[News] Ferguson Versus the Counter-Insurgency State

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 20 15:50:21 EDT 2014

    Ferguson Versus the Counter-Insurgency State

      by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Wed, 08/20/2014

          "The domestic counterinsurgency army has been methodically
          expanded by each successive administration."

The corporate media, reflecting their owners' anxiety at the failure of 
Black people to revert to a state of passivity in Ferguson, Missouri, 
have arrived at a general consensus on two counts: the need to 
"demilitarize" the police (fewer bullets, smaller armored vehicles?) 
and, more immediately, to re-establish some semblance of "calm" (as in 
comatose) in the neighborhood and beyond. Corporate-attuned Black 
powerbrokers and politicians deliver essentially the same message, 
counseling (quiet) introspection and a search for "solutions" 
(diversions) to the historical oppression in which they are deeply 

But first, tensions must be reduced, to diffuse the confrontation -- 
which, we are told, serves no one's interests but the "agitators and 
instigators" (who, apparently, have millions of dollars in derivatives 
wagers riding on urban chaos). Fortunately, the "street" ignores the 
misleaders. If Ferguson had remained "calm" in the face of Michael 
Brown's murder, nobody outside greater St. Louis would know the place 

De-militarize the police? After 50 years of seamlessly integrating the 
local constabulary into the National Security State and its War on 
Drugs, War on Terror, myriad and unending foreign wars, and of funneling 
millions of Black prisoners into the world's largest system of 
incarceration, where would the process of demilitarization begin? What, 
exactly, does it mean to be militarized? Is it defined by the equipment 
the troops/cops carry? Or, by the mission they are assigned?

If the mission of police forces in the United States is to contain, 
suppress, hyper-surveil and incarcerate huge numbers of Black people as 
a matter of policy, then police departments require all the tools the 
federal government has been giving them since President Lyndon Johnson 
signed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 -- a 
cornerstone in the construction of a truly national, integrated 
gendarmerie, which is defined as "a military force charged with police 
duties among civilian populations." SWAT teams, first formed in 
Philadelphia in 1964 and Los Angeles in 1967 as unabashed counter-Black 
insurgency units, have proliferated to the far corners of the land, and 
are now standard drill for warrant-serving cops. The domestic 
counterinsurgency army has been methodically expanded by each successive 
administration, first through the Law Enforcement Assistance 
Administration, and ultimately drawing on the stocks of, not only the 
Pentagon, but virtually every armed agency of the federal government.

President Obama, to whom idiots appeal to scale back police 
militarization, is as hawkish as any of his predecessors in about 
keeping America safe from Black inner city insurgency. The lead sentence 
in an item in today's New York Times, 
blandly titled "Data on Transfer of Military Gear to Police Depatments," 
tells the tale, succinctly:

          "Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has
          transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine
          guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces
          of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of
          silencers, armored cars and aircraft."

Clearly, the U.S. is at war with Black America.

          "Where would the process of demilitarization begin?"

All the nation's police departments are following the same drill, with 
the same tools and weapons, under the same mandate: keep the Blacks in 
check; terrorize them as a matter of policy; provoke them, when it is 
politically convenient; and keep them imprisoned at rates never 
experienced over time by any group that was not formally enslaved.

This is not "mission creep," but the logical fulfillment of the mandate 
handed down by the collective political leadership of the United States 
in response to the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties -- a movement 
whose most militant sector was "militarily defeated," as Black Is Back 
Coalition chairman Omali Yeshitela points out, by the U.S. gendarmerie's 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerie> counterinsurgency campaign of 
assassination, disruption and mass arrests.

The U.S. government was not content to simply crush the organized 
activists, but opted to put Black Americans as a group under a 
militarized regime of mass incarceration. That's the regime that shot 
Michael Brown six times, two Saturdays ago, and which has since sent 
reinforcements in various uniforms to bolster the state's longstanding 
policy of Black cmes ontainment.

That's why Al Sharpton statements on Ferguson are diversionary, at best:

"America as a nation, Missouri as a state, Ferguson as a city, is at a 
defining moment on whether or not we know and are mature enough to 
handle policing --- whether it goes over the line or not.... All 
policemen are not bad; most policemen are not bad. But all of them are 
not right all the time. And when they're wrong, they must pay for being 
wrong just like citizens pay when they're wrong.... Looting is wrong. We 
condemn the looters. But when will law enforcement condemn police who 
shoot and kill our young people? We got to be honest on both sides of 
this discussion."

We only quote Sharpton because his views are essentially representative 
of the Black Misleadership Class, which has presided over nearly half a 
century of mass Black incarceration and containment, yet continues to 
counsel that African Americans are only a reform or two away from true 
"freedom." Sharpton wants Black people and the police to understand each 
other's perspectives, which is the common refrain of corporate media, as 
well. Fortunately, the defiant activists in Ferguson understand all too 
well where the police are coming from. This is not about bad, rogue 
cops, but an entrenched system of Black oppression that the cops are 
paid and trained to enforce.

          "The election of Black city councilpersons and mayors did not
          transform the fundamental relationship between the community
          and the police."

It was understandable that previous generations of Black people, who 
came to political consciousness in the late Fifties and Sixties, could 
believe that growing police repression would surely be overcome by what 
seemed like the inexorable rise of Black majorities and decisive voting 
pluralities in the cities. But the election of Black city councilpersons 
and mayors did not transform the fundamental relationship between the 
community and the police, who were even more quickly being integrated 
into a national gendarmerie that was sworn to impose what Michelle 
Alexander calls The New Jim Crow. Meanwhile, the Black Misleadership 
Class -- the beneficiaries of the limited, civil rights gains of the 
Sixties -- spent most of their energies integrating themselves into the 
Democratic Party and affiliated corporate structures, while accepting 
every gift of guns and gear from the feds.

Black majority rule does not automatically transform the relationship 
between cops and citizens. Newark, New Jersey, for example, has had 
Black mayors since 1970. Yet, a U.S. Justice Department review shows 
that cops violate the rights of residents in 75 percent of pedestrian 
stops. There is nothing atypical about Newark among largely Black cities.

Back in the late Sixties, many believed that an influx of new, Black and 
brown police would compel local departments to "protect and serve" the 
people, rather than protect white privilege and serve the rich and 
powerful. It does generally appear that Black cops are somewhat less 
likely to kill or maim Black residents, but the repressive relationship 
is not fundamentally altered by their increased presence on the force.

In New Orleans, which has had a number of Black police chiefs, about 40 
percent of the department is Black. Nevertheless, the department's 
conduct in Black neighborhoods is as savage and predatory as in any city 
in the nation.

Back in 1969, it was not hopelessly naïve to believe that the 
establishment of civilian review boards to oversee police departments 
would make a huge difference in the lives of people at the other end of 
the night stick. Today, there are plenty of such boards, with varied 
levels of independence and power, but nowhere can it be said that review 
boards have fundamentally altered Black-police relationships in 
statistically significant ways.

If the people of Ferguson or anyplace else demand more Black police 
officers or a civilian police review board, we should all support them. 
But, we have the benefit of history to inform us that such reforms will 
have only marginal impact on community-police relations as long as the 
police mission is to contain and incarcerate Black people -- which is 
the root of the militarized police state. The same "army/police" rules 
everywhere in America.

There is no liberated territory -- not yet. But, that must be the goal.

          BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
          Glen.Ford at BlackAgendaReport.com.

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