The militarized response to protests and media coverage in Ferguson, Missouri has forced the federal government to rethink its policy of sending military hardware to police departments.

“I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” said Attorney General Eric Holder after police manhandled demonstrators, gassed a media crew, and used rubber bullets on protesters and journalists.

Following criticism by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, and the introduction of legislation to curtail police militarization by Georgia Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson, Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his committee will a design a program to determine if the Defense Department’s surplus equipment is being used appropriately.

“Our Main Streets should be a place for business, families and relaxation, not tanks and M16s,” Johnson said Thursday. “Militarizing America’s Main Streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent.”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and others have criticized the Pentagon effort to turn domestic police forces into occupying armies.

“Big government has been at the heart of the problem,” Paul notes. “Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.”

“The federal government fuels this trend,” Kara Dansky, a senior counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice writes for The New York Times. “The police have virtually unlimited access to the U.S. military’s arsenal through what’s called the 1033 program. They also have access to billions of dollars’ worth of funding from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, which they can use to buy military equipment from weapons manufacturers, who line their pockets with the spoils. Through these federal programs, hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed to local police departments, which have been stockpiling their arsenals with weapons designed for combat.”

Police State: Political Control

The unprecedented militarization of police is widely attributed to the so-called Drug War and, following the 9/11 attacks, the threat of terrorism. The corporate media cites both when attempting to explain why police departments are heavily militarized.

Overlooked is the fact militarized police were deployed in Ferguson in response to citizens challenging the government. Journalists and demonstrators were specifically targeted. Militarized St. Louis County police were tasked with maintaining order — not for citizens and shop owners victimized by looters — but for the state.

Written by KURT NIMMO
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