"No violence, just justice." - Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown.
War Resisters League condemns the ongoing militarized lockdown and attack against the community of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. We are saddened and outraged over the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police, this past Saturday, August 9th. We stand in solidarity with the work of community members to connect, resist police violence, and transform their grief into power.
Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppresive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. But just as police repression is an increasingly coordinated global phenomenon, recent movements against policing have unleashed powerful imagination and energy; from the rebellion following the Oakland Police murder of Oscar Grant to the uprising against police brutality that sparked the Egyptian revolution in 2011.
This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, “It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.” Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: “and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.”
The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.
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