EspañolBy Brandon R. Davis
In Ferguson, Missouri, the police killing of an unarmed black teenager has resulted in a tremendous backlash. A police officer, later identified as Darren Wilson, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday, August 9. Since Brown’s killing, protesters have clashed with police in Ferguson on a nearly nightly basis, as over 150 officers, including canine units, state police, and now the National Guard have been dispatched throughout St. Louis County to quell the unrest.
After a vigil was held for Brown on Sunday, August 10, a few angry residents took to the streets, looting and vandalizing local business. Unfortunately, emotions and frustrations can get the better of people in situations like Ferguson, and ill-intentioned individuals use this tension as a catalyst to create havoc. The militarization of local police has turned minority neighborhoods into occupied zones of limited liberty and property rights, bringing their residents to a breaking point.
The underlying issue is how police departments are turning urban neighborhoods into police states, applying excessive force in instances of unrest like Ferguson. From Jon Burge’s “Midnight Crew” to New York police officers strangling a man in broad daylight, urban neighborhood residents have come to fear not just criminals, but the very people meant to “protect and serve” the community.
Time and time again, instances of police brutality against ethnic minorities have gone unquestioned and unpunished. In 2013, some 169,252 entirely innocent people were “stopped and frisked” in New York City, 85 percent of which were minorities. This is down from the 605,328 innocent people who were “stopped and frisked” in 2011. In Illinois, Representative Monique Davis asked the governor to deploy the state National Guard to assist with law enforcement in Chicago. Davis believes that the National Guard would be better able to subdue inner-city neighborhoods — an unprecedented show of state power.
Beginning with the failed “war on drugs,” the creation of the police state has been fueled by the federal funding of local law enforcement. The police state is directly connected with the disproportionate number of minorities coming into contact with police. The Sentencing Project reports that there are currently over 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, with an additional 4.8 million under the control of the criminal justice system through parole and probation.
There are roughly six African Americans to every one white person incarcerated in the United States. Far too often, this increased contact equals increased use of lethal force, such as in the case of Michael Brown. Unfortunately, there is no good source of data on police use of deadly force. However, a 2012 comparison study of extrajudicial killings in major cities found staggering results.
In New York City, for example, researchers found 87 percent of the people police killed were African Americans. In Chicago, that number grows to 91 percent. In the cities of Rockford, Illinois, and Saginaw, Michigan, while the total number of people police killed was far fewer, 100 percent of them were black.
This same report also found that police, security guards, and vigilantes in the United States were responsible for the deaths of 313 African Americans in 2012. That amounts to police forces killing one African American every 28 hours.
This trend in police violence and increased security presence in minority communities has fueled a mix of resentment and distrust toward local police departments. The Cato Institute’s Jonathan Blanks and Radley Balko have aptly documented the problems with overcriminalization, the militarization of local police, and the questionable constitutionality of policing tactics.
From the Nixon administration to now, the “tough on crime” agenda has consistently used incendiary rhetoric to advance restrictive policies and oppressive tactics to police urban neighborhoods.
The Clinton administration’s 1994 Crime Bill enacted tougher anti-crime measures that increased prosecutions, built more prisons, and enacted stiffer penalties for offenders. The Byrne JAG Program (JAG) was created in 2005 by merging the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program (Byrne) with the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program (LLEBG). These grants give money to local law enforcement to purchase military equipment. Clinton’s crime-fighting policies resulted in the largest increase in federal and state inmates than any other president in history. Under the Obama Administration, the JAG/Byrne funding has reached an all-time high.
It is an oppressive state that minority communities should be suspicious of. A House Judiciary Committee hearing found that the United States has reached an incarceration level (approximately 700 jailed per 100,000) that has become detrimental to society and actually contributes to more crime. Therefore, police militarization in minority communities not only threatens civil liberties and increases tensions between citizens and law enforcement, it is ultimately counterproductive to its stated goals.
US Americans of all stripes should stand up to state oppression, driven by big government and the drug war, that is systematically dismantling civil liberties, not just for minorities but for everyone.
