November 21, 2011

The creeping paramilitarization of the police

The government response to the Occupy Wall Street movement has been to unleash the police to forcibly clear the protestors from various sites. The crackdown has many of the signs of paramilitary actions: dark uniforms and hard enveloping black helmets with visors that hide the faces, brandishing large truncheons, with tasers and guns on their hips, widespread use of pepper spray and tear gas, rough treatment of peaceful protestors irrespective of age and whether they are resisting.

Here are some photos of recent events, where the police look like the storm troopers from Star Wars. We should note that this look by the police is deliberately created. It is not merely meant for their own protection but also to intimidate people, not just the protestors they are confronting but anyone who sees the events in newspapers and on TV and on the web who might think twice before joining the protests and having to personally confront storm troopers.





Up to now, the fact that the police still have visible names and numbers on their uniforms act as a restraint on the brutality, since they can be singled out and punished, however mildly, for excesses. The real danger comes when even those identifiers are covered up, because then there will be little restraint. This may well happen since some of the more aggressive police have already been identified for shaming and police chiefs may say they need the anonymity to 'protect' their people from retribution.

The next stage in paramilitary actions come when the uniforms become generic and the vehicles unmarked, preventing identification of even the police units involved let along individual officers. Then we are approaching the stage of the death squads that operate with impunity in so many countries and where people that are perceived as opponents of the government simply 'disappear', to be never seen again. We are not there yet, but vigilance is required to make sure we do not.

The Egyptian military government has recently been cracking down hard on demonstrators there, causing many deaths and using the police tactics in the US as justification. Gawker comments that when watching the video footage of police beating protestors with sticks and dragging them by the hair, it is hard to tell if we are seeing events in Egypt or in the US, except that the chyrons are in Arabic.

Yes, we have become the model for the Egyptian military junta.



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I would like to see some good investigative reporting on whether the Department of Homeland Security has played a significant role in spreading the para-militaristic perversion of police training. My guess is that the answer is yes.

Posted by Steve LaBonne on November 21, 2011 09:36 AM

Shalom Steve,

Check out AND AFTER THE FIRST LEAD BULLET IS FIRED…? Then follow the link to Have you heard of PERF?


Jeff Hess

Posted by Jeff Hess on November 21, 2011 10:02 AM

Fascinating- thank you, Jeff. The rot in this country goes deep indeed.

Posted by Steve LaBonne on November 21, 2011 10:21 AM

I worked as a police officer for a few years; I left the career for various reasons, but I'm glad I'm one right now. (I also spent a number of years in the US military.)

When I see these displays of abusive power and reactionary violence it doesn't make me want to stay away. It makes me want to join the protestors in solidarity. It demonstrates to me that we, the people, are under attack. I hope this movement grows, and grows, and grows. But I fear that we will only see the masses react when this crackdown produces a Kent State level of tragedy. We do tend to be a very complacent lot, for all our bravado.

Posted by James P. on November 21, 2011 10:31 AM

There should have been a "not" in that second sentence, after "I'm glad I'm"

Posted by James P. on November 21, 2011 10:39 AM

Think back to the violence that has happened after sporting events in North America. When fans come together in large numbers, they begin to be violent, taking on a mob mentality and seeing themselves and their acts as anonymous because they are in a crowd and hard to identify individually.

That is why the pigs are put in uniforms with faces covered and no identifying individual markings. The goal is to create a mob mentality, to make the pigs more prone and willing to commit violence because they can hide behind anonymity.

If the purpose weren't to incite violence, the pigs would have their individual names and badge numbers on the stormtrooper uniforms in those pictures. I don't see any difference between Italian blackshirts of the 1930s/1940s and the pig blackshirts of today.


Posted by P Smith on November 21, 2011 01:16 PM

The US government has taught us how to kill people, how to destroy a country. Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia....

Posted by hauzan on November 21, 2011 11:25 PM

I just hope there was no police brutality happened during the incident and still the right of the accused was still there.

Posted by Job Searcho Australia on December 2, 2011 01:10 PM