|Image by Chris Huggins (Toronto G20 Protest)
On Saturday, a Mother Jones staffer tweeted that riot police might sweep workers out of the Wisconsin Capital building. In response, Jeff Cox, a deputy attorney general, for the state of Indiana tweeted, “Use live ammunition.” He also called the demonstrators “political enemies” (which they are, but what’s wrong with that?) and “thugs” (which he obviously is).
|Image by underclassrising (Greek Protester)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that such violent statements would be made publicly by a government official. We’ve been hearing them for years from some religious leaders, anti-immigrant activists and Tea Party activists. Sharon Angle, for example, suggested using “2nd amendment remedies” should Tea Party efforts fail in Congress, while Sarah Palin infamously called on her followers to “reload” rather than retreat. Many executives would not shed a tear if there were a few casualties on the labor side in the class war (it certainly doesn’t seem to matter to the bosses at Coke, in Columbia, or Chevron, in Nigeria) so why not here? After all, it’s a small price to pay to keep wages low and profits high.
Cox’s statements are only noteworthy in the context of Gov. Scott Walker’s explicit threat to use the National Guard on protesters AND his active preparation for such an assault (See “General Strike,” paragraph 3). In the interest of full disclosure, Cox is a loose cannon, known for making all sorts of ludicrous, vitriolic remarks. He once said that Planned Parenthood could help themselves if they performed retroactive abortions and he compared the SEIU to Hitler’s Sturmabteilung. Nevertheless, in this climate of fear and paranoia, it only takes one Jared Loughner to get inspired by such rhetoric and then go on a self-righteous rampage that, in the middle of a mass demonstration, could end up being far more deadly than the recent massacre in Tuscon. On the other hand, it only takes orders by one right wing governor for the National Guard to open fire on striking workers, as has happened so many times in U.S. history (for a partial list of examples, please see “The Violent Demise of Unions.”)