Brandon R. Davis is a Young Voices Advocate and PhD candidate in political science at the University of Alabama.
EspañolThe Venezuelan government is set to launch a new crusade against shortages and their most apparent consequence: long queues. On Wednesday, Andrés Eloy Méndez, the superintendent of fair prices, introduced the controversial plan, "Operation Queue Killer" (Eficiencia Mata Cola), for 80 supermarkets across the country. According to Méndez, the initiative aims to "protect the sustenance of the Venezuelan family," through ongoing and thorough inspections that will guarantee the proper functioning of cash registers in the targeted supermarkets. In an interview on the Venezuelan television program, Mesa Informativa, Méndez referred to an investigation of 66 private supermarkets, conducted on Saturday. Apparently, half had at least one defective cash register — worsening the long lines. According to Méndez, although the plan will be initiated in supermarkets, he anticipates its extension to other parts of the economy, "where long lines have produced deficient service." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qmeJJOuAZc "One of the grave symptoms we're experiencing amid the distortions and disorders of our economy is the observed waiting in queues," Méndez continued. "When we conducted a thorough examination of why people are waiting in line, the phenomenon that drew our attention the most was that inspected supermarkets had more than half of their cash registers closed. Some even had 81 percent of their registers closed, and people waiting in line for three hours." He highlighted Article 99, Paragraph 9, of the Law of Fair Prices: “Anyone providing priority items should do so in an efficient, effective, uninterrupted, and timely manner." Méndez explained that all stores should offer quality service, or pay the corresponding fine: “Operation Queue Killer is here to stay until we have fully confronted this issue." Cash Registers Mandates per Square Meter He noted that officials have observed unfavorable behavior on the part of supermarket owners: “It could be that certain stores are removing dysfunctional cash registers to avoid the fine and demonstrate that they are functioning at maximum capacity.” To confront the alleged illegal activity, Méndez and his team will impose regulations that establish a specific quota of cash registers per square meter. In response to critics of the regulations, he has asserted that outdated capitalism to blame for "control-phobia." Critics Dismiss Operation Queue Killer as Distraction Tactic For Sonaly Atencio, a member of a Popular Will regional team — the political movement of imprisoned opposition activist Leopoldo López — this initiative is the latest attempt by president Nicholas Maduro's administration to divert blame from their failed economic policies. https://twitter.com/JuventudesVPZ/status/501468837905465345 Voluntad Popular: “The Killer Plan intends to hide the failure of the national government in economic matters." “They have not been able to solve the problem of shortages of regulated products, and now they try to blame the employees of the grocery stores… Delays in supermarkets and pharmacies are a result of the absence of products, which according to official data is at 40 percent,” decried the Atencio. She claims these latest cash-register regulations “will not solve anything." Long lines emerge when a high-demand product, like disposable diapers, arrives in stores. Biometrics, the ration card of the 21st century? The superintendent informed grocery-store owners across the country that a national system of biometric measurements – in the form of a fingerprint registry – will be established before the end of the year. The official confirmed that the new regulation will establish a system of control and restrict the purchase of particular products. In order to implement the new system, the central government will ask supermarkets for weekly lists of the types of products purchased by Venezuelan families. Méndez says he wants to bring an end to the practice of purchasing large quantities of certain products for resale on the black market. “[The critics] believe it offends us when they call us communists. It does not offend us; our project is clearly socialist, Chavista. In Venezuela, we have a group of unemployed writers and economists who I would classify as controlophobes. They have a phobia of regulation. They say nothing needs to be controlled." José Guerrá, an economist and adviser to the opposition Democracy Unity Roundtable, told the Argentinean newspaper, Clarín, that this Operation Queue Killer and biometric announcement were “the insanity that was missing." “Now we are only missing the government regulating exactly where the cash registers should be. Honestly, this is really insane. Let's call it what is. It's not a supply card. It's a ration card. If the supply is there, what's the need for the card?" Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood.