In the tenth part of Night Watch, Vimes prepares for the revolution. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of police brutality.
So, I’m finally getting more details about what exactly happened to cause the “revolution” that Vimes has been referencing throughout the novel. Well… even saying that is complicated, isn’t it? Because what happened is now happening, so what’s the point of retracing those steps if Vimes’s presence in the past is going to alter the details? Still, I’m glad we’re getting something, especially since it helps build the tension. If these riots, which are a response to both the oppressive Winder regime and further transgressions from the Watch, unfold as they were supposed to, then a lot of people are going to die. (And, if I understand it right, this is how Keel originally died, too.) There’s the whole terrible variable (that rhymes!) in Carcer, and I don’t even know how that is gonna factor into everything. But as it stands, Vimes is trying to change parts of history by intervening.
Here, he returns to the Treacle Mine Road Watch House, calmly and collected, so that he can prepare for the inevitable onslaught. But I’m guessing this isn’t how it happened originally, right? Vimes makes reference to an “ambush,” and in the original timeline, Carcer wasn’t there. Had Keel waged a war with the Unmentionables, too? Or is that a new thing?
I suppose that isn’t the point. Pratchett might make references to what initially happened, but we are firmly grounded in the present here, y’all. And Vimes is determined for things to happen differently. Knowing that the mob is headed for his Watch house, he makes a critical decision: he isn’t going to hide. He isn’t going to have the other Watch men antagonize anyone. Instead, he works as hard as he can to humanize himself and the others, all while refusing to dismiss the legitimate concerns that these people have for the world around them. And that part is crucial: Why are these people reacting as they are?
That’s a question a lot of police forces could stand to examine, and I say this as someone who has experienced the negative ramifications of this lack of insight. Vimes’s internal narration points out how poor the reaction of the Watch was to the protestors and how that contributed to what eventually happened. I’ve seen the same dynamic unfold so many times in my life, and I’m sure that practically anyone who has protested has dealt with this frustrating reality of the police. I’ve made mention of it before, but I was at the 2007 May Day Protest in MacArthur Park when the LAPD lost all their motherfuckin’ sense and just started shooting rubber bullets into a crowd of thousands upon thousands of people. The official story is that they “warned” us to disperse after rocks were thrown at officers. Apparently, the crowd ignored them, but I was there. That warning never happened. Those of this in the middle of the park—the shooting started in the eastern end—simply heard the pops of guns firing, then saw the massive stampede heading our way. It was terrifying. I’ll never forget that image. And while that was not the first time I was harassed by the police in my life, it was the first time I’d gotten assaulted by a cop.
All of this is not to suggest that there isn’t such a thing as a mob mentality. It’s just a commentary on one element of protests. I admire that Vimes doesn’t demonize these people, even while he’s trying to protect the Watch house. And he does this all with an air of ease; he looks like he’s keeping his cool, even though he’s pushing down the panic inside of him. Seriously, let me acknowledge what he accomplishes here: he sets up multiple traps to catch members of the Cable Street Watch who are trying to infiltrate the Treacle Mine Road house to rescue their man. Then, he quickly and beautifully diffuses an entire mob. How? By visually reminding them all that the members of the Treacle Mine Road Watch House are all people that they know. He personalizes them. He makes them part of the community rather than antagonistic forces. And I know it seems simple on the surface, but there are so many people in the force who absolutely resistant to ever de-escalating situations. They are more concerned about power and control than anything else.
Look how well it works for Vimes. His Watch house is the only one that isn’t raided. All of the injured—which includes two Cable Street men and the man who cuts his hand while trying to smash a bottle—get treated by Doctor Lawn. There’s a sense of camaraderie and community in this neighborhood. Oh, and Havelock Vetinari ASSASSINATES SOMEONE TRYING TO ASSASSINATE VIMES. Y’all, what the fuck!!! So, even long before he becomes the Patrician, Vetinari is manipulating political and social events while being unseen. IT’S TOO MUCH. What the hell is he planning with his aunt???
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