(please forward widely)
Some say the real issue in Ferguson isn't race, but the militarization of the police. It is very much a matter of race, as well as the expanding militarization of the domestic police force promoted by government policy since 2001.
Just as majority-Black Detroit is a bellwether of broader attacks on the U.S. working class, majority-Black Ferguson represents a nationwide wake-up call of things to come, in cities and towns of all races and nationalities. However, it is no accident that the rulers of a racist society will test their weapons and policies on those most oppressed – people of color and the poor, most often one and the same.
Police killings of unarmed civilians are nothing new, and usually, if the victim is an African-American youth, there is no uproar – it is business as usual. In 2012, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a study revealing that every 28 hours a Black person in this country is the victim of murder by police, security guards or vigilantes. USA Today reported last week (based on FBI data) that two black people a week were killed by white police from 2005 to 2012 and nearly one in five were under 21.
What is new is that the militarization of the domestic police force, flying under the radar for decades, particularly since the “War on Terror” was unleashed in 2001, was exposed to the world in the aftermath of the brutal slaying of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown. Under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” we now have 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.
The June ACLU report, entitled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” documents this alarming trend. The report summarized: “excessive militarism in policing, particularly through the use of paramilitary policing teams, escalates the risk of violence, threatens individual liberties, and unfairly impacts people of color.”
This trend of militarization of the domestic police has been deliberatively promoted by Homeland Security by giving away and selling huge quantities of surplus weaponry to police forces in municipalities large and small, regardless of “crime-fighting” justification. Towns that could not dream of funding purchases of armored vehicles now have high tech military equipment, and this ownership then encourages their use. As a result, we are seeing SWAT teams indistinguishable from combat military units being used in routine drug raids, sometimes resulting in the deaths of bystanders.
Images of armored vehicles, explosions and tear gas, and police in riot gear with assault rifles, normal in U.S. wars abroad, are now brought home. The artificial distinction between police and army is being broken down and we are seeing what has been true all along: both serve the interests of the corporate ruling elite as opposed to the people they ostensibly are there to help. Further, the wars both abroad and at home make the war industries and intelligence corporations very rich.
Initially justified for use in the “War on Drugs,” then the border wars, and of course, to defend against “terrorism,” today we see the overriding label of ‘Homeland Security” used as the backdrop for attacks on Occupy encampments, demonstrators at the Democratic and Republican war parties’ national conventions, and expressions of outrage and horror when racist police brutalize and murder defenseless people of color, as in Ferguson today. At the same time, journalists of the so-called “free press” are also endangered and stifled.
Wars abroad are fought over domination and energy resources, while the war at home is used to quell dissent. This has been a developing trend. Always available for use in communities of color, coordinated, multi-city, military-style strategies and tactics were used to suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement. U.S. surveillance drones, once (supposedly) used exclusively overseas, are now showing up in U.S. cities. The widespread domestic spying by the NSA was perfected by the military operating in Iraq. Barbaric conditions in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons are mirrored in the practices of long-term solitary confinement and even outright torture employed in many U.S. prisons, particularly the Super-Max and “Communications Management Units.” There is no sacred firewall between domestic and foreign policy, and the people of the United States, particularly the poor and oppressed, are increasingly being treated as a hostile force to be controlled. The War on Terror has come home to roost.
Just as the government prepares for possible war scenarios overseas, it prepares for domestic unrest here at home. Washington is acutely aware that one out of every seven people in this country now lives in poverty, with the percentage much higher in Black and other communities of color. Youth of all races are in despair over their economic futures and are increasingly demanding change. Organized labor is again showing signs of militancy, particularly those unions seeking to organize the most oppressed workers. The Occupy movement popularized the understanding that a mere 1 percent of the population controls so much wealth that it is also able to control the political process. The anger over these underlying economic and social conditions can explode into rebellion when sparked by blatant police abuse such as the public execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Whether aimed at spontaneous community rebellions or organized protests, the development of a militarized police force is not simply the result of the availability of some surplus military equipment. It is part of a very conscious plan to control, repress and destroy an awakening working-class consciousness, particularly among people of color.
Ferguson has also shown a spotlight on other connections between domestic and foreign policy, in particular the parallels between occupied Palestinians and the beleaguered population of Ferguson. Crowd- control weapons used in both places are “made in the USA” and U.S. police personnel from Ferguson and elsewhere receive “counter-terrorism” training in Israel. Gazans have sent messages of solidarity to Ferguson, as well as practical advice on defense against teargas and military might. One Palestinian sent a photo of himself holding a sign that read, “The Palestinian people know what it means to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity.” Protesters in Ferguson reciprocated by carrying signs likening themselves to Gazans under siege and chanting “Gaza Strip.”
Ongoing resistance is also a shared commonality. In an August 20th column in Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford writes, “The brave and besieged people of Ferguson, Missouri, have already caused serious complications for the U.S. National Security State. By virtue of simply standing their ground in their own small city, the demonstrators have forced the local, county and state police to show their true, thoroughly militarized colors."
What can be done? Marches and rallies around the country must continue and demand an end to police militarization and the legalized human rights abuses against millions of citizens.
Stand with the people of Ferguson to demand:
Cops, state troopers and National Guard out of Ferguson!
No to racist murders! Justice for Michael Brown!
End police militarization!
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