News Release

Ferguson: * Black Passivity * Military Policing

VERNELLIA RANDALL, randall at udayton.edu
Emeritus professor of law at the University of Dayton, Randall’s writings are at her website: racism.org.

She said today: “This isn’t about one boy being killed or about one town. It’s about the lives of all African Americans. What’s surprising to me is that there isn’t more protest and outrage. Just recently, in the town where I live, a black man, John Crawford, picked up a toy gun in Wal-Mart and he got killed by a policeman — even though this is an open carry state.

“People are in the streets demanding openness and it takes nearly a week to find out Michael Brown was shot six times.”

Randall is author of Dying While Black about “how living in this racist society has made us sick.” Added Randall: “The illness that has afflicted us is that we’ve been so passive in the face of the abuse that’s been inflicted upon us.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, media at bordc.org, @bordc
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Buttar said today: “The only thing more disturbing than the use of military tactics and weapons to suppress dissent in violation of constitutional rights is the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to pioneer those abuses in foreign countries used as laboratories for policing tactics. From automatic license plate scanners to shot spotter audio listening devices, surveillance drones to tear gas and SWAT teams, local policing has emerged as a part of the military industrial racket. But while the trend remains disturbing nationally, communities across the country have taken action to prevent and roll back the militarization of their police forces.”

MICHAEL SHANK, michael at fcnl.org, @Michael_Shank
Shank is the associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He just co-wrote the New York Times op-ed “Get the Military Off of Main Street,” which states: “Ferguson, Mo. has become a virtual war zone. In the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, outsize armored vehicles have lined streets and tear gas has filled the air. Officers dressed in camouflage uniforms from Ferguson’s 53-person police force have pointed M-16s at the very citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

“The police response has shocked America. The escalating tension in this town of 21,200 people between a largely white police department and a majority African-American community is a central part of the crisis, but the militarization of the police is a dimension of the story that has national implications.

“Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. … To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.

“Ferguson’s police department is just one recipient; small towns all over America are now the proud owners of ‘MRAP’ armored vehicles. The largess has gotten so out of hand that a congressman, Hank C. Johnson, is introducing a bill to block the 1033 handouts.”