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Repression, Resistance, and Rebellion in Police State Ferguson

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The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency on November 17, and this is what's been happening in Ferguson and St. Louis County, Missouri:

You drive past a major traffic and commercial intersection like Chambers and West Florissant and you see the cross-street barricaded by a half-dozen or so police cars with bubble lights flashing, crime scene tape, a military Humvee, armed soldiers, and more police in the Walgreen's / mini-mall across the street. You often hear helicopters circling overhead, at night sometimes you can see their searchlights sweeping nearby. Meanwhile, the airspace has been closed off to all other traffic, reportedly to prevent news helicopters from providing video and pictures of what is going on below.

You go to a protest--whether in the streets or at a shopping mall--and you see a heavy police presence, often backed up by uniformed military personnel and undercover cops. Nonviolent marches and rallies can be (and have been) declared "illegal assemblies" and then violently shut down on the slightest pretext. Sometimes this means massive riot vehicles firing volleys of teargas--effectively collective punishment of the whole crowd for the alleged actions of one or two. Sometimes military-like riot police line up threateningly, or even charge the crowd. Pepper spray, bean-bag rounds, and clubs have all been deployed and used. Those who speak up in outrage have been pointed out by the police, and then a gang of six or eight cops jump, throw down, arrest, and drag them away.

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After claiming to be a democracy that respects the people's right to assemble, speak, and protest, the government has deployed dozens of police, spies, and military organizations that have been planning for months about how to contain and suppress expected protests. They've arrested more than 500 people in the area since August, and have conducted widespread surveillance on political activists, organizers, and journalists--some of whom have then been arrested driving in their cars, or when they come to protests. Revolutionaries and other resisters have been targeted, slandered, and vilified in the media.

If all this was taking place in countries that the U.S. has a conflict with--like Russia, China, or Iran--the same mainstream media that are now supporting the repression of protesters and the people in Ferguson would be condemning those countries as "dictatorships" and "tyrannies." Well, that is what is going on here.

Ferguson--Epicenter of an Uprising Rocking the Country

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This is happening because Ferguson has been the epicenter of a powerful uprising that has rocked the whole country and awakened millions to the fraud of "civil rights progress" and "equal rights," and to the reality of the vicious oppression and murder of Black and other oppressed people in America today.

Michael Brown was murdered by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson on August 9, triggering a massive rebellion and waves of protest across the country. The system responded with a military deployment in the streets of Ferguson that further outraged millions and exposed the founding lies of America: that this country is a global beacon of freedom, a place unlike any other in the world in its respect for people's rights, including the right to speak out and to protest.

Since then, authorities in St. Louis County, as well as nationwide up to the highest levels, have been preparing for the day the prosecuting attorney's office would announce whether Michael Brown's murderer would even be charged.

Leading up to the announcement, Loyola University law professor and associate legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Bill Quigley, wrote, "Dozens and dozens of different police forces will be surrounding the protesters in Ferguson when the Michael Brown verdict is announced. There will be federal FBI agents, Homeland Security, US Marshals, State Police troopers, County Sheriffs, and local city cops from the dozens of little towns in and around St. Louis."

This is a system based on white supremacy, one whose functioning and interests are directly contrary to those of the vast majority of people, and one whose rule is maintained by violence. It's a system that understands that particularly the Black masses--like the people who've risen up in Ferguson--pose a threat to its existence--including because when Black people rise up, it calls forward the best of other sections of the people. When they talk about government "of the people, by the people, for the people" they mean violently enforcing oppression.

In the 108 days between Michael Brown's murder and the announcement that Wilson would walk free, the powers-that-be coordinated and built up their police response, including Governor Jay Nixon's November 17 announcement of a state of emergency, even as they made a (thin) pretense that they would give protesters "an opportunity to express their first amendment rights," as St. Louis Mayor Slay put it.

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Then came the November 24 announcement that Darren Wilson was getting off free, that a Black person could be murdered in America any time, any place, by law enforcement in particular, without consequence. The rage that erupted was deep and wide. That night the system lashed back and the next day Nixon tripled the National Guard presence to 2,200, escalated its role, and the police adopted even more aggressive tactics.

Police State Ferguson--This Is What American Imperialist Democracy IS Like

On Monday night, November 24, people in front of the Ferguson police station were confronted with huge riot vehicles, were massively tear gassed, and many were forced from the streets. Sixty-one were arrested that night, some with felony charges. And for all the system's bullshit about "outside agitators"--as if that is a bad thing--these were actually overwhelmingly local residents.

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Larry Everest is the author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage 2004), a correspondent for Revolution newspaper ( where this first appeared, who has reported from Iran, Iraq and Palestine, and a (more...)

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