is a common answer …

        As for the banksters, they very carefully worked to change the law so that nothing they did would actually be illegal. They may or may not have succeeded 100%, but they certainly ensured that most of what they did was completely legal, albeit 100% immoral and corrupt. When good men and women suggest that people should be arrested without any evidence that they actually broke the law, what have they become?

        1. Well, they did launch an aggressive war, and they bragged about the torture. So unless the last 8 1/2 years have been faked, there’s no denying two of their crimes against humanity.

          1. War is not illegal under US law. Bush & Cheney denied that they broke any law, so either they don’t consider what they did/authorized to be torture, or they consider torture to not be illegal either.

            So they, at the very least, deny they committed any crimes against humanity. I don’t agree with them. But the fact that I don’t agree with Bush/Cheney doesn’t provide any mechanism to resolve who is right and who is wrong. The reality is that what gets prosecuted in such matters is always and has always been a political affair, whether we like it or not. Someone has to weigh up whether attempting to prosecute is worth the cost and the risks (there are always costs and there are nearly always risks). If the person charged with such matters isn’t convinced, your or my convinction that a crime was committed doesn’t really matter.  Prosecuting any crime, even the most minor, is always preceded by a cost/benefit analysis. In an ideal world, maybe it could be all rules all the time. We don’t (and probably cannot) live in such a world.

          2. @PaulDavisTheFirst:disqus  Actually the war was illegal under US law. The constitution explicitly states that treaties ratified by the United States are in effect US law. International law is essentially US law. Of course there are the usual enforcement difficulties but what happened is technically illegal under treaties to which the US was a signatory and therefore illegal under US law. Just a technical side note.

        2. “As for the banksters, they very carefully worked to change the law so that nothing they did would actually be illegal.”

          Actually, they committed fraud. It’s a documented fact and quite illegal. The AGs of many U.S. states are currently determining how to address the mortgage fraud and foreclosure fraud perpetrated by many major banks in the U.S. Most AGs are agreeing to a transparently weak settlement, while others (most notably NY AG Schneiderman and MA AG Coakley) are rejecting the settlement and taking banks to court.These same banks perpetrated other forms of fraud as well, most notably investment fraud before the global economic crisis and TARP-fraud afterwards. These crimes have also been thoroughly documented. Unfortunately, the SEC is ultimately responsible for investigating these crimes and flatly refuses to do so. Moreover, the SEC destroys evidence of preliminary investigations of these crimes done by more well-meaning junior investigators, which are referred to internally as MUIs. The Senate Judiciary Committee has publicly acknowledged this fact, but it too refuses to do anything about it.Laws are meaningless without enforcement. Your government refuses to enforce its own laws. You should expect the criminal behavior to continue.

          1. I’m reluctant to agree with you for fear of the utter despondency that it will create in me. But I think I probably do. Its just a little terrifying to acknowledge this state of affairs. 

      2. @yahoo-D55WI4DCGD37XCUHNBH7IVC5HQ:disqus  Can you please tell me specifically what laws where broken? Treason is an interesting choice since it is the only law defined in the constitution
        Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
        I think Bush was a moron and Cheney a money hording fear monger but I am at a loss as to how you apply treason to their actions.
        Similarly, the bankers did nothing illegal. Our lawmakers set up a system where what they did was not only possible, it was encouraged.
        Perhaps you could argue that our lawmakers violated their oath of office in failing to protect the country from the lawmakers but that sounds silly.

        Instead of hating the puppet figures of Bush and Cheney, how about focusing on the Congress? This is where the laws that allow the Wall St crash come from. This is who authorizes wars and the money to fight them. It is this same Congress whose senate voted 93-7 to allow for indefinite detention of human being with no day in court.

        See, we are a nation of laws. The problem here is that those making these laws are corrupt, immoral, and for some reason, selling out our country.

        1. Similarly, the bankers did nothing illegal This claim is factually incorrect. Please see in this thread my response to PaulDavisTheFirst on the same topic.

  5. The amazing thing is the cops seem to have no real guilt. We might as well be al qaeda members to them, they do not give a fuck about bringing justice to the crimelords who have seized control of America. They are happy punching hippies!

  6. He gets 3 points for not covering up his identification; minus seven quintillion points for being an authoritarian bag of festering dicks.

    I like to give credit where credit is due.

  7. By giving an illegal order to his officers, Peter Thoshinsky shows that he is not leadership material. He may have meant it, in which case he should be reprimanded and the people who employ him should think about why they have him on the line. Or, he might have been simply using it as intimidation to threaten the protesters listening at the kettle line.

