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Gibson writes: "The night after unarmed 17-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by police with his hands in the air, a march down a main road led by a Missouri state senator was indiscriminately attacked with tear gas."

The Ferguson Police Department riot squad moving towards a protester. (photo: Getty Images)
The Ferguson Police Department riot squad moving towards a protester. (photo: Getty Images)

Ferguson Holds Up a Mirror to Our Militarized Police State

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

14 August 14


he night after unarmed 17-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by police with his hands in the air, a march down a main road led by a Missouri state senator was indiscriminately attacked with tear gas. The march included members of the community along with credentialed press. Others on Twitter documented the use of wooden pellets launched at the crowd, and the firing of rubber bullets, which are actually just normal bullets inside a thin rubber casing.

The FAA has just declared city of Ferguson a no-fly zone, prohibiting news choppers from documenting protests and police abuses. And in their first official statement since the shooting of Michael Brown, Ferguson police said citizens should only protest during daylight hours. This implies that citizens demonstrating after sunset are fair game for repression. The framers of the Constitution never wanted there to be a sunset clause on the First Amendment.

What’s happening in Ferguson, a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri, is just like what’s happened in Anaheim, California, after the killing of Manuel Diaz by local police. It’s the same thing that happened in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood after the NYPD killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray. And it’s the same police response that was seen in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, and many other cities around the country during the heavily-militarized crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As The New York Times has documented, police departments across the country are getting unprecedented access to military-grade equipment meant for war zones. Grants from the Department of Homeland Security are available specifically so police departments in towns as small as Springfield, Massachusetts, can have grenade launchers, or for the Ferguson Police Department to get armored vehicles. The police response to the Ferguson protests has revealed the true intents of a militarized police force – suppression of dissent.

In June, the Guardian reported that the Pentagon has, for years, been preparing for mass civil breakdown. Last year. the Department of Homeland Security was buying bullets by the billions, driving up ammunition prices all over the country. It isn’t too far-fetched to suggest that municipal police departments are gearing up to prepare for such a civil collapse, whether brought on by economic or environmental circumstances, in order to transition seamlessly to martial law. If we allow a militarized police force to take hold in our communities and consistently violate the constitutional rights of citizens, we enable that transition ourselves.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 made it clear that military forces are not allowed to be deployed in civilian neighborhoods for law enforcement purposes. While the law originally was meant for branches of the U.S. armed forces, it should also apply to police departments using equipment meant only for U.S. armed forces in war zones. Because of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the so-called “War on Terror” included all of the United States as part of the “battlefield,” making it fair game for Posse Comitatus to be eliminated. It also allows for the indefinite detention in a military facility for anyone deemed to be a potential terrorist under loosely-defined parameters. This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of a democratic society.

Demilitarizing police forces must be an election-year issue in all municipalities for candidates running for mayor, city council, alderman, or selectman. Citizens must be willing to storm city council meetings and demand that town governments seize all military-grade equipment meant for war zones. State legislative candidates must be forced to answer questions about where they stand on police militarization. And there must be a national demand for what Anonymous called “Mike Brown’s Law,” that will “set strict national standards on police conduct and misbehavior in the USA.”

Citizens should also take it upon themselves to not demonize all police, but to get inside their organizational structures and turn police in the right direction. Anyone who has a relative who is a retired police officer should ask them about speaking to their police union at their next meeting. Police unions, which have largely been left alone in the midst of a national crackdown on workers’ rights, hold much sway over local police departments. Forging a citizens’ alliance with police unions can lessen the chances of another Mike Brown-type incident happening. And it could lead to police disobeying a potential order in the future to fire upon citizens in the event of, God forbid, a mass civil breakdown.

Police are meant to protect and serve the people, not the state. It’s up to all of us to hold them to that.

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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