After yet another killer cop was found not guilty of murdering an unarmed black man and planting a gun on his body, the people of St. Louis took to the streets in protest. They remained generally peaceful until sundown when the bulk of the protesters went home and a few remained behind to take more extreme actions. This is not unusual and some windows were smashed, resulting in over 80 people being arrested.
What was unusual was what the police were chanting while they rounded up suspects:
"Whose streets, our streets" is a slogan often chanted by Black Lives Matter. It's a reference to the fact that black people are often criminalized simply for existing in their own neighborhoods. When you can be stopped/harassed/arrested/beaten/killed for walking, standing, sitting, running, jogging, driving, or any of the everyday activities white Americans take for granted, it's important to remind yourself that within your own community, you are not, in fact, an unwelcome invader.
For the police to chant this is one of two things:
1. A mockery of that idea.
2. A declaration of intent.
Neither of these is a sign of a healthy mindset. To mock the belief of black people that they are not criminals in their own communities is a betrayal of the rule of law that the police are supposed to uphold. If your response to people refusing to be terrorized and dehumanized is to taunt them, you just might be the people doing the terrorizing and dehumanizing.
The only thing worse than the chant as mockery is the chant as declaration. The sense of entitlement among American law enforcement is already well past dangerously high. With the "constitutional" ability to literally make the law up on the spot, take your money and property without a crime being committed, kill you, "accidentally" or otherwise, with zero repercussions, and a myriad of other "rights" that sound suspiciously like what you might find in a police state, the police represent a clear and present danger to society when they're not kept on a tight leash. Cops that chant "whose streets, our streets" as a declaration are literally saying that they are beholden to no one. Certainly not the people who pay their salaries that they're supposed to serve and protect. There's a reason the police are referred to in some communities as the largest gang around.
It's tempting to blame this on Trump and his "don't be too nice" comments to the police in July, but this problem has existed for generations and it's getting worse. Black and Latino (but mostly black) communities have been terrorized for as long as we've had police but I think that the two tipping points came when cell phone cameras started to expose just how pervasive this abuse of the black community is and when we started to militarize the police.
It was easy to ignore complaints from black people about police brutality because they've been complaining about stuff forever. Stop making us slaves! Stop lynching us! Stop raping our women! Give us the right to vote! Give us equal rights! It never ends! It's like they think the Constitution applies to everyone or something. But with cellphone cameras everywhere, it became impossible for white people to ignore how vicious and brutal the police were. Americans, black, white or otherwise, do not like bullies (the election of Donald Trump notwithstanding) and watching the police slap around black people after they were already pinned to the ground and handcuffed really pissed us off.
Suddenly, the police found a lot of white faces showing up to protest their violence and they didn't like that one bit.
Around the same time, the federal government started funneling billions of dollars' worth of surplus military gear to the police, ostensibly to prepare them for "terrorism" but really so defense contractors could sell brand new gear at a premium. The police got lots of shiny new toys they didn't need and the generals at the Pentagon guaranteed themselves a nice, cushy private sector job after they retired.
The problem is that when you dress for war, you act like you're in a war zone. Why show up to quiet down a protest in regular uniform when you can show up in full body armor, touting enough firepower to wipe out a small town, riding on the side of an cool as fuck tank? And since you came dressed for a party, might as well go ahead and boogie down, am I right? When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
The end result is the the police become more violent and the public demands more accountability. The more accountability the public demands, the more resentful of public scrutiny the police become. The more resentful the police become, the more violent they'll get, spurring even more protests against them, spurring even more police violence. It's a vicious cycle that the Department of Justice was slowly making headway into breaking by holding the heretofore unaccountable police departments accountable and ending the blatantly unnecessary militarization. It's a process that will take decades, or would have until Trump and his white supremacist Keebler elf Jeff Sessions started rearming the police with military grade weapons while loudly proclaiming they could go right back to terrorizing and dehumanizing black people again.
If we don't stop this, again, the body count will escalate as the police run amok. Mockery or declaration, the chanting of the St. Louis police is a sign of just how badly damaged law enforcement culture has become in America. We deserve better than this and, frankly, so do the police, who should be a welcome part of our communities, not an oppressive occupying force.
There are 413 days left to the 2018 elections.
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