Tensions are running high in the city of Ferguson, Missouri and it looks like Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has no intention of stopping the rioting a looting dividing the city.
After months of deliberation, it was revealed Nov. 24 that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not face indictment for the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown that occurred four months ago.
On Nov. 17, Nixon declared a state of emergency and added gasoline to the fire of an outrage that was already brewing prior to the court’s decision.
Anyone who has seen the news or social media in the past several months has seen the effects of police militarization in Ferguson: a suburban community ravaged by officers assuming the demeanor of soldiers in an occupied territory, armed with 5.56 mm assault rifles, tear gas and military-grade riot gear.
A beneficiary of the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which incentivizes police militarization, Ferguson’s police department is a recipient of surplus military equipment that goes beyond traditional weaponry, according to USA Today.
Why do the Ferguson Police Department and other police departments throughout the U.S. insist on militarizing police when it only serves to escalate community violence in sensitive areas?
Examined closely, this hostile policy can be broken down to two key factors: the myth of militarization’s effectiveness in alleviating high-tension situations and the continued denial of the systematic abuse of black community members on behalf of impulsive authority figures.
As authority figures, police have the ability to lessen tensions in an angry community or incite a riot.
In the case of Ferguson, authorities are choosing the latter, more oppressive approach that neglects the context of systematic abuse that led to the protests in the first place.
Whether looting is present among the peaceful protesters is irrelevant in this case. When militarized authorities target the community they are meant to protect, they become a reactionary force for violence rather than a community force for good.
In Ferguson, distrust of masked, militant authorities comes from the perception among the black community that these forces are the perpetrators of violence in their communities, and this mistrust is justified.
These militarized forces are viewed as an expansion of these violent tactics that resulted in the loss of lives, a systematic injustice that is only a small part of the history of police abuse against minorities.
Ferguson and the rest of the U.S. are facing an epidemic wherein authorities deny the existence of systematic racism and take a hostile approach toward communities fighting this injustice.
Before one attempts to blame protesters for their anger, bear in mind that black teenagers were 20 times more likely than white males of the same age to be killed at the hands of the police between 2010 and 2012, according to ProPublica.org.
In Ferguson, we lost Michael Brown. In Cleveland, we lost Tamir Rice. Across the country, resistance will follow.
Brian Davenport is a junior majoring in mass communications.