The Police and the Pentagon Are Bringing Our Wars Home
In every case, it was both. Thanks to years of hyper militarization, American police departments are recreating our global war zones here at home. With these weapons on our streets, our history of structural racism becomes that much deadlier.
In recent weeks, overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators protesting police killings and racism have been met by riot police, National Guard troops, and armed federal officers wielding tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber-coated metal bullets. Armored personnel carriers prowl the streets, turning US cities and towns into war zones.
It’s shocking, but it’s not the first time. When a police officer killed 17-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, an armored personnel carrier stalked the agonized protesters who filled the streets.
Throughout US history, policing has always been bound up with racism – and the military.
Organized police forces in the United States trace their roots to the slave patrols organized to capture and return enslaved people who managed to escape bondage.
After reconstruction, when a pandemic of lynching spread across the country, police stood by and in many cases initiated or assisted the kidnapping, torture and murder of people in their custody.
In the 1950s and ’60s, brutal police attacks against civil rights activists and African Americans trying to register to vote continued the pattern. So did police and National Guard violence against antiwar protesters at Kent State, Jackson State, and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in the 1970s.
This militarism at home is linked inextricably to US militarism abroad. The troops that Trump called in to deploy against protesters in Washington, for example, had just returned from duty in Iraq.
Today’s “global war on terror” is less visible than in earlier years. But those wars continue – and it’s mostly black, brown and Muslim people who die. Civilian casualties caused by US bombing in Afghanistan, for instance, were higher last year than at any time in the 20-year-long war.