Police threaten protesters with excessive militarized power

The Channels Opinion Pages | EDITOR COLUMN

SAVANAH LAMBRIDIS, Opinion Editor

Live tweets and viral videos that depicted a state of unrest flooded every newsfeed. It looked like war had broken out in Middle America.

In Ferguson, Missouri, the police’s response to “hands up, don’t shoot” was warfare-banned tear gas and open shots into the crowd.

After the shooting of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, protesters gathered within the community in support of the Brown family and challenging the brutal actions of the police.

Fueled by outrage, human and civil rights activists are now seeking to dispute police power, and rightfully so. It’s disconcerting to me that the police militarized seemingly overnight.

During the mayhem of protests, the rest of the nation had no choice but to remain third-party observers, as all we could do is watch the excessive police brutality unfold on the screens in our homes.

An urban battle that began with Tasers and batons now included assault rifles, armored vehicles, and flash-bangs.

It had been rumored that the Department of Justice granted the tactical vehicles, body armor, and rifles to Ferguson, however, they did not come from the Department, Pentagon, or any other large government entity. These new forms of weaponry were actually taken from the budgets of the Ferguson and St. Louis police departments.

Though the mystery of how these counties obtained the money for such purchases will not be solved anytime soon, the fact remains that police used extensive force on peaceful protestors.

Obviously, Ferguson is not the only place in the U.S. that has been in a state of civil unrest; it is just a step into the bigger picture. The New York Times even created an interactive map that depicts all of the police forces, which have been militarized with ‘left-over’ equipment.

Excess military equipment can be found in many counties across the nation, even here in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara County police force is now in possession of aircrafts, a ‘bearcat’ armored vehicle, and grenade launchers.

If residents in towns like Ferguson and ours are being threatened by an increased police presence, police should not be given more artillery to scare people out of their rights.

The backlash of the police’s militarized efforts was astounding. Individuals from all different walks of life gathered in peaceful protest, including Tibetan Monks, members of the Nation of Islam, and a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor named Hedy Epstein.

Four separate armed forces were unleashed on the mostly nonviolent protestors throughout the ordeal.

On the first day of hysteria, Aug. 9, Ferguson police were the first to attempt to stifle the outraged communities cries. The St. Louis County police were the next to arrive, followed by Missouri Highway Patrol.

At the apex of the chaos, Missouri Gov. Nixon decided to make the call and have the National Guard join forces against their own citizens.

How is it that our nation has turned into a place where our very own National Guard, who vows to protect us, can just as easily stand against us? Why threaten the people, while pointing riffles straight at their chests, silencing their cries for justice?

Though the violence has died down in the past month, unresolved tension due to the militarization of police continues to grip not only Ferguson, but also the nation.