Since the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers. This has prompted residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
And who can blame them?
The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.
And it’s no coincidence.
At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.
It all started when a yet to be named Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. According to witnesses, Brown was attempting to surrender with his hands up when a Ferguson police officer emptied his clip into Brown’s body, shooting the teen up to ten times.
For hours police left Brown’s lifeless body sprawled in the street uncovered as a growing number of residents gathered nearby, demanding answers from authorities. Police responded by deploying K-9 units and riot squads to crush the crowd, predictably inciting a riot, which police used to justify more brute force.
But the people of Ferguson refuse to submit and have mobilized every single day to demand justice for Brown and an end to the racist, undemocratic regime they live under.
“Hands up, don’t shoot” has become their rallying cry, a symbol of Brown in his last moments and what it means to be black in America, where every 28 hours an African-American is killed by a self-styled vigilante, security guard or police officer.
Still, police did not relent, prompting one Ferguson protester to shout at a row of military-style tactical vehicles, “You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”
“Will we as a people rise up like the people of Gaza? Will our community be bombed like last night with tear gas? That was a terrorist attack,” remarked another Ferguson protester to The Daily Beast.
Even elected officials weren’t spared. Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was tear gassed and St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who had been documenting the unfolding police repression in Ferguson on social media since just after Brown’s murder, was arrested.
Cops become soldiers
Domestic policing in the US has a long and sordid history rooted in the violent control and subjugation of communities of color, so the police violence directed at the predominantly black residents of Ferguson is nothing new.
But the widespread militarization on display in Ferguson is part of a more recent trendthat began three decades ago with the introduction of the disastrous “war on drugs” and dramatically escalated with the “war on terror” — leading directly to the counterinsurgency-like tactics deployed against the people of Ferguson by civilian police officers who more closely resemble combat soldiers in Afghanistan than domestic cops.