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5 Most Disturbing Realities on Display in Ferguson

By David Bloch | 08/14/2014
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The Militarization of Police

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The ‘War on Terror’ and the ‘War on Drugs’ have enabled the militarization of police departments, effectively equipping them with weapons and tools usually reserved for the battlefield – armored vehicles, grenades, machine guns, aircraft, night-vision equipment, and camouflage. Local law enforcement agencies usually receive surplus equipment from the Pentagon for free.

SWAT teams equipped with military-grade weaponry, according to one estimate, conduct 80,000 violent operations a year.

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International MaxxPro MRAP – In use by at least ten local law enforcement agencies.

Restriction of Freedom of Assembly

Police in Ferguson insisted that there would be no curfew in effect, but they preferred that residents only protest during daylight hours. Law enforcement officials in Ferguson were apparently determined to clear the streets after sundown either way. At least forty people were arrested during the crackdown last night.

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Police Violence and Repression

At least four unarmed black men have been murdered by police forces across the country in the past month. In fact, according to a 2013 study, a black man is killed every 28 hours by police. In addition to SWAT raids and extrajudicial killing, less fatal instances of police harassment and brutality have long been a fact of life in most cities.

It has become increasingly apparent since the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 that law enforcement can (and will) attack and arrest protesters with impunity, spy on activist groups,  and conduct coordinated crackdowns on legitimate political dissent.

The St. Louis County police have attacked peaceful protesters (including a state senator) with tear gas, smoke bombs, and rubber bullets.

Restriction of Freedom of the Press

As has been widely reported, two journalists were assaulted and arrested last night without cause, then quickly released. In a separate incident another reporter was told by an officer, “Get down! It will look bad if you get shot.” Police were also telling the crowds of protesters to stop recording them.

Lack of Accountability for Law Enforcement Officials

As is often the case in officer-involved shootings, police have refused to release the name of the individual who murdered Michael Brown. At least two eyewitnesses and social media reports have confirmed that the officer shot the unarmed teen in the back while he was running away, but police have told a very different story.

According to Salon, Watchdog groups believe that police are more violent than ever, but insufficient police department transparency and government accountability prevents the necessary information from being made available to the public.

In Massachusetts, between 2008 and 2013, the number of people shot by police has increased every year. 82% of these shootings were determined to be justified or accidental, with the remaining still under investigation.