In a war zone, there are no police—only soldiers. Thus, there is no more Posse Comitatus prohibiting the government from using the military in a law enforcement capacity. Not when the local police have, for all intents and purposes, already become the military.In a war zone, the soldiers shoot to kill, as American police have now been trained to do. Whether the perceived “threat” is armed or unarmed no longer matters when police are authorized to shoot first and ask questions later.
In a war zone, even the youngest members of the community learn at an early age to accept and fear the soldier in their midst. Thanks to funding from the Obama administration, more schools are hiring armed police officers—some equipped with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles—to “secure” their campuses.
In a war zone, you have no rights. When you are staring down the end of a police rifle, there can be no free speech. When you’re being held at bay by a militarized, weaponized mine-resistant tank, there can be no freedom of assembly. When you’re being surveilled with thermal imaging devices, facial recognition software and full-body scanners and the like, there can be no privacy. When you’re charged with disorderly conduct simply for daring to question or photograph or document the injustices you see, with the blessing of the courts no less, there can be no freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
And when you’re a prisoner in your own town, unable to move freely, kept off the streets, issued a curfew at night, there can be no mistaking the prison walls closing in.
This is not just happening in Ferguson, Missouri. As shown in the book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it’s happening and will happen anywhere and everywhere else in this country where law enforcement officials are given carte blanche to do what they like, when they like, how they like, with immunity from their superiors, the legislatures, and the courts.
You see, what Americans have failed to comprehend, living as they do in a TV-induced, drug-like haze of fabricated realities, narcissistic denial, and partisan politics, is that we’ve not only brought the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan home to be used against the American people. We’ve also brought the very spirit of the war home.
This is what it feels like to be a conquered people. This is what it feels like to be an occupied nation. This is what it feels like to live in fear of armed men crashing through your door in the middle of the night, or to be accused of doing something you never even knew was a crime, or to be watched all the time, your movements tracked, your motives questioned.
This is what it’s like to be a citizen of the American police state. This is what it’s like to be an enemy combatant in your own country.
So if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, by all means, stand down. Cower in the face of the police, turn your eyes away from injustice, find any excuse to suggest that the so-called victims of the police state deserved what they got.
But remember, when that rifle finally gets pointed in your direction—and it will—when there’s no one left to stand up for you or speak up for you, remember that you were warned.
It works the same in every age. Martin Niemoller understood this. A German pastor who openly opposed Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp, Niemoller warned:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
By DeNeen L. Brown August 21 at 8:07 PM
FERGUSON, Mo. — It hasn’t been so easy for traditional civil rights-era activists in this small St. Louis suburb in recent weeks, where the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer has put them on all-too-familiar turf: challenging the treatment of African American men by police.
They, like so many around the country — including President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. — have been deeply concerned about the militarized police response with tanks and tear gas and scores of arrests.
But what also has affected these activists is the realization that there is a generational divide between them and young protesters, who are organizing on their own. They are fueled by rage, mobilized by social media and sometimes, or so it seems to the old guard, capable of a bit of disrespect.
“The difference is in the ’60s, we were disciplined,” Ron Gregory, 72, told a crowd gathered at a historic church on Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis to discuss protest strategies. The city is just minutes away from Ferguson.
“We were trained when we marched. We were taught if they spit on you, just wipe it off and continue marching. But we are dealing with a new breed of youngster. They say, ‘You better not spit on me.’ ”
Generational divides are not new. Even John Lewis and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee challenged leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference because they believed they weren’t pushing hard enough, fast enough. Later, the Black Panther Party took up arms and argued that African Americans have a right to defend themselves.
For years, younger activists have complained that the civil rights generation wasn’t building bridges with them. Now in Ferguson, the gulf appears to have grown, widened by tensions over economic and social marginalization — and underscored by the perception that not even an African American president can help.
So a group, many of them clergy members, met Tuesday in the basement of Williams Temple Church of God in Christ before they were scheduled to march. The discussion turned to young protesters and what they had been seeing.
Dennis Brown, 48, who had worked on the streets of St. Louis for almost 30 years, felt a need to explain young people’s perspectives.
“They have been to so many funerals. . . . They are not afraid to die,” he said.
“That brazen defiance is fueled by an anger a lot of older people can’t comprehend,” he added.
During the day, those who helped win the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 march alongside others who carry signs, shout slogans and gather peacefully.
At night, they watch young people defying hundreds of police officers in riot gear.
Some young people ignore orders to disperse. They’ve been known to shout back, “F--- you!” And when police fire tear gas, some pick up the canisters and throw them back.
Bradley Rayford, 22, chief executive of the Student Government Association at Florissant Valley Community College in Ferguson, stresses two things: First, there is considerable anger toward police, and not just for Michael Brown’s death. Even so, not all young people are out throwing Molotov cocktails.
“A lot of older leaders, they came from a different time,” said Rayford, who was among the college students who met with Holder on Wednesday. “They didn’t have this kind of music, television shows and social media. They’re reaction was civil disobedience and sit- ins.”
His generation can be “more rageful,” he said. “They see TV shows that are violent. They listen to music that is violent. They are amped by social media.”
Still, he said, the nightly protests have drawn two sets of young people.
“One group is passionate about getting justice for Mike Brown,” he said. “Another group is taking advantage of the situation. I see them showing up. Some act together. Some don’t. It’s about a dozen people who cause the ruckus overnight, compared to hundreds of peaceful people.”
The overarching anger for local youth, he said, is rooted in the sense that they are caught in a vise, with police harassment on one side and little economic opportunity on the other.
“It’s a socioeconomic thing,” he said. “It begins with getting a traffic ticket. You get pulled over and get this huge ticket. In some parts of the city, tickets actually double.” Get a couple of those and soon “most people can’t afford their bills.”
So they have to make a choice between paying their bills or paying a traffic ticket.
“If you don’t pay the ticket,” Rayford said, “you get a court date. But you can’t go to court because you’re working two jobs. Now, warrants are out for your arrest. You can get arrested, then you can’t get a job. So many people are made criminals from traffic tickets.”
Norman White, an associate professor of criminology and justice at St. Louis University, said many older activists don’t fully comprehend young people’s despair today, making it hard to lead them.
“All they hear from adults is, ‘Why don’t you pull up your pants? If you pull up your pants, your life will be so much better.’ But they know their life will not be so much better if they pulled up their pants,” said White, who has studied racial profiling in Missouri police departments.
“Sharpton told them they need to register to vote,” he said, referring to the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Well, these are people who have watched what has happened since Barack [Obama] was elected. And they look around and see things are not that different for their communities.”