We can only infer so much from photographs. There’s clearly been looting and an element of crowd violence in Ferguson, Missouri. But there are quite a few photos and videos of heavily armed and armored police facing clearly unarmed civilians who often have their hands in the air to show they are not armed.
I don’t know which agency’s police are depicted in the photo embedded above. I know that there was at least a brief deployment of State Police and the much larger St Louis Police Department is nearby. But even from the images that are clearly of the Ferguson Police, a fairly small suburban police department, the amount of body armor and quasi-military equipment is quite striking.
We take it as a given that most police departments will have a SWAT team, a relatively small group and amount of armament for an active shooter or hostage situation. But the Ferguson PD seems tricked out with a number of armored vehicles and quasi-military type gear. The militarization of local police forces is a story probably most of us are familiar with at some level. There’s also been a lot of counter-terror pork distributed to local police departments around the country, either buying bizarre arsenals to face terrorists they’ll almost certainly never encounter or surplus military supplies being cast off by US deployments abroad. But with all that, WTF?
And yet when the right-wing wackos like the all-white Minutemen or Cliven Bundy and his band of “sovereign citizens” gather with guns, ammo, flack jackets, and enough artillery to prove their tiny manhoods, the law enforcement hang back like frightened deer, afraid to “provoke an incident.” Tell me that has nothing to do with race.