Take a look at this picture:
I’m old enough to remember this kind of image being routine from news stories from Central and South America or the Eastern Block countries. We used to see those images as the disgrace of these dictatorships, where they have to point their armies at their citizens in order to maintain their power.
That picture is from Ferguson. This St. Louis suburb can afford to equip its police as if they were an occupying army. And they are delivering on the authoritarian behavior of an occupying army.
And you can’t make an argument about danger or threats, either. The people in Ferguson are mostly standing and standing with their hands up. Besides, Cliven Bundy and his crew were armed to the teeth and never faced this kind of occupying force — even though they deserved it. Apparently the American rule is that standing up to mis-applied authority is that only white people can do it and can be called patriotic for it.
Elon James White went to Ferguson to report and he has pictures of being blocked from the protesters:
Then there’s the FAA banning low-flying aircraft over Ferguson, mainly so that the media can’t film it.
I can’t provide any better commentary on this business than this piece from Deadspin — America is Not for Black People. READ IT. Every word of it. This is nothing but truth.
There are reasons why white gun’s rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children’s toys. Guns aren’t for black people, either.
Right. And I’ll go further and observe that all of those guns are specifically meant to be pointed at black people. Then this:
Part of the reason we’re seeing so many black men killed is that police officers are now best understood less as members of communities, dedicated to keeping peace within them, than as domestic soldiers. The drug war has long functioned as a full-employment act for arms dealers looking to sell every town and village in the country on the need for military-grade hardware, and 9/11 made things vastly worse, with local police departments throughout America grabbing for cash to better defend against any and all terrorist threats. War had reached our shores, we were told, and police officers needed weaponry to fight it.
Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It’s a constant complaint from what remains of this country’s civil liberties caucus. Just this last June, the ACLU issued a report on how police departments now possess arsenals in need of a use. Few paid attention, as usually happens.
The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.
If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.
Then ask yourself why people might not cooperate with the police.
But more than that, the business of standing up to tyranny is supposed to be part of every American’s civic DNA. Except when black and brown people do it, it is a threat to social order. Which is why Cliven Bundy and that guy who flew his plane into the IRS building in Texas get to be heroes and the people of Ferguson trying to get some basic justice for one decent kid are facing storm troopers.
Of course the system is trying to protect the police shooter — they won’t release his name and they are claiming to be performing its own investigation. The ACLU has filed an action to get the man’s name and the Anonymous group has been working from tapes of the scanner communication to ID the officer. They think they’ve ID’ed him and his name is now being floated around twitter.