Former Congressman – and Cleveland mayor – Dennis Kucinich wrote a must-read post yesterday:
The Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770, was a catalyst toward the American Revolution. Five civilians were killed by the British soldiers. The Declaration of Independence, in condemning the offenses against liberty by George III, stated:
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
- For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us
- For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states
Indeed, the top expert on the militarization of America’s police forces – Washington Post writer Radley Balko, who has testified to Congress and written books on the subject – confirms that the Founders would have seen the militarized police as an unconstitutional standing army:
Balko starts with the provocative proposition that police as we know them in modern America are unconstitutional. “The Founders and their contemporaries would probably have seen even the early-nineteenth-century police forces as a standing army, and a particularly odious one at that,” Balko writes. “Just before the American Revolution, it wasn’t the stationing of British troops in the colonies that irked patriots in Boston and Virginia; it was the England’s decision to use the troops for everyday law enforcement.”
Balko links that decision to the oft forgotten Third Amendment, which forbids the quartering of troops in Americans’ homes against their will during peacetime. The Third Amendment is rarely litigated, and the Supreme Court has never heard a case primarily concerning the amendment, but Balko argues that it was included in the Bill of Rights out of a larger concern that a standing army could be used for the purposes of enforcing the law. “The actual quartering of British troops in the private homes of colonists was rare…It was the predictable fallout from positioning soldiers trained for warfare on city streets, among the civilian populace, and using them to enforce law and maintain order that enraged colonists.”
In a post headlined, “Militarized Police: The Standing Army the Founders Warned About“, New American notes:
In an essay published in the Wall Street Journal last August, Radley Balko presented chilling and convincing evidence of the blurring of the line between cop and soldier:
Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment — from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers — American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop — armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.
Balko rightly connects the menace of the martial police with the decline in liberty and a disintegration of legal boundaries between sheriffs and generals:
Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe’s emperors and monarchs.
A Google search for the following phrase turns up over 250,000 hits, including articles from across the spectrum, such as Newsweek, Daily Kos, the American Conservative and Truth-Out:
“standing army” Ferguson
The same search yields thousands of images. A comparison of photos of soldiers in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and police in Ferguson shows they are virtually indistinguishable.
Someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment[ed] that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone” …
Remember, the Founding Fathers repeatedly warned against standing armies.
Of course, it would be bad enough if the militarized police forces were only used in genuine emergencies. But Balko notes that the authorities have become “very antagonistic toward the very idea of free speech and the First Amendment“. And militarized swat teams are being used against people who commit copyright infringement … or credit card fraud. They’re being used “for routine warrant service in … nonviolent crimes“.
And Balko notes:
SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes.
And Ellen Brown argues that the police are being militarized to protect of the financial elites:
When depositors cannot access their bank accounts to get money for food for the kids, they could well start breaking store windows and helping themselves. Worse, they might plot to overthrow the financier-controlled government. Witness Greece, where increasing disillusionment with the ability of the government to rescue the citizens from the worst depression since 1929 has precipitated riots and threats of violent overthrow.
Fear of that result could explain the massive, government-authorized spying on American citizens, the domestic use of drones, and the elimination of due process and of “posse comitatus” (the federal law prohibiting the military from enforcing “law and order” on non-federal property). Constitutional protections are being thrown out the window in favor of protecting the elite class in power.
Postscript: The Founding Fathers also fought the Revolutionary War for other reasons, such as stopping:
Interestingly, 3 times as many American colonists supported King George of England during the Revolutionary War as support our own Congress today.
Americans of all stripes oppose the militarization of U.S. police forces.
So why does Congress continue to approve militarization? For the same reason that Congress members vote for NSA spying on Americans and go easy on Wall Street criminals: money.
Maplight reports that congress critters opposing Congressman Grayson’s bill to demilitarize police receive 73% more money than those voting for it:
International Business Times explains:
The group’s new report looked at a June congressional vote on legislation, offered by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., that would have blocked the Pentagon from spending resources on transferring military hardware to local police agencies. The bill was defeated 62-355.
According to data compiled by Maplight, the lawmakers “voting to continue funding the 1033 Program have received, on average, 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives voting to defund it.” In all, the average lawmaker voting against the bill received more than $50,000 in campaign donations from the defense industry in the last two years. The report also found that of the 59 lawmakers who received more than $100,000 from defense contractors in the last two years, only four voted for Grayson’s legislation.
Good ‘ole fashion corruption …
TruthDig reported last year:
“Did the FBI ignore, or even abet, a plot to assassinate Occupy Houston leaders?” asks investigative reporter Dave Lindorff at WhoWhatWhy. “What did the Feds know? Whom did they warn? And what did the Houston Police know?”
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund yielded an FBI document containing knowledge of a plot by an unnamed group or individual to kill “leaders” of the Houston chapter of the nonviolent Occupy Wall Street movement.
Here’s what the document said, according to WhoWhatWhy:
An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles. (Note: protests continued throughout the weekend with approximately 6000 persons in NYC. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests have spread to about half of all states in the US, over a dozen European and Asian cities, including protests in Cleveland (10/6-8/11) at Willard Park which was initially attended by hundreds of protesters.)
