Source: Socialist Spirit
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Protectors of Society”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 2
|“The Protectors of Society.” Socialist Spirit Oct. 1901 v1n2: pp. 8-9.|
|McKinley assassination (government response: criticism); anarchism (compared with police tactics); police department (Chicago, IL).|
|William S. Devery.|
The Protectors of Society
It is instructive to have a look occasionally not only at the military machine
which professedly is for the protection of society against enemies from the
outside, but at the civil machine which is assumed to protect it from enemies
on the inside.
American policemen have not appeared to distinguished advantage during recent critical days. If anarchy is what they declare it to be—contempt for law—there is enough of it in the police  force to bespeak attention. The police have violated every law of nation and state intended to conserve the right of the individual against unjust treatment; arresting and throwing innocent people into jail at their own sweet will. From contemplating the temper of the “lovers of law and order,” however, it is evident that the lawlessness of the police may in the case of the Chicago anarchists have done a real service. Thus good sometimes comes out of evil.
The anarchists on the police force, by unlawfully confining the anarchists from Carroll avenue, saved the latter from the violence of the anarchists among the “good citizens” who wanted to lynch somebody—innocent or guilty, it mattered little.
It will not serve greatly to lessen the anarchists’ contempt for government that at the very time of their incarceration and insulting examinations by those who were anxious to fasten a crime of conspiracy upon them, their accusers themselves were about to undergo investigation for connivance with saloons and houses of ill fame to rob the city, otherwise organized society, of its share of the annual plunder of these social aids to public morality. The arrest and examination of Deputy Commissioner Devery of New York at the same time, and the public exposition of his vileness, is a fitting accompaniment to the Chicago police investigation. It serves to put the police into a class by themselves, a very vulgar and disreputable class, indeed.
And it is by no means remarkable that this is so. The indifference of those good citizens who love “law and order” leaves every great city at the mercy of the political vultures who are driven to prey upon society by the business methods of the good citizens themselves. When a man is driven out of business he usually goes into politics. Most men if they cannot live honestly will live as thieves, and under the present complexion of society a political existence is precarious; it is easy to be a thief and hard to be honest. Forced out of their legitimate occupations by capitalistic monopoly of opportunity, there gradually accumulates about the city hall of every municipality a horde of job-seeking, hungry men, who will do anything to gain a living. These are the heelers and other human driftwood which see that the elections go “right,”—in the interest of the machine. Payment for this service is rendered by the machine in jobs in public employment. The police force is recruited from the ranks of the faithful.
It is thus that we make the dregs of a vicious society the guardians of the moral and physical welfare of such society.