The lesson from Ferguson, Missouri

The story exploding out of Ferguson, Missouri, is doubly infuriating.

The story exploding out of Ferguson, Missouri, is doubly infuriating.

First, there is the obvious outrage of yet another unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, being stopped by one of the town’s white police officers as he was walking to his grandmother’s house. A scuffle ensued, and Brown was shot to death by the officer. He was then left lying in the street for hours, during which time the police didn’t even bother to notify his family. Understandably, furious citizens have erupted in protest.

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Outrage number two is that Ferguson’s police, practically all of whom are white in a town that’s two-thirds black, did not respond to the public outcry like police officers – but like an occupying army. What was needed was a calm, professional, and empathetic response.

Instead, the police confronted Ferguson with full military force, rolling out in armored “Bearcat” vehicles, hovering helicopters, riot gear, camouflage outfits, and body armor. They approached the unarmed citizens with assault riffles, grenades, tear gas, night sticks, and a macho attitude. It was a tactical, commando assault on civilians, the vast majority of whom where doing what they should be doing: Calling autocrats to account.

But wait – where did this tiny town’s police force – supposedly made up of peace officers – get such weaponry and a military attitude? From the Pentagon, which has quietly been militarizing America’s police departments for the last two decades, sending billions of dollars worth of Bearcats, helicopters, machine guns, etc. to any Mayberry police chief with Rambo fantasies.

Your town and mine are being militarized, too. We must halt this perversion of proper policing, or we’ll be the next Ferguson. For starters, tell your governor: “Don’t militarize my block.” You can do it at www.change.org/petitions.

“Ferguson Police Fired Tear Gas On Protesters In Their Own Backyard,” www.huffingtonpost.com, August 12, 2014.

“This Is The Terrifying Result Of The Militarization Of Police,” www.businessinsider.com, August 12, 2014.

“Pentagon weaponry in St. Louis County,” www.usatoday.com, August 14, 2014.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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