The year 2022 was internationally accompanied by many incidents of massive violence perpetrated by the police. The police played a central role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the suppression of protests in Russia, in the protests against the regime in Iran, and in the anti-Zero Covid protests in China. The means used by the Executive differed in form and quality from country to country. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the powers of police forces around the world are very broad and, to a large extent, are actually used against the populations of individual countries. This can be seen as a direct consequence of the global militarization and equipping of the police with euqipment for counterinsurgency and warfare.
For this reason, we take a look at the past year 2022. We would like to use a few examples to show that police violence is part of many people's everyday lives, but that there is also resistance in many places against a police force that often acts violently and disproportionately. The article does not claim to provide a complete overview of police violence and the global protests against it. Rather, it is meant to illustrate that there are efforts around the world to set limits to an executive that is becoming increasingly authoritarian and equipped with more and more powers and equipment.
Protests against the government in Iran
There have been popular uprisings in Iran for months, sparked by the murder of Jina Amini (Mahsa Amini). On 16.09.2022, the 22-year-old, who comes from the province of Kurdistan, was arrested in Tehran by the morality police. The reason for this was her too loose-fitting hijab, which, according to the strict Islamic dress code for women, must completely cover the hair. She died a short time later as a result of the violence perpetrated by the police officers. Her Kurdish name, Jina, was not recognized by the state authorities, which is why it is often referred to as Mahsa Amini.
As a result of her murder, the first protests took place in the capital Tehran on Sept. 19, 2022, which quickly spread and covered the entire country. The reaction of police, Revolutionary Guards and militias to the protests was marked by great brutality from the very beginning, with many people shot dead or otherwise injured by the use of firearms and tear gas so far. Many protesters have been arrested and tortured in the course of their detention. So far, more than 500 people have been killed and about 18,000 people have been detained. Among those killed are 69 children. Many of those arrested are sentenced to heavy sentences in show trials, and so far 2 death sentences have been carried out by executions by the Iranian judiciary.
The protests are under the slogan Jin, Jian Azadi! or Zan, Zendegi, Azadi! (Woman, Life, Freedom!). This solgan has become central to protest movements outside Iran as well. Removing the headscarf and cutting off one's hair have also become signs of women's protest against the repressive regime in Iran. Social struggles in the form of demonstrations and strikes are taking place not only in Kurdish areas but throughout the country.
The police continue to use harsh means against the demonstrating people to suppress the protests. Violence by the police, military and other executive forces is systematically used to enable the regime under President Raisi and Ayatollah Khamenei to stay in power. In this process, the police act as an actor equipped with military equipment such as vehicles, firearms and other surveillance technology.
Anti-Zero-Covid Protests in the People's Republic of China
In the People's Republic of China, a very strict Zero-Covid policy has been followed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. As a result, in April 2022, for example, more than 25 million people in Shanghai had to spend several weeks in a complete lockdown.
In addition to the lockdowns of entire cities and regions, forced quarantine, mass testing, monitoring through a Covid app, and access restrictions to public facilities, stores, and public transportation were part of the daily lives of many Chinese people. Some of these measures went beyond those used in Germany, for example, to combat the pandemic.
In October 2022, a Covid outbreak occurred in the city of Zhengzhou, Henan Province. At the largest Foxconn factory (Foxconn is a supplier of semiconductors to Apple) with 200,000 people, the police cordoned off the factory premises, and about 100,000 people managed to escape from the sealed-off factory. However, when Covid outbreaks occurred again at the factory in November 2022, there were large protests and clashes between the workers and the police, with about 8 workers dying and 20,000 workers fleeing the factory again.
Strict lockdowns were also applied in western China's Xinjiang province. In November 2022, an apartment fire occurred in the city of Urumqi, killing 10 people who were unable to leave the locked-down apartment block. Among other incidents, this incident triggered a large wave of protests that took place in many cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, and so on. Many thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding an end to lockdowns, mass testing, surveillance, and strict Zero Covid policy. The Chinese Communist Party's response to the protests was a massive deployment of police. Arrests, use of pepper spray and physical force, checks of cell phones for suspicious photos, videos, VPNs, apps, and police visits to individuals' homes took place. The high police presence initially managed to prevent further protests, and the Zero-Covid policy was largely lifted by the Chinese Communist Party on Dec. 7, 2022.
Murder of journalist Romelson Vilsaint in Haiti
After the assassination of Haiti's president in 2021 in a country shaken by ongoing protests, large protests against the consequences of the economic crisis, against the government and against Prime Minister Ariel Henry took place in Haiti again this year.
During the protests, but also in other situations, attacks on journalists and activists by police and paramilitary groups increased. A total of 8 journalists were killed in Haiti in 2022.
Violence occurs during arbitrary arrests by police, use of firearms and people being shot or killed, tear gas and pepper spray being used against protesters.
During a protest in front of a police station, the journalist Romelson Vilsaint from the radio station Télé Zenith was killed by police officers on October 30, 2022. He was hit in the head by a tear gas grenade fired by the police and died of his injuries in hospital. Vilsaint had gone to the police station to protest the arbitrary arrest of journalist Dimanche Robeste and four other people.
A few days later, on 05.11.2022, Fritz Dorilas, co-host of the program " Legal, Law and Justice" was shot dead.
The following other journalists were murdered: Tess Gary of Radio Lebon FM, Frantzsen Charles of FS News and Tayson Lartigue of Tijén Journalis, Maxihen Lazarre of Rois de Infos and Wilguens Louissant and Amady John Wesley of Radio Écoute FM.
In response to this ongoing series of killings, a protest by dozens of journalists took place in mid-November in the capital Port-au-Prince against the ongoing violence in front of a police station. The attack on press freedom and the intimidation of media workers and journalists who report on the social protests comes from the police with the intention of removing the breeding ground for the protests themselves by no longer reporting on them and the social grievances. The fact that this creates a climate in which it is life-threatening for a journalist to publish an article is unfortunately accepted.
Kill the Bill - Protests in Great Britain
On April 26, 2022, the Police and Crime Bill was passed in the United Kingdom. It is the British government's answer to the social protests that have been going on in the United Kingdom for years. Among others, there were protests for climate protection by the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) in 2018 - 2021. In spring 2020, the Black Lives Matter protests took place in the UK. The protests saw brutal police interventions after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled into the Bristol city harbor on June 07, 2020.
In addition, blockades of highways under the slogan "Insulate Britain" (Isolate Britain) have taken place since September 2021.
On the one hand, the law gives the Home Secretary more powers; on the other hand, there are more measures to restrict peaceful protests. A new criminal offense, "causing public disturbance," which applies, for example, to demonstrations that are too loud, was introduced and can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. The restrictions of the right to demonstrate by the police are designed in such a way that the police can determine the start and end time of demonstrations and the noise level.
Police violence also occurred in March 2021 at a vigil in Clapham Common park against police violence and violence against women in London following the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard. She was abducted, raped and murdered by a police officer. Following these protests, there were further clashes between protesters and police in Bristol, with violent arrests of many protesters.
Protests against the Police and Crime Bill continued throughout the whole year of 2021.
In January 2022, demonstrations took place in many cities, e.g. London, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and many more, with thousands of participants, all defending the freedom of assembly and demonstration under the slogan "Kill The Bill". The bill is seen as an attack on democracy and freedom of assembly and expression. After passing through the British legislature, it came into force on 28.06.2022.