Over the past few months, “American cops kill unarmed black person” has become the new “Local woman gives birth” – a headline appearing so often, you can't even keep track of all the stories unless you personally know one or more of the actors involved.
And over the past couple years, “Police declare war on entire city due to one man within” has also become commonplace: remember last year, when cops in California searching for Christopher Dorner forced people out
of their homes at gunpoint, fired at random pickup trucks
just in case Dorner might be inside one of them (he wasn't), surrounded entire stores and told the shoppers within that they were forbidden to leave? No warrants, no constitutional oversight, just cops flexing their authority muscles because they can.
Remember April 2013, when the entire city of Boston was put under house arrest
while cops searched for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect? When I first heard that a Dunkin Donuts was the only city business open that day, I figured that must be an anti-cop joke – they're all a bunch of donut-suckers, ha ha ha – except it turned out to be absolutely true: the donut shops stayed open so cops could get their fried-pastry fix while performing warrantless searches of Bostonians' homes.
And then, just over a week ago, Americans learned about Ferguson, Missouri – a town whose overwhelmingly black population is overseen by an overwhelmingly white police force so corrupt
, they've been known to beat an innocent man and then charge him with destruction of property for staining their uniforms with his blood – and two days before an 18-year-old named Michael Brown was supposed to start college, a Ferguson cop shot him dead in the street. The usual MO
: cops swear he was a vicious criminal on the attack, witnesses say he was unarmed, had his hands in the air and was trying to surrender.
So the people of Ferguson took to the streets in protest, and the military was called out against them – sorry, I meant to say police with military-grade equipment including armored personnel carriers and other tools generally used by foreign occupying armies were called out against them.
Ferguson residents were tear-gassed while standing in their own fenced-in yards. The FAA declared a no-fly zone over the city – police craft can fly, but the media's not allowed to see what's going on there. Journalists were being arrested, then released without charge, for doing their jobs (were I a cynic, I'd say “It's as though the cops don't want anyone to witness what they're doing.” But surely I am wrong, for our own authorities so often assure us that privacy is unnecessary since only wrongdoers ever have anything to hide).
This morning I was up until about 2:30 (Eastern time) watching the Livestream video feed
from Mike Brown at KARG Argus radio: the media were ordered not to leave the “staging area” on pain of arrest, so of course the video feed was limited to whatever was within camera range of that staging area just in front of a beige-brick McDonald's.
But even that limited line of sight showed plenty of horrors. I saw cops firing teargas cannons into distant crowds of peaceful nonviolent protestors whose only “crime” was being outside after midnight, in violation of the curfew imposed on the city. Then the cops fired temporarily blinding flashbomb cannons into the crowd; I lost count of how many after the sixth or seventh. An armored vehicle pulled up near the staging area, and soldiers (sorry, “cops”) in body armor came pouring out and ran off-screen. Then the cops started using “sonic cannon” – noise-making machines designed to cause immense pain and disorientation to whoever hears them. At the same time these sonic cannon and blinding flashbombs were being used to disorient people, the cops announced that anyone who didn't leave and go home immediately would be arrested.
Then all the action happened off-screen: I watched journalists and cops milling around the “staging area” while sonic cannon (and possibly screams?) could be heard in the distance, and a radio announcer (presumably Mike Brown?) said that police were arresting protesters on another street – a street which no media has the right to film, a street Americans are not allowed to see, thanks to the no-fly zone and the designated staging area and similar authoritarian diktats. More teargas fired into crowds. More sonic cannon shattering the night air. In the United States of America.
I will not dare to predict what will happen next, in Ferguson and throughout the country; I'd love to think “This'll be the last straw, this'll start the pushback; Americans have had enough tyranny in the name of security and now things will change for the better.” Except, if you're a longtime reader of this blog, you probably recall all the times I made similar predictions before, and every damned one of them turned out wrong. “TSA demands the right to sexually molest you before a flight? Surely my fellow Americans won't put up with this … oh, dammit
, yes they will.”
Still: as bad as things are, they could always be worse. Missouri's senator Claire McCaskill at least had sense enough to say
“We need to de-militarize this situation—this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”
Meanwhile, in the alternate universe where Todd Akin never said anything abut “legitimate rape” and thus managed to win that senatorial election, Sen. Akin released a statement expressing support for the brave police of Ferguson, Missouri and pointed out that when legitimately
innocent people get shot by cops, their bodies have ways of shutting the whole thing down
Ferguson will be under curfew again tonight
. I suppose the police are re-stocking their supplies of teargas and flashbombs, too.