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From Boston to Ferguson: Have We Reached a Tipping Point in the Police State?

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The difference between what happened in Boston in the wake of the Boston Marathon explosion and what is happening now in Ferguson, Missouri, is not in the government's response but in the community's response.

This is what happens when you ignore the warning signs.

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This is what happens when you fail to take alarm at the first experiment on your liberties.

This is what happens when you fail to challenge injustice and government overreach until the prison doors clang shut behind you.

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Consider that it was just a little over a year ago that the city of Boston was locked down while police carried out a military-style manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosion. At the time, Americans welcomed the city-wide lockdown, the routine invasion of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses.

Fast forward 14 months, and Americans are shocked at the tactics being employed to quell citizen unrest in Ferguson, Missouri--a massive SWAT team, an armored personnel carrier, men in camouflage pointing heavy artillery at the crowd, smoke bombs and tear gas--where residents are outraged and in the streets in response to a recent police shooting of one of their own: a young, unarmed college-bound black teenager who had the misfortune of being in the wrong time at the wrong place.

Here's the problem, though, as I explain in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, in the American police state that now surrounds us, every time and every place is the wrong time and the wrong place, especially if you still believe you have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

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In the American police state, there is no longer such a thing as innocence. We are all potentially guilty, all potential criminals, all suspects waiting to be accused of a crime.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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