From the Walls to the Skin: The Evolution of ACAB and 1312 as a Catchphrase

Author: Eric Sof

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ACAB and 1312 are acronyms, and catchphrases often used to oppose unethical police behavior. These terms are frequently found in graffiti, tattoos, and other graphic imagery as a means of protest. While ACAB stands for “All Cops Are Bastards,” the term 1312 is less well-known and unclear. It is important to note that these phrases are often used to express anger and frustration. Still, they do not contribute to constructive dialogue or solutions to issues with law enforcement. It is important to approach discussions about sensitive topics like this respectfully and professionally.

History

The first public appearance of the acronym ACAB was in 1977 when a journalist from Newcastle spent the night in prison. Eric Partridge documented the acronym written on the prison walls in his book “The Dictionary of Catchphrases.” It is noted in the book that the abbreviation dates back to the early 1970s, although the whole meaning of the words it represents (All Cops Are Bastards) comes from the 1920s. In the 1980s, the British punk band the 4 Skins popularized the acronym through their song of the same name.

I’ll sing you a song, it’s not very long: all coppers are bastards.”

Partridge first heard the phrase in the 1920s as part of the song

According to Eric Partridge’s knowledge, the phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” had been in use among professional criminals for at least a generation before the publication of his book. Since then, the acronym ACAB has been widely used to represent this phrase.

What is ACAB?

The catchphrase “All Cops Are Bastards” is often incorporated into prison tattoos in the United Kingdom. It is typically written on the fingers, one letter per finger, or as small dots on each finger. In modern politics, the acronym ACAB is used by all sides as a way of saying, “All Cops Are Bastards.” It is also commonly used by football fans around the world.

The acronym ACAB is trendy among sports fans, especially football fans and those involved in the ULTRAS culture. It is not uncommon to see graffiti, t-shirts, and other football hooligan gear adorned with this acronym and other symbols to express anger towards police and law enforcement. In this context, the acronym often shows defiance and resistance against authority.

ACAB - All Cops Are Bastards graffiti
ACAB means All Cops Are Bastards. To define bastardized in this context means corrupted or devalued. (Photo: XY)

What is 1312?

In the past, using the acronym ACAB in public was often illegal in many countries. As a result, football fans developed an alternative way of expressing the same sentiment. The new acronym 1312, which stands for “All Cops Are Bastards,” was created to bypass these laws. The numbers 1, 3, 1, and 2 represent the letters A, C, A, and B in the English alphabet.

What ACAB or 1312 acronym stands for?
Meaning of 1312: ACAB is sometimes numerically rendered as 1312, representing the letters’ ordering in the English alphabet. (Photo: XY)

Today, symbols like ACAB are illegal in most European countries and are considered minor offenses. Displaying these symbols is considered inappropriate and may be seen as inciting riots. You may find more information on this topic in this website’s frequently asked questions section.

From London to the United States

In 2020, the phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” gained renewed attention after a series of incidents worldwide. The term became more widely known, from protests in the United States to graffiti on the Winston Churchill statue in London. The public outrage and anger at police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in mid-2020 brought the phrase to the forefront in the United States.

During the mass protests that followed, “ACAB” and “1312” (an alternative acronym with the same meaning) were commonly used slogans by those who opposed the police. The phrase and acronym were frequently referenced on social media, and products bearing the acronym became widely available.

Protests against police in the United States following the death of the George Floyd, an Afroamerican killed by police in 2020
Protests against police in the United States following George Floyd’s death, an Afroamerican killed by police in 2020. (Photo: XY)

Four simple words or numbers (in the case of 1312) are all that protesters need to express their disdain for centuries of police brutality and political persecution. The phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” has become a universal anti-police slogan used worldwide, regardless of political background or language is spoken. It has become a way for people to show solidarity against the abuse of power and authority.

Conclusion

It is important to recognize that not all police officers are corrupt or engage in police brutality. Generalizations about entire groups of people are harmful and have contributed to many societal problems. Just like it is wrong to say that all black people are bad, all Mexicans are illegal, or all Muslims are extremists, it is also wrong to say that all police officers are bastards. While police brutality is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, calling all police officers bastards is not a productive way of expressing our feelings.

Many honest, hardworking, and dedicated police officers do not deserve to be lumped in with the few who engage in abusive behavior. Individuals should be judged on their merits and actions, not on stereotypes or name-calling based on their profession, race, nationality, or religion. It is important to remember to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and not make assumptions about them.

Anger and aggression often lead to more anger and aggression, and when people are constantly stressed and angry, they may take it out on those around them. It is not helpful to create a situation where police officers are constantly being called bastards and are likely to be carrying around a lot of pent-up emotions. We should strive for a more constructive and respectful way of addressing problems and working towards solutions.

Police are good guys, never forget that
Police are good guys; never forget that (Photo: XY)

ACAB is a form of discrimination that is similar to racism. While it is not right to hate all police officers just because a minority engages in bad behavior, it is also not correct to discriminate against them. It is not fair to say that all police officers are bad people just because they work within a system that may have flaws. Police officers have one of the most important jobs in the world, and they deserve to be appreciated for their work. They risk their lives to protect the public and keep communities safe, and this often goes underappreciated.

While it is true that not all police officers are good people, the vast majority of them contribute significantly to society and should not be overlooked because of the actions of a few bad cops. It is important to remember that hate begets hate. It is better to find constructive ways of addressing problems and working towards solutions rather than engaging in hatred and discrimination.

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10 thoughts on “From the Walls to the Skin: The Evolution of ACAB and 1312 as a Catchphrase”

  1. You have an inaccuracy here. While the way police treated George Floyd was appalling they didn’t kill him. The medical examiner said he died of a drug overdose and late video released from the incident shows him gasping for air and repeating I can’t breathe long before police abused him. Pretty typical of a fentanyl overdose.

  2. Odd that you say George Floyd wasn’t killed by that cop – considering he was found guilty of murder for his actions and the medical examination said he died of asphyxiation and NO Where did it say he died of a drug overdose. You are a liar.

  3. Even the ‘good’ cops support and cover for the ‘bad’ cops.

    They should all be held to a higher standard. Even one ‘occasional’ bad cop is just too much.

    What if your airline pilot was having a bad day and decided today it was OK to ram the plane into a mountain?

    Doesn’t happen. Why? We hold them to a higher standard than the average person.

    Cops are in the same position, but, they don’t live up to it. so, ACAB is appropriate. For all of them.

  4. I was over here thinking that this was a good article because the guy possibly believed in acab then he’s over here talking about how cops are good and that we shouldn’t think like that fuck that ACAB

  5. ACAB is perhaps more of a reaction to the abuse of power of some who wear the badge. just like with doctors who do more harm than good lose their license, perhaps there needs to be more accountability for the police who are found to have harmed the public who they are supposed to serve and protect, not just control and suspect. until there is a systematic way to improve the relationship between innocent civilians and the police who continue to find the need to use violence and sometimes kill unnecessarily people who have done no crime, the calling of names will continue. bullies with badges and guns cannot beat their way to being respected even if it may be only a few cops. they may not be their brother’s keeper but if they stay silent on bad cop’s behaviors, they deserve to carry the title.

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