Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Rethinking Policing: The Pagan Model

As the city of Minneapolis, and the US as a whole, begin the process of rethinking what policing might look like in the wake of the unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the MPD, let me tell you a story from the Nights of the Burning.

Unlike my neighborhood, which the authorities—including the police—in effect abandoned to three nights of riot, looting, and arson, the Indigenous neighborhood here in Minneapolis saw very little destruction. Everyone agrees that this was thanks to the AIM (American Indian Movement) Patrol.

The AIM Patrol as we know it today originated in the Indigenous activism of the 60s, but its roots are firmly grounded in the old tribal models of self-policing.

It turns out that the stories that circulated locally attributing the protest-related arson to out-of-town assholes were correct. Only some of the arsonist assholes were, as bruited, White Supremacists, but all of them—of the ones that have been caught so far, anyway—were from somewhere else. Assholes drove in from all over the state—and from out of state—to burn other people's neighborhoods. Whatever their motivations, I think we can all agree that those who would do such things are, indubitably, assholes.

One night the AIM patrol caught some kids who had driven 100 miles from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, attempting to torch the Seward Co-op, a worker-owned and -operated neighborhood grocery.

The AIM patrol, armed only with baseball bats, stopped the kids and non-violently—I won't say there was no implied threat of violence—herded them into the middle of a parking lot.

Then, instead of calling the police, they called the kids' parents.

Good old community shaming. Always get the kin involved. The most efficient kind of policing is social pressure.

Whether or not they deserved it, those asshole kids from Eau Claire have the AIM Patrol to thank for keeping them out of the criminal justice system. They could be in jail right now getting their butts reamed out—not that they probably don't deserve it.

Indo-Europeanist Cei Serith always says, “When confronted with a new situation, first consult precedent.”

As we rethink the nature of policing in this country, let us not fail to examine the ways of the ancestors.

Thank you, AIM Patrol, for reminding us.


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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