The most striking photographs from Ferguson, Missouri, aren’t of Saturday’s demonstrations or Sunday night’s riots; they’re of the police.Image after image shows officers clad in Kevlar vests, helmets, and camouflage, armed with pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, and tear gas. In one photo, protesters stand toe-to-toe with baton-wielding riot police, in another, an unarmed man faces several cops, each with rifles at the ready.
What’s more, Ferguson police have used armored vehicles to show force and control crowds. In one photo, riot gear-clad officers are standing in front of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, barking commands and launching tear gas into groups of demonstrators and journalists.
This would be one thing if Ferguson were in a war zone, or if protesters were violent—although, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which American police would need a mine-resistant vehicle. But an episode of looting aside, Ferguson police aren’t dealing with any particular danger. Nonetheless, they’re treating demonstrators—and Ferguson residents writ large—as a population to occupy, not citizens to protect.
This is part of a broader problem.
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