From Ferguson to Gaza – How did a small town in Missouri turn into a War Zone?
Since Saturday almost a week of uprisings haven taken place since the police murdered Mike Brown, in Ferguson Missouri. Due to social media, the country has started paying attention to the murder and what is happening to the people of Ferguson. The common misperception is that those who are participating in the protest are the only ones who are being affected by the militarized police force, but the reality is, that whether you are a protester or just a person going to the grocery store, as long as you are black you are in danger of being a causality.
As someone who has reported on uprisings here in LA I’ve experienced things similar to what is being seen in Ferguson. It reminds me of what happened the summer of 2012 in Anaheim with the police shooting of Manuel Diaz. Police shot an unarmed brown man in his head while he was lying on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The community was outraged by the execution and began to crowd around and ask questions. As they did this, the police then began to shoot rubber bullets and use police dogs on community members. The community then took to what is seen as the “proper” protest route, attending a city council meeting to have their voices heard and instead they were met with cops in riot gear. Although these cops seemed unfamiliar with wearing riot gear and with performing crowd control, they were, on the other hand, seasoned, trigger-happy, racist police officers who you could tell were easily uncomfortable about the amount of brown people that were around them. Things then began to escalate, the police and city council continued to deny entrance into the meeting for community members with police presence mounting, which included officers with weaponry containing live ammunition. This then turned into a long march, which ended with what appeared to be every police unit in the area called in for reinforcement. Seeming unprepared, they began tear-gassing and shooting rubber bullets at anyone that was in the area. People then began to respond to this violence with what media categorizes as rioting, or as others would – property damage. The following week another protest was planned, this time it seemed like it was more driven by political organizations than from members of the community. One thing was for sure, the Anaheim police force looked different, and they were not the Barney Fife’s I was so used to earlier that week. Instead they had become militarized almost over night, with snipers on the roof, army fatigues, tanks, horses, and live ammo. You could read more on this day here from my tumblr.
I bring this up because the connection to me seems uncanny, how does a police unit go from inadequate equipment to a complete arsenal seemingly overnight. Last year, St. Louis county police were being told by their police chief that they were going to have to pay out-of-pocket if they wanted new weapons, and new recruits in the academy were forced to use old guns. As recently as of June 10, 2014, the county was auctioning off Tommy guns to raise money for new weapons. A question arises, how does then a county go from what appears to be an inability to supply their officers with new guns to a police department equipped with military issued gear & weaponry that we are seeing in Ferguson?
Ferguson has become an occupied territory, one in which a citywide curfew has been placed on it’s residents. All civilians are subject to random searches, and from what I watched recently in a video from last night, even those staying inside their homes are not protected from the tear gas being launch into their community. When I saw the image of the young black male with the American flag t-shirt throwing the tear gas canister back at the police it reminded me starkly of what we saw in other uprisings around the world – the pure image of resistance. Particularly in Gaza and the West Bank who are no strangers to occupations and militarize forces. So much so that people from Palestine were tweeting out how to deal with the tear gas to those in Ferguson. The connection to what we saw happen in Gaza and what we see happening in Ferguson is undeniable.
William Bratton, then Los Angeles police chief, was the first to begin the relationship between local police forces and Israel, specifically to the Israel Defense Force. That relationship has continued and grown, with the NYPD having an office in Israel and the LAPD as recently as of February visited Israel for a Big Data Intelligence Conference for technology and tactics to bring back home. What makes the connection even clearer is that the former police chief of St. Louis studied counter–terrorism in Israel. I should also just briefly mention that Missouri was the first state to develop a Homeland Security office and is ranked 16th in the country for compliance and amount of DHS activity in its state.
We know that Israel uses Gaza as a testing grounds for all their new weapons, 10% of Israeli income comes from their arms exports and Israel is ranked highest in the world only comparable to US and Russia. You could say their existence in Palestine is dependent on constant battle, on having repeated excuses to test out these new weapons. In the latest attacks on Gaza, Israel was using experimental chemical weapons that were developed by the US Air Force in 2008.
So again I asked the same question, how does county police go from needing to pay out-of-pocket for guns, to the sort of weaponry we see here?
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