militarization of polic

Donald Trump Has Authorized The Police To Use Weapons of War On Communities of Color

President Donald Trump has authorized local police authorities to have uncurtailed access to military grade equipment “including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms,” ending an Obama-era restriction that prohibited the same. It will also give law enforcement unrestricted access to “federally provided drones, explosives, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.”

President Obama banned local law enforcement from accessing military gear and technology after the protests and reactions in Ferguson, Missouri, stating, “We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.” Trump campaigned on ending this restriction — known as Executive Order 13688 — and made good on his promise last Monday, when he issued a directive rescinding Obama’s order.

Make no mistake: this new directive is a clear indication of state violence against communities of color.

Human rights and civil rights groups have come out forcefully against the order. Human Rights Watch has claimed that “lifting the restrictions in the aftermath of Charlottesville raises fears the weapons will lead to new abuses. The fears are justified.” The American Civil Liberties Union expressed alarm too, stating that “weapons of war will again be used to police our communities, no questions asked,” and that your town “could be the next Ferguson or Fallujah.”

As Stanford law professor David Sklansky argues, police militarization has a disproportionate effect on communities of color, reminding us that “you don’t tend to hear about police using battering rams and stun grenades to execute search warrants in white neighborhoods.” Sklansky points to ACLU’s review of SWAT deployments in police departments earlier this year, where they found that “the disparity was truly astounding. In Allentown, Pa., blacks were 24 times more likely than whites to be impacted by a SWAT deployment. In Ogden, Utah, the ratio was 40:1. In Burlingame, N.C., it was close to 50:1.” The ACLU’s report indicates how a militarized police turns communities of color into veritable war zones, with senior counsel Kara Dansky stating that “these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy.”  This should come as no surprise to any student of history — police militarization and the use of military tactics on civilians in America has always been a response to the problem of race, not the problem of law and order or crime.

But one doesn’t need a Stanford professor or a human rights group to tell you the new order is racially motivated: Jeff Sessions, in announcing the directive to an audience of law enforcement officials last week, confessed as much in coded terms. “We are fighting a multi-front battle,” he said, “an increase in violent crime, a rise in vicious gangs, an opioid epidemic, threats from terrorism, combined with a culture in which family and discipline seem to be eroding further and a disturbing disrespect for the rule of law.” The “increase in violent crime” and “rise in vicious gangs” are clear nods to Black and Latino communities, both of whom have been targeted by Sessions and Trump in the past. Sessions also neglects to mention that violent crime has been declining for years, that despite fluctuations — mostly caused by aberrations and upticks in specific cities — “violent crime still remains near the bottom of the nation’s 30-year downward trend.” Crime experts have argued that year on year variations reveal little about the rise in crime, and long-term trends are more useful, indicating that Sessions’s statements are little more than an attempt to stir the public into panicking and supporting the over-policing of brown and black bodies in the name of “security.” Sessions’s warning of “threats of terrorism,” too, ring hollow, and may be nothing more than a call for increased military surveillance on Muslim communities, on the heels of Trump’s Muslim ban. Indeed, the biggest terrorist threat still remains attacks by homegrown white supremacists — something a militarized police would only collude with, not combat.

The latest order must make it clear to us, if it wasn’t already, that the Trump Administration thinks of itself as at war with communities of color, and it has equipped itself in preparation for the same. Militarized violence is always horrifying whether perpetrated home or abroad — and this move should be seen as the latest one in an endorsement of white supremacist ideology in both the Trump government’s domestic and foreign policy: a necessary extension of the evils bloodshed of American imperialist warfare on its own. Resistance, in all forms, has not just become a matter of ideological choice at this point — it is a moral imperative to save this country’s most vulnerable minorities.

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Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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