The things that are happening right now in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri just leave me speechless.
The things that are happening right now in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri just leave me speechless. I’m not someone who thinks the police are bad or need to be fought, generally. I have, in the past, criticised things like the excessive force used against Stuttgart 21 protesters at the Black Thursday, however. But what is happening in Ferguson has a new dimension entirely. It’s racism and atrocities committed by the state that, were they to happen in any other country, would have American politicians up in arms (probably literally), calling for a regime change. Would this be happening in Russia right now, Kerry and Obama would be non-stop in front of microphones condemning the whole thing.
Instead, militarisation of the police is just taken for granted and the rights of black people are trampled underfoot. The US Constitution is a joke if something like this can happen. Ronald D. Moore called this exact situation ten years ago when he wrote the following dialogue for Battlestar Galactica:
There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.
– Commander William Adama
Apparently Barack Obama didn’t watch Battlestar. Or listen to much Bruce Springsteen, for that matter. Because the problem that caused this isn’t new either:
Lena gets her son ready for school She says “on these streets, Charles You’ve got to understand the rules If an officer stops you Promise you’ll always be polite, that you’ll never ever run away Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”
– Bruce Springsteen, American Skin (41 Shots)
Amadou Diallo was shot in 1999. Apparently nothing has changed, except that the police is now even better armed and can do even more harm. I can’t imagine how disappointed Bruce must be of Obama, who he helped actively to elect and re-elect. I don’t think he cares much about the police, they already tried to boycott him once. I’m sure that if he was on tour right now, he’d play this song and say a few choice words beforehand as well.
In his piece for The Intercept, Greenwald mentions how the press is treated, too:
Last night, two reporters, The Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery and The Huffington Post‘s Ryan Reilly, were arrested and assaulted while working from a McDonald’s in Ferguson. The arrests were arbitrary and abusive, and received substantial attention – only because of their prominent platforms, not, as they both quickly pointed out upon being released, because there was anything unusual about this police behavior.
Reilly, on Facebook, recounted how he was arrested by “a Saint Louis County police officer in full riot gear, who refused to identify himself despite my repeated requests, purposefully banged my head against the window on the way out and sarcastically apologized.” He wrote: ”I’m fine. But if this is the way these officers treat a white reporter working on a laptop who moved a little too slowly for their liking, I can’t imagine how horribly they treat others.” He added: “And if anyone thinks that the militarization of our police force isn’t a huge issue in this country, I’ve got a story to tell you.”
Lowery, who is African-American, tweeted a summary of an interview he gave on MSNBC: “If I didn’t work for the Washington Post and were just another Black man in Ferguson, I’d still be in a cell now.” He added: “I knew I was going to be fine. But the thing is, so many people here in Ferguson don’t have as many Twitter followers as I have and don’t have Jeff Bezos or whoever to call and bail them out of jail.”
This whole thing is insane. For years I’ve been saying that the US is rapidly climbing on my list of places I never want to visit (I’ve never been, if you discount two stopovers on flights to and from Australia before September 2001) but now I’m thinking you’d have to be mad to want to visit that country. Let alone live there.
This is not what a democracy looks like. A state needs to protect itself and its citizens, but there’s a line that can never be crossed if you don’t want to end up on a slippery slope towards an SS-style terror state. And if your police is decked out like soldiers and goes around arresting people based on racial stereotypes or because they are protesting that you’ve occupied their town with armoured vehicles, that line seems to be well and truly crossed to me. If you live in the US and you disagree with what’s going on in Ferguson, now’s the time to resist. Spread the word. People must understand what is going on there and where it will lead if there is no resistance.