Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
“My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.
The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”
- U.S. President Barack Obama, January 28, 2011 (official statement here).
The events in Ferguson, Missouri went from what could have been just another all too common and tragic incident in which an unarmed black man is killed by an overly aggressive and unprofessional police force, to what may be a historically significant event in American history. So how did this transformation occur and what does it mean going forward? Those are the two questions I intend to address in this post.
There are two primary factors that have collided to create the current out of control situation in a suburb roughly 15 miles northwest of St. Louis, which before this past weekend, almost no one had ever heard of. The first factor is the underlying tension in American society that I have been writing about for several years now. Nowhere is this tension more apparent than in the minority majority inner cities or their outskirts. Being a privileged person, I have thankfully never experienced the dehumanization and oppression felt by so many in these disenfranchised communities, but I can still understand the fact that these neighborhoods are ground zero in the civil unrest that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
The second factor is the entirely inappropriate and dangerous militarization of police forces throughout these United States. While extreme tension between impoverished communities and the police has been well documented for decades and expressed through music and movies (I grew up with NWA’s Fuck Tha Police and Colors), the cops were generally speaking merely men and women driving around in patrol cars with guns and batons. Not to dismiss the violence that can and has been inflicted through those means, but the police in recent years have taken things to a whole new frightening level: Total Militarization.
I consider this trend to be such an existential threat to freedom and civil liberties that I have expended a considerable deal of time and energy over the past several years highlighting it. I have covered the topic too many times to list here (I will provide a compilation at the end of this post), but there is one in particular I want to mention. The post was published two months ago and was titled: The Militarization of Police Continues…Machine Guns, Grenade Launchers, Silencers and More. In it I quoted the following from a New York Times article:
During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.
The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”
I then concluded the post with the following observation:
Of all the bad ideas currently being implemented in these United States, turning the police into soldiers is certainly near the top of the list.
Indeed, and we are now reaping some of the rewards from this absurd and fascist policy. One that must be reversed immediately. If you think I or others may be exaggerating the threat here, think again. Social media and the internet generally is filled with veterans reacting in horror at what they are seeing unfold domestically. Here are two of the most powerful tweets I came across:
The gentleman on the left has more personal body armor and weaponry than I did while invading Iraq. pic.twitter.com/5u6TxyIbkk— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) August 14, 2014
I leveled my weapon twice overseas. Leveled. Not fired. I had legit threats and went through proper EOF. Stop fucking up, Ferguson PD.— Broken Handmic (@13F2PL7) August 14, 2014
At this point I’d like to remind everyone that crime in the U.S. has been dropping since the 1990′s. So why has domestic police force militarization been growing exponentially since then? Ostensibly, it is for the “war on terror” and to keep us safe. In reality, we know this is bullshit. Just like the NSA’s constitutional spying hasn’t stopped a single terrorist attack, turning local cops into a domestic army hasn’t done a single thing to make us safe.To the contrary, it is creating an environment where the general public harbors increased resentment and skepticism toward police, and the police view the citizenry as the “enemy.” This takes the societal tinderbox that already exists and makes it downright explosive. Ferguson is just the latest example of the tension bubbling to the surface, but there will likely be many more in the future.
While the above exposes the excuse for militarization for the lie it is, it doesn’t answer the question. As I have maintained for years now, I believe all police state activities, from NSA surveillance to the militarization of the police, is a entirely deliberate program being implemented by the status quo (oligarchs, Wall Street, politicians, intelligence agencies, etc) to put in place a police state ahead of the civil unrest and dissent they know is coming. How do they know it’s coming? Simple. They know better than anyone else the extent of their collective theft and lawlessness and they know full well domestic blowback is coming. They are just getting geared up ahead of time.
So where do we go from here? What does all this mean and can we expect more of this in the future? One of the more disturbing aspects of this entire affair, particularly to the black community, must be President Barack Obama’s complete indifference to the entire incident. He had been pretty much silent on the entire thing, yet Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz found the time to release the following statement last night updating the world on…Obama’s vacation. Here’s the official press briefing:
Tonight, the President and First Lady attended the birthday celebration for Mrs. Ann Jordan at an event at the Farm Neck Golf Club. There were approximately 150 guests in attendance.
Among the attendees seated with the Jordans and the President and First Lady were former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett and her mother Mrs. Barbara Bowman, Ursula Burns, Kenneth Chenault and his wife Kathy, along with other friends and family of Mrs. Jordan. President Obama honored Mrs. Jordan with a toast before dinner, as did Mr. Jordan and Secretary Clinton and others. The President and First Lady have known the Jordans for over twenty years, and were grateful to have been able to share this special evening with them.
