Take a good look at the picture above. What exactly are you looking at? Does this look like a commando group from an expensive action movie? Maybe, it’s a team playing war games. Or a road block at the scene of a bombing or a natural disaster, perhaps.
No, sorry, this is the police force of a suburb of St. Louis. A small town of 20,000 people that are mostly African American. Look again at the men standing before you. Tall, fit, muscular, white, armed and ready in full riot gear. Machine guns in place. Tear gas canisters ready to be fired.
And why? Because the townspeople rose up against the tragic and unjust murder of an unarmed black teenager by one of these well-armed and highly trained militia-style commandos. Sad to say, this incredibly well-armed and geared team is the police force of the small, mostly black community in Missouri. Also, sad to say, this police force is one that is completely out of hand and out of a proper realization of its actual purpose: to protect the citizens of Ferguson. All of the citizens, not just the select few who look like they do or pay their wages or own large parcels of land or business or wealth. All the damned citizens. Including the one that an as yet still unidentified policeman slaughtered in cold blood.
The media shows us images and pundits spout propaganda about whatever positions they are paid to promote. But, in this case, the constabulary decided that tear gassing residents standing on their own lawns declaring “This my property!”was effective force. Or, arresting journalists was a good idea. When the police force become fearful bullies and tyrants we are in dire straights. These men are supposed to serve us, not frighten and demean us.
What the hell happened?
In plain fact (as you can read in this article by Sen. Rand Paul. Someone I seldom side with, but who is fairly right on target in his comments), money and power have happened. Is this a recent development? No by a long shot.
We are a country with for-profit prisons that have to be kept filled with criminals. Many of whom are of color and committed negligible offenses at best. The anti-drug laws, the anti-prostitution laws and the intolerant and powerful moral overlords with their bastion of polished lawyers and lobbyists have contributed and arranged for this insanity.
We wonder why men are rising up to form militias and this happens to reveal the dark underbelly of our militarized police forces nationwide. This isn’t an anomaly. This is the reality of police departments in 2014 America. Tiny towns have riot gear fit for major metropolitan SWAT teams. They are armed to the teeth. Law enforcement becomes the citizens enemy instead of his/her friend.
Now, remember all the pictures of Tianaman Square and of the actions against citizens in Soviet Bloc countries. Remember how you believed that, since we are living in a free country, that could never, WOULD NEVER happen here! Remember Kent State? That was in the Seventies. And how many cases of unjust police action happened before that? Too many to possibly count. But, for the most part, police were people, too. They mostly served their communities and understood their purpose enough to take pride in it in times of peace and sorrow and tragedy and horror and all the things that make us believe we need their type of community protection.
That scenario has been drastically and almost irrevocably altered by a system that overarms and militarizes the local police forces to stand against people who are supposedly given a constitutional right to protest against injustice and voice opposition to unjustified and brutal force.
Our freedoms are eroding rapidly and here we have a tragic demonstration of how real that fact is for all of us in the country. It is especially vexing for the citizens of this community and primarily the poorly represented and near disenfranchised black citizens. When a white police force believes that the black citizens it is empowered to protect are merely expendable pawns than that force needs to be eliminated. At least to the level where it is reconfigured in a way that causes them to again understand their overriding purpose: TO SERVE and PROTECT!
Every citizen is your neighbor, Mr. Commando. Your job isn’t to be a stud fighting-machine or a soldier. You are meant to take care of and see justice done for every face and body you encounter. People are neither statistics nor expendables. Every soul, every man, woman and child has value. Remember? That’s one of the tenets this country was founded on.
I have cried about the oppression happening in Gaza. Well, this is much closer to home and every bit as real, ugly, unnecessary and a sign of a collapsing system.
We have seen an escalating arming of America. The NRA promotes guns on every person, in every home. Shootings are happening daily. The government aids in arming every police force as if we are set for numerous terrorist strikes today. Cameras everywhere. Drones in the air. And yet, how secure are we? Is our country safer now than in 1970. The alarming answer is a resounding “NO!”. We have more security systems in place while we have stand-your-ground laws and still, the wanton and flagrant violation of individual’s rights (and lives) proceeds at an abysmal pace.
This militarization only serves armament manufacturers and corporations. It serves some politicians like John McCain and Lindsay Graham who are war hawks. It serves the government’s dispersal of used war toys. In some instances, such as floods and earthquakes, it actually serves us.
But in Ferguson, Missouri it served no one.