Who profits?

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Four tipis and a campfire in the foreground on the National Mall at dusk with the Washington Monument, an obelisk, lit up in the background.
Sioux Water Protectors set up their tipis on the Mall in Washington D.C. in March 2017 as a staging ground for a march and rally after their eviction from Standing Rock, where their protests against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline had been met with violent and militarised police repression. Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian.

 

Militarised policing works in favour of those who are already powerful. As in Bahrain, it is used to quell dissent and crush protest. It keeps those lower down the social order in their place. Gizele Martins describes how when the favelas of Rio de Janiero were occupied by the army in 2014 and 2015, one soldier was sent in for every fifty-five inhabitants. The state, which had never seen fit to provide the same ratio of teachers or doctors, was willing to spend vast sums of money to maintain its control. It maintains colonial occupations such as the occupation of Palestine by Israel or West Papua by Indonesia. Militarised policing protects the interests of the capitalist, imperialist elite: their financial institutions and sites of power, their factories and shops and the mines, quarries and pipelines that they use to extract natural resources that do not belong to them from land that is not theirs. It protects their ability to exploit and harm the environment and profit from the labour of others.

Sandra Hargreaves of WoMin, a regional alliance of African women that organises in extractives-impacted communities and regions, observes that “militarisation and securitisation sit hand in glove with the extractive industries… violence is intrinsic to and inseparable from the extractive industries and extractivism as a development model” (Hargreaves, 2016). Escobal silver mine in Guatemala was met with community opposition from the outset. Tahoe Resources – the Canadian company that owns the mine – hired companies set up and run by veterans of the U.S. military and the Israeli Special Forces to develop a security strategy and administer security. In April 2013, security guards shot at a group of men holding a protest at the entrance of the mine, injuring at least ten, and shortly afterwards a month-long state of siege was declared by the Guatemalan government who brought in over three thousand police and soldiers to the area, targeting community activists with house raids and arrests (War Profiteer of the Month: Tahoe Resources, 2016).

Militarised policing also directly benefits those who profit from the provision of privatised security services and the sale of militarised equipment and training to police forces around the world. The homeland security industry has grown at 5% annually since 2008 despite a worldwide recession (Buxton and Hayes, 2016). The border security market “is booming”, predicted to rise from 15 billion euros in Europe in 2015 to 29 billion euros by 2022. Many of the beneficiaries of border security contracts are “some of the biggest arms sellers to the Middle-East and North-Africa, fuelling the conflicts in the region that have led refugees to flee their homes”. The potential for the untapped profit to be made from fighting a low-intensity war with no end is a push factor in the ongoing militarisation of policing. Arms companies such as Thales, Finmeccanica and Airbus have successfully lobbied the European Union (through the European Organisation for Security) in to pursuing a more militaristic border security agenda with the creation of the European Border and Coastguard Agency being a notable result (Border Wars, 2016).

Some sectors of society benefit from militarised policing more than others. These are white or otherwise racially dominant and non-marginalised groups. Unlikely to suffer directly from its negative effects, they feel protected at the expense of others and are often supportive of the process of militarisation. The desire to live in security is innate in all human beings and the narrative of a need for better security is a hard one to counter. “The idea that the world is a dangerous place” is one which “makes militarism seem reasonable” (Enloe, 2016). A constant narrative of threat propels a ceaseless quest for the elusive goal of ‘security’ and an increasingly militarised police force holds out the attractive promise of an easy and reassuring solution. The question of what security actually means is obscured. Instead of being repelled by the creeping militarisation on their streets, fear is used by the powerful elites to gain popular consent for the augmentation of their means of violent control. Communities, with their fears and suspicions nurtured, are divided and turn on each other instead of challenging the power of the elite. Ultimately, the elite profit whilst the majority are condemned to living in an increasingly violent, paranoid and divided world.

In Canada, eleven indigenous Guatemalan women are in the process of taking a multinational mining company to court. The women allege that in 2007, police officers, soldiers, and private security personnel attacked their village of Lote Ocho, in eastern Guatemala, and burned dozens of homes in a bid to drive the community from their ancestral land.

The visible face of police militarisation is the use of militarised equipment and body armour; of sniper rifles and tanks facing down protesters in Ferguson, United States, and of heavily armoured vehicles patrolling the streets of the favelas of Rio de Janiero. But such conspicuous militarisation is merely a symptom – an end-product – of a militarised mindset that sees those being policed not as members of a community in need of protection but as a threat.

Xstrata, a UK-registered company part of Glencore plc (an Anglo–Swiss commodity trading and mining company) is in court in London accused of hiring the Peruvian National Police (PNP) to oppress environmental protesters who were demonstrating against the Tintaya copper mine in a remote region of the Andes in 2012.

The eviction of the Calais "jungle" migrant camp took place in early November 2016, and saw thousands of migrants who had gathered in the port town moved across France. The camp had become one of the best-known examples of how free movement in Europe is only an option for some, and shows us how a militarised border regime functions. New research by the Calais Research Network has found over 40 companies profiting from security guards, walls and fences, border technology, deportation and detention systems, police support, and police weaponry.

Ferrovial is a Spanish multinational company, with a broad range of interests - they are involved in the construction of the Gugenheim Museum in Bilbao, the construction of the M3 motorway in Ireland, and manage toll roads across Europe. Ferrovial owns 90% of the company Broadspectrum, which runs Australia's offshore immigration detention centres in Papua New Guinea.

Samantha Hargreaves from WoMin - an African gender and extractives alliance - speaks to Andrew Dey from WRI about the links between gender, extractive industries and militarism in Africa, and what this new network is doing to counter it.

Militarism is guns, armored tanks and drones, but it’s also a state of mind. Militarised mentalities have permeated many police forces and amplified dramatically the force of police violence against our communities.

Tahoe Resources is a Canadian mining company. In mid-2010, Tahoe acquired the Escobal mine in southeast Guatemala from Goldcorp; Escobal is a 'high grade silver' mine, and also contains gold, lead and zinc. Some analysts believe it to be one of the biggest silver mines in the world. The Escobal mine is approximately 40km southeast of Guatemala City, and 3km from San Rafael los Flores.

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