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Blinding Light News Flash: Overstock Weapons Keep the Peace

Gary Schoichet
September 20, 2014
by Gary Schoichet 091215Bank2_t607New York Congressional Representative Peter King (R-NY) told the Blinding Light News Flash Service (BLNFS) on Monday that "granting overstock military equipment to states and cities is what we are about in America: the militarization of our police forces to combat terrorism both foreign and domestic." In New York City, he noted, police have "sixteen MRAPs [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Armored Vehicles] and not one law enforcement agent has been injured by an IED (improvised explosive device) since we started the program." King was also appreciative of the surplus war equipment used by the police in Ferguson, Missouri. "Except for Michael Brown, who started it all by getting shot for being black," Mr. King said, "no other deaths have occurred in Ferguson even though the police were fully militarized. The police, using weapons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, aimed at the protestors but never shot even one of them." "We were protecting our citizens from outside agitators by pointing our M-16s at our citizens and tear-gassing them," said Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. "None of this would have happened without the people from outside coming in. We've had a long history of mistreating our minorities without any trouble." Even so, Ferguson, with a population of 21,203, two thirds of whom are black, has two made-for-Afghanistan military vehicles to protect its almost all-white police force from the black majority of its citizens. One of Ferguson's four black police officers, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told BLNFS, "We need protection, too. From our fellow officers." The military weaponry repositioning, also known as "trickle-down militarization," is a spinoff of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economic program and works similarly: give the weapons and other hardware — including helicopters, armored vehicles, body armor, grenade launchers, night-vision equipment, and assault rifles — to untrained police officers and something will explode (in a good way for a few) and implode (very badly for the many). Eight thousand law-enforcement agencies participate in the Department of Defense's 1033 Program, which gives away surplus military weapons to local police departments. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, 98 percent of the recipients "have not lost a single weapon. What's 160 or so lost M16s and a few armed vehicles among friends?" Those friends include private militias in the Southwest that hunt Mexicans and Central Americans coming across the borders, and Northwest militias that hunt black helicopters. "We are proud that every state in these great United States has participated in our weapons giveaway, which so far has been valued at $4.3 billion," said the same Pentagon spokesperson. "Even little Rhode Island has 57 assault rifles, one MRAP, and 887 night-vision pieces, which is enabling them to monitor the evening hijinks of all of Providence's politicians." In its only 2014 bipartisan success, the House of Representatives voted 355-62 in defeat of Florida Democrat's Alan Grayson's bill to ban the transfer specific heavy-duty gear such as grenade launchers, toxicological agents, and drones to local police departments. "We need this stuff in the hands of local law enforcement," said Peter King, "to protect our country and endanger our civil rights." Gary Schoichet is a prize-winning labor journalist, editor, and photographer. He writes and photographs what he sees. He nevertheless still has a sense of humor.