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Abstract

In 2016, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke sought to establish a city ordinance that would extend hate-crime protections to law enforcement officials. The result of similar laws in places such as New Orleans has been harsher penalties for crimes committed against a newly established “special victim” category of police officers (Chang, “What Does the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Ordinance Really Mean?” Chicago Magazine, 2016). The ordinance—popularly referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance, in reference to its affront to Black Lives Matter—is just one example among many that shows the entanglements of power, privilege, and vulnerability that inhere in group claims for legal protection from the state on the basis of marginalized status. Even legislation that is initially created under the guise of protecting those most vulnerable—rather than protecting policemen who wield power over such vulnerable groups---is often enforced by punitive state forces. This creates hierarchies of risk and violence as opposed to methods of harm prevention and response. The tendency to rely on harsher punishments to deter harm effectively results in an expansion of the system of law enforcement. This system disproportionately targets those who are most likely to experience violence, either at the hands of police or otherwise.

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