“Real Life Superheroes”: Up with Costumes, Down with Crime on the Streets of Seattle
From an actual story in the actual news:
Green Reaper, Penelope, Thorn, Thunder 88, Buster Doe, No Name, Catastrophe, Gemini and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. These are the names of the costumed superheros who are now patrolling our city, ensuring your safety… I know. We’re excited too.
The PI reports late on Thursday that a group of masked vigilantes calling themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement has been patrolling Seattle streets for a few weeks now. They wear costumes, they ride around in a Kia at night looking for trouble and occasionally, they get stabbed. Seattle Police think they’re silly at best, dangerous at worst. They cite cases where one darkly clad crusader was nearly shot when he came running out of a park in the middle of the night, or when a woman saw a bunch of costumed freaks pull up to a gas station and thought they were there to rob the place.
“Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle” seems to be the one member that the cops and the media have the most info on–and still, it’s not much. We know he’s a 22-year-old man who met with police at the station last month in near full regalia: black cape, blue tights, black fedora, white belt and mask. He’d have brought the rest of his gear, he told them, but it was being repaired after he got stabbed trying to break up a drug buy. But don’t worry. Jones tells the PI that he and his squad are professionals.
“I don’t condone people walking around on the street with masks. Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background, and we’re well aware of what its costs to do what we do.”
The crew appears to draw a lot of its marching orders from real life super heros dot org. That’s right, dot org. Also, another site noted by the police has an actual “manual” for becoming a super hero. It’s packed with info on picking out fly crime fighting “threads” and weapons, assembling a kick-ass utility belt, keeping your “hero health” in tip-top shape and finding pressure points on your enemies that will render them incapacitated.
Nowhere on the site are any tips for finding a girlfriend [or boyfriend?] or holding down a job.
It’s not clear how the Rain City Superhero Movement is alerted to crimes. They may have police scanners, they may have inside sources, or simply internet access to the Seattle Police Dpt blog. They don’t, at this point, have a skyward pointed spotlight of any kind or a direct line to Mayor McGinn.
But they do have our attention. And it’s likely that that’s all they wanted in the first place.
Okay, so at first glance… kinda bad-ass, if you can get past the LARP feeling of it (Life Action Role Play). But I have something to say here, and its a critique simultaneously of these Puget Sound vigilantes, and of Batman, the Justice League, and some of Marvel’s “crime fighters”. And thats this:
who the fuck decided that these things were “crimes”?
Minor drug possession? Vandalism? Petty drug deals? I’m sorry, but feeling some-kinda-way about the Prison Industrial Complex, I’m actually more invested in de-criminalizing this bullshit than reinforcing the cops, let alone beating people up, who 98% of the time are poor and brown and probably desperate.
If owning-class men with the means to buy utility belt gadgets felt like hunting down “criminals” outside of the system, why not pick up the slack of the police, and chase after white-collar criminals? Its pretty widely agreed (especially in the wake of ENRON, Bernie Madoff, toxic loans, and mortgage scams, though thats clearly the tip of a melty iceburg), that corporate crime is the most rampant and most severe crime and has the lowest rate of crime-busting! Go kick some ass, LA
If you want to make me feel more safe, I’d love it if you could storm board meetings, planning commissions, law offices- hell the police department itself, and bring some real justice into the picture. In the mean time, how about everyday people take everyday steps to learn more about community accountability and transformative justice so we can more effectively end violent neighborhood drug circuits, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and workplace harassment. These are things that we are more than capable of handling in-house (thank you very much, but you can be on your way officer), and even be stronger as a result of it.
If there’s one take-home lesson from these bold (if politically uncritical) costumed warriors, its that we don’t need to sit around waiting for the state (in the form of courts, cops, jails, and inadequate public defenders), to make our communities safer. We can step up and do that ourselves by practicing restorative justice and even transformative justice. Indeed, community responses that sideline punitive/ retributive measures are quite possibly the only thing that will make our neighborhoods into better places.
Up up and Away,
oh, also (PS) the superhero manual has a page about women’s self defense including eye gouge techniques and stuff. Guess what? Anyone of any gender can read it (if they can read english)!