Responding to rioting, looting and a police force that at times looked more like U.S. combat forces in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama said: “[I]t’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old, and his family will never hold Michael in their arms again.”
It really started when Michael Brown allegedly committed a “strong arm” robbery of a convenience store 10 minutes before his fatal encounter with a police officer. But more importantly, the results of that shooting and the urban violence that has erupted in its wake began with Obama and his bid for the presidency, in which he concocted his version of social nitroglycerin:
- By underscoring racial inequality at every opportunity while failing to create economic opportunities for blacks,
- And by arming large and small city police forces with military hardware that is the envy of some nations.
These two ingredients had an explosive and predictable reaction in Ferguson, and some analysts have suggested that other urban areas are a tinderbox for the violence witnessed in Missouri over the past two weeks.
A Time Before Cops Were Wannabe SEALs
In February 1986, my publisher called me up on a Sunday morning telling me he had already rented me a car and that I needed to get to it with my camera and drive hundreds of miles to Hinton, Alberta, where two trains had collided. It was one of those “I can’t stand this job,” moments but it became a great experience because I was the first reporter on the scene. Along the highway, just as I saw the police barricade, I pulled over the car and grabbed my Pentax. I worked my way halfway down a mountain and may have “accidently” crossed the yellow tape the police had set up. I knew I had to quickly take pictures of the locomotives that had collided. They were still spewing smoke and emergency workers were taking body bags off the trains. I knew the opportunity wouldn’t last long because Royal Canadian Mounted Police were milling around the crash. Plus, as it turned out, 23 people were dead.
Halfway through the roll, I decided to take out the film and hide it on my person. As I began my second roll, a Mountie rolled up on me and asked me what I thought I was doing. I showed him my press credentials. He politely asked me for my camera, his gun still tucked safely in its covered leather holster. As he opened up the back of the camera and confiscated my film, he apologized, saying the area was sealed off from reporters. Then he gave me the best directions to get back to my rental car.
It turned out my photos were published nationally because they were the only legitimate ones of frenzied work being carried out hours after the crash. All these years later, I’m left flabbergasted in light of the military muscle of the police in Ferguson during the first stage of unrest, including the detainment of two reporters at a McDonald’s for simply doing their job. Police forces, even in small cities, look and act like combat troops. So much for “preserve and protect.” We live in an age where police are on “search and destroy” missions.
To a large extent, the Obama administration has played a large part in the militarization of police forces around the country — a force that, when used, is held to great criticism by the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder.
On Aug. 14, under the headline “The Pentagon gave nearly half a billion dollars of military gear to local law enforcement last year,” The Washington Post reported:
The events in Ferguson, Missouri this week are an uncomfortable reminder of the militarization of America’s small town law enforcement agencies. The photos coming out of the town–of heavily armed officers in full combat gear squaring off against unarmed protesters–look like images we’re used to seeing from places like Gaza, Turkey, or Egypt, not from a midwestern suburb of 21,000 people.
One of the ways police departments have armed themselves in recent years is through the Defense Department’s excess property program, known as the 1033 Program. It “permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs),” according to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center.
Small-city cops have been given state-of-the-art sniper rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, helmets, flak jackets and explosive-proof armored tactical vehicles, otherwise known as tanks. Even military helicopters piloted by cops with machine guns pointed at the populace fly above America’s not-so-friendly skies.
I used to go to the boxing gym along with cops. Some of them were great guys. Some of them gave me the willies. All of them stuck together. But there wasn’t one of them that I would want pointing a .50 caliber machine gun at me. And if you are comfortable with local law enforcement aiming such weapons at you, you are probably comfortable with anything.
Arms And Race
That the police feel vulnerable I understand, but that they carry such weapons I cannot understand. I also feel vulnerable in some parts of where I live and in cities I visit. If it were legal, I would still own and, on occasion, carry my Smith & Wesson 10 mm; but I was forced to sell it when I moved to Canada.
But let us be honest with ourselves and ask two important questions:
- Has Barack Obama eased racial tensions or exacerbated them?
- Does the TV news — particularly CNN and MSNBC — over-report the victimization of African-Americans at the hands of whites?
I believe the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes.” African-Americans are mad as hell. And at least some of that blame must fall on the shoulders of Obama, who promised blacks racial healing along with economic prosperity in his 2008 presidential campaign and then miserably failed at delivering either.
In November, The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in which he wrote:
Have race relations worsened since Obama was elected? The best data, two polls commissioned by The Associated Press, suggest the answer is yes. The number of Americans with “explicit anti-black attitudes” rose from 48 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2012, while implicit racist attitudes went from 49 percent to 56 percent. Another set of A.P. polls showed anti-Latino attitudes had climbed between 2011 and 2012.
The attacks on local law enforcement agencies by Obama for their handling of two particular incidents — the first involving his former professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., in the summer of 2009 and the second being the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (“If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon”) — reflect a president who is, at best, reckless in his comments about race and, at worse, intent to divide a nation that is already deeply divided.
This headline by Breitbart News last week blared out an ominous fact: “5 Race Riots in Obama’s Post-Racial America.”
The story concluded:
These are incidents of mass violence, not merely individual crime incidents. And such incidents are testimony to the continuing sense of racial injustice purveyed by the media and the Obama administration.
And the beat goes on. Obama instructed the feds to perform an independent autopsy on Brown. (He must think the country simply can’t trust those white folks in Missouri.)
Thus, we get this statement from Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon:
Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner.
What is extraordinary is that the Obama administration is becoming directly involved in a police shooting. Then again, it was a white cop who shot a 6-foot-4 black man. (Brown was 18, which means he was eligible to serve the country in combat.) And from the appearances of his alleged robbery, Brown was at least on that day acting like a thug.
Is anybody really going to suggest that if a black cop had shot a white 18-year-old under those exact circumstances there would be a massive media presence, rioting and looting by whites, and Holder calling for an independent investigation?
If you tell me that such is the case, you are either lying to me or lying to yourself.
The fact is Obama is bringing all this hell to fruition. With one hand he is arming local police like they are the Marines, and with the other hand he is wiping the angst off his furrowed brow because of the racial injustice that prevails in his America. Sounds like the perfect combination for a race war and a state of national emergency.
Yours in good times and bad,