    As a commander at the line, he should know that intimidation and threats do nothing to deescalate tense environments. In fact, threats and intimidation make already bad situations scarier. This poor leadership on his part not only puts the protesters at greater risk, it puts the officers on the line at greater risk.

    In this way, his statement was irresponsible and reflects poorly on his judgement as a commanding officer.

  8.  You know you have to do.

    If your city has a 12/12 event, get there. I think most of the west coast is doing this. Occupy Houston is meeting at the San Jacinto Battleground and one other place I can’t mention her.

    Newport News and a few places on the east coast are doing 12/12.

    Get out on 12/12 and fight!

  9. Gnahhh I know others are going to say it but it chafes:

    Comparing people to Nazis is proving Godwin’s Law. It’s not even possible to violate it.

    It’s a statistical law like the ideal gas law, not one you can violate such as a traffic law.

    1. Except the ideal gas law is a special case, something that only reveals itself under highly contrived circumstances. Whereas Godwin’s Law seems to hold in every comment thread …

    2. I agree, though colloquially there’s a secondary meaning of Godwin’s Law that I think can be said to be violated / broken.

      Definitions of Godwin’s Law that I’ve seen (e.g. Wikipedia[1]) typically include a corollary such as “once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost”. In that sense I think it’s valid to violate the law.

      [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

      1. Yes. I believe an exception was made for discussions of Europe in the ’30s and ’40s, but it’s scary to think an exception is necessary for discussions of anywhere, in the ’00s and ’10s.

        Having been beaten up by neo-Nazis, I think there ought to be another exception for discussions of their violence and discussions of their political influence.

  10. I halfway think some of these people are being so blatant because they’re being pressured to do or GTFO… but don’t want to, so do in the most hamhanded of way to make the public even more pissed off and aware of just how screwed up the situation is.

  11. These cops are fucking cowards.  Be brave and have some self respect, cops… STAND DOWN and STAND UP for freedom.

    You’re on the side of evil.

  12. I can’t wait until this stupid Occupy nonsense is over so this country can get back to important tasks. Like laying off policemen.

  13. Are there any police bloggers out there giving their view on Occupy? I’ve had a quick search but didn’t turn anything up. It would be really interesting to read what rank and file officers are writing about this. At the time of the student protests here in the UK I followed a police blogger who wrote about the events from the other side of the thin blue line. Eventually the daily dip into the festering authoritarian hyperbole got too revolting, and the utter lack of ability by them to engage in any meaningful discussion without descending in chestbeating made it pointless. Still – I’d like to hear how they justify this.

  14. Congratulations. You are now guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery upon a police officer.

  15. At some point you have to suspend Godwin concerns…like, when there are actual jackbooted government thugs actually engaging in violence against actual citizens.  At times like that, it is well & proper to consider comparisons to fascists regimes.

  16. “There’s a certain amount of violating Godwin’s Law here” – it’s a slightly pedantic point, but I’m sure you know what Godwin’s Law actually is, and how it’s irrelevant in this situation. Likening the bully-boy thugs who are enforcing the will of right-wing corporatist governments to Nazis is just obvious. There’s no ‘law’—least of all Godwin’s, which is merely an observation of probability—that says you shouldn’t do this.

    My grandparents’ generation fought against the Nazis, and their sacrifices, as well as the horrors experienced by the victims of Nazi atrocities, should never be forgotten. This idea that you should never mention Nazis because of some misremembered Usenet meme is stupid, and it would only be mildly hyperbolic to say, offensive. At a time when governments in the USA, the UK and elsewhere are increasingly turning to Lawrence Britt’s characteristics of fascism as an instruction manual rather than a warning, their apologists would love anyone who mentions this to be ridiculed and shouted down with cries of “Godwin! Godwin!”

  17. SF has time to make rules about happy meals, pet companions, cell phone radiation and so many other things… One would think they could take some time to address the serious issues of the police threatening protestors.

    But then “good people” don’t protest so they don’t need to have those civil rights protected.  “Good people” have nothing to fear from the Government, now turn your head and cough before we allow you onto the plane.

  18. “Goddammit! I thought I told you guys, you kettle the police. You’ve got it all backwards. There’re more of us than cops. Surround them!”

    But seriously. In order for the U.S. to go full on fascism, or whatever hybrid of fascism, corporatism, and Nazi-ism you get in the 21st century, you need to have more people willing to support that point of view than not.

    Unless we believe that there are more people in the U.S. that support corpo-Nazi-fascism, then people just need to unite against it.

    Also, since the cops are also part of the 99%, instead of provoking them, and hurling abuse, we should probably be trying to persuade them.

