If you didn’t believe we are living in a burgeoning police state before, the drama that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, last week should serve as a wake-up call.
On Aug. 9, a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the force, shot an unarmed 18-year-old Micheal Brown, who is black and who had his arms up. Wilson shot Brown multiple times.
As thousands of mostly peaceful people tried to exercise their First Amendment right of assembly to protest this travesty, the Ferguson Police Department declared war, and it came prepared. Cops turned the streets of Ferguson into a war zone. It looked like the Gaza Strip or Egypt’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring instead of a small town in middle America.
This is what happens when you militarize police forces. While the protesters of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s faced nightsticks and dogs, today’s peaceful protester must face a heavily armed military force.
Spotted in Ferguson — and keep in mind this is a police force in a small town of 21,000 people — were cops wearing gas masks, short-barreled rifles similar to the military’s M4, The MARPAT camouflage clothing used by the Marine Corps., Kevlar helmets with mounts for night vision devices, extra magazines for rifles and pistols, ESS ballistic goggles (standard issue for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan), smoke/flare/tear gas launchers with EOTech red dot sight, KA-BAR-style knives (standard issue for Marines), a mega-AR-15 rifle with 7.62 mm rounds and a Leupold long-range scope and armored vehicles similar to the military’s mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle.
These “soldiers” were using tear gas and firing rubber bullets to deprive the people of their constitutional rights.
If you outfit them like combat soldiers, they obviously will act like combat soldiers.
To chill media coverage of this atrocity, the officers were using terrorist tactics. In one case, they roughly arrested two reporters, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post in a McDonald’s restaurant on Wednesday, which was captured on video. Lowery reported on his Twitter account that they were “assaulted and arrested” because “officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.”
They were later released without charges.
On July 22, another Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, and his journalist wife were arrested in Tehran, Iran. It is only mentioned here to point out that in recent weeks, Washington Post reporters, who can be found around the globe and in some of the nastiest places on Earth, have been arrested twice for simple acts of journalism: In Tehran, Iran, and Ferguson, Missouri.
Way to go, Ferguson, Missouri.
In another incident, and there is video of this as well so view it and judge for yourself, “soldiers” fired tear gas at a camera crew. When the reporters abandoned their post, the cops turned the camera to the ground.
A police force acting appropriately would have no need to try to silence the media. Indeed, they should welcome the coverage.
This attack on journalists is worrisome for another reason. The media presence serves as a check on the unbridled power of the militant government force. Imagine, if you will, how the police would be behaving without the world watching. Then ask yourself why they are trying to keep the world from watching.
As to the original shooting, the police, in typical fashion, circled the blue wagons around one of their own. And, because of this, they seriously mishandled it, which led to the protests. Here we have one human being shooting and killing another, unarmed human being. In most contexts, this would be treated as a criminal matter. Yet, in this case, the police department decided to handle it as a personnel matter, not identifying the officer for six days. When the police treat their own differently than the rest, of course the people get angry.
Finally, be sure, this is not an anti-police rant. However, that being said, I don’t think I have heard a single police officer criticize the Ferguson Police Department for the shooting and its aftermath.
Why is that?