POLICE STATE: Why We Must End Police Militarization
The over-militarized response to protests in Ferguson Mo. has exacerbated a situation already made tragic by the death of an unarmed young man. We’ve all seen the pictures, large contingents of police in full body armor and Kevlar helmets, riding in military vehicles and pointing automatic weapons at American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.
“What struck me as I watched on TV was that I was looking at sniper rifles being pointed during the day at peaceful protesters,” said David Goldstick, 38, a former Marine who said that images from clashes Wednesday night (in Ferguson Missouri) impelled him to come out and join the demonstration. “The violence seems to be incited almost exclusively by the police — and it’s not even police, it’s a paramilitary force.”
Arming police in military fashion changes the mindsets of both police and public into a more us vs. them attitude further establishing the wall between them. It turns any attempt to use concentrated force of authority from a stabilizing influence to one of confrontation. The use of dogs further inflames the racial element of the divide between a mostly white police force and a mostly black population.
The result has been particularly alarming to military veterans who have seen it all before in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even with that reference in mind, the scene in Missouri seemed beyond the pale.
“We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear,” said Kyle Dykstra, an Army veteran and former security officer for the State Department. Dykstra specifically pointed out the bulletproof armor the officers were wearing around their shoulders, known as “Deltoid” armor.
With the movement to put hardware no longer needed in the middle east into the hands of police departments all across the country, it is inevitable that scenes like this one will play out again and again. Calls to reverse the process have been going out since the violence began from private individuals and from politicians all the way to the top.
Storify.com recently posted a story with several screenshot of tweets – many from United States military veterans – that objected to what they were seeing in Ferguson:
“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.”
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