Most of you undoubtedly know about the protests that are occuring as a result of the death of Michael Brown, a unarmed teenager that was shot to death by police officer Darren Willson in Ferguson, Missouri.
While many questions remain to be answered, the ongoing protests and interactions between police, protestors, and the media is continuing to play out. And to put it mildly, it's a disaster.
The events that have occured read like a laundry list of events that usually occur around protests of oppresive regimes in third world countries. The police have tear gassed a state representative, arrested journalists, tear gassed an Al Jazeera TV crew, arrested a Saint Louis City Alderman, threatened to kill media, arrested a Getty Images photographer, and fired more tear gas at press among many other strong arm tactics that have been used by police to prevent coverage of the protests (NOTE: This is an abridged list, more reports are continuing to roll in of other members of the press be arrested or harassed). These have all been done with blatant disregard for their first amendment rights to free speech, free assembly, and freedom of the press.
Despite the fact that the police have greatly militarized, veterans generally seem to agree that they've militarized poorly. Snipers sitting exposed on top of vehicles, something a sniper would never do. Wantonly pointing weapons at innocent civilians when even in the military you only do that if you intend to shoot someone. Even with looting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, actual military were less heavily outfitted than police.
We may not have reached the level of crackdown that was seen in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but we seem to be drawing closer to that reality.
It's difficult to paint these events in any kind of positive light. They've shown the deep racial and economic divides in this country. They've also shown us how deeply out of touch police and politicians are with the people that they're supposed to serve.
While without a doubt, there are people looting and causing trouble. Without a doubt, there are cops that are not stooping to this level of behavior. Nonethless, the overarching theme is peaceful protestors being intimidated by overly-militarized police.
When it comes down to it, even if Mike Brown attacked Darren Wilson, robbed a store, or committed any other petty crime. He did not deserve to be shot six times and this information did not need to be withheld from people that have been asking for answers. Things didn't need to end up this way.
We need to find ways to heal the racial divides. We need to ensure that the incarceration rate for African Americans is not six times the national average. We need to end dangerous and overzealous police tactics. Until those problems are solved, we'll likely be waiting for the next Ferguson.