How Police Use Military Tactics to Quell the Nonviolent U.S. Protests

Robert Fantina

 

Opinion:

           

The United States is currently experiencing a level of civil unrest not seen in decades. The cause is as old as the country itself: racism. Today, people are protesting across the country and around the world because racism in the U.S. has again shown its ugly and frequent coupling with police brutality.

 

President Donald Trump has responded as a dictator would: He is encouraging the violent suppression of the demonstrations, paying minimal lip service to George Floyd, the victim whose brutal murder sparked the current unrest, and attempting to portray himself as a brave and strong leader.

 

Trump, who recently announced that he is a “law and order” president, is anxious to use the Insurrection Act, passed into law in 1807, to quell the demonstrations now happening across the country. The terms of this act enable the president to release the U.S. army onto the streets in U.S. communities to restore order during civil unrest when normal policing is “impracticable.”

 

But U.S. police departments are functioning already as another branch of the U.S. military, with a variety of tactics and equipment taken directly from the armed forces’ engagement abroad:

 

 

False Flags

 

Throughout U.S. history, non-events, often referred to as “false flags,” have been twisted and used to invade other nations.  Iraq, for example, had no weapons of mass destruction, but the U.S. invaded in 2003 and destroyed not only a nation – but a region. No sailors were fired upon during the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, yet President Lyndon Johnson and a willing Congress used that accusation to escalate the war in Vietnam.

 

Viewed through the lens of the concept of false flag events, one wonders how Trump might justify invoking the Insurrection Act.

 

He has already claimed that the governors of various states are not doing all they can to suppress protest. He wants the police and National Guard to “dominate” the protestors. Since most governors are not willing to do so, Trump might declare that the situation cannot be controlled through normal policing.

 

His own Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, has broken ranks with his Commander in Chief and declared that he does not  regard the current unrest in the United States as requiring the invocation of the Insurrection Act. Esper said the act should be invoked “… only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” adding, “We are not in one of those situations now.” As a result, Esper’s tenure as Secretary of Defense is reported to be coming to an end.

 

Trump and his cohorts have accused protestors of stealing bricks from construction sites to use as weapons against police. To hear administration officials discuss it, water bottles in the hands of demonstrators are equal to the projectiles shot by police. All this, according to them, necessitates using the provisions of the Insurrection Act.

 

 

‘Hearts and Minds’ Photo-Ops

 

Despite the protests and unrest, for the U.S. president, there are still advantages: photo-ops. Trump officials had no apparent qualms about dislodging peaceful protesters in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., despite the fact that they were fully within their rights to be there. The president then walked to the church and, taking a Bible that his daughter Ivanka pulled from her purse, awkwardly held it aloft. One is reminded of George W. Bush, as president, addressing the nation proudly on a U.S. destroyer under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” in the early days of the Iraq war. All show; no substance.

 

And these photo-ops are also utilized by police in many cities. They make a show of walking with demonstrators while cameras are rolling, but using their batons and tear gas when cameras are turned off.  Civilians who are present when the news reporters have moved on know the truth, but what the world sees on news programs is what the government and the police want it to see -- until the journalists themselves are shot with rubber bullets and arrested.

 

 

Military-Grade Equipment and Training

 

One might shudder in horror at the thought of tanks and soldiers in full riot gear, carrying rocket launchers, patrolling the streets of their city, should the provisions of the Insurrection Act be invoked. But this particular nightmare need not wait for Trump to invoke that act.

 

For years now, the U.S. military has been selling surplus equipment, material designed specifically for war zones, to local police departments. In many cities, police departments have nearly all the equipment, including weaponry and armored vehicles, that the U.S. military uses when it goes to war. Police departments also have tear gas and chemical weapons, which, should the U.S. decide to use against foreign enemies abroad, would violate the terms of the Geneva Convention.

 

The mottos of police departments throughout the country differ, with Los Angeles’s ‘To Protect and Serve’ probably the most well-known. But many of them include the word “service,” or some such variation.

 

Yet, in addition to obtaining military-grade equipment, many U.S. police departments receive training from Israel, whose forces are often cited for human rights violations.  Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinians is well-documented, and its racist policies against Arabs and Blacks is well-known and has caused a surge of outrage around the world. Using equipment meant for a war, and learning vicious methods -- including restraint methods -- from Israel, hardly qualify these police departments and officers as providing “service.” These are the tools of repressive regimes  that will stop at nothing to maintain power -- the most recent video of Buffalo, New York, police pushing a man to the ground and not aiding him as he  bled from his head and ears is just one of a long history of brutality on and off camera,

 

These examples are a worrisome combination: a dictator-like president who wants to restore order in the U.S. in time for the civil unrest to be forgotten before he faces re-election in five months, coupled with a military and police force trained by Israel and both of which have access to military-grade war equipment.

 

As of this writing, a memorial service for George Floyd is being held in Minneapolis. Police officer Derek Chauvin and his murderous accomplices are in jail, facing various charges. One might think that the funeral will bring some closure, and we hope it does, for Floyd’s grief-stricken family. But for the nation, especially Black and Brown Americans, this must be more than just another tragedy, followed by business as usual. Real change will take more than simply electing a candidate who is not part of the problem, but who offers a solution -- it will take a wholesale re-evaluation of the role and power of police in society.

 

Author Bio:

 

Robert Fantina, author of Propaganda, Lies and False Flags: How the U.S. Justifies its Wars, is a human rights activist and journalist. Shortly after the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Fantina left the United States for Canada and now holds dual citizenship. A truth-seeker, Fantina is active in supporting the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people, and is the past Canadian coordinator of World Beyond War . He serves on the boards of Canadians for Palestinian Rights, and Canadians for Justice in Kashmir.  He is the author of several books, including Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 – 2006Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign PolicyLook Not Unto the Morrow, a Vietnam-era, anti-war story; and Occupied Palestine: Israel, the U.S. and International Law. His writing appears regularly on Counterpunch, Global Research and several other sites.

 

Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

 

--Fibonacci Blue (Flickr, Creative Commons)

--Sounder Bruce (Wikimedia.org, Creative Commons)

--Rosa Pineda (Wikimedia.org, Creative Commons)

--Rosa Pineda (Wikimedia.org, Creative Commons)

 

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