While we don’t yet know the exact details of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri we do know that he was unarmed and according to eye witnesses his hands were in the air at the moment he was shot. All too often these situations leave the public standing by while co-workers of the officer involved in the shooting conduct an “internal investigation” that typically indemnifies the officer in question despite all the evidence that he acted unlawfully. This time however the people refused to be pacified by the old dog and pony show. It is hard to know whether the disdain that police have for their fellow citizens is growing or if it’s simply being brought to light by the hundreds of bystanders with cell phone cameras.
Looking at these images of today’s police, I’m astounded by their level of militarization and reminded of another infamous protest that pitted police against citizen. The images from Birmingham, Al in 1963 are unanimously seen as a low point, when the state was on the wrong side of history. While I’m not equating the merits of the civil rights protest with what is going on in Ferguson, I worry that these images will be regarded as another such low point with the police once again on the wrong side of history.
When we see what looks like an occupying military force using sound cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas and attack dogs against unarmed citizens, it’s hard to say that police have learned anything about crowd control in the last 40 years.
Why do we accept our public servants using military-grade weaponry in response to a disagreement with the public? Why is it that other citizens are expected to solve their problems peacefully yet this segment of the civilian population, which we pay to protect, is consistently excused for abandoning reason and waging war against the rest of us?
Parts of the crowd that gathered to protest the execution of Michael Brown have descended into mobs of looters and vandals and I won’t argue that the police shouldn’t intervene in these cases.
What I protest is that the Ferguson Police Department is using these crimes as justification to abandon discipline and are now operating unrestrained by any standards of justifiable force.
One of the most disturbing tactics used by the officers in Ferguson is the intentional targeting of the media. In an effort to limit negative press officers have been destroying equipment, harassing reporters and illegally detaining media personnel. Two journalist covering the protest were arrested while taking a break at a local McDonald’s. Ryan Reilly from the Huffington Post stated that a S.W.A.T team entered the McDonald’s and told them to leave but then arrested them, presumably for not packing up their gear quickly enough. Reilly along with Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post were detained for almost an hour before being released without charges.
Using force and intimidation are obviously unacceptable actions for regular civilians but when force and intimidation are used by an officer of the law it puts citizens in a very dangerous place. The American population is now continuously being forced to comply with unjust and illegal demands made by police officers who were once held to a higher standard of accountability.
Imagine that you’re the next victim of abuse dealt out by an undisciplined cop that’s protected by the omerta of the ‘boys in blue’. Would you take a stand against the injustices you suffered?
So whether this shooting turns out to be a case of self-defense or just another murder committed by a trigger-happy cop, I simply ask: What should we be willing to put up with? What level of militarization and power do police really need and should they receive more training on how to defuse a situation?
If there are still “good cops” out there, where are they when reporters are being shot with rubber bullets? Where are they when journalist are being detained without probable cause? Why are they not speaking out to expose the never ending police shooting cover-ups?
So is it now time to start hating the police? At the very least, isn’t it time to admit that they don’t deserve the respect that they demand from us in exchange for letting us live?
– Phoenix Pizgatti – DontComply.com