Over the last several years or so, we have seen multiple cases of civil rights protests due to the debated mistreatment of African Americans by police forces around the country. But the police forces are beginning to take it too far by converting to what seems almost like a branch of the military.
The issue of police brutality and police militarization has been at the forefront of numerous news stories in recent years with the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Minorities are now outraged, concerned for the safety of their children and family members and are feeling a broken bond between themselves and law enforcement.
Since these situations occurred, protests have been taking place, both violent and nonviolent, but it seems as though the police can never tell the difference between the two. They bring out the riot gear whenever they feel as though a protest is imminent. It doesn’t matter if the protest is five people or 500 people, to police, it seems as though to settle down a protest, you need to bring out the riot shields and tear gas. The question to ask is when is it actually necessary for the police to be militarized? When is a situation the right one for a police force to use tanks?
The militarization of the police should be used in extreme situations, such as big drug busts and large-scale riots. These are the situations where the police are in a great amount of danger because the people they are going to arrest could possibly have the same firepower as them or could potentially harm them with chemicals. This means houses where they make and sell drugs, crime families and underground organizations.
In the past four years, the police have only brought the riot gear out when it came to people protesting the police for the killing of unarmed black people, instead of allowing them to exercise their rights as Americans without feeling threatened. These are nonviolent protests—who are the police really protecting themselves from? It seems as though police have definitely seemed to confuse a riot and a peaceful protest. They treat them all the same.
My problem with the police becoming so militarized is that they often do not get geared up to deal with protests that have a majority of white protesters. Instead they let them protest and carry on with their day. For example, when the Bernie Sanders supporters began protesting at the Democratic National Convention, police allowed them to have their sit down without conflict, even though protesters were being very vulgar towards them.
The military gear is used for peaceful protest in civil rights movements such as Black Lives Matter and the 2015 Selma march, or it’s for majority black neighborhoods that have people who make and sell drugs. I’m not saying not to take them down, but it seems like the targets are always minority groups. It seems like when the black people come out of the house, policemen and women suit up to silence them.
A great example of this is the Philando Castile protests, at which a woman was arrested while approaching the police completely unarmed. According to St. Paul police, around 46 people were arrested for unlawful assembly near the Summit Avenue in Minnesota.
Why is it that when people of color try to exercise their first amendment rights, it always seems like it is time to hit us with the tear gas and taze us? Especially when the majority gets to speak their minds with no conflict?
Why are our neighborhoods raided when it is proven that white Americans sell and use drugs at the same rate as us? According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People website, “[five] times as many whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites.”
Police seem to be more about themselves than the citizens they are sworn to protect. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t feel the need to gear up like that. There is no trust between the citizens and the police anymore. The police are treating the relationship like it is war. It’s an “us” versus “them” situation, and it does not seem to be resolving itself anytime soon. The more black people that are killed, the more protests there will be.
The police have been trained to shoot first and ask questions later. People fail to realize that this is not a new concept. It has been happening for decades. Since the war on drugs, it is just easier to see. You get a visual of what we go through when we protest. The police will continue to become more militarized until they transform into a full blown army. The oppressed people that are protesters will end up feeling like they need to take steps to protect themselves. They will feel like it is necessary to prepare for battle just to protest. If we do not ease tension on both sides, there will be war.