[ by Charles Cameron — the militarization of law enforcement in the US and around the globe ]
This double image is taken from a Foreign Policy slideshow published yesterday titled The Ferguson Spring and subtitled “Can you tell the difference between the Missouri town where Michael Brown was killed and some of the world’s most volatile uprisings?” The accompanying legend reads:
Left: A young man in Ferguson, Mo. at a protest against the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police. On Aug. 14, the protests entered their fourth day.
Right: A protester in the village of Diraz, Bahrain, holds a Molotov cocktail during clashes with riot police on July 19, 2013. Protests began in Bahrain in 2011, when the country’s Shiite majority began demanding more rights from the Sunni monarchy.
All told, the slideshow contains 14 such double images.
Here’s the text of the FP piece:
In the days since Michael Brown, a 18-year-old African American man, was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the town of 21,000 people located just north of St. Louis, has devolved into an increasingly tense confrontation between protesters and its strikingly militarized police force. Photos and footage from the scene show local police officers fully outfitted with body armor and tactical weapons — scoped, short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles, accurate up to 500 meters — modeled after the M4 carbine used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. This police force, joined by officers from upwards of 15 other departments, has patroled the streets of Ferguson in military vehicles, arrested journalists and one local politician, and fired teargas and rubber bullets at mostly peaceful protesters. On Thursday night, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets — some 75 people have reportedly been arrested since Saturday, when Brown was killed. As of Aug. 12, the FAA has listed the skies above the town as restricted airspace.
Today, speaking from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., President Barack Obama called for calm, saying, “Now’s the time for peace … on the streets of Ferguson,” adding, “Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”
But for the moment, Ferguson, Mo., looks more like Kiev’s Maidan, the street fights of Bahrain, or the clashes of Cairo’s Tahrir Square than small-town America. In fact, at a glance, it’s pretty difficult to spot the difference between the warzone atmosphere on the streets of Ferguson, and the crackdowns and clashes that have erupted in some of the most volatile and repressive countries in the world.
The demonstrators, cops and soldiers in each slide juxtaposed with those from Ferguson come from Bahrain, Ukraine, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Kenya, and the West Bank. The cops and soldiers — in every case — look uncomfortably like the cops and soldiers in all the other images, and the aame is true of the protesters and demonstrators.
What, I wonder, will a continuing media barrage of images of cops at home and abroad do to our overall perception of law enforcement and protest? Will we begin to see all cops in riot gear from Tahrir to Times Square as one and the same force, all demonstrators in street clothes with faces masked as one and the same protest? This doesn’t bode well for either group.
People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs. Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, “The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors.”
Will that perception do anything to ease already tense situations?
Not all the double images in the FP slideshow are as effectively paired as the one at the top of this post, but the slideshow as a whole is clearly an extended form of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild, and its cumulative impact is powerful.
I’ll close with another double image from the same source:
The legend with this pair reads:
Left: A Thai soldier with a machine gun secures the area outside a shopping mall in Bangkok where protesters gather for a demonstration against the May 22 military coup. Most of the anti-coup protests have been peaceful.
Right: A Missouri State Highway Patrol tactical vehicle travels down a central road in Ferguson as police try to break up protests against police violence.