Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Militarization of the Police

Police Riot in Oakland 10/25/2011
I watched Michael Moore's rousing and informative speech at Occupy Oakland Wednesday afternoon. Not only is the encampment reforming and blossoming, according to Moore and the enthusiastic crowd we have reached the end of apathy and despair. But we are in the throes of something else, totally predictable but frightening and potentially devastating nonetheless: the militarization of the police.

Moore mentioned this specifically in his speech. This situation in the USA has developed and worsened in the years since anti Vietnam war protests . When I was a protester at Ohio State University in the early seventies, the National Guard served alongside the police in order to "keep the peace." Yes, the tanks, or "armored personnel carriers rolled down High Street and we carried signs like" Welcome to Prague," referring to 1968 when the Soviet tanks rolled into that city to crush the people's movement that included more freedom of speech, ability to travel and access to information from independent media sources.

In those days, the US Military functioned as the military and the police played a subservient, more localized role. Today, the police function like a mercenary army organized to keep the people in line. The fact that the rate of incarceration in the USA exceeds that of all other countries in the civilized world is no accident. And here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the fact that even the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police are murdering citizens (Oscar Grant at Fruitvale station, Charles Hill near Civic Center), is a new low in the annals of law enforcement.

The governors, mayors, police departments and transit agencies now possess the ability to band together in order to determine the freedom, or lack thereof, of a city's citizens. This was readily apparent on the night of Wednesday, October 25th at around 11pm when, on rumors of an impending police raid of the Occupy SF camp, the authorities closed the two downtown Oakland BART stations along with the Embarcadero station, where the encampment was located solely to prevent citizens from getting there to provide support for the occupiers. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee changed his mind and the raid of the SF camp was called off.