We’re entering the final phase of America’s transition to authoritarianism, a phase notable for its co-opting of civilian police as military forces. Not only do the police now look like the military — with their foreboding uniforms and phalanx of lethal weapons — but they function like them, as well. No longer do they act as peace officers guarding against violent criminals. And no more do we have a civilian police force entrusted with serving and protecting the American people. Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials, having shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, act preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power.
In such an environment, free speech is little more than a nuisance to be stamped out. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way police deal with those who dare to exercise their First Amendment right to “peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” For example, most recently, Chicago police in riot gear and gas masks, as well as SWAT teams, clashed with thousands of anti-war protesters who gathered to air their discontent during the NATO summit that took place on May 20-21, 2012.
Anticipating a fracas, police had, in the weeks leading up to the NATO summit, equipped themselves with $1 million worth of militarized riot gear. Then, a few days before the summit commenced, fighter jets — including Air Force KC-135 tankers, Air Force F-16s, and Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopters – took to the skies over Chicago, as part of a “security” drill. Surveillance drones were also sighted. Police also arrested six activists and held them in solitary confinement for 18 hours, then released them without charge. News reports have indicated that some of those “arrested” may have been undercover officers.
All of these tactics of intimidation — the show of force by heavily armed police, the security drills by fighter planes and surveillance drones, even the arrests of protesters — were done with one goal in mind: to deter and subdue any would-be protesters. Yet what many Americans fail to realize, caught up as they are in the partisan-charged rhetoric being pumped out by politicians and the media, is that the government does not discriminate when it comes to clamping down on dissent. We are all the enemy. Thus, it doesn’t matter what the content of the speech might be, whether it’s coming from protesters speaking out against corrupt government practices or peace activists attempting to advance an anti-war message. In the face of the government’s growing power, we are all lumped into the same category: potential nuisances and rabble rousers who must be surveilled, silenced and, if necessary, shut down.
Drones, outfitted with the latest in high-definition cameras and crowd control technology such as impact rounds, chemical munitions rounds and tasers, will eventually be star players in the government’s efforts to clamp down on protest activities and keep track of protesters. The Shadowhawk drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, is outfitted with lethal weapons, including a grenade launcher or a shotgun, and weapons of compliance, such as tear gas and rubber buckshot.
Read More: Huffington Post