For the past several nights, I have been watching the feeds from Ferguson, increasingly horrified as the combined police forces rolled down the streets in armored personnel carriers or marched down the streets carrying M-16s, deploying sonic weapons, repeatedly gassing the crowds, firing rubber bullets from guns. They were distinguishable from an army only in that there were red and blue flashing lights on the vehicles and POLICE on the shields.
When the governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard, I was cautiously supportive. I naively thought that he was calling in the National Guard to protect citizens from the local police forces that had obviously gone rogue.
To the contrary, it appears that the National Guard came in to protect police headquarters, so that the combined police forces (Ferguson PD, St Louis PD, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and a fourth one I don’t remember) could continue their unbelievably militarized assault.
National Guard troops, called in by Gov. Jay Nixon Monday, protected the police command center.
— ABC news
Since the state of emergency has been declared, officers of these police forces have been operating in public without nametags or badges, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about their names or even what unit they are from. They have arrested 11 journalists during the protests so far. They have threatened reporters during live broadcasts. If police in Ferguson treat journalists like this, imagine how they treat residents.
The police have stated that they need to use these tactics because they have had weapons fired at them, rocks and bottles thrown at them. As proof, Captain Johnson showed a few guns that had been confiscated during Monday night’s arrests.
Incidents from a “tiny minority of lawbreakers” prompted the police response, including shots fired and Molotov cocktails thrown, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said, speaking at an early-morning news conference. –ABC news
But in the midst of it we cannot — in the midst of it, and in the midst of chaos, and trying to move people on — we HAVE to be safe. We have to be safe.
— Transcript, Capt. Ron Johnson, press conference, 2:21am, 2014-08-19
Excessive. Unnecessary. Wrong. Unlawful.. pic.twitter.com/cXf8OU0Lni
— BrownBlaze (@brownblaze) August 18, 2014
You need this kind of all-out, crowd-suppressing assault to go after a tiny minority of lawbreakers?
It sounds rather as if the police have decided that if their own safety is potentially threatened, they have the right to use any degree of force. And it’s not just showing up in the streets of Ferguson, as the armored vehicles roll out: it’s showing up in one-on-one interactions as well.