The new police state in Ferguson
Michael Brown has now been laid to rest, over two weeks after his August 9 execution-style killing by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, which sparked mass protests where we witnessed ever increasingly militarized police attack mostly peaceful civilians with teargas and rubber bullets.
In the wake of this, the issue of a rising militarized police force is now a topic of discussion. But, haven’t Black Americans always faced a police force that was at war with them?
Michael Brown’s killing will remain etched in the memory of African-Americans as yet another symbol of racist police profiling and the war that continues against Black people in America. The apparent murder of the Black teenager by this White officer is yet another episode in the long story of oppression.
Where do we go from here?
Brown’s untimely death at the hands of Officer Wilson raised many uncomfortable questions for the country. Is there a problem with racial profiling among police? Why do so many innocent Black men get killed by White police officers? Why are police forces becoming so militarized?
Unfortunately, the racial questions here are still being ignored by a broad segment of White America—because most Whites have deluded themselves into thinking that the events in Ferguson are isolated and have nothing to do with racism.
This is troubling but it has always been the case in America — there is lack of honesty in discussing racism.
Notice how many politicians said nothing about Ferguson— including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton who reportedly ducked questions about it during a book signing photo-op event.
Some Americans watched in horror as they witnessed St. Louis and Ferguson police arrayed with armaments usually associated with places like Afghanistan or Iraq. Military vehicles were seen driving through streets. And we saw images of police training sniper rifles on peaceful protesters.
What are we to make of all this?
After 9-11, we saw police departments—like New York Police Department (NYPD)—become more militarized. We were told this was necessary to combat the growing terrorist threat from those coming from the Arab and Muslim worlds. So why are police now using this military equipment on peaceful civilians?
The Ferguson protests have raised awareness of the issue of a growing militarized police. Black people more than most understand the dangers of this—because, Black people have been the main targets of police attacks ever since they left slave plantations.
How will the militarization of police add to the explosive mix that leads to Black men being killed with a chokehold or shot down worse than dogs on American streets?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, since the 1990’s, the Defense Department has given some $4.3 billion worth of surplus military equipment to police forces across the country. However, there are also a couple of programs run by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security that provide high-tech military gear to police.
But even as the issue of militarized police is being discussed by some in Washington, certain police advocates are already pushing back against any attempt to restrain the flood of surplus military equipment being received by police departments.
“We are the most vigorous law enforcement advocacy group, and we intend to be at our most vigorous on this issue,” declared Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the principal police association in America.
Pasco claim his group will be fighting against what he call the “misinformation” on this topic. “It looks like the main thrust of our effort is going to be educational because there’s an awful lot of misunderstanding and an awful lot of misinformation about this equipment as to its purposes and its application in civilian law enforcement,” Pasco said.
We should ask Mr. Pasco, why would any police department need to deploy Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles down civilian streets—during mostly peaceful protests? Perhaps he can tell us why police needed all those assault rifles? And why were snipers targeting their scopes on people who were just marching?
Now some, especially in the so-called “mainstream media,” were quick to get sidetracked on those instances during the protests where violence broke out. Yes, there are always some who will use such instances as an opportunity to loot—and vent violent frustrations with a culture that created them. However, weren’t police the primary provocateurs whose heavy-handed actions provoked most of the violent reactions?
Many government and law enforcement officials denounced the “criminal” element they blame for the instances of violence. But isn’t it high time they address the thugs and criminals who hide behind the cover of the badges and uniforms they wear?
All across the country we’re witnessing cops brutalize, beat and kill innocent citizens—and, as of yet, nobody in power has reigned them in. In our technological age, we’ve all seen many of the videos and images of out-of-control bullies with badges.
We’ve seen a California Highway patrol cop sitting on a Black woman beating her senseless; in Arizona a police officer body-slams to the ground an African-American female professor—and we all saw what happened to Eric Garner whose killing, by the hands of an NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was recorded for the world to see. In the face of these images—much more can be found in a simple YouTube search—why are law-makers and legislators so silent in speaking out against the abuse of power among cops that has become routine?
It’s not surprising most of these politicians won’t address the question of racial policing in America. That issue will be the one they try hardest to ignore. We’ve seen the polling telling us most of White America thinks no racial link is involved with the eruptions in Ferguson.
Is this blissful ignorance, racial insensitivity or both?
Many White people may comfort themselves in thinking militarized police will be used to control and hurt Black people and undesirable “others”, but, surely not them. This twisted thinking will have dire consequences for the future.
But, given this current calculus, Black people will be nearly alone in combating the added horrors to come as we combat cops who’re always trigger-happy when they see Black people—especially, young Black men.
Ferguson exposed something else Black Star News has been reporting: the economic benefits certain Whites receive by targeting Blacks for arrests and tickets. A New York Times article earlier this week talked about the racial disparity of police stops in St. Louis County, Missouri—and the revolving door many local Blacks find themselves in paying tickets and assortments of fines and fees in municipal courts. The story highlights the fact that there are towns and locales balancing their budgets on the backs of Blacks.
Here, in New York, a similar situation is clearly in play—and is obviously connected to policing practices like Stop-and-Frisk and “Broken Windows.” The quota system is another economic weapon to whip Black people with. Worse of all, the manufactured numbers created by the saturated targeting of Black people creates the self-fulfilling prophecy we’ve heard for years: that police patrol Black neighborhoods harsher because there is more crime there.
This is a lie. In fact, in many way criminality is being incubated in Black communities to justify attacking us with utter impunity. Police patrol Black communities with brutality because Black people—those many refer to as “animals” and such live there, period.
And they do it at the bidding of the establishment at war with Black America. We must start holding politicians—White, and, Black—accountable who accommodate this continuing oppression of our people.