By Contributor on August 19, 2014

By David A. Love

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the heavy-handed police tactics that followed point to a growing problem in this country: the threat of a police state that endangers not only public safety, but democracy itself.

After the fatal shooting of the unarmed Brown by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, local law enforcement descended upon the city like an occupying force, complete with military weapons, teargas, rubber bullets and armored personnel carriers.

Police assaulted peaceful, nonviolent protesters, arrested Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, and tear-gassed Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal.

And police were hard on reporters, too, arresting several, confiscating the equipment from one of them, and even threatening to kill another.

The militarization of the police is not unique to Ferguson. Thanks to a federal program called 1033, the government authorized the distribution of $4.3 billion in surplus military materials to local law enforcement agencies. The equipment includes items such as pistols, automatic rifles, flash-bang or stun grenades, silencers, armored drones and armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan known as MRAPs (for Mine-Resistant Armored Protected). Police departments that want an MRAP need only fill out a one-page form.

According to a report from the ACLU, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” federal programs provide the police with wartime weapons and tactics, which they use disproportionately on communities of color, and with no public debate or oversight. Most of these assaults are drug raids on people’s homes.

“The militarization of American policing is evident in the training that police officers receive, which encourages them to adopt a ‘warrior’mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies, as well as in the equipment they use,” the report said.

Between 2010 and 2013, St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 mm rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense. Most recently, Ferguson received two military vehicles, a trailer and a generator under the program.

And in recent years, the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — along with local, state and federal agencies — have received counterterrorism training by the Israeli National Police and Israeli Defense Force, which have years of experience occupying Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and suppressing their rights.

Meanwhile, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) has introduced legislation, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would prohibit the transfer of certain military-grade equipment from the Pentagon to your neighborhood cops.

Police are community servants, not mercenaries. And when they view the community as a wartime enemy, then we are truly approaching a police state.

We must demilitarize the cops now.   

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Comments

Well now Americans can see how Iraqis feel when they are occupied by an Army
The crimes in Ferguson are many: First among many is of course killing an unarmed teen. And then leaving the body for 4 hours. Not doing a drug test on the shooter. Destroying evidence. Assaulting the protesters, false arrest, and denying civil rights. Even profiting from a felony by raising money. To my Knowledge neither the Ferguson Police nor Darren Wilson has ever actually made a statement about what happened, though some surrogates with no first hand knowledge described a scuffle near the car. There are probably a dozen officers who should be facing criminal charges at this point. Mostly for obstruction and destruction of evidence. To the larger issue of militarized police: it does not matter what equipment the own, they had no business using it. The aggressive policing goes back to the peace marches in the months leading up to the Iraq war and escalated with the Republican convention in NYC and the Democratic convention in Boston. The use of force against unions at the ports of Oakland and LA and the brutal assaults on the Occupy movement. The law enforcement community needs to be taught a lesson, that they are not above the law and their job at a protest is not to end the protest but to ensure that rights are respected. The police need to know that they are subject to laws just as much or even more so than the protesters. The sad truth is that instead of sending these bad cops to jail, their victims will only have recourse to suing the City of Ferguson. And then they will be force to pay for the lawsuits in raised taxes. At this point there is not even an investigation into the vast majority of the crimes committed by the police in Ferguson.
Karim: The thought has often crossed my mind. However, this is nothing new for poor communities here. Esp. Black, Latino and American Indians.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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