Police in Ferguson, Mo., arrested and then released two reporters who were attempting to cover a street protest over the police shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown.
According to an account on MSNBC, the two reporters, one who works for the Washington Post, were arrested when they were “too slow” in leaving a McDonalds, where they had been sitting, filing their stories. One, says he was intentionally slammed into a door by an officer. According to MSNBC, a reporter for the LA Times saw what was happening, called the Chief of Police and asked if he knew his cops were arresting reporters. Minutes later the two reporters were released.
The Ferguson, Mo. police, apparently “assisted” by the St. Louis County Police, are giving the appearance of going from bad to worse. Whoever these guys are, they’re acting like a small town cop shop that was given way too much surplus military gear, too much tear gas (they apparently lobbed gas at an Al Jazeera crew for no reason at all), and way too little training in crowd control. They don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing. By one account, their Chief has admitted that they’ve had no training in dealing with a crowd of protesters. But they’ve got lots of heavy military hardware and a seemingly endless supply of gas, which, eyewitnesses say, they are throwing at homeowners who have the unmitigated gall to stand in their front yards.
There is video of cops taking down the lights and other equipment belonging to broadcast journalists.
When did “protect and serve” become “gas and attack?” Was it about the same time the Jefferson PD and (or) the county police were militarized by being given camo fatigues, armored personnel carriers and assault rifles?
They also apparently declared a curfew to be in effect on little more than a moment’s notice and without City approval. They apparently think they can create law on the one hand and ignore it on the other. Even if it happens to be constitutional law. A local tv reporter says the cops were going around telling photojournalists to turn off their cameras and leave the area.
City leaders all appear to be ducking for cover. Or maybe they’re invisible. It’s difficult to imagine that this is a suburb of St. Louis, and a sad fact that we still have police officers in any metro area with such an excess of attitude and an obvious absence of adequate training. But don’t blame the coppers out on the street or the Governor. Blame the Mayor, the City Council and the Chief of Police. They’re running this show. They, are directly responsible and need to be held to account.
You don’t suppose any of this might be a result of our current national push for economic austerity do you? We get what we’re willing to pay for, and from one coast to the other the budgets of police and fire departments have been cut to the bone. Except for all that nifty surplus military gear they’ve been getting, which has the potential for making our city streets look more like Gaza and Beirut than Los Angeles, Chicago or Ferguson, Mo.
This is what you get from a federal government that has nearly unlimited funding for making war, but less than nothing for building and maintaining infrastructure on American soil. Lots of surplus military killing gear, but no money for maintaining police and fire departments in the U.S. If you house catches fire or you’re attacked by thugs, call the Pentagon. I’m sure they’ll be able to help.
Late unconfirmed reports indicate a St. Louis City Alderman and one state lawmaker were also arrested by the Jefferson Police during what reportedly began as a peaceful demonstration. Later still, Governor Nixon, is sending in the State Police to patrol the streets of Jefferson. The local cops have been told to stand down.