The President and First Lady also were happy to have the chance to spend time with Secretary Clinton and former President Clinton.
A little color: in his toast for Mrs. Jordan, President quipped that he met Vernon and first, but liked Ann more. The menu consisted of surf and turf and pasta. The Obamas danced nearly every song. A good time was had by all.
Glad you had such a fun time as the death of American civil society was being broadcast to the world. I’m dying to know. How was the lobster? More importantly, compare Obama’s apathy toward what is happening in Ferguson to his impassioned expression of support he officially voiced toward the protesters in Egypt. It’s quite telling to see how much more interested he is in the freedom of people halfway across the world than within his own nation. That’s all you really need to know.
*Note: Since writing this piece, Obama has made his first public statement on Ferguson (see here). Apparently he is doing damage control after his dance party press release last night. What I find so interesting is how he first calls for calm on behalf of the protesters and then afterward addresses the police. Compare that to his statements on Egypt at the top.
At this point I want to make a comparison that relatively few people have zeroed in on. The similarities between the Bundy Ranch confrontation earlier this year and the unrest in Ferguson. While the superficial differences are stark (one group being white, rural and likely relatively well off, with the other being black, urban and poor), I believe the root cause of the unrest is more similar than you might think. There is seething anger at what is correctly perceived to be oppression and authoritarianism on behalf of the “status quo.” The key distinction here is that poor, black, urban communities have been dealing with this for generations, while it has only more recently targeted its sights on formerly middle-class white communities. This makes for an absolutely explosive situation going forward as the looting and pillaging of the power structure continues without repercussions for the offenders. So why am I bringing up the comparison to the Bundy Ranch in the first place? Because I don’t want Americans to be divided and conquered further based on false superficial differences. All of us as citizens are involved in a monumental struggle not against each other, but against the status quo. The quicker we recognize this, the quicker we can deal with the real problem. Very early on, I attempted to focus on the similarities between the the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street so that those two movements could join forces. I highlighted the following graphic whenever possible:
Although we are now starting to see libertarians and progressives unite in Congress on some very important issues such as domestic surveillance, the demonization of each others’ movements by both sides as somehow less pure or enlightened than the other prevented a much wider and united action for social and economic justice. It was a huge missed opportunity and I don’t want this to happen again. The Bundy Ranch affair and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri should be seen as two sides of the same coin. The American public finally getting fed up with the authoritarianism of the corrupt status quo. One of my most popular posts of 2014 was the piece on the Bundy Ranch titled: Why the Standoff at the Bundy Ranch is a Very Big Deal. I concluded that piece with the following:
However, my long-term fear is that unless the government and its puppet masters on Wall Street and elsewhere in big business change course, social upheaval will prove inevitable, whether the Bundy Ranch sparks it, or some other incident down the road. These are troubled times and they are likely going to get worse before they get better.
We are seeing some of what I feared back then play out in Missouri right now. I found the following tweet to be extremely powerful and poignant:
Dear liberals comparing protests to Bundy Ranch: are you saying protesters should have more guns, or are you regretting lack of Bundy blood?— Lucy Steigerwald (@LucyStag) August 14, 2014
The last point I want to address is the historical significance I think Ferguson will ultimately command. This could’ve simply been an incident such as the one recently in New York City in which a cop killed an unarmed black man with an illegal chokehold. A huge part of the reason it has escalated to the current level is because the local police force decided to come out dressed like soldiers wanting to play war with American citizens. However, even that in itself wouldn’t translate into the historical significance I believe this event will ultimately hold.
I believe Ferguson will be seen as a major turning point. The point in which many well-intentioned, but incredibly naive folks in white mainstream America woke up to what we have become. Many people, particularly those in the media, have been willfully ignorant about the destruction of freedom and civil liberties in America. The events in Fergus have taken a gigantic mirror and successfully pointed it squarely at our civil society and the image it has reflected back is one of a horrific, militarized, authoritarian monster.
If it takes two reporters (one from the Washing Post and one from the Huffington Post) being unlawfully arrested to shake some sense into the privileged class in America, then so be it.
The only question now is, having been awakened from our blissful slumber to the sober nightmare that is reality, what are we going to do about it?
As promised, here are some of my many articles warning of police militarization over the years: