Living in a police state

ferguson

Looking at the photos and footage of Ferguson, MO., reminds me of a war zone — almost any war zone. Tanks, tear gas, smoke bombs …

I remember the uprising in Hungary of 1956. I was 4, but I remember the tanks rolling down the streets toward unarmed civilians. I remember my mother crying because the US wouldn’t intervene. It is one of my earliest memories.

In Ferguson, it started with the murder of an unarmed 18-year-old. Would he have been slain if he was white? I doubt it.

Police say he went for the officer and tried to take his gun; a witness said his hands were in the air when he was shot.

Michael Brown was two days away from starting college. He was not a thug.

When people came out to protest, they were met with police in riot gear, police who assumed they would be violent, and when people became combative, they were met with military force.

The mayor has refused to identify the police officer who shot Michael Brown, fearing for the officer’s safety. Well, what about the safety of our teenagers?

Oh well, it was a mistake. Why is everyone so upset?

It upsets me because of the frequency with which black men are shot, choked and beaten by white police officers.

It upsets me because the media always look for the least flattering photo of the person who was killed.

Oh look. He’s wearing a hoodie. Guilty!

It upsets me when people who knew and loved him become outraged and demonstrate against the police tactics and they are met with a full-on war machine.

This isn’t the billy clubs of the 1968 Democratic Convention; these are tactics used in combat.

The county’s police chief trained in anti-terrorist tactics in Israel in 2009. What he learned and what his happening is war waged against citizens.

According to reports, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets near a crew from the TV network Al Jazeera America. In a statement, the network said that “Al Jazeera is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”

Two reporters were arrested while they were in a McDonald’s. They later were released without charges being filed, but the police got what they wanted out of it: fewer reporters on the scene to witness and tell the world what’s happening.

I had the privilege to hear the Rev. Dr. James Cone speak a few weeks ago. Cone is the “father of Black Theology,” and he was speaking about his latest book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” 

As I listened to Cone and as I read his words, I come to understand that lynchings are still going on in this country, and I have begun to call the deaths of unarmed black men just that.

As I participate in Moral Mondays and develop close friendships with people of color, I become more aware of racism in our society. I see how my friends are treated. I hear what people say.

I realize I have been insulated, even though I thought I was aware of the racism around me before this last year. I saw the institutional racism and the injustices in our “justice” system. But I know now it goes deeper than I ever imagined.

Old friends tell me I am being radical, but I disagree. Black men are shot, strangled and beaten by police at an astronomically higher rate than whites. A few months ago in Durham, NC, police claimed that a young black man who had been searched and was handcuffed in the back of a police car, had shot himself in the head. When people turned out to protest, they were met with police in militarized riot gear.

Last week, a middle-aged African-American man with asthma was choked to death when he tried to stop police from beating another man. I saw that one because somebody videoed it.

I saw video of police beating two men on private property because they were videoing the officers with their cell phones.

The police are supposed to be there to protect us, but now they are working to silence us and to hide their own actions.

I understand that police have to prevent violence from spreading, but maybe they could prevent it by not killing innocent black men and boys.

Maybe if police told the truth from the outset. “Yes, it appears an innocent person was shot and killed. The officer is under arrest.”

Would people be as quick to riot then?

Yesterday on Facebook, a white man commented on a thread that black people should understand that justice will prevail.

It’s nice to be white and believe that, but if you’re not white and/or wealthy, there is little justice for you. And if you protest, you will be met by military force.

 

One comment

  1. Cindy Heil says:

    Racial cleansing via police state.

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