August 14, 2014

Police militarize to stop protests

The events in Ferguson have shed an ugly light on America the police state:

All hell has broken loose: When law enforcement is law and order’s biggest threat

The debacle in Ferguson represents a near-total breakdown of our civic institutions. Here's why that's so scary

By Simon Maloy
The circumstances leading up to the fatal shooting last weekend of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Missouri police officers are in dispute. Police officers maintain that Brown attacked officers and tried to seize one of their weapons. An eyewitness to the event describes something more along the lines of an execution of a frightened and unarmed man running for his life. All that’s known for certain is that Brown is dead, and he died at the hands of the cops.

Since the fatal shots were fired, all hell has broken loose, leading up to the surreal and horrifying spectacle that unfolded in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, last night as police in military gear transformed an American city into something approximating a war zone. What we’ve witnessed in Brown’s shooting and in the days that followed has been an almost complete breakdown, from bottom to top, of the civil institutions we empower to protect our rights and maintain order.

The police force operating in Ferguson is clearly out of control. Even if you were to buy the official explanation that Brown’s shooting was the result of a physical confrontation with officers, every action taken by law enforcement in the aftermath of the incident has served to undermine their own credibility and destabilize an already volatile situation. The identity of the officer who shot Brown is still being withheld, an act the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rightly describes as a violation of “every principle of transparency recommended by law enforcement experts.”

In response to the ongoing protests over Brown’s killing and sporadic incidences of looting, the police have made it their policy to escalate tensions further by decking out SWAT officers as soldiers, arming themselves to the teeth, pointing high-powered rifles at unarmed protesters, spraying protesters with rubber bullets, firing tear gas indiscriminately in residential neighborhoods, roughing up and arresting journalists, and shooting gas canisters at television crews. Acts of lawlessness and thuggish intimidation like these are typically practiced by state police forces in authoritarian regimes.

The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of Ferguson

By Glenn GreenwaldThe intensive militarization of America’s police forces is a serious menace about which a small number of people have been loudly warning for years, with little attention or traction. In a 2007 paper on “the blurring distinctions between the police and military institutions and between war and law enforcement,” the criminal justice professor Peter Kraska defined “police militarization” as “the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model.”

The harrowing events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri–the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Mike Brown, and the blatantly excessive and thuggish response to ensuing community protests from a police force that resembles an occupying army–have shocked the U.S. media class and millions of Americans. But none of this is aberrational.

It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public.

As is true for most issues of excessive and abusive policing, police militarization is overwhelmingly and disproportionately directed at minorities and poor communities, ensuring that the problem largely festers in the dark. Americans are now so accustomed to seeing police officers decked in camouflage and Robocop-style costumes, riding in armored vehicles and carrying automatic weapons first introduced during the U.S. occupation of Baghdad, that it has become normalized. But those who bear the brunt of this transformation are those who lack loud megaphones; their complaints of the inevitable and severe abuse that results have largely been met with indifference.

If anything positive can come from the Ferguson travesties, it is that the completely out-of-control orgy of domestic police militarization receives long-overdue attention and reining in.

Release the officer’s name: It’s time to stop shielding Michael Brown’s killer

Michael Brown, now dead, has no anonymity. His past will be excavated. What about the cop who shot him?

By Rich Benjamin
It’s a mordant case of déjà vu, this willful ignorance on our leaders’ parts. Why hasn’t the 2012 Aurora shooting and the 2012 Newtown massacre forced us all to confront the illusory sense of safety in our communities?

With “Regeneration Through Violence,” “The Fatal Environment,” “Gunfighter Nation,” Richard Slotkin delivered a masterful historical trilogy on this country’s long-standing love affair with vigilantism, cruelty and gun violence. Read carefully and Slotkin’s masterwork offers trenchant insight into these shootings, alongside the racist vitriol documented by George Zimmerman and certain cops. The penetrating trilogy uniquely exposes the ugly, barbed issues at work, from the colonial era on.

Today, the questions remain: How will law enforcement maintain “justice” in a country getting browner by the day? And in a nation that feels the need to “regenerate” itself through violence? What will this country do to keep young people safe?

Our violent frontier myth dominates our politics and culture, from the Pentagon to the trenches of local policing. We remain a gunfighter nation. From Trayvon to the kids in Newtown to Michael Brown, young people are vulnerable to mentally ill or paranoid or racist adults wielding guns. Sadly, Michael’s parents’ pain serves as a blunt reminder of who writes our laws, who enforces our laws, and the very presumptions guiding our laws.
More Fergusons are coming: Why paramilitary hysteria is dooming America

It's time for officials to stop feigning surprise at what's happening in Missouri. They've created a total monster

Comment:  Ferguson-style attacks previously occurred during the civil rights movement, the labor riots, the Indian Wars, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the War of 1812 and the Trail of Tears, and so on back to the earliest onslaught.

As always, it's about dominance and subjugation. Euro-Americans will do anything to keep themselves in power. "Savages on the warpath! Shoot to kill!" has been the cry of white people justifying their actions ever since 1492.

Some tweets on the subject:

Kam'ayaam @Kamayaam · Aug 14
Notice to shocked liberal-middle-left-citizens: Your country is BUILT on stolen land, slave labour & state violence. This is not new to us.

Eve Tuck @tuckeve · Aug 14
The rationale for using force against protesters is always the protection of private property; property is made via settler colonialism...

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