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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Opinion | What does it mean for a state entity to defend itself?

Police+officer+stands+tensely+in+front+of+a+%E2%80%9CHANDS+OFF+YEMEN%E2%80%9D+sign+at+the+Palestine+solidarity+encampment+on+Monday%2C+June+3.%0A
Bhaskar Chakrabarti | Staff Photographer
Police officer stands tensely in front of a “HANDS OFF YEMEN” sign at the Palestine solidarity encampment on Monday, June 3.

One week ago, police in riot gear stood off against student and community protestors at the second Palestine solidarity encampment. The difference in power was striking — protesters armed with water bottles, musical instruments and megaphones against the police department, armed with “less lethal” munitions, tear gas and riot gear.

Many argue the police need this gear and weaponry to defend themselves from the dangers of their line of work. died in the line of duty in 2023, only a fraction of whom died during an altercation with a subject. In the same year, police officers killed at least .

While the difference in fatalities is damning, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story about the power of the police. Their billy clubs that beat back student protestors, their tear gas that dispersed countless Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020 and their guns are all protected by the greatest power in the police’s repertoire — the to exercise physical violence against the population.

Of those 1,247 lives lost in 2023, only against the offending officer. As an executive force of the state, police officers enjoy its monopoly on violence — they, along with the other branches of government, are able to lawfully authorize and enact violence to achieve their ends. Despite this overwhelming legal and physical power, the Blue Lives Matter movement began in 2014 to position cops as underdogs fighting an uphill battle against crime and to advocate for for the police.

The officers as individuals in constant danger — martyrs and heroes who need to defend themselves against the violent criminals roaming the streets — is not a new or unique tactic to garner sympathy for people who, in reality, compose a physically and politically dominant entity.

It seems the groups with the most power — legal, military and otherwise — are often the ones most eager to suggest that they are in dire need to defend themselves, that they have no choice but to load up their weapons and fight the good fight. This is exactly what’s happening in Palestine and has been happening there for over a century.

The link between the Israeli military and the American police force is both a literal one — many American police officers — and an ideological one. Both exercise their human rights abuses under the guise of self-defense and behind the shield of extensive legal protection.

On Oct. 7, Hamas’s attack killed 1,200 Israelis. In the eight months that have followed, Israel has killed . Where American police are protected by the state’s right to violent force, the Israeli government is protected by the , who offer Israel — but never Palestine — member status in the United Nations and who have long funded and sent weapons to Israel to subjugate the Middle East in an effort to advance their and .

So what does it mean for institutions and nations so comparatively dominating to their opponents to act in “self-defense?” 

What does it mean when, to defend themselves, the police extrajudicially kill over 12,000 people over the course of a decade? When they brutalize and every year? When a mere were convicted of murder between 2005 and 2020?

What does it mean when, to defend themselves, the Zionist movement backed by the British army killed thousands of rebelling Palestinians ? When newly-established Israel seized control of 78% of Palestine , killing 15,000 Palestinians and displacing over 700,000 more? When Israel struck first and decimated its neighboring Arab states , killing nearly 20,000 Arabs in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, once again displacing thousands of Palestinian refugees? When they oversaw the Lebanese Forces slaughtering the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982, murdering another 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians? When 1,500 people in Palestine in the First Intifada and another 3,000 in the second? When today, they relentlessly bomb the Gaza Strip with of explosives and ceasefire deals even when they disproportionately benefit Israel?

What does it mean when an injustice grows so old that the people responsible die before facing judgment? 

These entities are not defending themselves for their safety. In fact, they are not defending themselves at all. Institutions with such an enormous degree of diplomatic and militaristic power are far safer from danger than the ordinary civilians who must live down the barrel of their guns.

What they are defending is the frightening image of themselves as a force that can and will crush any possible threat to their authority.

They are defending the quickened heart rate of a pulled-over driver, who knows he could be whose lives end at a traffic stop that year. They are defending the hesitation to organize a new Palestinian resistance that might mean the loss of a friend or a mother or a child or everyone.

And still, after Derek Chauvin of police in 2020, Americans rose up in droves to challenge the police force across the nation. And each time the Palestinians suffer a crippling loss of life and land, they still reorganize and fight for their freedom knowing that one day, after over a century of resistance, things might finally end differently.

So when we ask who has the right to defend themselves, we must first ask who has the right to violence. We must ask who can act without consequence and who is willing to deliver blows more deadly and destructive than their target is physically capable of delivering back.

The entities who hold a share in the monopoly on violence are rarely interested in self-preservation. They are interested in the preservation of fear, the preservation of submission and the preservation of a social order in which they will never have to think about what it’s like to be on the other end of their guns.

Thomas Riley writes about politics, language and campus happenings. Email them at [email protected].

׿ the Contributor
Thomas Riley
Thomas Riley, Opinions Editor
Thomas Riley is a junior double major in Politics and Philosophy and English Writing. They enjoy all things comedy and love to satirize current events and student life in their own writing. You can catch them procrastinating in Hillman, reading in Cathy or dreading a required economics course in Lawrence. Share your own opinions or sell them CDs by emailing