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Ferguson

I’m completely captivated and appalled by the events in Ferguson, MO.  Especially that in this day and age you can have a almost entirely white police force in a majority Black city come rolling in with tanks, full military gear, etc.  And arrest reporters while there at it.  What is this, 1965?  Some really, really good reporting on various aspects– especially the militarization of the police.

Great piece in Business Insider:

Putting aside what started the protests for a moment, it’s worth discussing the police response to the outrage. In photos taken Monday, we are shown a heavily armed SWAT team.

They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.

Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it weren’t for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.

When did this become OK? When did “protect and serve” turn into “us versus them”?

“Why do these cops need MARPAT camo pants again,” I asked on Twitter this morning. One of the most interesting responses came from a follower who says he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.”

Ferguson Missouri

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Monday in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jamelle Bouie:

What’s more, Ferguson police have used armored vehicles to show force and control crowds. In one photo, riot gear-clad officers are standing in front of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, barking commands and launching tear gas into groups of demonstrators and journalists.

This would be one thing if Ferguson were in a war zone, or if protesters were violent—although, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which American police would need a mine-resistant vehicle. But an episode of looting aside, Ferguson police aren’t dealing with any particular danger. Nonetheless, they’re treating demonstrators—and Ferguson residents writ large—as a population to occupy, not citizens to protect.

This is part of a broader problem…

If you know anything about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, then it also shouldn’t shock you to learn that SWAT deployments are used disproportionately in black and Latino neighborhoods. The ACLU finds that 50 percent of those impacted by SWAT deployments were black and Latino. Of these deployments, 68 percent were for drug searches. And a substantial number of drug searches—60 percent—involved violent tactics to force entry, which lead predictably and avoidably to senseless injury and death.

The fact that police are eager to use their new weapons and vehicles isn’t a surprise. As the New York Times notes, “The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons.” Put simply, when you give anyone toys, you have to expect they’ll play with them. [emphasis mine]

That is how we get images like the ones in Ferguson, where police officers brandish heavy weapons and act as an occupying force. We should expect as much when we give police departments military weapons. Already—when it comes to predominantly black and brown communities—there’s a long-standing culture of aggressive, punitive policing. Add assault weapons and armored vehicles, and you have a recipe for the repressive, violent reactions that we see in Ferguson, and that are likely inevitable in countless other poor American neighborhoods.

Washington Post and HuffPo reporters arrested for not getting out of McDonald’s fast enough.  Really?!  The first-person account.  And video.

“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” one officer told me. And I responded: “This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.”

And he said, “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”

A former reporter friend wrote:

Watching things unfold in Ferguson, it seems like the police and local government studied how to respond to a crisis and then decided to do the exact opposite.

Fascinating. Inept. Monumentally stupid.

Nice set of photos from Newsweek.

Just horrible.  Upsetting.  Depressing.  Hopefully Americans are at least learning about their over-militarized police forces and thinking twice.  Not that I’m optimistic that will help.  Ugh.

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