Paul Kennedy of the National Lawyers Guild in Houston and an attorney for a number of Occupy Houston activists arrested during the protests said he did not hear of the sniper plot and expressed discontent with the FBI’s failure to share knowledge of the plan with the public. He believed that the bureau would have acted if a “right-wing group” plotted the assassinations, implying that the plan could have originated with law enforcement.
“[I]f it is something law enforcement was planning,” Kennedy said, “then nothing would have been done. It might seem hard to believe that a law enforcement agency would do such a thing, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”
He added that the phrase “if deemed necessary,” which appeared in the bureau’s report, further suggests the possibility that some kind of official organization was involved in the plan.
Texas law officials have a history of extreme and inappropriate violence.
Kennedy has seen law enforcement forces attempt to secretly entrap Occupy activists and disrupt their activities in the city. He represented seven people who were charged with felonies stemming from a protest whose organizing group had been infiltrated by undercover officers from the Austin Police department. The felony charges were dropped when police involvement with a crucial part of that action was discovered.
A second document obtained in the same FOIA request suggested the assassination plans might be on the plotters’ back burner in case Occupy re-emerges in the area.
When WhoWhatWhy sent an inquiry to FBI headquarters in Washington, officials confirmed that the first document is genuine and that it originated in the Houston FBI office. Asked why solid evidence of a plot never led to exposure of the perpetrators’ identity or arrest, Paul Bresson, head of the FBI media office, deflected the question. According to WHoWhatWhy, he said:
The FOIA documents that you reference are redacted in several places pursuant to FOIA and privacy laws ….
Lindorff wants us to note that “the privacy being ‘protected’ in this instance (by a government that we now know has so little respect for our privacy) was of someone or some organization that was actively contemplating violating other people’s Constitutional rights—by murdering them.”
When the Houston Police department was asked about its knowledge of the plot, public affairs officer Keith Smith said it “hadn’t heard about it” and directed future questions to the Houston FBI office.
The obvious question to ask in attempting to determine the identities of the planners is this: Who has sniper training? A number of Texas law enforcement organizations received special training from Dallas-based mercenary company Craft International, which has a contract for training services with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The company was founded by a celebrated
Army sniper who was killed by a combat veteran he accompanied to a shooting range.
Remington Alessi, an Occupy Houston activist who played a prominent role in the protests and hails from a law enforcement family, agrees with attorney Kennedy that the plot likely did not originate with a right-wing group. “If it had been that, the FBI would have acted on it,” he said. “I believe the sniper attack was one strategy being discussed for dealing with the occupation.”
A new Army report may shed light on the sniper issue. As Paul Joseph Watson reports:
A document released by the U.S. Army details preparations for “full scale riots” within the United States during which troops may be forced to engage in a “lethal response” to deal with unruly crowds of demonstrators.
The 132-page document, titled U.S. Army Techniques Publication 3-39.33: Civil Disturbances (PDF), was written in April 2014 and recently obtained by Public Intelligence.
The document makes it clear that the techniques detailed therein are to be applied both outside and inside the “continental United States (CONUS)” in the event of “unruly and violent crowds” where it is “necessary to quell riots and restore public order.”
The most shocking aspect of the document is the fact that it describes the deployment of a “lethal response” directed against “unarmed civilians,” including “sniper response” and “small arms direct fire.”
Under the heading “sniper response,” the document states, “Ensure that target leaders or troublemakers are targeted,” in addition to a passage which states, “Exploit the psychological effect of an attack.”
Under the heading “small arms direct fire,” the manual states, “Escalate gradually, starting with a small caliber, single round and work up to a large caliber, automatic.”
Another graphic which depicts “escalation of trauma” directs soldiers how to use “riot batons” in order to cause the necessary level of injury or death to the subject. “Deadly force final target areas” include the back of the neck, the solar plexus, the neck, the spine and the head.
Although the document makes reference to the Constitutional rights of American citizens it goes on to stress that such protections are null and void under a state of emergency, asserting that Posse Comitatus, which is supposed to limit the power of the federal government to use military personnel domestically, “does not apply” under declared “emergency authority” or “When the need for the protection of federal property or federal functions exists.”
It is important to stress that this training manual applies to U.S. Army operations in foreign countries as well as domestically on U.S. soil. Indeed, section 2-18 of the document goes into detail about domestic protests such as the 1999 anti-WTO demonstration in Seattle.
And see this.
Did the U.S. government deploy snipers to the peaceful Occupy protests in order to “engage in sniper attacks against protestors … if deemed necessary”, and to “kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles”? If so, what would have made sniper attacks “necessary” in the eyes of the government … if they gained momentum and were on the verge of being successful?
If these sound like over-the-top questions, please remember that:
- Highly-militarized, federally-coordinated police used such brutal violence to break up the Occupy protests (see this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this) that the Egyptian military used the crack down on Occupy as justification for the murder of protesters in Tahir Square, Egypt
- The government and big banks joined forces to violently crush the Occupy protests
- Militarized police were deployed in Miami during a WTO protest in 2003, at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, at the Republican National Convention in 2008, in Miami in 2011, and at many other protests