    And seriously, again, tactically, if you have more protestors than police, kettle them. Surround them. Give them room, stay out of baton reach, but surround them. Watch that video from UC Davis. Offer to let them leave, but if they don’t, keep them kettled until they do. 

    If reinforcements come, let them get to their guys, then surround them too.

    The point is to demonstrate to the police and their bosses, that there are more people than cops. 99% more.

    1. Better to go where the police aren’t, or to go many places when they can’t mass at every place, than to bunch up where they are. Better to challenge the whole system than just the police. The police are equipped for violence, and quite often, they will turn non-violent confrontations into violent ones.

  19. “I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.

    The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” – President of some country somewhere.

    Universal rights, eh?

    1. “On the target audience
      The left will never be convinced that the cops are the good guys. The far right will always believe the cops are the good guys. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Those are the people I’d like to have pick up the book.”

      You’re not a “good guy” at all, Thochinsky, if you’re ordering your subordinates to attack the people they’re supposed to serve and protect.  Just because you’re their boss doesn’t change that.

  20. and more  http://www.comingoutfrombehindthebadge.com/commentary/coming-out-telling-someone-you-are-gay/

  21. and if that doesn’t work…Kent State them….this is just a slow escalation with a bad outcome…waiting to happen.

  22. I kind of feel sorry for the police officers receiving the orders.

    We all know that psychologically they’re put in a very difficult position; and when inevitably the public push back against police brutality it won’t be those giving orders that receive the dangerous end of a weapon, it’ll be those ‘following orders’.

    Don’t get me wrong, if I were one of those police officers I’d of walked over the line and joined the other side; but that doesn’t mean to say many of these officers actually agree with the protestors but like the idea of keeping their jobs.

    People at the top and middle of the police chain need to be prosecuted, and those at the bottom need to be reminded, officially, that if the order they receive contravenes their moral and legal position they DON’T HAVE TO DO IT.  IT’S JUST A JOB.

  23. Also; I wonder if the police know they’re the bad guys now?  Seriously they might as well be wearing storm-trooper outfits.

    Once the pride of being a police officer fades and their kids cower in fear when they get home, I wonder if that’s when they get the message?

    The police do a lot of good work; most of which is being trampled on by this blatantly fascist behaviour.  If you’re a police officer, and you care about your forces image and your own self respect, and perhaps more importantly, actually upholding the law; then stop doing this shit for christ’s sake; say no to orders and tell your boss where to stick it, you’re not actually nazi’s and you won’t actually be gassed. Apparently if you’re a police officer you can do/say anything you want without fear of punishment, so fuck it, slap your boss and tell him to calm the fuck down – then get back to protecting and serving the people you’re currently attacking.

  24. (Not having watched the videos, but)

    Is it still Godwining if the comparison is completely apt?  Like, is it still Godwining if you said something like “Remember the lesson of the Nuremberg trials – ‘Just following orders’ is not an excuse for rights abuses.  If you assault nonviolent people, it will make you a criminal – it doesn’t matter who ordered you to do it, it would still be you committing the crime.”

  25. Wow did you see that one officer.  He couldn’t even look the guy in the face when he said “Did your commanding officer just order you to break the law?”

  26. You wear a badge.   If your boss orders you to do something illegal, arrest them.

    You are a police officer, correct?

  27. Sounds like a police act to me. Not only is the City responsible for damages but the Policemem are personally responsible for damages for assault. Why aren’t the protesters calling 911 for protection?

  28. I wonder when the right to assembly and free speech became the right to assembly and free speech as long as it’s OK with everyone else?

  29. Oh noez, not Godwin’s Law! That unspeakable event was a unique historical situation that never happened before and never will happen again, so any comparison or allusion to it is automatically fallacious and valueless!

    /collects pat on the head from propaganda machine :P

    1. We should be talking about fascism all the time. How else will we notice when it creeps up on us?

      But there’s a difference between that and calling your mom Hitler because she won’t let you have another brownie.

  30. Oh man, it’s stuff like this that can lead up to a civil war, if it’s not already happening, police abusing power at the behest of their superiors, who were elected by the very people they are ordering to hurt, vicious surreal circle.

  31. A quote from Thoshinsky in the previously mentioned SFGate article about Thoshinsky’s book:  

    “There’s a photograph of me by one of your (Chronicle) photographers at a 2003 war demo, utilizing my baton, and there swinging from my neck is a Nikon 35-millimeter camera.”

    That makes it sound like beating, or at least threatening to beat protesters and demonstrators is nothing new to the guy.  Of course, I don’t know which 2003 demonstration he’s referring to, and he may well have been acting with all due diligence at the time. 


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