If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my free Email alerts. Thanks for visiting!
THE GROWING MILITARIZATION OF POLICE FORCES
by Steven Neill, ©2013
(Apr. 3, 2013) — “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” — Barack Obama
Many Americans today seem to suffer from a bipolar condition. On the one hand, using the tragedies of Sandy Hook and the Century Theater in Aurora, Colorado as justification, they are calling for an end to firearm violence by having government control over allowable types of firearms, cartridge magazines and who can buy them. On the other this same majority of Americans are rarely concerned with violent movies like Django Unchained, TV shows like Dexter, and the militarization of the local police and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forces. We are told by those pushing for disarming Americans that there is no reason to fear a militarized police force and the DHS. But are they wrong in placing such faith in their government? The events of May 4th, 1970, would show anyone willing to examine that era; they are wrong – fatally wrong.
Father, Father, Father, We Don’t Need To Escalate!
After six years of fighting in Vietnam, America was a deeply divided nation with millions of people wanting to end the conflict. President Richard Nixon created even more animosity when he broke his promise to end the war by ordering the invasion of Cambodia in hopes of starving the Viet Cong. The invasion was announced on April 30th 1970 and many Americans became enraged at the callous way he broke his promise. The next day, students began to hold protests at college campuses across America, including Kent State University in Ohio.
On May 1st at around noon, some 500 students held a demonstration on the Kent campus area called the “Commons” during which one riled-up student burned a copy of the US Constitution while another torched his draft card. It ended around 1:00 pm as the students went back to class.
Later that night, there was a conflict between some 120 protestors and police at some local bars resulting in protestors vandalizing stores, banks, and police cars, and some thrown beer bottles at police officers. The situation escalated as some small bonfires were started on the streets, causing Kent Mayor Satrom to declare a state of emergency and order all bars to be closed. This only increased the size of the mob as the bars emptied out, forcing the police to use tear gas to control the crowd, moving it back to the campus and dispersing for the night.
The next day, Kent Mayor Satrom met with several town leaders to decide how to respond to the rumored threat that radical revolutionaries were planning on torching the town and the university. They decided to call in the Ohio Army National Guard. Later that evening, another demonstration attracted over a thousand protestors. At the same time an arsonist lit the campus ROTC building on fire and the demonstrators cheered as it burned down. The Guardsmen, having shown up around 10:00 pm, tried to assist local firemen in putting the flames out but the protestors cut their hoses and pelted them with rocks. Tear gas was again used to push the mob back, this time away from the building…which could not be saved, and at least one student was injured by a bayonet.
Ohio Governor Rhodes held a news conference on Sunday, May 3rd and began calling the students communists, vigilantes and agitators, which only increased the tensions. A curfew was called by Mayor Satrom and the Guardsmen put in place securing the campus while the protestors held another rally that broke after a few hours by more tear gas and bayonet-wielding Guardsmen.
Four Dead in Ohio
By Monday, the tension was tangible as some 2000 people gathered on the campus and refused to disperse. When the Guardsmen used tear gas this time, many students picked the canisters up and threw them back at the soldiers.
By this time, it was obvious the crowd was not leaving, so seventy-seven National Guardsmen fixed bayonets on their M1 Garand rifles and approached them. The protestors retreated off of the Commons, to spread out in front of campus buildings and towards a parking lot. The Guardsmen continued forward into an athletic field enclosed by a fence where they milled around for 10 minutes. During the lull, many of the students made their way back in front of the Guardsmen, around 150 feet to 225 feet away while other students remained by the parking lot.
The uneasy standoff continued as some students threw rocks and tear gas canisters at the solders while a few soldiers pointed their rifles at the students. Suddenly, Sgt. Myron Pryon began firing his .45 Colt pistol while twenty-eight other Guardsmen fired their rifles at the students. The volley lasted only 13 seconds and a total of 67 rounds were used but witness John Kifner reported in the New York Times that “it appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer.”
Pandemonium reigned as people scattered, dropped where they were or hid behind buildings and cars to avoid the bullets. When it was over, the nervous Guardsmen reformed and retreated to the Commons. Four Kent State students died as a result of being shot by the Guardsmen. The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing approximately 270 feet from the Guardsmen. Allison Krause was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body. William Schroeder, who was on his way to class, was 390 feet from the Guard when he was shot in the left side of his back. Sandra Scheuer was also walking to class and was about 390 feet from the Guard when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck. Nine Kent State students were wounded in the fusillade with the closest being 60 feet from the Guardsmen, while the farthest was some 750 feet away.
Once they recovered, the students began to move towards the soldiers as their shock was replaced with anger. The Guardsmen now realized they were vastly outnumbered by incensed students who were willing to risk their own lives for revenge. The Guardsmen retreated back to the Commons while several members of the faculty raced in to stop the enraged crowd. Having already used live ammunition on unarmed people there is little doubt they would have done it again at this point had the students not left the Commons. While the standoff was being defused, the dead and wounded students were being picked up and taken to a local hospital.
Eight National Guardsmen were brought up on both criminal and civil charges; none were convicted. The State of Ohio settled out of court with the victims and their families, and the Guardsmen issued a statement of regret. President Nixon established The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, which concluded that “the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”
Across the country, students went on strike which closed hundreds of colleges and universities; brought about new methods for law enforcement and the military to deal with civil unrest and became a symbol of the political and cultural divide caused by the Vietnam War.
One of the primary reasons the Guardsmen were not convicted of murder or manslaughter in the subsequent trials was the inability to prove they were ordered to fire upon the students. Many Guardsmen insisted they heard no such order being given. However, a reel-to-reel tape was located of the actual event in 2007 on which a voice is clearly yelling to the soldiers to “prepare to fire,” pause, and the word “Guard!” Afterwards were the cracks of rifle fire. In 2012, the Department of Justice declined to reopen the case citing “insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers.”
Was this the only incident of overzealous use of government force on U.S. citizens? Sadly, it is not. There was what has been named the Battle of Athens, Tennessee in 1946;   Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992;   Waco, Texas in 1993;   and more recently, the illegal firearms confiscation conducted by law enforcement personnel during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. These are only a few examples of a government willing to use deadly force on American civilians.
Obama’s National Security Force?
If these events do show a pattern, then what can be made of the recent ammunition purchases by government agencies? Forbes Magazine recently posted an article highlighting the purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition for domestic use, with millions of them hollow-point bullets which are outlawed for use on humans by international treaty. The article pointed out that at its peak, the Army used fewer than 6 million rounds a month in Iraq. Therefore 1.6 billion rounds would be enough to sustain a hot war for 20+ years in America. 
While US soldiers are now training to go to war in Afghanistan using blank cartridges, the Social Security Administration has procured 174,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition. Not to be left out, the National Marine Fisheries Service has secured 46,000 hollow-point bullets. When asked about the purchase, spokesman Scott Smullen said the cop-killing rounds were for “target practice.”  One wonders if they are using the new targets requested by DHS to help desensitize the officers for killing “non-traditional” people? For a mere .99 cents a pop, officers can put the bead on practice targets of pregnant women, children, teenage girls and elderly people. The “No More Hesitation” target series available from Law Enforcement Targets Inc. is “designed to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios on subjects that are not the norm during training.”  Nice.
Now, add to the bulk-buying on steroids purchasing of bullets the government is doing, some 7,000 fully automatic assault rifles and over 2,000 Mine Resistant and Protected (MRAP) assault vehicles formerly used in Afghanistan and Iraq. These vehicles are able to withstand .50 Caliber bullets and direct mine blasts. And they are slated for use on Main Street USA.  Why in the world does the DHS need these for use on American streets?
The trend towards militarizing the DHS and police forces has not gone unnoticed by those on the left side of the political spectrum either. Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was recently interviewed and gave some very telling responses: “We see a militarization of the U.S. police forces here in the United States, and it’s a very troubling tendency.” She noted the ammo purchase as just one of many indicators of a more “robust” police presence in the US. Further, when asked about a possible military-style takeover of the US she stated: “I think the potential is there, and the fact that 10 years after 911 the U.S. is still keeping the American people in the state of fear about terrorism and using that to take billions and billions of our tax dollars to set up these kind of facilities and equip our local law-enforcement agencies with military equipment and potentially really be turning us into a society where Big Brother is watching us all the time, I think is extremely troubling.” 
Another left-of-center group is standing up to the emerging tyrannical state: the ACLU. On March 6, American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 23 states filed more than 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally-subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas. 
“Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the ACLU’s Center for Justice. “We’ve seen examples of this in several localities, but we don’t know the dimensions of the problem.”
The affiliates filed public records requests with local law enforcement agencies seeking information on the use of:
Special Weapons and Tactics teams, including:
- Number and purpose of deployments
- Types of weapons used during deployments
- Injuries sustained by civilians during deployments
- Training materials
- Funding sources
Cutting-edge weapons and technologies, including:
- GPS tracking devices
- Unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones”
- Augmented detainee restraint, or “shock-cuffs”
- Military weaponry, equipment, and vehicles obtained from or funded by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and/or Homeland Security.
Affiliates filed a second request with state National Guardsmen seeking information regarding:
- Cooperative agreements between local police departments and the National Guard counter-drug program.
- Incidents of National Guard contact with civilians.
“The American people deserve to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” said Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist. “The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans’ right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.” 
The ACLU website gives several chilling incidents of police brutality including:
- Police mistakenly shooting and killing a sleeping nine-year-old girl after they became confused by their flash bang grenade.
- A South Carolina county sheriff’s department whose equipment includes an armored personnel carrier complete with a belt-fed .50 machine gun
- Two SWAT teams who shut down a Colorado neighborhood for four hours searching for a man suspected of stealing a bicycle from Wally World.
- Police in Arkansas who planned to patrol streets wearing full SWAT gear carrying AR-15 rifles.
- New York Police admitted to using “counter-terrorist” methods to remove Occupy Wall Street Protesters 
The most ironic part of this entire episode is the push by Obama, Dianne Feinstein and Company to eliminate semi-automatic “weapons of war” from the hands of civilians while the police are arming up with firepower greater than that of the US Special Forces. Now, couple that with the building of the National Security Administration super-spying center in Bluffdale, Utah. This center will be able to analyze every phone call, email, text, electronic purchase, financial records, your medical records and track your movements via cellphone GPS. It’s not a stretch to see that Obama’s vision of “Fundamentally changing America” more resembles George Orwell’s dystopian apparition of 1984 than Ronald Reagan’s “City on a Hill.” 
In closing, the words of Ralph Benko need to be pushed by the citizens onto every member of Congress “Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what “homeland security” really means. It’s time for a national conversation on this.” 
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent State shootings
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle of Athens (1946)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy Weaver
- http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/gangsters outlaws/cops others/randy weaver/1.html
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco siege
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism of government response to Hurricane Katrina
- http://www.hanfordsentinel.com/news/opinion/todays opinions/politics-today-why-doesobama-need-billion-bulletsiarticle 6d21736c-9176-11e2-823e-001a4bcf887a.html